The importance of The Buteman, and other local newspapers in the Highlands and Islands, has been highlighted by one of the area’s MSPs in a Scottish Parliament debate.
Conservative ‘regional list’ member Jamie McGrigor was speaking in a debate in the Holyrood chamber on Thursday on the value of local media to communities throughout Scotland.
The debate was secured by Graeme Dey, the SNP’s MSP for the Angus South constituency, who asked that the Parliament “celebrates the importance of local newspapers to communities across Scotland; [and] believes that a well-resourced, diverse, free press is vital to democracy in Scotland and provides a type of coverage not available via other platforms”.
In his contribution to the debate, Mr McGrigor said: “I agree strongly with the motion that local newspapers are extremely valuable to constituents and communities across Scotland. They are also very valuable to politicians as a vehicle for expressing our sentiments and policies, and of course our photographs — where would we be without them?
“They are able to cover local affairs and issues in a level of detail that other media cannot provide and are often at the forefront of local campaigns on vital subjects.
“Local newspapers play a big role in supporting community cohesion and are important for public notices and as a platform for local businesses to advertise their goods and services.
“Local newspapers are important in providing jobs to young journalists and trainees at the start of their careers. They provide a good training for journalists, who often move upwards to regional or national newspapers, or indeed other media forms. Many members of our esteemed parliamentary press corps started off on local newspapers, which provided them with an excellent grounding.
“Graeme Dey is right to voice concern about the future of a number of local newspaper titles in the ownership of Johnston Press, given their possible sale to other parties. I note that the motion identifies The Buteman in Argyll and Bute in my region as a newspaper deemed ‘sub-core’.
“Many Bute residents would be surprised to hear that, as The Buteman has such a good reputation and is very much embedded in the community of that beautiful island. The idea of losing it is one that we can scarcely contemplate.
“At the same time, I understand the economic realities and the financial pressures facing newspaper owners and publishers as reading habits and readership demographics change.
“More and more people choose to get their news online rather than by buying a newspaper, and local businesses choose to use one of the many other kinds of advertising that were not available just a few years ago.
“I think that most people my children’s age would go to news websites, Google or Twitter for their news and, instead of buying a local paper, would try to get local news there as well.”
Johnston Press announced last month that it planned to split its newspapers across the UK into four groups - ‘uber’, ‘primary’, ‘core’ and ‘sub-core’.
A company spokesperson said last month that for the titles which were identified as ‘sub-core’, it would “look to establish new innovative models to enable us to improve the levels of return from this group”, and continued: “It is critical that our resources are used to the maximum effect and we will be working speedily to establish an effective publishing model for these brands.”