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Last Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Reid bemoans 'sexed-up' reporting
George Reid addresses the conference
Presiding Officer George Reid is a former journalist
"Sexed-up" stories criticising the Scottish Parliament are damaging the country's fledgling democracy, according to the presiding officer.

George Reid, a former journalist, made the comments at the International Press Institute congress in Edinburgh.

He said it took time for both MSPs and journalists to learn their trade.

But he said there had been a list of "erroneous" stories since the creation of the Scottish Parliament which had a negative impact.

Mr Reid said tales about parliamentarians "flooded out, locked out, roasted, frozen, expelled, in revolt and falling into ponds" were some of the more colourful examples.

If we make mistakes now, they are our mistakes
George Reid
Presiding Officer

"A small minority of us rightly deserve probing and criticism but the majority do not deserve to be tarred with that brush," he told the conference.

"In a relentlessly competitive newspaper market, increasingly populated with freelances who have to sex the story if it is going to sell, it fills space.

"But it damages our nascent democracy."

Mr Reid said devolution had not been a disaster, but neither had it turned Scotland into a land of milk and honey.

"It has raised the awkward issue, though, of being no longer able to blame London for what goes wrong. If we make mistakes now, they are our mistakes," he said.

Gaelic road sign
The Gaelic culture is "growing in strength"

BBC Scotland's controller Ken McQuarrie also addressed the conference on Monday.

He told delegates how support from the Scottish Executive made a major difference towards providing Gaelic broadcasting services.

"There is a specific requirement to make funding available for minority languages," he said.

"They are simply not going to survive in the market place without that dedicated support, but it has to be there in the medium-term and long-term."

The BBC plans to set up a Gaelic digital service involving television, radio and internet content.

"It's one of the world's most vulnerable cultures with the smallest voice but growing in strength," said Mr McQuarrie.

"In an analogue world there would have been no chance of providing that digital service."

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