First minister says he was acting to protect Scottish jobs after emails suggest he was lobbying for News Corp’s BSkyB takeover
The Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, has denied acting as an “undercover lobbyist” for Rupert Murdoch and his media empire.
The Scottish Nationalist leader said on Saturday that his relationship with Rupert Murdoch was “good and business-like”, adding that he was willing to intervene on the media mogul’s behalf to protect Scottish jobs.
His comments come after the release of emails from Frédéric Michel, News Corp’s European director of public affairs, to James Murdoch that suggested Salmond was prepared to lobby the business secretary, Vince Cable, and culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to wave through the takeover of BSkyB.
Further documents published by the Leveson inquiry this week showed a “cup of tea” that Salmond said he had had at his official residence with James Murdoch in February was a lunch that also included Michel, whose role was to overcome obstacles to the BSkyB deal.
The revelations prompted the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, to describe Salmond as an “undercover lobbyist” for Murdoch.
Salmond told BBC’s Today programme that BSkyB employed 6,200 people in Scotland and he was willing to advocate for Murdoch because “the consolidation of business ownership would be a platform fro the expansion of BSkyB” and Scotland was “excellently placed” to benefit from that.
He said he was “delighted” that Murdoch described him as a “funny guy” and added that he did not believe his newspapers were the only ones guilty of phone hacking. “The idea that malpractice and potential illegality is confined to one organisation is for the birds,” he said.
Speaking of Miliband, Salmond said: “This is a guy who last July was having champagne and canapes at a News International reception but now thinks people will forget all of Labour’s previous associations.”
Miliband, who was campaigning with his party in Glasgow on Friday, said: “If he had nothing to hide, why did he hide it? What he actually did was, acted as an undercover lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch. I don’t think that’s what people expect of the First Minister of Scotland.”