Last week the SNP Government published the letters sent by Alex Salmond to Rupert Murdoch. Apart from the sycophantic style of the letters parodied nicely in the Scotsman, there are serious issue remaining about the relationship between the SNP and the Murdoch empire.
What stood out for me was the exclusive offer to Rupert Murdoch to give the commercial rights for broadcasting the Gathering to BSkyB – without offering the same opportunity to other broadcasters. This is an astonishing revelation given the huge amount of money lost in the Gathering and the fact that coverage of the event was surely one of the income generating opportunities missed.
I’ve campaigned for many months now for a fair deal for the many small businesses who’ve never received payment for the services that they provided on the day. This revelation will rub salt in the wounds for them. If the First Minister had shown the same interest in the small companies that were left out of pocket because of his mistakes as he did with News International, the project wouldn’t have got into the mess it did.
Alex Salmond must now explain why he wanted BSkyB to have exclusive commercial rights to an event he was not organising, to the exclusion of other broadcasters. There are questions about accountability and probity that need to be answered urgently.
In the last Parliament the First Minister was no stranger to controversy with the Aviemore Hotel Development and the Donald Trump golf course standing out as issues where ministers interfered in the development process in an abuse of their powers.
Throughout the Scottish Parliament’s Audit Committee inquiry into the mismanagement of the Gathering, the offer remained secret.
As Hugh Henry MSP, Convenor of the Public Audit Committee commented
“It is unfortunate that the Public Audit Committee was never made aware of this connection when it was undertaking its investigation. There were major issues about cashflow and income from broadcasting was a significant factor. This sudden exchange of correspondence does not surprise me. It is very much in line with what we discovered about the way Alex Salmond operates, doing private deals, and personally trying to sell the company behind the back of those who owned it.”