Salmond demands Treasury ‘leak’ probe

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By a Newsnet reporter

First Minister Alex Salmond has demanded a formal investigation into the RBS affair involving BBC News at the height of the Scottish referendum campaign last month.

Mr Salmond wants a probe into allegations that the Treasury disclosed market-sensitive information about the bank’s position on independence.

First Minister Alex Salmond has demanded a formal investigation into the RBS affair involving BBC News at the height of the Scottish referendum campaign last month.

Mr Salmond wants a probe into allegations that the Treasury disclosed market-sensitive information about the bank’s position on independence.

The claim is that the leak occurred before the RBS board had discussed the company’s position on the evening of September 10.

It is believed that an email about RBS planning to transfer its head office to London in the event of a Yes vote was sent at 10.16pm, while the board meeting was taking place. It is understood the board meeting continued until 10.40pm.

The significance of the timing will be at the heart of any investigation that is initiated by the Financial Conduct Authority, with whom Mr Salmond has lodged the complaint. He alleges that the leaking of market-sensitive information breaches City rules, and, if proven, could be a criminal offence.

The leak was at the heart of the infamous incident involving the First Minister and BBC political editor Nick Robinson, the alleged beneficiary of the Treasury leak. Mr Robinson’s arrival in Scotland to cover the referendum soon after the London press reacted to a YouGov poll that put the Yes vote ahead at a crucial time, prompted huge controversy.

He claimed on UK national news that Mr Salmond had not answered one of his questions, despite video evidence that he had done so. The ensuing row is at the heart of the row about media bias, and particularly about the BBC’s coverage of the referendum campaign.

The BBC has since insisted that it handled the referendum fairly, a claim that has attracted controversy itself.

A decision on whether to hold an inquiry now lies with FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley, as he decides whether to agree to the First Minister’s demand and infuriate Treasury officials and their political boss, “no currency union” Chancellor Osborne.