This week saw the Scottish government attempt to distance themselves from the hackergate scandal threatening to engulf the government at Westminster. By disclosing correspondence & meetings, the SNP hope that this will put the matter to rest. With hindsight, it does not look particularly good for Salmond.
The disclosures revealed that Salmond first met the Dirty Digger in October 2007, with Salmond writing afterwards “I enjoyed our conversation and, as ever, found your views both insightful and stimulating”. Salmond also invited the Digger to the Ryder Cup at Kentucky as part of a Scottish delegation (Murdoch, probably showing more political nous than Salmond at this point declined this invitation) and also to The Gathering, the centrepiece of the Year of Homecoming events – in the hope of securing television coverage on BSkyB. Salmond also met the son of Digger, James Murdoch in January of this year, ostensibly to discuss “business opportunities for BSkyB in Scotland”. Whether this evolved into a conversation about what will happen during the election is anyone’s guess.
It’s wrong for SNP supporters to claim that there can be nothing suspicious about Salmond’s meetings with the Murdoch’s because the Scottish Government do not hold the same powers over broadcasting & culture that Westminster does. What the Scottish Government can do is pull limited economic levers in relation to business rates. We can also speculate that maybe a future Scottish Government could entice NI to move to Glasgow lock stock and barrel because of the “excellent” corporation tax rates that the SNP are keen to put into place. I’m not saying that will happen, it is just a possible scenario.
The difference between the SNP’s handling and Labour’s handling has been night and day, which shows that Labour haven’t learned from May. While the SNP have at least been proactive in trying to convince us that nothing untoward happened, Labour have invited us to think in cynical terms about the SNP. If we are to do this, let’s extend that cynical thought process to a party who enjoyed the support of the Digger for 12 years before the acrimonious split in 2009, who haven’t exactly been so forthcoming about their own meetings with Murdoch, NI or BSkyB. What meetings did Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell enjoy with the Murdochs?
Labour have been happy to throw the mud around, but have been less than happy to disclose any of their own meetings. If Labour are happy to ask us to believe that Salmond supped with the devil, to garner the approval of News International, perhaps we should ask what shape or form the pound of flesh took to pay for, say the noose front page from 3 May 2007? Or did the Blair government pick up that particular tab? After all Rebeckah Wade (as she was at the time) thought of the prime minister as “her Tony”.