Future of local press raised at Holyrood

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The future of local weekly papers across Scotland was raised at Holyrood on Thursday morning following an announcement by publisher Johnston Press (owners of the Stornoway Gazette) that it had reclassified its titles in a rebranding move.

The company had released a ‘Trading Update’ statement to the city earlier in the week. Further trading information described its portfolio of 200 plus titles across Scotland, England and Northern Ireland as falling into four categories: ‘Uber’, ‘Primary’, ‘Core’ and ‘Sub Core’.

The Stornoway Gazette was categorised as a Core title.

Graeme Dey SNP MSP for Angus South raised his concerns at the Scottish Parliament on behalf of the Angus County Press titles which are: Arbroath Herald, Guide & Gazette, Forfar Dispatch, Kirriemuir Herald, Brechin Advertiser and Montrose Review and which also includes the Stornoway Gazette.

Posting on his Facebook page Mr Dey said: “Managed to raise concerns over the future of a number of weekly newspapers titles, including several in Angus, at First Minister’s Questions today.

“I welcome the commitment made by the First Minister that the Scottish Government will engage with Johnston Press, who have declared that 21 of their Scottish based titles are ‘sub-core’ to their business.

“Included amongst these are the Arbroath Herald and the papers in Forfar, Montrose and Brechin.

“I will be writing to Johnston Press on how they view the futures of these titles and where the Guide & Gazette and Kirrie Herald stand in all of this.”

Media reports about which and how many titles may be sold off has been rife, with a recent suggestion that all 59 sub core titles are now up for sale, but this has been described as “mere speculation”.

A spokesman for Johnston Press said: “We want to make sure our titles are serving their communities effectively and - like every business - profitably. With this is mind we have recently undertaken a review of all of our titles to see which ones need immediate attention and these are in what we have called, internally, our ‘sub-core’ group.

“That does not automatically mean we’re about to close or sell these titles and the media reaction has greatly exaggerated our intentions.”