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Alex Salmond and Leveson

30th April 2012

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The release of 163 pages of emails from News Corporation this week, given as evidence at the Leveson Media Inquiry, has sprung up something which is potentially very damaging to Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond.

The revelation this week that Alex Salmond met with News Corporation head, and worldwide media magnate, Rupert Murdoch to discuss gaining the support of the Murdoch press for the Scottish National Party at the Scottish Parliamentary Elections last May for which Mr Salmond would, in return, lobby the Westminster Government on behalf of the BSkyB takeover bid of Sky has rocked the normally immaculate public image of the First Minister.

The evidence given shows that Mr Salmond met with Murdoch on six different occasions since October 2007, until their most recent documented meeting on the 29th February this year. In addition to this, they had four confirmed telephone calls, with three more possible conversations, which have not been confirmed.

At First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 26th April, Mr Salmond claimed he was prepared to lobby for BSkyB in order to save over 6000 jobs which BSkyB has in Scotland, and the First Minister said he had concerns over the potential loss of these jobs.

He claimed that: "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."

Opposition Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont, rounded on the First Minister saying, "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?”

It has also been suggested by News Corporation, who told the Levenson Inquiry that a meeting between Murdoch and Mr Salmond took place during New York City's 'Tarta Week' last year, and that this had not been disclosed by the Scottish Government.

So, the question is: can the First Minister survive these allegations, and what damage will it do to his reputation?

Undoubtedly, the First Minister will survive the allegations. So far, the UK press has only picked at the story in a minor sense, having jumped on Jeremy Hunt's alleged actions with BSkyB instead. The Scottish press and politicians have sought to gain political advantage from this, as they have the right to do so. Alex Salmond is percieved, on the whole, in Scotland as the closest thing Scotland has to a statesman, or even a Presidential figure. He is seen my most ordinary Scots as a charismatic and intelligent man who is putting Scotland's case to the rest of the world, and is prepared to talk up Scotland's ability to 'go it alone' which tends to play much better than Scottish Labour's 'we'd couldn't cope without England' approach.

He may temporarily be negatively portrayed in the media, but the First Minister will find a way of coming out relatively unscathed, unlike the UK Culture Secretary who may find himself out of the cabinet within a week or two should the unrelenting public and media pressure continue.

Mr Salmond should see a small slump in the polls, but I doubt that anything significant will happen, as opposition leaders in the Scottish Parliament are yet to find a way of attracting massive amounts of public attention in the wake of the SNP's victory at last year's elections, and they will struggle to make the most political gain out of this situation.

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