Amidst the almost hour-by-hour developments in the phone hacking scandal questions are now being asked over the SNP’s links to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
Reports over the weekend suggest Scottish Labour have submitted a list of 25 questions for Alex Salmond’s government and party to answer, including when the first Minister last met with James Murdoch the News International chairman, as well as how much the SNP spent on advertising with the company in the past four years.
Outlining the party’s rationale, Scottish Labour’s business manager, Paul Martin, argued:
“There are a lot of unanswered questions over the SNP’s links with News International. Throughout the entire phone hacking scandal Alex Salmond has ditched his usual megaphone diplomacy and has been uncharacteristically silent.
“Alex Salmond has desperately attempted to come across as whiter than white by keeping schtum and resorting to his default position of blaming Westminster.
“He would clearly rather we all ignored the fact that he personally met with James Murdoch, wined and dined the editor of the Scottish News of the World and provided free articles and advertising to News International newspapers worth thousands of pounds.”
Responding, a spokesman for Alex Salmond dubbed Labour’s effort’s “nonsense”, explaining:
“This is embarrassing nonsense from Paul Martin – he obviously doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a bad press release.
“For example, the first minister was on record at a press conference last week calling on Rebekah Brooks to step down, and also gave numerous broadcast interviews supporting the Commons motion – of which the SNP was a co-sponsor – calling on News Corp’s BSkyB bid to be withdrawn.”
Scotland on Sunday, meanwhile, reports Labour are putting further pressure on the SNP’s links to News International after finance secretary John Swinney and his wife, Elizabeth, gave an interview with the Scottish Sun on Saturday in which the pair spoke of Elizabeth’s battle with multiple sclerosis.
Arguing it was further proof of the SNP’s links with the Murdoch empire, a spokesman for Scottish Labour said:
“There are clearly countless examples of the cosy relationship that exists between SNP ministers and News International. Scottish Labour will continue to ask the uncomfortable questions over the SNP’s links with News International. It is clear the special relationship between the SNP and News International is still alive and well.”
Describing Labour’s attack as “tasteless”, however, the finance secretary’s spokesman sought to highlight Labour’s links with News International, arguing:
“Labour’s remarks are tasteless and hypocritical in the extreme – what exactly are they objecting to?
“The Sun interview about John Swinney and Elizabeth Quigley living with MS and having a new baby was conducted in April – or some two months before Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander were quaffing champagne and oysters with Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks at the News International summer party in London.”
The development’s came as it emerged Mr Salmond has asked UK’s culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to enable the public inquiry into hacking to be led by Lord Justice Leveson to consider the 2006 report by the Information Commissioner which outlined an extensive illegal trade in confidential personal information and made recommendations to government and industry.
Explaining that his government would be providing Westminster with a full document responding to the proposed public inquiry, the first minister said:
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“We welcome the judge-led public inquiry announced last week into the appalling hacking activities uncovered and other illegal press practices, and are calling for its terms of reference specifically to include inquiring into the Information Commissioner’s Operation Motorman report of December 2006 – which documented breaches of data protection laws across a range of newspaper titles – and why no action was taken despite tough recommendations.”