Nicola Sturgeon has said she would have advised Alex Salmond against hosting a television show on the Kremlin-backed Russian broadcaster RT.
The First Minister and the SNP distanced themselves from Mr Salmond’s controversial decision to host his own chat show on the channel, described by critics as a propaganda outlet for President Vladimir Putin.
What the f*** is he doing?Alyn Smith, SNP MEP
Ms Sturgeon suggested her predecessor should have arranged to appear on another channel and said that she would not “shy away” from criticising the Russian government.
As criticism of Mr Salmond’s decision to broadcast “The Alex Salmond Show” on RT mounted, Ms Sturgeon and the SNP faced demands to condemn outright the former First Minister.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I am sure Alex’s show will make interesting viewing – however, his choice of channel would not have been my choice. Of course, Alex is not currently an elected politician and is free to do as he wishes – but had I been asked, I would have advised against RT and suggested he seek a different channel to air what I am sure will be an entertaining show.
“Neither myself nor the SNP will shy away from criticising Russian policy when we believe it is merited.”
A SNP spokesman issued a statement, which contained withering criticism of President Putin’s regime and which underlined that the party had “no connection” to its former leader’s media career.
“This is entirely a matter for Alex Salmond , who is not currently an elected politician and as such is free to take on broadcasting and other opportunities of his own choosing, just as those from other parties have done,” the spokesman said.
“The SNP has no connection to Alex’s company or his media interests.
“The SNP has regularly expressed concern over actions by the Russian government, including reports of persecution on the grounds of race and sexuality, attacks on journalists and concerns about the integrity of the democratic process, and we will continue to pursue these concerns.”
Mr Salmond will front the show, which will be screened on Thursday nights at 9 pm. While the former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh will produce the programme and take on a role as a roving reporter.
Other SNP figures have expressed their distaste at Mr Salmond’s choice of broadcaster.
The SNP MP for West Dunbartonshire Martin Docherty retweeted a tweet saying: “The Kremlin’s RT and Sputnik are ‘tool of misinformation’.”
In a tweet published alongside his retweet, Mr Docherty added: “I’ve said it once. I’ll say it again.”
The SNP MEP Alyn Smith was quoted saying: “What the f*** is he doing?”
The Scottish Tories called on Ms Sturgeon to condemn Mr Salmond.
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “It’s clear that Alex Salmond’s moral compass now points towards Vladimir Putin’s corrupt regime in the Kremlin. “It beggars belief that a man who led Scotland for seven years should be reduced to a puppet of Russia’s deeply damaging propaganda unit. “Along with most people, ordinary SNP activists will be appalled by Mr Salmond’s actions. “Hopefully Nicola Sturgeon will find the courage finally to distance herself from the embarrassing and shameful example being set by her predecessor. “Old loyalties should not deter the current First Minister from speaking out immediately.”
Scottish Labour leadership contender Anas Sarwar said: “It demonstrates an astonishing lack of judgement for a former First Minister to host a show on Kremlin-backed TV. Alex Salmond’s decision to become Putin’s puppet in the UK is deeply troubling. “Nicola Sturgeon can’t laugh this one off – she must demonstrate leadership and condemn this shameful decision.”
Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton challenged the former first minister to interview opponents of the Putin regime such as punk band Pussy Riot or Marina Litvinenko, justice campaigner and widow of murdered spy and dissident Alexander Litvinenko.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Frankly, it is quite impressive if Mr Salmond has managed to secure free rein for his chat show on the Russian state broadcaster.
“If this is the case, he should start with a bang and use this as an opportunity to give a platform to some of the courageous opponents of the Putin regime like Pussy Riot, Marina Litvinenko or one of the many prominent gay rights activists standing up in the face of Russian thuggery.
“It’s essential that here in the UK we work with those who share our values to achieve a world in which every person can live, work and flourish without discrimination or repression.”