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Salmond, Murdoch and Occam’s Beard

Posted on June 14, 2012 by

It’s been remarkable watching the awkward reactions of Alex Salmond’s detractors to his appearance at the Leveson inquiry yesterday. Over two hours of questioning didn’t manage so much as a scratch on the First Minister, with even ardent Unionist hacks forced to admit that Salmond was “skooshing” the proceedings and describing it as an “effortless stroll” for the SNP leader. Even the Herald’s Iain Macwhirter, a normally-intelligent commentator recently driven half-demented by hatred for Murdoch, was forced to concede that Salmond had sailed through unharmed.

With opposition politicians and activists (and even some supposedly-loyal nationalists) having long been forecasting a humiliating inquisition for Salmond at the hands of Robert Jay, there’s currently a great deal of sour muttering and embarrassed shuffling of feet going on in Unionist ranks, personified on Newsnight Scotland last night by Labour’s unfortunate Paul Martin, who didn’t seem to quite know what to do with himself except mumble some vague waffle about there having been no conclusive proof that the Scottish Government maintaining cordial relations with one of Scotland’s largest private-sector employers would likely be beneficial to Scottish employment.

The depressing thing about the opposition’s reaction is its sheer petulance and intellectual bankruptcy, typified by a thoroughly dispiriting argument we had yesterday. It doesn’t matter how comprehensively, how often or by whom the SNP are cleared of any sort of wrongdoing, or how many rational, logical, sensible explanations for things are offered – Labour and the other opponents of independence simply turn a blind eye and a deaf ear, flatly refusing to accept any reality they don’t like and endlessly repeating their demands for “answers”, even though they’ve just been given them.

For the record and easy reference, though, we’ll quickly run through them again below.


“Why did Salmond offer to support Murdoch’s bid for full BSkyB ownership?”
Because with the company about to consolidate the number of its UK-wide contractors from 9 down to 2, he considered that it would increase the likelihood of Scotland retaining the 6000 Sky jobs that were located there at the time.

“But Murdoch’s bid was rejected and those jobs stayed in Scotland anyway.”
So what? If you don’t turn up to support your football team, sometimes they still win. But that doesn’t mean you should never go along to a game and give them your backing, or that there’s anything wrong in doing so.

“But is it right to prioritise jobs over maintaining diversity in the media?”
It is if you’re the First Minister of Scotland, who has a statutory duty to act in the interests of the Scottish economy and Scottish employment. Media ownership, conversely, is a reserved matter over which the Scottish Government has absolutely no control or responsibility – Scottish ministers are entitled to express their opinion, like any other UK citizen is, but ultimately have no influence.

“But even if they have no influence, shouldn’t they be opposing a monopoly?”
Murdoch has a far smaller share of media ownership in Scotland than he does in the UK as a whole, thanks to a wide-ranging stable of strong competition from the Labour-supporting Daily Record and Sunday Mail, the Conservative-backing Daily Mail and the neutral Sunday Post. There simply isn’t an issue of him obtaining disproportionate control of the Scottish press in the forseeable future in the first place, nor indeed any sign that he’s interested in doing so – Scotland is small beer in Murdoch’s world.

(And as far as satellite TV goes, BSkyB is already the massively dominant force in the market and Murdoch is already the biggest shareholder in it, so it’s very difficult to see what substantive difference it would make to anything if his holding in the company increased. It’s not a dastardly and sinister conspiracy with Alex Salmond to break up the UK, he just wants all the profits for himself.)

“Why did The Scottish Sun switch support from Labour to the SNP in 2011?”
The SNP got 481,708 more votes in the 2011 Holyrood election than it did in 2007. Clearly a LOT of people decided to switch their support to the SNP – why shouldn’t the editors of The Sun be among them? But even if you want to assume that it did so for purely cynical reasons rather than through political conviction, it most obviously makes sense purely as a business judgement – being on the most popular side obviously makes you likely to sell more papers, and it makes you look as if you’ve influenced the result even if you haven’t.

The Scottish Sun backed Labour vigorously in 2007 and got its fingers burned (as it had done 15 years sooner when it supported the SNP in Westminster elections). In 2011, it just made a better judgement of which way the wind was blowing.


The philosophical principle known as Occam’s Razor states that the simplest answer to a question is probably the correct one. Every one of the questions posed by the opposition parties has a straightforward and obvious explanation, but no matter how many times they hear them they refuse to accept their validity, and in fact continue to loudly and strenuously insist that they haven’t been spoken at all. As with all bearded people, you have to wonder what it is they’re trying to hide.

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35 to “Salmond, Murdoch and Occam’s Beard”

  1. Randomscot says:

    I notice the Herald’s Kate Devlin chooses to categorise the FM as boring Levson and Jay with tartan inconsequentialities, which is certainly a novel interpretation of the proceedings

  2. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    That quickly became the Unionist narrative as it became clear that Salmond was going to have a very comfortable time – Herald hacks Tom Gordon and Paul Hutcheon spent most of the hearing mocking Salmond for giving detailed answers and promoting Scotland, the despicable cunt that he is.

