Salmond courts Murdoch as pro-union dream team finally begins to emerge

Ed Jacobs reports on the solidification of the pro-union side in the Scottish referendum - and not a moment too soon, as Murdoch comes out batting for the nationalists


The SNP government have sought to distance themselves from suggestions that a referendum on independence has been pencilled in for Saturday October 18th 2014, following the revelation in the first edition of The Sun on Sunday over the weekend.

Seeking to distance ministers from the report, a spokesperson for the first minister is today quoted as saying that whilst the date is a “possibility” a final decision “remains to be taken”, with a pledge that the Scottish parliament will be told first as soon as the consultation on a referendum has closed.

The apparent leaking of a date to Rupert Murdoch’s new paper has however once again raised questions over relations between the SNP, and Alex Salmond in particular, with the media tycoon, at exactly the same time that deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers yesterday told the Leveson inquiry that a “culture of illegal payments” to sources had developed at the paper.

It comes after a string of allegations over links between the Scottish government and Murdoch, with Scottish Labour last year having published 25 questions that the SNP needed to answer over the ties.

Likewise, having supported the SNP in last year’s elections to Holyrood, Murdoch himself has made clear his support for Salmond and the notion of Scotland going it alone in a series of tweets, among which was one declaring the SNP leader as “clearly most brilliant politician in UK.”

The date declared has however sparked a furious backlash for opponents who argue that a vote held during School holidays risks disenfranchising substantial numbers of voters. Outlining her concerns, Scottish Conservative Leader, Ruth Davidson has argued:

In Alex Salmond’s rush to cosy up to Rupert Murdoch, he has chosen a date which threatens to disenfranchise a huge number of Scots. The SNP’s rationale for a Saturday is to boost turnout, but this date would result in the opposite.

“Why does Alex Salmond want to call a poll when many voters are away on holiday? It is simply not acceptable.”

In a similar vein, speaking following the announcement by Scotland’s second biggest company, energy firm SSE, that an independence referendum will increase the risk it attaches to investment projects, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has declared:

“Coming just as Scotland’s second biggest company warns of the risk to investment, I do not understand the need for a three year delay.

“There is nothing that prevents the SNP holding this referendum now. We can’t afford to wait years to make this decision. Donald Dewar held a referendum within 134 days of coming to power, but it is going to take Alex Salmond seven and a half years.

“Alex Salmond is supposed to be consulting with the Scottish people about his preferred date, but seems more interested in consulting with Rupert Murdoch.”

Yet despite the heated backlash, the Scotsman has warned Salmond that currying favours from Murdoch might not necessarily reap the benefits he might be hoping. In an editorial, the paper concludes:

“Now we seem to know Alex Salmond’s preferred date for his independence referendum – 18 October, 2014. It happens to be a Saturday, the rationale being that it would make it easier for people to vote than if the poll was held on a traditional Thursday.

“There is nothing wrong with that. As this is such a momentous decision that Scots are being asked to take, it is only right that as many people as possible should be able to take part.

“Slightly odd is the choice of channel for dispensing this information – a leak to the new Sunday version of The Sun newspaper.

Of course, since it has been unofficially leaked rather than officially announced, it makes it easier for the first minister to change the chosen date, should that prove necessary.

“Rather more interestingly than that, handing out goodies and titbits to people whom Mr Salmond wishes to woo is a well-tried tactic from the SNP repertoire of political techniques.

“Rupert Murdoch, the proprietor of The Sun and from whom all decisions about political positioning flow, could be described as a floating voter.

“The Sun has backed the SNP in the past, and sometimes it has not. And in recent months, Mr Murdoch has indicated his admiration for Mr Salmond’s political skills and some sympathy for the idea Scotland should be independent. So it is easy to see why Mr Salmond would want to curry favour with him.

“But the idea that this will pay huge dividends for the SNP is misleading.

“The influence that newspapers have over how their readers vote has dwindled in recent years. Mr Salmond should also be aware of the problems of getting too cosy with rich and opinionated businessmen – his one-time friend and admirer Donald Trump is now hurling abuse and promising to finance campaigns against wind farms.”

Meanwhile, the campaign to save the union finally seems to be taking shape, as the Scotsman today reports that Scottish Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives have held discussions about forming a cross party campaign against independence.

It follows Johann Lamont’s acceptance during an interview with Holyrood magazine that the campaign would need to be cross-party in nature. As part of the effort, Labour MSP John Park has called on Gordon Brown to take an active part in the campaign. Park, who represents the same seat as the former prime minister in the Scottish parliament has argued:

Gordon Brown increased Labour’s share of the vote in Scotland and is still popular. Gordon Brown is potentially more popular than Alex Salmond and he would make a key difference in the campaign.

