As SNP leader Alex Salmond prepares to face the Leveson Inquiry this week, Scottish Labour have said he will no longer be able to avoid answering key questions over his and his party’s links with the Murdoch empire.
The opposition in Scotland has billed the event as a day of reckoning, pointing to the 25 questions published by the party in July last year and the 13 formal parliamentary questions tabled in April, all of which, Labour claim, have been unanswered.
Scottish Labour’s business manager at Holyrood, Paul Martin, says:
“There are scores of unanswered questions over the SNP’s links with News International and Friday will be an opportunity for full disclosure.
“Alex Salmond’s toe-curling fawning over Rupert Murdoch – even after the shocking Milly Dowler revelations – has shamed Scotland. On Friday he will have to start answering the questions he is clearly desperate to avoid.
“Throughout the entire phone hacking scandal Alex Salmond has ditched his usual megaphone diplomacy and has been uncharacteristically silent. Being summoned to give evidence on oath will force him to break cover.
“In public, the SNP were critical of Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of Sky, but papers already published at Leveson show Alex Salmond was acting as his private cheerleader.
“His claim that he was just trying to promote Scottish jobs is so patently absurd it is insulting. He was trying to curry favour in return for acting as a Sky lobbyist.
“He would clearly rather we all ignored the fact that he personally met with James Murdoch, wined and dined the editor of the Scottish News of the World, provided advertising to News International newspapers worth thousands of pounds, and sent his closest ministerial aide Joan McAlpine to the Bahamas to supply puff pieces about Sean Connery.
“Friday is the day that answers start.”
• The Murdoch stench lingers around Salmond 2 May 2012
• Grubby Murdoch goes Salmond-fishing 3 Mar 2012
• Slimy Salmond courts Murdoch 28 Feb 2012
• The 25 questions over the SNP’s Murdoch links 19 Jul 2011
At the heart of the matter is a simple question, namely what, if anything, Alex Salmond promised in return for the support of the Scottish Sun ahead of last year’s Scottish Parliamentary Elections.
The mass of emails (pdf) between Fred Michel and James Murdoch, published last month, show:
November 1st 2010:
Michel tells Murdoch Salmond was prepared to press Vince Cable, then the minister responsible for the BSkyB decision, to make the economic case for the takeover by News International and brief the Scottish press to that effect.
February 11th 2011:
Michel tells Murdoch:
“I met with Alex Salmond’s adviser today. He will call Hunt whenever we need him.”
March 2nd 2011:
Michel tells Murdoch that after Salmond had dinner with the Scottish paper’s editor:
“The Sun is now keen to back the SNP at the election.”
“On the Sky bid, he will make himself available to support the debate if the consultation is launched.”
March 3rd 2011:
A written answer from UK culture secretary Jeremy Hunt confirms Salmond’s office began contacting him on this day to organise a phone call between the two.
A further question remains over whether Alex Salmond or anyone else in the Scottish government, had their phones hacked.
Whilst it has emerged that former Labour first minister, Jack (now Lord) McConnell is suing News International for hacking his and his children’s phones, the current first minister has failed to confirm or deny if his own phone has been hacked.
The denials have led Scottish Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie, to call for answers from the permanent secretary of the Scottish government Sir Peter Housden, and Detective Superintendent John McSporran, head of Strathclyde Police’s phone-hacking investigation, Operation Rubicon, about whether any official or minister in the Scottish government have had their phones hacked.
Sign-up to our weekly email • Donate to Left Foot Forward