BARRHEAD author Chris Brookmyre is urging the Scottish Government to reform “inadequate” defamation law.

Mr Brookmyre is among 181 campaigners who have signed a letter that calls on Holyrood chiefs to introduce a new Bill on defamation in the forthcoming year of the parliamentary session.

The letter, addressed to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, argues that the current law on defamation in Scotland is “out of date, inadequately protecting free expression, and is in urgent need of reform.”

It states: “The protections the law currently extends are woefully insufficient when faced with the ways people communicate, source information and reach out to others, especially online.

“To ensure free expression is protected, defamation must be reformed as soon as possible.

“Recent movements towards reform, including the Scottish Government public consultation which followed an earlier evidence session at the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, are to be welcomed.

“In the face of the clear consensus around the need for reform, the Scottish people need guarantees that this work will be followed by meaningful legislative action.”

Mr Brookmyre, whose best-selling novels include Quite Ugly One Morning and Boiling a Frog, has been joined by fellow writers such as Ian Rankin and Zoe Strachan in championing freedom of speech and literature.

Their letter adds: “Reform is long overdue but we now have growing consensus as to what needs to change. This includes a serious harm threshold to dissuade trivial cases or those brought solely to silence criticism, a statutory defence of publication on matters of public interest, increased protections for defenders against vexatious legal action, better online protections and a single publication rule to ensure the time period within which a defamation action can be brought does not restart every time a link or post is shared or viewed online.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said it is determined to reform defamation law so it is “fit for modern Scotland.”

He added: “We want to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the protection of an individual’s reputation.”

“We are currently considering all responses to our consultation on defamation law with a view to introducing a new Bill into Parliament in due course.”

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