Scottish councils may only advertise online

The Scottish government is currently holding a consultation over the plans to let councils move statutory notices, like road closures and applications for planning permission, onto the internet rather than in local newspapers.

The plans have upset local newsrags and hacks, including the National Union of Journalists, who say that cutting this steady income of £6 million a year could threaten the future of their papers.

Backers of the scheme say that it will create more flexibility within the poorer Scottish councils.

The Labour party have waded into the debate saying that the plans will make it harder for the public to get hold of vital information because many Scots don’t have access to the internet. [Our own Jock McFrock being a lucky exception]

Labour culture spokeswoman Pauline McNeill told the BBC: “I am hoping that MSPs from all parties will support our motion and parliament will send a clear message to the Finance Secretary John Swinney that he must drop his damaging proposals to allow councils to put public notices online instead of in newspapers.

“The Scottish government’s plan is deeply undemocratic because many people don’t have access to the internet and there’s also a world of difference between reading a notice in a newspaper and having to hunt for an announcement or advert on the web.”

The proposals could be altered so that councils had the option to advertise in newspapers too if they wanted to. But the publishers are still up in arms as it is thought that, given the choice, most councils wouldn’t elect to give out £6 million a year to them when advertising on a dedicated site is free.

According to Ofcom, six out of 10 people in Scotland have a broadband internet connection at home but  in Glasgow it drops to just 39 per cent of people using broadband at home.  In remoter areas the number is higher, with 73 per cent in Aberdeen.

The government’s consultation runs until the middle of February.