Leveson inquiry: Alex Salmond refuses to report hacking claim to police

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THE First Minister has refused to inform the police about an allegation that his bank account was hacked by journalists looking for details about his private life.

A spokesman for Alex Salmond yesterday said the claim the First Minister made at the Leveson inquiry about the Observer should be taken “very seriously” by the newspaper, which denies the allegation.

The First Minister’s spokesman said that there were no plans to report the allegations to the police, which would mean there was an “obligation to disclose the source” who informed the SNP leader about the alleged hacking in the run-up to the 1999 Scottish Parliament elections.

The allegations, which were never reported in the media, were revealed as it emerged that Mr Salmond employed former Observer journalist Alex Bell as a special adviser in the First Minister’s department.

Mr Salmond’s office also appeared to link the bank account hacking allegations to an unpublished and “baseless” story that he had gambling debts in the late 1990s.

The spokesman said: “The First Minister was given the information in confidence, which he will respect, and therefore we will not indulge in a guessing game or a process of elimination.

“One aspect of referring to the police would be an obligation to disclose the source. The First Minister believes this is not necessary, but it is necessary for the newspaper to investigate.”

An Observer spokesman previously said it had been “unable to find any evidence to substantiate the allegation”.

Meanwhile, Mr Salmond’s claims that his interest in Rupert Murdoch’s ill-fated takeover of BSkyB was that it would secure jobs in Scotland appeared to be rejected by the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, in the Commons yesterday.

Mr Hunt was asked by Scottish Labour MP Anas Sarwar whether News Corp gave any “indication of what the implications of the bid would be for employment in Scotland”.

The Culture Secretary said: “I do not recall hearing any such implications myself.”

Mr Salmond, speaking at First Minister’s Questions, insisted the takeover would have been good for employment, citing evidence that James Murdoch had given to the Leveson Inquiry.

He said jobs and investment were the “priority of this government, whatever other politicians elsewhere were doing”.