Calls in Scottish Parliament for Russia Today to be suspended in UK

A motion has been lodged in the Scottish Parliament calling for Russia Today (RT) to have its broadcasting licence suspended in the UK.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton is behind the move and has again attacked former First Minister Alex Salmond for continuing to host a show on the station, widely held to be a Kremlin-funded propaganda mouthpiece.

But the broadcaster today hit back at suggestions of impartiality and claimed it is being used as a “political pawn” in the aftermath of the chemical attack on former Russian double-agent Sergei Skirpal and daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

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Alex Cole Hamilton Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP. Picture: Greg Macvean

Mr Cole-Hamilton’s motion condemns “Russian state-backed media outlets, such as Russia Today” which have sought to deny Russian involvement in the attack and also calls on Scottish public figures to boycott the channel.

The Liberal Democrat MSP said today: “There’s a cold irony in Alex Salmond driving traffic to his show on Russia Today for his reaction to the Skripal poisoning.

“This isn’t just some whodunnit for Salmond to joke about, as he did trailing his LBC show on Twitter, it’s a chemical attack on British soil and hundreds of British citizens could be affected in the weeks and months to come. If he has any decency he will make this his last show.

Alex Cole Hamilton Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP. Picture: Greg Macvean

“I applaud the Prime Minister’s move to expel Russian diplomats and would urge all groups and individuals in Scottish public life to take a stand by refusing future invitations for interview and to end any commercial relationships with Russian state backed media outlets immediately.

“I would like to see MSPs from across the Parliament make this commitment.”

Mr Salmond has pledged to address the issue of the chemical attack on the Skirpals and its aftermath in his Thursday morning show on the channel. It was previously called Russia Today, before its name was officially abbreviated to RT.

A spokesman for RT today said calls for its licence to be withdrawn were tantamount to it being used as a “political pawn.”

He added: “We continue today, as ever, to provide a valuable alternative voice within the UK media environment and we trust that Ofcom will recognise this is the case and that nothing has changed.

“We will continue to provide a platform for diverse public voices including all Members of Parliament who believe in the value of open and honest dialogue.”

The motion submitted by Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:

Motion title: Russian state-backed media licensing

That the Parliament notes the release of Russian-made nerve agent ‘Novichok’ in the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March 2018; understands that exposure to this chemical in this attack could affect many UK citizens in the weeks or even years to come; utterly condemns this barbaric and murderous act; further notes that the UK Government is treating this as the unlawful release of a chemical weapon on UK soil and has responded with a range of measures against Russian state interests in the UK; condemns the response of Russian state-backed media outlets, such as Russia Today, who have attempted to deflect or deny the suggestion of Russian involvement; understands that these outlets are recognised as agents of the Russian state by numerous international authorities and institutions and believes they are no longer fit and proper to hold a broadcasting license in the UK; calls on Ofcom to expedite a review of all Russian state-backed media companies with a view to suspending their broadcasting licenses, and further calls upon MSPs and other senior figures and groups in Scottish public life to refuse future invitations for interview from and to end all commercial relationships with any such outlets