Alex Salmond’s BBC spat called ‘bizarre and weird’

Broadcaster James Naughtie said Salmond should 'move on'. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Broadcaster James Naughtie said Salmond should 'move on'. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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THE BBC broadcaster James Naughtie has called Alex Salmond “bizarre and weird” over his continuing argument with the corporation over its coverage of the referendum.

The former first minister launched a stinging attack on outgoing BBC political editor Nick Robinson this week over his coverage, claiming that it was an “embarrassment” and a “disgrace.”

Mr Naughtie made his comments after Mr Robinson had likened a demonstration by Nationalists outside the BBC’s Scottish headquarters during the campaign to something from “Putin’s Russia”.

The protest followed a spat between the then SNP leader and Mr Robinson at a press conference a few days earlier.

Mr Naughtie, a presenter on Radio 4’s Today programme, said Mr Salmond should “move on.”

“I do think that the personalisation of it, a year on, is bizarre,” Mr Naughtie said at the Edinburgh International Book Festival yesterday.

“I think that the idea that the former first minister, a distinguished parliamentarian both in Edinburgh and London, should still be getting at Nick for one alleged offence in the heat of an election campaign is bizarre, and it is interesting that the First Minister herself shows no interest in getting involved at all.”

When asked if he felt Mr Robinson had been right to draw the comparison with Russia, Mr Naughtie refused to criticise him. “Nick’s words are a matter for him,” he said. “We would all choose our phrases. I don’t know what – had I been asked the same question, had it been me who had been on the posters – the phrase I would have searched for might have been. ‘Putin’s Russia’ – it might have been something even fruitier.

“I’m not going to criticise Nick’s words. I just think it’s weird that Alex Salmond should sort of waste his time still pursuing that argument.”

The broadcaster defended the BBC’s coverage of the referendum, saying that it had behaved as a “responsible public broadcaster.”

He added: “A year later, to be banging on about one individual as a result of a spat at a press conference is, well, I think it should be an end of it.”

Mr Naughtie also noted that, at the time of the protest outside BBC Scotland’s headquarters, Mr Salmond had described the event as “joyous” but that Nicola Sturgeon had “taken a completely different line”.

The fall-out between Mr Salond and the BBC erupted in the week before the vote itself last September at a major press conference in Edinburgh.

Mr Robinson claimed in a report the SNP leader had failed to answer a question on the economy after RBS announced it would leave Scotland after a Yes vote. It prompted thousands of Yes campaigners to march on the BBC’s Glasgow HQ in protest.

Mr Robinson compared the protests to Putin’s Russia during an appearance at the book festival last week. Mr Salmond has pledged to go on the offensive when he appears at the festival himself next week.