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Defamation Reform

Access videos, reports and other updates from the Scottish PEN Defamation Reform Campaign here.

October 26, 2021


In March 2021, the Scottish Parliament voted to make important changes to defamation law in Scotland. The Bill which passed, titled the ‘Defamation and Malicious Publications (Scotland) Bill‘, represented the first major reform to the law in Scotland for over 20 years. The Bill became law on 21st April 2021.

Scottish PEN had been campaigning for the law to change for many years, and in 2016 we received funding from the Joseph Rowntree Community Trust to support this work. We knew that the law was out of date, didn’t reflect the ways we share and publish information online, and offered too few protections for free expression. This page provides a summary of what the law means for writers, editors, publishers and social media users. It also provides access to the campaign materials, reports and case studies that formed our Defamation Reform Campaign over the past few years.

Short video: What does defamation reform mean?

Scottish PEN Briefing: Scottish Defamation Law Reform. What does it mean for writers, editors and publishers?

This easy-to-read briefing outlines what defamation means, why the law had to change, and what changes the new law includes.

Download a pdf. version of the report here.

Report: Impact of defamation law in Scotland

In this study we hear from over 100 writers, editors, publishers and activists, who detail their experiences of defamation threats and the law, their fears around censorship in public discourse, and their feelings about free expression in Scotland today.

Download a pdf. version of the report here.

Scottish PEN Statement upon the passing of the Bill

Read our statement, published shortly after the Bill was passed in parliament, here.

Campaign timeline

Visit our campaign timeline and access news by calendar month here.

Justice Committee evidence

In March 2020 we submitted our evidence to the Justice Committee scrutinising the Defamation and Malicious Publications (Scotland) Bill. Read it here to better understand our argument for change. You can also watch our contribution to Justice Committee evidence sessions below:

Via the website

Other resources

Watch Scottish Parliament debates on the Bill:

Letter of support from Scottish writers

In August 2019, we sent a letter, signed by 181 Scottish and international writers calling on the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon to commit to defamation reform. You can read the letter here.

Blog archive

Access the full history of our defamation reform campaign by reading blogs and updates from 2016 onwards here.

TAGS: defamation defamation reform freedom of expression