Labour leader Johann Lamont has demanded that First Minister Alex Salmond apologise to The Scotsman, after a Scottish Government spokeswoman accused the newspaper of publishing a “fabricated story”, which was an accurate reflection of the views of European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.
• Labour leader first asked the First Minister to apologise when the article was brought up at FMQs
• Alex Salmond claimed that The Scotsman had been ‘duped by anti-independence people’
• Claims made as Labour renews attacks on SNP’s position on EU entry
Ms Lamont asked the First Minister to say sorry when the article, which was based on a letter from Mr Barroso, was brought up at First Minister’s Questions yesterday.
Last week, The Scotsman reported that Mr Barroso had taken the view that an independent Scotland would have to apply to join the European Union, a position that contradicted the SNP’s assertion that membership would be automatic.
The First Minister reacted angrily to the report, claiming that the newspaper had been “duped by anti-independence people”.
This week, however, the accuracy of the article was backed up when Mr Barroso’s letter was received by a House of Lords committee.
At Holyrood yesterday, Ms Lamont said: “Last week, The Scotsman reported that the European Commission had written a letter making it clear that an independent Scotland would have to apply to the European Union to be members. Nicola Sturgeon’s spokesperson accused the newspaper of fabricating the story.
“The paper was even forced to print a partial apology. Now we know the story is true.”
Ms Lamont went on: “A fortnight ago, I asked the First Minister when he did last complain to a newspaper about its coverage, and he answered me today with an e-mail at 11:19am.
“Does he now need to update that answer and would he now
like to apologise to The Scotsman?”
Mr Salmond replied: “I’m sure The Scotsman corrected their story because it implied that a letter had been sent when the commission said that no such letter had been sent. That was the position.
“A more interesting argument might be how The Scotsman got sight of a letter which hadn’t been sent by the president of the European Commission.
No doubt we’ll be enlightened in the columns of The Scotsman newspaper.”
After Mr Salmond’s refusal to apologise, Ms Lamont said: “The problem for the First Minister about the letter is that his defence seems to be that it wasn’t sent.
“Well, we all know it’s been sent now and he has to deal with what that actually says.”
When the First Minister’s spokesman was asked if there would be an apology to the newspaper, he replied: “I don’t believe so.”
Later on during First Minister’s Questions, Mr Salmond quoted from The Scotsman when he used another article to back up his position that Scotland would not be forced to adopt the euro after independence.
In response to a question from Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Mr Salmond quoted a column written by the academic Daniel Kenealy.
Mr Salmond said: “I suggest he looks at The Scotsman newspaper – since it’s being quoted so extensively by Johann Lamont – the article today from Daniel Kenealy of the politics and international relations department at the University of Edinburgh, which goes through the whole range of the European debate.”
The First Minister went on to read out a lengthy quotation from the article to support the SNP’s position that an independent Scotland would not be forced to adopt the euro after joining the EU.