Spin doctors have been banned from speaking to journalists in the press gallery of the Scottish Parliament, after complaints.
The move came after the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists’ Association (Spja) lodged a complaint with Sir David Steel, presiding officer of the Parliament, over the spin doctors’ behaviour. Since claims that they were forcing handouts on journalists while they were trying to take notes on debates and taking up their seats, were put to Sir David, press officers have only made fleeting appearances in the press gallery.
According to Cameron Simpson, a reporter with The Herald who broke the story: “The trouble is that Sir David seems to have over-reacted somewhat. One shrinking violet, who asked not to be named, said ‘he appears to have banned spin doctors and press officers altogether except for fleeting visits to distribute handouts but, we understand, they have been told not to speak to the press while doing so’.
“Our plan, as advanced by Alan Cochrane, of The Daily Telegraph, was to allow them all in the press gallery, but, in line with what happens in Westminster, to keep them in the back row where they could not get in the way or hassle us.” A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliament said: “The press gallery of the Scottish Parliament was always intended to be for bona fide members of the media only but practice appears to have grown up over time and press officers were becoming a permanent feature. The Presiding Officer, Sir David Steel, clarified that situation last month, pointing out that allocation is made for press officers at the rear of the floor of the chamber.”
By Hamish Mackay