Alex Salmond attacks Treasury and BBC ‘bias’

Alex Salmond attacked BBC over its referendum coverage. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Alex Salmond attacked BBC over its referendum coverage. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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A SCATHING attack by Alex Salmond on David Cameron and the Treasury over their role in the No campaign in the run-up to last year’s independence referendum sparked a bitter row at Holyrood last night.

The former first minister hits out at the UK government and the BBC in newly published extracts from his referendum diary The Dream Shall Never Die.

Mr Salmond directed his anger at the corporation for its referendum coverage and said he was “disgusted” with Mr Cameron’s decision to link further devolution for Scotland with English votes for English laws in the wake of the No vote on 18 September.

He branded the Prime Minister “a Tory toff on a day trip” for his interventions in the debate and lambasting the “imperial bias” of broadcasters such as the BBC.

Mr Salmond’s opponents accused him of pursing a “vendetta” and of “destabilising” Scotland.

In an extract of the book, the former first minister names Robert Mackie as the Treasury civil servant he claims was responsible for allegedly leaking information to the BBC over RBS plans to relocate its headquarters to England in the event of a Yes vote. Mr Mackie was head of Scottish referendum communications at the Treasury at the time.

Mr Salmond writes: “The Treasury official immediately responsible for the leak was Robert Mackie who is, coincidentally, the son of Catherine MacLeod – former special advisor to ex-chancellor Alistair Darling, leader of the No campaign.

“Mr Mackie’s ultimate boss is Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the man who believed civil service impartiality did not apply to the referendum.”

He adds: “It’s as dramatic and clear-cut a breach of confidence as you’ll find in terms of potentially market sensitive information. Yet neither the Cabinet Secretary nor Financial Conduct Authority have agreed to investigate.”

Mr Salmond said the City of London Police were investigating the alleged leak.

He added: “If senior civil servants are intervening in politics you are on a slippery slope.”

With polls indicating a huge swing to the Nationalists in Scotland, Mr Salmond said Labour would find it “very difficult” to refuse the party’s support in the event of a hung parliament.

However, opposition parties accused Mr Salmond of using the publication of his book this Thursday to settle scores with opponents and re-run the referendum campaign.

Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “Alex Salmond is using the platform he has to desperately seek to settle old scores and blame other people for his failure to achieve his life’s ambition. He’s destabilising Scotland and many people will be annoyed that he has failed to accept the result of the referendum.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “It is sad that six months on from the referendum Alex Salmond is still digging around for excuses.

“Instead of pursuing his vendetta against the BBC he should recognise that he took his eye off the ball during the campaign and Scotland’s NHS is suffering as a result.”

Mr Salmond, who is standing in the Gordon seat at the general election, said: “A coalition with Labour is unlikely, confidence and supply is likely and vote by vote support is probable. They can refuse our approach but they would find it very difficult.”

He added: “We’ll shake Westminster to its foundations.”

Meanwhile, the Treasury dismissed Mr Salmond’s allegations about leaking information to the media.

A Treasury spokeswoman said: “No Treasury press officer leaked information about RBS.

“When HMT issued a statement about RBS’s possible intentions, it was responding to a story in the Sun newspaper about Lloyds’ contingency plans to move their registered HQ out of Scotland in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote, quoting an RBS source saying that RBS would almost certainly follow suit.”

A BBC spokesman said: “We believe our coverage of the referendum was rigorously impartial and in line with our guidelines on fairness and impartiality.”

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