FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon met Rupert Murdoch during a recent high-profile trip to the US, it has emerged.
The SNP leader attended a meeting of the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, which is owned by the media tycoon’s News Corporation and he turned up towards the end.
The meeting was not planned, according to a spokesman for Ms Sturgeon, who said she was not aware Mr Murdoch would be there.
But it has prompted speculation that Ms Sturgeon was reluctant to publicise the meeting to avoid antagonising left-wing supporters of the SNP. The SNP leader made no mention of the meeting with Mr Murdoch in an in-depth diary of her trip, unlike many of her other engagements during her trip to the US.
“There wasn’t a one-to-one meeting, there was no private meeting with Rupert Murdoch,” a spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said yesterday.
“The First Minister held an editorial round-table discussion at which Mr Murdoch dropped in part of the way through.
“He sat in on the discussion – but that was it. There was no one-to-one meeting, nor was one planned.”
He added that the details of the meeting, including Mr Murdoch’s presence, will be formally released as part of the government’s “pro-active publications” which are due out next week.
The Scottish edition of News Corporation’s Sun newspaper offered strong support to the SNP at the recent election, despite the UK edition being hostile to the Nationalists. The newspaper did not support independence during last year’s referendum.
Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said: “If Nicola Sturgeon felt comfortable with her meeting with Rupert Murdoch, then she wouldn’t have been so coy about it.
“We know that Alex Salmond liked to cosy up to the rich and powerful but it now seems that his predecessor is the same.”
Jackson Carlaw, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “Given this was one of the most significant things the First Minister did while in the US, it’s odd that it wasn’t included in her schedule.
“No doubt the SNP’s swathes of socialist supporters will be thrilled at this news of hobnobbing. But why so secret?”
Ms Sturgeon’s diary entry for that day, published in the SNP-supporting Sunday Herald, said: “10.30. I get a readout from this week’s (Scottish) cabinet meeting on the way to a sit down with the Wall Street Journal editorial board.”
Her diary mentioned a series of other high-profile people she met, including TV host Jon Stewart, John Sopel, the BBC’s North America editor, actor Alan Cumming and Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
In 2012 Ms Sturgeon expressed her revulsion at the News of the World hacking scandal but said: “First Ministers have a job to do and that is to promote the economic interest of Scotland.” She added: “You can’t pick and choose that on the basis of who you like and who you don’t like.”
Mr Murdoch’s Sky company employs 6,500 people in Livingston, West Lothian.
It emerged during the Leveson Inquiry that Mr Salmond, then Scotland’s first minister, was willing to contact Jeremy Hunt, the then culture secretary, over News Corp’s aborted take-over of BSkyB.
Mr Salmond was adamant at the time that he was acting in the interests of the thousands of Sky jobs in Scotland.
Mr Salmond’s post-referendum book, The Dream Shall Never Die, was published by William Collins, an arm of HarperCollins, which is in turn a subsidiary of Mr Murdoch’s News Corporation.
This prompted criticism from Hugh Andrew, managing director of independent Scottish publisher Birlinn.