By G.A.Ponsonby

Opponents of Alex Salmond, and there are many, were dealt a double whammy yesterday when only hours after the First Minister gave an honest and confident performance at the Leveson inquiry, his party aide Geoff Aberdein was also cleared of any wrongdoing over an email to a News Corp employee.

As damp squibs go this was one of the wettest.  Not since Guy Fawkes failed to blow up Parliament had so much metaphorical gun powder failed to ignite.

Indeed the only spark of interest was the unexpected revelation from Mr Salmond that his bank account had been, he believed, hacked by an English based broadsheet.

The day had started with BBC Scotland online declaring that Mr Salmond was to “answer questions” in his scheduled appearance at Leveson.

Radio Scotland ran with the theme declaring much the same, going as far as describing Mr Salmond as “under pressure” and already having “refused to answer any questions”.

In case the BBC’s online readers didn’t get the message, BBC Scotland’s Brian Taylor provided a list of ‘evidence’ that Mr Salmond would face.

However Taylor, and pretty much the whole of the Scottish press corp, was left disappointed when nothing emerged from Mr Salmond’s appearance – no phone hacking and no evidence of any deal between Mr Salmond and Rupert Murdoch.

The suggested smears relating to the Sun’s endorsement of the SNP was probably nothing other than a paper backing a winner at a point in time they knew the SNP was well ahead in the polls, the Sun came out in support around 14 days before the election after having commissioned a poll.

Indeed Salmond all but destroyed the attempts to suggest any quid-pro-quo when he pointed out that Mr Murdoch’s influence hadn’t stretched as far as the Times newspaper, who continued to attack the SNP.

It didn’t prevent Mr Taylor from describing questions into the now clearly baseless claims of a ‘deal’ between Mr Salmond and Mr Murdoch as “substance”.

Just what was “substantive” about asking a question on a matter for which there is not a shred of evidence only Mr Taylor knows, and why no mention of the lack of support from the Times newspaper?

Taylor’s blog also included another helpful piece of imagery in the form of Mr Salmond standing alongside Rupert Murdoch.  One of the five meetings in five years Mr Salmond had described in evidence to the inquiry.  We’ll wait a while before Brian Taylor publishes a photo of Ed Miliband holding aloft a copy of the Sun newspaper by way of balance.

But Mr Taylor’s online witterings were nothing to the quite incredible press releases sent out by Johann Lamont and Willie Rennie.

Here’s what Brian Taylor said of these press releases:

“Tonight Mr Salmond's critics say that the evidence heard today does not get round the fact that he was a loyal and persistent supporter of the Murdochs even after the phone hacking scandal emerged.”

So, it is a ‘fact’ that Mr Salmond was a “loyal and persistent supporter of the Murdochs” after the phone hacking scandal.  Shame this loyal and persistent support didn’t merit an invite to the summer garden party attended by Ed Miliband.

Miliband admitted yesterday that he had spoken to Rupert Murdoch at the party and regretted not bringing up the phone hacking scandal.

Now that’s a fact!

But what of the press releases?

Well here’s Willie Rennie’s:

“Mr Salmond clearly thought that rather than being on the stand at the Leveson Inquiry he thought he was sitting on the sofa at the One Show.

“From recommendation for books and theatre shows to the pleasures of golf in Scotland, Mr Salmond danced around questions, merrily ignoring the seriousness of the issues that are being dealt with.

“Mr Salmond failed to provide evidence that he didn’t trade support for News International on phone hacking in return for political support from the Sun and News of the World.  He put his interests above those of the phone hacking victims.”

So Salmond was comfortable, relaxed and … wait for it, failed to provide evidence he hadn’t made a deal with Murdoch.

This idiocy should have been treated with contempt by Brian Taylor.  Since when is it a requirement to prove you aren’t guilty of a smear?

But there’s something else in Rennie’s statement.  Read again, the Scottish Lib Dem leader is making a new accusation – apparently Mr Salmond is now being accused of supporting phone hacking ... incredible.

If Rennie’s statement is bad, there’s even worse from Scottish Labour:

The First Minister Alex Salmond has admitted to the Leveson inquiry that he was at Rupert Murdoch’s beck and call.

Asked about emails which said he was prepared to lobby the UK government on the Murdoch’s behalf over their proposed takeover of BskyB at any time, he confirmed this was the case.

Responding to the First Minister’s evidence, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said:

“The First Minister’s evidence to the Leveson Inquiry was embarrassing to Scotland in what he said, and the way he said it.

“Alex Salmond admitted he was at Rupert Murdoch’s beck and call and prepared to lobby on his behalf whenever he asked.

“Yet he offered not one scrap of evidence that Scotland benefitted from his closeness to the Murdoch Empire – described by the inquiry counsel as ‘cosiness’.

“We call on him now to answer the 40 questions we have tabled about the details of what the Murdochs offered him, and how this offer was assessed.

“Without those details all of Scotland will reach the same conclusion that the Inquiry’s lawyer repeatedly put to Mr Salmond – that this looks like a case of him being prepared to intervene in Rupert Murdoch’s commercial interests in return for the support of his newspapers.”

