Timeline: The row over Alex Salmond's Russia Today talk show

Alex Salmond will present his weekly show on Russia Today again on Thursday, despite calls for him to quit the Kremlin-backed broadcaster.

Alex Salmond on Russia Today.
Alex Salmond on Russia Today.

The former First Minister has been accused of being a ‘useful idiot’ for President Vladimir Putin, as even his former colleagues in the SNP distance themselves from his chat show.

Nicola Sturgeon has even been asked to curtail the party position of former MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, who serves as a producer and co-presenter on the show.

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Her predecessor insists that he is given full editorial control over the show, and has defended his role on the controversial outlet, which some have compared to the BBC.

As the poison attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter continues to cast a pail over UK-Russia relations, we look at the timeline of the controversy surrounding Mr Salmond’s show.

Early Beginnings

Like many TV shows, the Alex Salmond Show started life in the theatre, after the shock loss of his seat prompted the now ex-MP to look for new ventures.

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Alex Salmond accused of being 'Putin's useful idiot' amid calls to ban RT

An Edinburgh Festival Fringe show was born, as Mr Salmond’s twice daily shows became some of the best attended of the festival.

A mystery guest concept was well-received, even if an off-colour piece of sexual innuendo about female political leaders was less appreciated.

A brief Scottish tour followed after the sell-out success at the world’s largest arts festival, before Mr Salmond invited reporters to a launch of his new venture.

After that turned out to be a slot on the Kremlin-funded news channel, the backlash was almost immediate.

While some in the SNP reserved judgement, Nicola Sturgeon said that she hadn’t been consulted on the move and party MEP Alyn Smith spoke for many when he was quoted in the Herald asking ‘What the f**k is he thinking?’

Continuing row

The first few episodes proved that the content of the show, unlike the show itself, would not be a lightning rod for controversy.

Interviews with Scottish celebrities were far from Jeremy Paxman-style grillings, and the subject matter was largely pedestrian.

The row rumbled on however, as news leaked of the difficulty Mr Salmond was having booking high-profile guests.

Overtures to senior politicians John Bercow and David Davis (who both appeared at the live show) were rejected.

Ex-Prime Minister David Cameron’s allies briefed to reporters that he had told Mr Salmond to ‘get stuffed’ when he was approached.

Salisbury ‘shame’

The controversy reached its current fever pitch, however, following the brazen attack on a former Russia defector and his daughter in Kent.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in a critical condition after a poisoning attack that is reckoned by intelligence services to have been ordered by Vladimir Putin.

Alex Salmond is remaining distinctly bullish about his appearances on Russia Today, and has so far resisted calls to give up his presenting role.

Even politicians who previously appeared on or endorsed the channel, such as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, have vowed not to return.

Moves are afoot to put pressure on Ofcom to remove the broadcasting license of RT.

On his first show since the attack, Mr Salmond appeared to repudiate what he saw as a rush to judgement, even as he insisted that the Kremlin exerts no control over his output.

The party which Mr Salmond led from the political wilderness to Government has continued to distance itself from their former leader.

SNP leader Ian Blackford said he would discourage party representatives from appearing on the show, and described the ex-First Minister as a ‘private individual’.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has shown no signs of letting up her criticism of the channel, saying that RT is a ‘propaganda outlet’ which poisons public discourse.

By all accounts, Mr Salmond’s show is set to continue. And as long as it does, controversy will continue to rage over it.