The Scottish press should be subject to mandatory regulation underpinned by law even if the press in the rest of the UK is not, a Scottish Government-appointed panel of legal and media experts has suggested.
If Westminster fails to create a UK-wide press regulator Holyrood should create one in consultation with the media, the expert group on the Leveson Report in Scotland has concluded.
The regulator could have the power to censure newspapers, magazines and websites, including "gossip" sites, while further regulation of social media such as Twitter may also be required, the group stated in a new report.
Any suggestion that they are advocating "censorship" or "unprecedented political control" would be misguided, the panel chaired by former Solicitor-General for Scotland Lord McCluskey said. Voluntary press regulation is unlikely to work, the report concluded.
"We have little confidence that the voluntary 'opt in or opt out' model proposed by Leveson would work - whatever incentives were devised to encourage publishers to opt in," the report stated.
"The carrots proposed by Leveson are not sufficiently enticing, nor the sticks sufficiently intimidating, to put any real pressure on publishers to join a scheme that replaces light touch self-regulation."
In a letter to First Minister Alex Salmond accompanying the report, Lord McCluskey said: "The jurisdiction of the regulatory body proposed by Leveson must extend to all publishers of news related material and not be a voluntary system."
He added: "If the London discussions fail to produce a compliant body, we suggest that Scottish ministers consider introducing legislation separately to ensure that those resident in Scotland can be adequately protected from abuse."
If "significant" publishers opt out, "the whole system breaks down" and "we would be left with no system at all", the report stated. "All and any news-related publisher may be considered significant, since all and any may be capable of causing the very harm which Leveson is committed to addressing."
Regulation in other countries extends to social media sites such as Twitter, the report notes.