Alex Salmond criticised over Rupert Murdoch links

From Democracy Live: Alex Salmond at FMQs

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First Minister Alex Salmond has come under opposition attack over relations with media boss Rupert Murdoch.

Evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics suggested that Mr Salmond was ready to support News Corp's bid to gain control of BSkyB.

Labour leader Johann Lamont said he was the only senior politician in the country to have recently invited Mr Murdoch "round for tea".

The first minister said he had been fighting for Scottish jobs.

It has emerged that Mr Salmond had been willing to call the now under-fire UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, over BSkyB, but the conversation did not ultimately take place.

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His [Mr Salmond's] core argument was that, in dealing with the Murdochs, he was seeking to advance Scottish interests - to protect Scottish jobs. In rebuttal, critics said that he had been prepared to lobby specifically for Rupert Murdoch to gain full control of BSkyB”

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Start Quote

If you're not willing to fight for Scottish jobs and the Scottish economy, you shouldn't be in Scottish politics. So says the First Minister. And who would argue with that? But one of the questions raised by his [Mr Salmond's] willingness to lobby for Murdoch's News Corporation is what it has to do with the Scottish economy”

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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 6,000.

During question time in the parliament, Ms Lamont asked why SNP MPs had opposed the proposed takeover at Westminster if jobs had been at stake.

And she raised concern about a meeting between Mr Salmond and Mr Murdoch at the first minister's official residence, Bute House, at the end of February.

Ms Lamont said: "The revelation that Rupert Murdoch's newspaper hacked Milly Dowler's phone was the moment that any doubt about Rupert Murdoch was removed, it was the moment his empire started to fall.

"And yet, after the devastating revelation, the first minister became the only senior politician in this country - perhaps the only one in the world - to invite him round for tea."

She added: "Some say the first minister has been devious, conniving, double dealing - isn't he just trying to cover up the fact a rich man has played him for a fool again?

"Is it not the case he's no statesman, just a sucker?"

The BSkyB takeover was dropped after the phone hacking scandal at News Corp newspaper the News of the World came to light.

Mr Salmond said discussions on the takeover had come before those revelations.

He added: "One of the issues that was being discussed last year was that BSkyB were moving from nine contractors to two contractors, and that carried with it the risk of major job losses in Scotland, unless Scotland won the contracts."

Mr Salmond said a major contract was recently won, which brought the prospect of up to 900 jobs in Glasgow, adding: "The job of a first minister is to advocate jobs for Scotland.

"This first minister will continue to do it."

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie accused Mr Salmond of putting "his own political motives above those of the phone-hacking victims".

Mr Salmond responded: "My opposition and revulsion about phone hacking is well on the record. I supported the establishment of the Leveson Inquiry."

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