Community Safety Minister Ash Denham has welcomed the Defamation and Malicious Publication (Scotland) Bill passing stage one at Holyrood.

Ms Denham said: “I welcome Parliament’s backing for the general principles of the Bill. It will bring the law governing defamation up to date and simplify it in key areas, while striking a more appropriate balance between freedom of expression and the protection from unfair damage to reputation.

“I have listened carefully to views of members across the Parliament and will reflect on them carefully before the Stage Two process. With many of the existing laws covering defamation being spread across several statutes and areas of common law – some of which were decided more than 100 years ago – it is right that we now take forward legislation that is fit for a modern Scotland.”

The purpose of the bill is to clarify and strengthen the statutory underpinning of defamation in Scots law. The bill seeks to do this by placing certain key elements of common law on defamation on a statutory basis.

And the bill will also replace and restate, in one place, elements of the existing statutory provisions in Scots law.

The overarching policy objective of the bill is “to modernise and simplify the law of defamation in order to strike a more appropriate balance between freedom of expression and the protection of individual reputation; and to clarify the law and improve its accessibility”.