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Defamation and Malicious Publication (Scotland) Bill

Overview

The Bill aims to modernise and simplify the law of defamation and of verbal injury. It implements recommendations in the Scottish Law Commission’s report on defamation. (Scottish Government Policy Memorandum - page 4, reference 17).

The Bill makes changes to the law of defamation and to the law of verbal injury. 

The Bill is in 3 parts:

  • part 1 - amends the law of defamation
  • part 2 - replaces common law verbal injuries with malicious publication
  • part 3 - makes clear the appropriate remedies and the limitation of defamation actions

You can find out more in the Explanatory Notes document that explains the bill.

Why the Bill was created

The law on defamation is in common law rules and several pieces of legislation. It was last changed in 1996. 

The Bill aims to modernise and simplify the law of defamation and verbal injury in Scotland. 

This will:

create a better balance between freedom of speech and protecting a person's reputation

make the law easier to understand and use 

You can find out more in the Policy Memorandum document that explains the bill.

The Bill at different stages

'Bills' are proposed laws. Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) discuss them to decide if they should become law.

Here are the different versions of the Bill:

The Bill as introduced

Defamation and Malicious Publication Scotland Bill as introduced

The Scottish Government sends the Bill and the related documents to the Scottish Parliament.

Bill is at ScottishParliament.SC.Feature.BillComponents.Models.BillStageModel?.DefaultBillStage?.Stage_Name stage.

Where do laws come from?

The Scottish Parliament can make decisions about many things like:

  • agriculture and fisheries
  • education and training
  • environment
  • health and social services
  • housing
  • justice and policing
  • local government
  • some aspects of tax and social security

These are 'devolved matters'.

Laws that are decided by the Scottish Parliament come from:

Government Bills

These are Bills that have been introduced by the Scottish Government. They are sometimes called 'Executive Bills'.

Most of the laws that the Scottish Parliament looks at are Government Bills.

Hybrid Bills

These Bills are suggested by the Scottish Government.

As well as having an impact on a general law, they could also have an impact on organisations' or the public's private interests.

The first Hybrid Bill was the Forth Crossing Bill.

Members' Bill

These are Bills suggested by MSPs. Every MSP can try to get 2 laws passed in the time between elections. This 5-year period is called a 'parliamentary session'.

To do this, they need other MSPs from different political parties to support their Bills.

Committee Bills

These are Bills suggested by a group of MSPs called a committee.

These are Public Bills because they will change general law.

Private Bills

These are Bills suggested by a person, group or company. They usually:

  • add to an existing law
  • change an existing law

A committee would be created to work on a Private Bill.

Bill stage timeline

The Defamation and Malicious Publication (Scotland) Bill is at Stage 1.

Introduced

The Scottish Government sends the Bill and related documents to the Parliament.