Macwhirter loses cool as attacks against Salmond reach fever pitch


By a Newsnet reporter

Herald journalist Iain MacWhirter was involved in a dramatic loss of control this morning as he launched a furious attack on First Minister Alex Salmond’s dealings with Rupert Murdoch.

Listeners to Radio Scotland were treated to an uncharacteristically angry outburst after the journalist took issue with another guest who had defended First Minister Alex Salmond over the News Corp bid for BskyB.

Macwhirter, a Unionist and regular contributor to BBC Scotland Political programmes, was heard angrily talking over and interrupting former SNP media advisor Euan Crawford as the latter tried to address accusations made by Unionist politicians.

The interview started off as expected with both men silently listening as the other made his point.  However it very quickly descended into chaos as presenter Gary Robertson appeared to step back and allow Macwhirter freedom to launch a tirade against his opponent.

Responding to Mr Crawford’s claim that we were witnessing hysteria from Unionist politicians over the Salmond/News Corp email saga, Mr Macwhirter described Mr Crawford’s view as “seriously distorted”.

The Herald journalist suggested that a similar SNP led furore would have ensued had it been a Labour First Minister who had been “found to be in bed with Rupert Murdoch”, a suggestion that had already been acknowledged by his opponent in his opening remarks.

When it was pointed out that Alex Salmond would have had no influence over the eventual BskyB decision, which was in the hands of a UK Minister, Mr Macwhirter responded, “that makes it even worse”.

The journalist then accused Mr Salmond of being “prepared to put the office of First Minister into the hands of Rupert Murdoch.” and described the First Minister as “Rupert Murdoch’s lapdog”.

The discussion descended into chaos when Mr Macwhirter’s claims were described by Mr Crawford as an example of the hysteria he had referred to earlier.

Almost immediately, Mr Macwhirter launched an angry attack on both his opponent and the First Minister, calling Alex Salmond’s stance “a massive moral and political miscalculation by the First Minister of Scotland”.

As Mr Crawford sought to compare the situation with Mr Salmond, who it is claimed was seeking investment and jobs, with the emerging scandal over the apparent behaviour of UK Minister Jeremy Hunt, Mr Macwhirter appeared to lose control completely – talking over his opponent and badgering him with questions.

Incredibly, BBC Scotland host Gary Robertson allowed the hectoring to continue, only stepping in when Mr Crawford himself attempted to respond with a question of his own.

Mr Crawford claimed that the real reason for the outcry over Mr Salmond’s relationship with Rupert Murdoch had nothing to do with politicians seeking favourable headlines and more to do with the fact that the SNP now, after many years, appeared to have a newspaper that was willing to give the party a fair crack of the whip.

“There seems to be a great anger about the Sun now, why? Because it supports the SNP, and that seems to be the big issue for the SNP’s opponents.” said Mr Crawford who added:

“There is no issue of principle here whatsoever from the SNP’s opponents.  Their anger is purely directed, as we even heard from Rupert Murdoch yesterday … at the fact that here we have a situation where the SNP’s getting support from newspapers and apparently that’s completely illegitimate when it was totally legitimate for them to support other parties.”

Hear the full discusision here, apologies for sound quality:

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