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Scotland Act 1998


This section is concerned with the proceedings of the Parliament and is intended to ensure that members are free to debate and the Parliament is free to report on matters of public interest without fear of an action for defamation being raised. The privilege of freedom of speech is part of the law and custom of the Westminster Parliament. It is also reflected in Article 9 of the Bill of Rights Act 1688 which confers on “proceedings in Parliament” protection from being “impeached or questioned” in any court.

No similar privilege is conferred upon proceedings in the Scottish Parliament – see the note on section 40. However, this section and section 42 protect statements made in such proceedings and their publication against proceedings for defamation and contempt of court.

It is possible for the Parliament to modify sections 40-43 and to make its own provision about such protections under paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 4.

There are other provisions which make provision in relation to defamation. For example the amendments made to the Defamation Act 1952 by paragraphs 10 and 11 of Schedule 8 make provision in relation to defamation at elections, and amendments to the Public Order Act 1986 by paragraph 24 of that Schedule make provision in relation to reports of parliamentary proceedings.

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Text created by the government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Public Acts except Appropriation, Consolidated Fund, Finance and Consolidation Acts.


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