Forty questions no less.  One shudders to think how much it would cost the Scottish taxpayer for each one of Labour’s questions to be answered.

Indeed it begs the question just how much money has been wasted with the constant stream of complaints against the First Minister, his aides and Civil Servants by Labour MSPs that have to be painstakingly investigated.

The latest one was Labour MSP James Kelly who had claimed that Mr Salmond’s adviser Geoff Aberdein had breached the code of conduct by sending an email to a News Corp employee clarifying Mr Salmond’s support for the BskyB bid.  It went the way of all of the other complaints.

All in all a good day for the First Minister and a frustrating one for his political opponents both within media circles and political ones.

The Salmond/Murdoch smears disappeared from our media the day after the local elections in Scotland.  Today proved that there was never any substance to the accusations of a deal with Rupert Murdoch, the claims were always more about damaging Alex Salmond pre-election than anything else.

“Will we get any closer to understanding the relationship between Rupert Murdoch and Alex Salmond.” said Gordon Brewer on Newsnight Scotland.  BBC Scotland had invested quite a bit in what turned out to be a non story, Salmond and Murdoch - there was nothing and there is nothing.

It's difficult to see where the state broadcaster and the other Scottish media can go with this.  But this is the BBC, so let's just wait and see.  With no evidence to back claims of a deal, BBC Scotland might just continue running questions and innuendo, or even turn their attention to the Observer claim and a "Why did he not tell us sooner" line.

Indeed, as things stand the only evidence of a deal is between BBC Scotland and Scottish Labour - the number of complaints by Johann Lamont's party appearing as headlines on BBC Scotland is quite incredible.

One wonders if and when the BBC will realise that there is a difference between opposition to Government and opposition to governance.

Scottish Labour will continue to bark - it's what they do.  Paul Martin looks to be the 'attack dog' unleashed by Johann Lamont.

Is the SNP not now concerned about concentration of power and competition in the media? asked Gordon Brewer near the end of the programme, apparently oblivious to the irony of his question.

One question that seems not to have been asked: What could Alex Salmond have offered Rupert Murdoch anyway, he had no power whatsoever over the BSkyB decision.


# Jim Johnston 2012-06-14 07:17
It was certainly there to see that AS is the most brilliant poltician in the UK.

Alex will realize of course that you don't have to be a star to shine in that company.

John Major is also an honest man, just a wee bit wandered.
# Diabloandco 2012-06-14 07:20
From the cretinous comments by the
" opposition",the devious manipulation of news by BBBC Scotland, to the Cochranes and co in the tedious ,tiresome spiteful commentary in the press, my disgust knows no bounds.
How shamefully they mislead , spin and LIE to the people of Scotland.
May their comeuppance be swift and sure.
# gus1940 2012-06-14 07:43
Strange silence re Eck/Leveson on this morning's Good Morning Scotland, Apart from mention of the Observer hacking and newspaper review - zilch.

I bet they they had a full complement of hypocritical Unionist Attack Dogs lined up for the program in anticipation of something sensational.

Ex Speaker Martin's sprog was pathetic on last night's Newsnight.

Roll on today's FMQ's.
# Macart 2012-06-14 08:06
Five meetings in five years and what, a dozen or so contacts in a dozen years does not a relationship make. Godparents, sleepovers, party invites sounds a lot cosier doesn't it?

Labour and Liberal members should hang their heads in shame at the treatment of Alex Salmond over the past year. They should hang their heads in shame at the state of parties with great traditions and history. Gawd politics is a rough and dirty game and no mistake, but it doesn't have to be that way, it never did.

By all means attack poor policy or policy poorly enacted, but the assaults and groundless innuendo are far more demeaning to the accuser than the recipient at this point and the continued personal attacks by Rennie and Lamont are nothing short of childish petulance and an affront to Scottish politics. However the electorate vote in 2014 one memory will be carried forward from now on and that is how the parties involved conducted themselves and to date the unionist cause has reduced itself to the level of yah boo politics and smear.
# Marga B 2012-06-14 08:15
The papers are still at it - headlines "Salmond denies" "Salmond claims", and Labour and Liberals' refusal to believe a statement made under oath.

It seems the words "I was proud of the Scottish First Minister yesterday" would stick in their craws.
# GrassyKnollington 2012-06-14 08:18
You're right about the BBC being oblivious to irony.

I almost fell of my chair when I realised that the thwarted Newsnight crew had spliced together all the times Alex Salmond called Lord Justice Leveson "Sir" in an attempt to make him look like a fawning British establishment lackey.

So Newsnicht, apologies for the reality check but I think you'll find that's yourselves.

Taking their cue from Scotland's British nationalist twitterati they also included a shot of someone yawning when Salmond was speaking to reinforce how boring the afternoon had been for scalp hunting unionists.

p.s just a test to see if Scotnat is banned as an offensive word as I notice the shortened version of British nationalist which I just wrote was asterisked.