  3. Kenny Campbell says:

    They didn’t look bored to me, was probably the least boring submission for some time.

  4. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Indeed. The thing that stood out for me, but has had little coverage, was Salmond’s surprising defence of, in essence, the right of the Daily Mail et al to be despicable and repulsive so long as they stayed within the law. I thought that was a very commendable and brave stance, and I think most people in the room were a little taken aback by it. And possibly also by the fact that he didn’t just claim to be unable to remember anything.

  5. Kenny Campbell says:

    As someone else said, he looked and sounded confident and was at ease with the questions. As people telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth generally are.

  6. Macart says:

    Nice one Rev. 

    Sometimes it is what it is.

    And by that I mean the FM did indeed just answer every question they asked and more fully and openly than anyone sat in that chair previously.

  7. YesYesYes says:

    Well said Stuart,
    “As with all bearded people, you have to wonder what it is they’re trying to hide”.
    I think this innocuous-looking final sentence gets us close to the unacknowledged truth behind much of the unionists’ criticism of Alex Salmond. The subtext of their criticism might be interpreted along the following lines: ‘Salmond has had a few meetings with Rupert Murdoch and a few more with senior executives of New International, therefore, he must be as corrupt as we are’.
    On the surface, they may appear to have a case. But on closer inspection, there are a number of inconvenient truths for our unionist friends.
    First, unlike senior Labour and Tory politicians, Salmond has no power over media ownership regulation (and deregulation). By all means let’s criticise Murdoch’s pernicious influence in the British media and the scale of his operations in Britain. But before we do that, shouldn’t we ask ourselves the question: which governments were in power in Westminster during the four decades when Murdoch has been building his huge media empire in Britain? And if we’re looking for evidence of any ‘quid pro quos’ in relationships between politicians and News International, shouldn’t we begin our search there? On Alex Salmond’s influence, at least on this issue, there can only be one verdict, he’s as innocent as the proverbial choirboy.
    Second, the BBCs correspondent Ross Hawkins made the point yesterday, in reference to Alex Salmond’s evidence, that it was refreshing to see a politician being so open about his meetings with Rupert Murdoch and senior executives of News International. The implication being that previous witnesses, including Blair, Brown and Miliband were, understandably, being less than open about their meetings with News International. What Ross Hawkins didn’t say, though, was that one of the reasons Salmond could be so open about his meetings with News International was that, first, he had nothing to hide, and second, there were so few meetings to discuss, so it wasn’t difficult for Salmond to recall the details of these few meetings. In the case of Blair, Brown and Miliband, the opposite is the case. They clearly have a great deal to hide but it may also be the case that they have had so many meetings with News International over the years that they genuinely can’t recall the details of most of these meetings.
    Third, we know that Tony Blair is the godfather to Murdoch’s child Grace. We also know that Gordon Brown’s wife, Sarah Brown, hosted a ‘pyjama party’ for her News International girly chums at Chequers, attended by, among others, Rebecca Brooks and Rupert Murdoch’s wife, Wendi Deng. We also know that throughout Blair and Brown’s time in office, News International senior executives, including Murdoch himself, visited Number 10 on a weekly basis, leading some to suggest that News International had their own ‘revolving door’ to Number 10 when Labour was in office. Here’s the thing. If Scottish Labour are throwing mud at Alex Salmond on the basis of his few meetings with Rupert Murdoch and a few more with senior executives of News International, how much more substance to their claims would there be if Alex Salmond was the godfather to one of Murdoch’s children, or if Alex Salmond’s wife had hosted a pyjama party for News International girlies at Bute House, or if News International had its own revolving door at Bute House? In other words, if there’s muck to be thrown here, shouldn’t they be throwing it at Tony Blair and Gordon Brown?
    Fourth, we know that the Scottish Sun’s shift in editorial support for the SNP (always falling short of support for Scottish independence, another inconvenient truth), dates from March 2011. Then, Alex Salmond met Andy Harries – at the time the recently appointed new editor of the Scottish Sun – who told Salmond of the shift in editorial policy, a shift, Harries told Salmond, that would need to be approved by London. As we know now, London approved.
    So, the Scottish Sun has ‘supported’ the SNP for a mere fifteen months. But what has Alex Salmond and the Scottish government given News International in return in this brief period? Here, we need evidence – what one third party said to another third party in a throwaway comment in an email doesn’t count. Has the Scottish government relaxed the regulations on media ownership to allow Murdoch to expand his media empire? Clearly not, it doesn’t have the powers to do that even if it wanted to. Has the Scottish government deregulated Scottish labour law, giving Scotland the most repressive labour legislation in the developed world to make it easier for Murdoch to exploit his workers and conduct his war against trade unions? Clearly not. Again, the Scottish government  doesn’t have the powers to do that even if it wanted to. Does the Scottish government have nefarious relations with News International and its executives that raise questions about its impartiality in its dealings with News International? Again, there’s no evidence of that whatsoever. But we do know that there is plenty of evidence that these accusations can be fairly levelled at successive British governments over the last four decades. What conclusions should we reach here?
    In the end, what sticks in the unionists’ craws is that, so far, Alex Salmond has been the most credible and convincing political witness before Leveson. In truth, they envy his popularity in both Scotland and, it has to be said, in much of England. They covet that popularity for themselves but they know that, no matter how hard they try to drag Salmond into the political sewer that they themselves inhabit, they’re learning the hard lesson that truth will, ultimately, trump spin.      