“He’s one of the few prime ministers in recent history to have left office with his credibility enhanced because of the dignified way he left Downing Street during his last day there.

“The humility he showed means that a lot of people view him in a positive light and that’s why I hope he’s involved in the campaign.

“We have to get people like Gordon Brown, Alex Ferguson and Alistair Darling, together with those like Johann Lamont that can reach out to a broad range of different people across Scotland. It could be called a dream team.”

See also:

Polls apart? The news for the SNP might not be as good as it looksEd Jacobs, February 6th 2012

Cameron got it wrong on Scotland, and he probably knows itEd Jacobs, January 10th 2012

SNP: Cam’s “economic uncertainty” argument is nonsense; we’ll stick to our timetableHumza Yousaf MSP, January 9th 2012

Opposition parties attack Salmond’s commitment to green agendaEd Jacobs, January 4th 2012

The SNP one-ups Osborne on infrastructure investmentEd Jacobs, December 5th 2011

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24 Responses to “Salmond courts Murdoch as pro-union dream team finally begins to emerge”

  1. Amanda Kendal

    Salmond courts Murdoch as pro-union dream team finally begins to emerge, writes @edjacobs1985:

  2. Ed Jacobs

    RT @leftfootfwd: Salmond courts Murdoch as pro-union dream team finally begins to emerge

  3. tangentreality

    Brown’s an imbecile – arguably the worst Prime Minister in modern times. However, if he can drum up extra votes for the Unionist position, he’s worth working with.

  4. IMR

    Salmond courts Murdoch as pro-union dream team finally begins to emerge, writes @edjacobs1985:

  5. Martin Steel

    Salmond courts Murdoch as pro-union dream team finally begins to emerge, writes @edjacobs1985:

  6. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – Salmond courts Murdoch as pro-union dream team finally begins to emerge

  7. Wmm

    I believe that the first prize for idiocy should go to Thatcher, the second to Major and the third to Heath. You probably qualify for the worst personal description ever given. Have a good day dipstick.

  8. Political Planet

    Salmond courts Murdoch as pro-union dream team finally begins to emerge: Ed Jacobs reports on the solidification…

  9. Alex Braithwaite

    RT @leftfootfwd: Salmond courts Murdoch as pro-union dream team finally begins to emerge

  10. tangentreality

    Bless. Lovely that you have to resort to insults.

    Although I am with you on Heath. He’s a close second, IMO.

  11. chickaddison

    Less than 1/4 of this article was on “the dream team”, which then turns out to be Ms. Lamonts pipedream: “We have to get people like…”. So nobody actually signed up then. The rest is just a “lets bash the SNP for all the media tricks we committed in the New Labour period” exercise. The sun has backed Labour and the Tories in the past so I doubt anyone at SNP HQ takes their commitment seriously, but it’s nice to be warned: best intentions and all that.

  12. Anonymous

    Rather than scraping together some pro-union ‘dream team’, why don’t the London based parties offer the Scots what they actually want – far more powers and responsibility for the Scottish Government ?

  13. TheLawMap

    Alex Salmond courts Murdoch as pro-union dream team finally begins to emerge

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  16. Thathistorybloke

    Hard to imagine how Brown and darling could be a’Dream Team’ – the current mess is not all their fault, but a fair bit of it is. If they ‘front’ the refeerndum campaign along with Miliband and Cameron, then the campaign will be in trouble from day 0ne.

  17. robert morgan

    All you need to know about the SNP.
    Salmon courts Murdoch as pro-union dream team finally begins to emerge

  18. Anonymous

    I can’t think of ONE of the current Labour flock of seagulls who could drum up ONE extra vote for the union. If this is your hope, you’re in for a BIG disappointment!

  19. Thathistorybloke

    Dream Team? Darling has been conspicuous by his absence recently, and although he and Brown might like to say that they ‘saved the economy’ , they really just saved a bunch of wealthy shareholders in various international banks. Who else could be in the ‘dream team’…Cameron? Osborne? Clegg? If Salmond is to be defeated the ‘No’ campaign will have to find someone who can over-match him intellectually, especially in practical economics. Clearly it can’t be any of the above, nor Ed Balls or Menzies Campbell, so who? Johann Lamont?

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  21. Gus Jackson

    Is Murdoch picking up the bill for independence? Salmond courts Murdoch

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