Ok I see it's happy to accept Scotnat, could someone explain that one?
# Marian 2012-06-14 08:19
Rennie, Davidson, and Lamont are the nastiest bunch of so-called politicians you could ever meet judging by their increasingly obvious and desperate attempts to smear Alex Salmond and his colleagues.

Only question left is at what point does the Scots electorate realise this en masse and gives its judgement by consigning this trio to the dustbin of history.
# Dál Riata 2012-06-14 08:33
Take a look at the Guardian's comment cartoon by Steve Bell. And do note there is no facility to comment!!! Puerile, offensive, pathetic rubbish.

It will be interesting to see if the Guardian Media group go on the offensive or the defensive following Alex Salmond's accusation of journalists from the Observer hacking his bank account.

The irony of Observer employees being found to have acted illegally, if proven, when the whole Leveson Inquiry has been spouted by the Guardian as arising from its good works would be absolutely delicious!
# clootie 2012-06-14 08:49
Mis-direction as always. we (Bbc)can't find anything negative so focus on the bank account to prevent any positive story emerging.

look at all the positive factors of his evidence and it was clear his action were those expected of a FM
# Thee Forsaken One 2012-06-14 08:53
Forty questions no less. One shudders to think how much it would cost the Scottish taxpayer for each one of Labour’s questions to be answered.

I remember reading in the Herald that each written question costs £200 to answer. I have no idea how much the referrals to Standards cost but the 40 questions cost roughly £8000.
# Caadfael 2012-06-14 09:42
I challenge :-
The MSM to publish a list of SLAB's 40 questions WITH comments allowed.
The beeb to do the same, without moderation for at least 48 hours.
Newsnetscotland to do the same without the deplorable 30 minute rule.

We are after all responsible grown up adults and should know how to behave in public, not children who "should be seen and not heard"!
# Dcanmore 2012-06-14 10:31
Take that to a local level you'll find that Labour councillor Willie Scobie on D&G Council has submitted, since 2007, 765 complaints to Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership. This has cost over £40,000 to investigate his whinging! Apparently Russell Brown, Labour MP for D&G finds nothing wrong with that.
# Jediirnbru 2012-06-14 10:49
That means he is submitting a complaint nearly every day and a half!! No, wait, i didnt take annual leave out of my calculation. so it is actually a complaint ever day and a half!

Good grief. Heaven help his partner, he must be a joy to live with what with being a serial complainer.
# deepwater 2012-06-14 17:47
I note Willie Rennie being scandalised that AS couldn't provide evidence of something that didn't happen.

Evidence of something which does happen is often diffucult to obtain, but something which didn't, outside the laboratory - would frequently be impossible.
# Clydebuilt 2012-06-14 22:15
BBC Drive Time ....Cameron Buttle's coverage of FMQ's was anything but even handed. Were treated to two (long) questions from Johann Lamont.. A.S. was allowed only one short reply... then Ruth Davidson's question was aired in full . Cameron Buttle then failed to either summarise A.S.'s response or let the listener hear Alex's response.

Buttle was introduced as a political correspondent. The word Biased should be inserted between political and correspondent.
# millie 2012-06-14 23:38
I have just listened to Cameron Buttle’s summary of FMQs on BBC Newsdrive and am truly stunned. Well, I should be, but it is BBC Scotland we’re talking about!

Mr Buttle introduced FMQs on Radio Scotland (Medium Wave)at 12.30pm today- So he obviously heard the full session.- He heard Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson, Willie Rennie and Ms Dugdale being rightly brushed aside on every point they made by Alex Salmond.

It was embarrassing to the point that I actually wondered if they had forgotten that the general public listens to FMQs.

Then again, that part of the general public who depended on Mr Buttle’s version on Newsdrive will ‘never’ know the ‘reality’ of events.

Mr Buttle’s editing of today’s FMQs ‘FOR THE BBC’ is breath-taking to behold.
# jaejee85 2012-06-15 06:12
I spent the time and watched the complete video of First Minister Salmond at the enquiry. Everyone in Scotland should be proud to have such a person looking after their interests. Looking at the leadership of the SNP as a whole I see competence, passion and commitment to our nations wellbeing. Sadly I cannot say the same for many in leadership positions in labour or the other two minor parties. lackies to westminster is the nicest thing I can say.
Speaking as someone who has recently decided to vote for independence in the coming referendum I would like to thank the organisers of newsnetscotland , the correspondents and the numerous posters who have highlighted Scotlands enormous potential and its present day strength. We have had years of negative bile spewing from the unionist establishment, the positive attitude from every Scottish nationlist will win out for sure.
# Leswil 2012-06-17 18:36
I assume all MSP's have "Parliamentary Privilege" the same as MP's?
If so A/S should use his superior numbers to change the law to remove this.
Surely this would open the door to unsubstantiated , invented lies, false claims, word manipulation and libellous claims ending up with MSP's facing charges.
It would stop all this stuff in an instant knowing they would have no shield to hide behind.
It would also be a great move for democracy, as the people would not be sidetracked by total rubbish, and would actually see the truth in any situation.

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