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Alex Salmond aims to avoid Scottish Parliament inquiry into phone-hacking

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has attempted to dispell any chance of a Scottish Parliament investigation being held on phone hacking following a call by Labour MP Tom Watson that one should be carried out.

Watson made the call for an inquiry North of the Border, following phone hacking claims made by former Scottish First Minister, Lord McConnell and SNP MSP Joan McAlpine - parliamentary aide to the First Minister - that they were victims of the News of the World.

However, the First Minister has retorted: "In terms of the suggestion of a separate Scottish inquiry, the Scottish justice system does not need any lectures from Tom Watson, who seems unaware of the fact that the Leveson Inquiry includes Scotland within its remit, and the fact that a Strathclyde Police special unit is currently investigating allegations of criminality in Scotland.”

Salmond is coming under increasing pressure over links with Rupert Murdoch - after the House of Commons media committee yesterday declared Murdoch “is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company". Watson is a member of the committee.

In Scotland, Labour and the Lib Dems immediately questioned Salmond’s judgement – citing talks he held with the media tycoon at his official residence in Bute House in Edinburgh in late February.

However, according to BBC Scotland, Salmond claims it was not a judgement for a committee of MPs to make.

The MPs report came following evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, into press standards, which suggested Salmond was ready to support News Corp's previous bid to gain control of BSkyB. That bid was dropped after the hacking scandal broke.

BBC Scotland quotes Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont as saying: "What we need to know is why Alex Salmond thinks that Rupert Murdoch is still a fit and proper person to run media in this country.

"We need to know why Alex Salmond thinks it is fit and proper for Scotland's first minister to lobby on his behalf."

BBC Scotland also quotes Salmond as saying on the MPs report: "The question of who is a fit person to run a major news organisation should be judged by independent authorities, like Lord Justice Leveson, and by the scrutiny of an independent statutory body like Ofcom, rather than a politically-divided committee of MPs split on party lines.

"In terms of the suggestion of a separate Scottish inquiry, the Scottish justice system does not need any lectures from Tom Watson, who seems unaware of the fact that the Leveson Inquiry includes Scotland within its remit, and the fact that a Strathclyde Police special unit is currently investigating allegations of criminality in Scotland.

"That investigation will proceed wherever the evidence leads, without fear or favour, to ensure Scottish citizens are afforded the proper protection of the criminal law.

"And in Scotland, I am confident the criminal law will be upheld."

He added that the Scottish judicial system was "perfectly capable" of dealing with the Tommy Sheridan case.

"Mr Watson and other Labour MPs are guilty of utter hypocrisy, given that their party has been happy to court News Corporation for many years, but are now trying to distance themselves in the mistaken believe that the more they attack the more people will forget their past, when in fact the truth is that, the more they attack, the more people will recognise their hypocrisy for what it is."

It recently emerged Salmond had been willing to call the beleaguered UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, over the proposed takeover last year of BskyB by News Corp but the conversation did not ultimately take place.

BBC Scotland points out: “It has now been confirmed Mr Salmond's office had made repeated requests to set up a telephone conversation between the first minister and Mr Hunt to discuss News Corp's bid to take over the broadcaster BSkyB.

“The first minister has insisted he did nothing wrong, saying he had concerns over the future of BSkyB jobs in Scotland, of which there are more than 6000.”

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