Alex Salmond is facing calls to step down from crunch talks on the Leveson proposals in Scotland, amid claims that he has been “tainted” by the findings of the report.
The First Minister displayed a “striking” readiness to lobby UK Business Secretary Vince Cable and former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt on behalf of Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, the report found. Mr Salmond could even have knowingly pressed the Coalition ministers to reach an “unlawful” decision on the proposed acquisition of BSkyB, it said.
There was no evidence of a deal to trade NewsCorp newspaper support for the SNP in exchange for Scottish Government support for the BSkyB bid, but Lord Leveson noted that both were discussed during the same conversation.
Mr Salmond did not contact the UK ministers, despite indicating his willingness to do so, and therefore “cannot be criticised” because he must be “judged by what he did, as opposed to what he said he was prepared to do”.
But Lord Justice Leveson found that Mr Salmond was aware the ministers had a quasi-judicial role and that this knowledge “would not have stopped him from trying to advance considerations which would have led the decision-maker into error had they been heeded”.
“Acceding to Mr Salmond’s argument would have rendered the decision unlawful.”
Tory leader Ruth Davidson said Mr Salmond must now take a step back from proposed all-party talks on the future of press regulation in Scotland.
“The Leveson Report contains some marked criticisms of the First Minister and his conduct surrounding the BskyB bid and his attempt to curry favour with the Sun newspaper,” the Tory leader said.
Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie also called for Mr Salmond to stand aside.
But a spokesman for Mr Salmond said the report is a “complete vindication” of Mr Salmond’s position.