The Salmond smear campaign and the ‘unknown’ email


By a Newsnet reporter
The Salmond/Murdoch story continues to rumble on in the Scottish media.  In keeping with previous attacks on the First Minister Scottish Labour are demanding another inquiry.
The internal email sent by a News Corp employee suggesting the First Minister would be available to speak to Jeremy Hunt whenever News Corp wished has led to accusations that Mr Salmond had hatched an agreement with Rupert Murdoch.

The claim from Labour, and other Unionist parties, is that the Sun’s subsequent support for the SNP just before the 2011 Hollyrood election was as a result of a deal hatched between Alex Salmond and Rupert Murdoch which required Mr Salmond to lend his support to News Corp’s BskyB bid.

There is no evidence for such a deal.  The email constantly referred to is a third hand interpretation of communications between a News Corp employee and Mr Salmond’s advisor, Geoff Aberdein.

The email states: “I met with Alex Salmond’s advisor today.  He will call Hunt whenever we need him to.”

Mr Salmond has already acknowledged that he did indeed plan to speak to UK Minister Jeremy Hunt about the BskyB bid and has given as his reason as investment and jobs he believed would accrue to Scotland. 

Scottish Labour say they do not believe the First Minister.  With no evidence to the contrary any further accusations against Mr Salmond are just that – accusations.  It is at this point that an honest press should begin to demand evidence from Labour, who appear to hop from accusation to accusation.

However this lack of evidence hasn’t stopped the Scottish media.  They continue to peddle Labour inspired innuendo, speculation and baseless accusation to the extent that it has now taken over the Scottish political narrative.

But if one returns to the Leveson emails, there is another email that hasn’t been given much publicity.  This email, on first reading appears to damn the First Minister, and one is left puzzled as to why his political opponents and journalists haven’t pounced on it as clear evidence to back their claims.

Newsnet Scotland has reproduced the email below:

It’s dynamite, or at least it looks that way.  Surely this is the evidence Labour has been looking for that nails Salmond fair and square.

However keen eyed observers will have noticed something; the date of the email.  It was sent on March 2nd 2011, almost three weeks after the ‘Aberdein’ email, by which time Scottish Labour claim that a secret deal has already been agreed between Salmond and Murdoch that will see the Scottish Sun support the SNP.

The email was sent two months after a January meeting between Mr Salmond and James Murdoch and three years after the First Minister last met Rupert Murdoch.

The email demonstrates clearly that Labour’s claims are baseless.  This email actually destroys the claims that the Scottish Sun’s support of the SNP had anything to do with previous meetings between any of the Murdochs and Alex Salmond.

For if any agreement was already in place then there would be no need for the editor of the Scottish Sun to make a pitch to the editorial team arguing that the Scottish Sun should get behind the SNP’s re-election bid.

The email also confirms the thing that drives Alex Salmond in his dealings with big business – the wellbeing of those over whom he represents and governs.  According to the email, the key issue discussed with the Sun’s editor was the impact of EU Fisheries policy on Scottish fishing communities.

Mr Salmond’s confirmation in this email of his stance on the BskyB bid is just that, confirmation of something his aide Geoff Aberdein had already alluded to.  Indeed another as yet unpublished email mentions Mr Salmond being “very keen” to put forward the economic arguments for Scotland with relation to the bid.

The existence of the ‘pitch’ email at a stroke destroys the line being pushed by the Scottish media of a ‘cosy’ relationship between Salmond and Murdoch that led to a secret quid-pro-quo deal where the SNP received positive coverage in return for Salmond’s backing for the BskyB bid.

It also calls into question the motives of those within the Scottish media, and the BBC, who were certainly aware of this email, yet still decided to run with Labour’s completely vacuous smears and innuendo.

One of these is a certain Gary Robertson who on Friday conducted what can only be described as one of the most hostile interviews ever witnessed on Radio Scotland.

In an episode peppered with hectoring interruptions, Mr Robertson jettisoned any and all pretence of impartiality and a desire to establish facts and instead took an increasingly aggressive stance against Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Gary Robertson interviewing Nicola Sturgeon

The Sun, contrary to Gary Robertson’s claim, was not supporting the SNP at the time of the ‘Aberdein’ email – the Sun editor was yet to make his pitch to the editorial team.  Indeed Mr Robertson, at one point, actually quotes from the above ‘pitch’ email but does not mention that the Sun has yet to adopt an editorial line supporting the SNP.

Mr Robertson struggles to form any coherent line of questioning throughout the interview, at one point pressing Ms Sturgeon on what he describes as “perception” followed by a quite pathetic question on the referendum date.

The irony is that the perception referred to by the BBC Scotland presenter is one that results from smear and innuendo.  The very innuendo broadcast for two full days by Mr Robertson and his colleagues – the Labour claims and accusations that were devoid of any evidence.

The chain of emails make for remarkable reading and one is left in no doubt that Jeremy Hunt’s cabinet position is almost certainly untenable.

The contrast between Scottish Labour’s smears and Labour’s approach south of the border, where Ministerial wrongdoing is the focus, is stark.  There is very real evidence that Jeremy Hunt may have behaved inappropriately.

Scottish Labour on the other hand have no such Ministerial wrongdoing to complain about.  Thus they have used the few references to Alex Salmond in the chain of emails in order to make baseless accusations knowing that the Scottish media will be only too happy to run them. 

The agenda is simple, it is to create a perception that Alex Salmond’s relationship (if we can call it that) with Rupert Murdoch is unhealthy and with it discredit any support the Scottish Sun may offer the SNP.

However if we turn away from Mr Salmond, the Leveson emails also reveal others keen for the BskyB deal to go through because of its apparent benefit to Scotland.  One email makes mention of a Lib Dem MP (probably MSP Jim Tolson) who it is claimed will lobby Vince Cable on the matter, the Scottish Lib Dems, then led by Tavish Scott, are also said to be supportive.

In page 42 of the email chain Nick Clegg’s advisor is said to have spoken of the importance in getting Labour on board and of the need to support Nick Clegg when he makes an announcement that “goes against an election promise”.

Other communications include claims that Nick Clegg was furious with Vince Cable after the latter’s public intervention into the BskyB bid.  In page 43 of the emails there is a sensational claim that Vince Cable is about to be “blackmailed”.

David Cameron’s advisor is said to have extended an invitation to News Corp to attend a meeting with Minister Chris Huhne and Number 10 for News Corp to present their strategy.

The emails are explosive and implicate senior coalition Ministers.  That we in Scotland are ignoring these stories and instead wading through politically motivated smears tells us all we need to know about the state of Scotland’s main stream media.