The bill to reform the Scots law of defamation has passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament.
MSPs unanimously backed the Defamation and Malicious Publication (Scotland) Bill, which simplifies and modernises defamation law, based on a 2017 report by the Scottish Law Commission.
The bill contains the first statutory definition of what constitutes a defamatory statement, and seeks to strike a better balance is struck between freedom of expression and protecting someone’s reputation by introducing a threshold test of "serious harm" before an action can be brought.
It prevents defamation actions being brought against "secondary publishers" – those other than the authors, editors or commercial publishers of material containing defamatory statements – with certain exceptions, for example, where the harm caused by publication is materially increased because it has been republished to a much larger audience.
Other changes include explicitly recognising a defence of publication on a matter of public interest.
During the stage 3 debate MSPs rejected an amendment by independent member Andy Wightman, who argued for a threshold test of “actual harm”, rather than “serious harm”. They agreed a number of other amendments, including on ministers' powers to modify the Act to deal with technological changes in relation to secondary publishers; and court powers to control interim publication where proceedings have been raised.