Salmond account 'accessed' by paper

Wed, Jun 13, 2012, 01:00

Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, today told the Leveson Inquiry into media standards his bank account was accessed by a reporter.

The Observer newspaper looked into his account in the run-up to the 1999 Scottish election, he told the Leveson Inquiry into media standards. “I have no evidence that my own phone has been hacked,” he told Lord Justice Leveson.

But he added: “My bank account was accessed by the Observer newspaper some time ago, in 1999, and my reason for believing that is I was informed by a former Observer journalist.”

Mr Salmond has repeatedly refused to answer questions at the Scottish Parliament on whether he had been the victim of phone hacking, leading to accusations he has treated Holyrood with contempt. The First Minister always insisted the Leveson Inquiry was the correct place to air the issues.

A reference to purchases he made in a shop called Fun and Games, for young relatives, was mentioned in the alleged breach of his bank details. The revelation has “coloured his view” of press standards, he said.

On wider Scottish press behaviour, he said: “More recently I think we’d have to accept, given the information which has now been into the hands of the police in Scotland, there are a significant, perhaps proportionally less but significant Scottish examples of possible criminality.”

The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader has faced pressure from his opponents about his relationship with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, whose News of the World tabloid was closed amid the phone hacking scandal.

The pair met in February at Bute House, Mr Salmond’s official residence in Edinburgh. It led to accusations he was keen to court the businessman despite public outrage over phone hacking revelations linked to the family of Milly Dowler.

During an earlier inquiry session, it was suggested that Mr Salmond’s office was prepared to intervene on behalf of Mr Murdoch and lobby UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the proposed takeover of broadcaster BSkyB.

One of Mr Salmond’s advisers, Geoff Aberdein, was named in March as the person making the lobbying offer.

The Scottish Government has always maintained the only interest is in securing jobs.

Earlier today, British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg described how the press “ignored or derided” him and the Liberal Democrats before they entered government.

Mr Clegg said that at one dinner party with Rupert Murdoch and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks in 2009, he had been put at the “very end of the table where the children sit”. He also said most of his meetings with editors and proprietors were “fairly humdrum”.

The comments came as Mr Clegg gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.

He said when he became leader of the party in 2008 many senior figures did not “know me from Adam”.

Talking about the dinner on December 16, 2009 that he attended with Mr Murdoch, Mrs Brooks and Sunday Times editor John Witherow, Mr Clegg said he was little more than “an observer”.

“I was at the very end of the table, where the children sit, so to speak,” he added.

The following March he had lunch with Sun editor Dominic Mohan, and a “brief” meeting with Mrs Brooks and Mr Murdoch lasting a maximum of 10 minutes.

The Lib Dem leader said his strong performance in the first televised general election leader’s debate had sparked a major shift in attitudes towards him and his party. He said newspapers had gone from being “indifferent at best” to “lashing out” after his ratings spiked in the polls.

“If that is what you are used to in the press it must come as a bit of a shock, I guess, when you suddenly have these people who you have been either ignoring or deriding suddenly doing well in a general election, you start lashing out a bit and that is what happened,” Mr Clegg said.

He said some papers had started “going after the man rather than the ball”.

PA