by a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has challenged Labour, Lib-Dems and the Tories to match the Nationalist’s openness and release details of meetings and correspondence relating to News International and other media over the last four years.
The call from the SNP follows the publication by the Scottish government of documents going back four years that detail the contact SNP Ministers have had with all sections of the media. The raft of documents also contained correspondence between the First Minister and Rupert Murdoch.
The call for openness comes as former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish confirmed that he would have no objection to his own dealings with News International and other media organisations being released.
Mr McLeish defended the First Minister saying he had done “nothing improper… or irregular”. Asked if he would see his own letters published Mr McLeish said: “I don’t see why not – this is what I think is important, we cannot put the Salmond issue in isolation, we’ve got to look back and we’ve got to look forward and that’s why I think we need consistency.
“I have no problems myself, if the records are available, it’s 10 years ago now since I was First Minister, about them being made public and of course that will help.”
Labour and the Lib Dems both launched bitter attacks yesterday immediately after details of Mr Salmond’s meetings became public. Iain Gray accused the SNP leader of trying to “seduce” Mr Murdoch and of using taxpayer’s cash to buy gifts for the media tycoon. Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie accused the First Minister of ‘stooping low’ in order to secure News International’s support.
The SNP has reacted to Mr Gray’s comments by producing a list, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, detailing meetings former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell had with News International figures.
The list, not exhaustive as only full disclosure would reveal all meetings, shows Mr McConnell as a Minister and First Minister met and dined with News International figures at least 14 times.
The SNP also point out that despite knowing that former PMs Blair and Brown regularly met with NI figures and that senior Labour politicians were also known to have had frequent contact with executives of News International, that virtually nothing is known of the discussions that took place.
SNP MP Stewart Hosie said:
“The SNP is leading the way with the publication of all correspondence with News International and publication of records stretching back to 2007.
“All other parties must immediately release their correspondence, and the full four years of meetings.
“Anything less than the same transparency from Labour, Tory and Lib Dem would be utterly hypocritical after their ridiculous behaviour in recent weeks.”
Mr Hosie responded to accusations from Labour that the First Minister’s behaviour had been “questionable” and added:
“The record of Alex Salmond’s meetings and correspondence shows they were all in the interests of promoting Scotland and securing business and investment for Scotland.
“In contrast we have no idea what has been discussed at meetings between Blair, Brown, Cameron, Miliband or even Iain Gray and media executives.
“Henry McLeish confirmed this morning that he would not object to his papers being released, will the rest of the Labour party say the same?”