  8. bert says:

    Call me Dave is looking very shifty at Leveson’s inquiry today. ‘Can’t recall ‘ and ‘don’t remember ‘ seem to be his default position. He has no idea when The Sun started to support the Tories or when Ms Brooks switched from Labour to Tory supporter. And other whoppers galore.
    And all done with the waving of his effeminate hands and with a big beamer on his shiny pus.
    What a contrast compared to Alex Salmond relaxed evidence yesterday.

  9. Doug Daniel says:

    “Herald hacks Tom Gordon and Paul Hutcheon spent most of the hearing mocking Salmond for giving detailed answers and promoting Scotland, the despicable cunt that he is.”

    And to paraphrase Lord Foulkes, the worst thing is he was doing it on purpose!!! The GALL of the man!

    This whole “unanswered questions” which have actually been answered thingy sounds remarkably similar to the “unanswered questions” about independence. It’s an extremely tiresome tactic, and I just wonder if they realise that we all know that “unanswered question” means “you haven’t given me the answer I want”. It’s used by children when they keep asking their parents if they can have chocolate until the “no” turns to a “yes”. Most of us grow out of this, but seemingly the primitive unionist mind has not.

    And then there’s the old “Salmond questioned on Murdoch relationship”, which serves the same purpose as “Fred Smith questioned on sex attack” – the aim being to plant the idea in your head that there’s no smoke without fire. Who cares that nothing came out to suggest that he does indeed have a “cosy relationship” (Gordon Brewer’s words last night) with Murdoch – just insinuate it anyway.

    We’re being very poorly served by the media. If Salmond had been struggling at Leveson, they’d all have been tweeting away, quoting things verbatim and using the weasel excuse of “I’m just reporting what was said”. But since they didn’t hear what they wanted to hear, they just tweet a lot of surreal nonsense instead.

    Oh, and I saw a brilliant tweet, someone saying Salmond was saying “oh”, “ah” and “em” a lot, which must mean he was struggling. Never mind that Salmond peppers his speech with such fillers all the bloody time – even when talking about independence. It’s just how he speaks. But it was stupid little things like that which people resorted to using as sticks (or twigs in this case) to try and beat him with. 

    Fuck the lot of them. We only need 50% + 1 to vote for independence. If 20% or so refuse to open their eyes, then it’s their loss.

  10. Arbroath1320 says:

    And to paraphrase Lord Foulkes, the worst thing is he was doing it on purpose!!! The GALL of the man!
    I think there is only one answer to Foulkes on this Doug.
    He was answering the questions TRUTHFULLY Foulkes. Come to think think about it you have absolutely no idea what being truthful means! Being a fully paid up member of Lies are us, oops sorry I mean Labour, you only ever know how to LIE!

  11. Theuniondivvie says:

    ‘As with all bearded people, you have to wonder what it is they’re trying to hide.’

    Despicably Cochrane-ist!

  12. Macart says:

    That’s three for three folks.

    Three sets of allegations binned in 24hrs

    Murdoch relationship, Aberdein cleared and now the Bute house tea gate. That’s what you call a good days work. 🙂

  13. Aplinal says:

    Hi Macart
    BUT a colossal waste of tax payers money, AND the spin the the MSM in advance of the complaint gives the impression of “fire … smoke”  etc.
    These rebuttals will not see the light of day, and, as usual, the impression will be that something is amiss.
    FMQs was a joke today.  Visitors to our Parliament might well begin to agree with Billy Connelly (it’s a “pretendy wee parliament”).   I know that we can do better on our own – free from the dead hand of Westminster, but this political puppet show does Scotland no favours, and makes everyone look bad.  (Maybe that’s the objective – bring the SNP down to their level).

  14. Kenny Campbell says:

    Problem with Holyrood is that 3 of the main parties are driven from Westminster so issues and agenda from down south seem to dominate and when they don’t they try to pull it back to that source.

  15. Arbroath1320 says:

    I’ve just watched FMQ’s and am wondering if the Fire Brigade were called during the session. From what I saw there were a hell of a lot of bums on fire that would need some serious attending to! 😆
    As an aside, has anyone heard if Labour have reached Australia yet? The amount of time they have been digging away at the bottom of the barrel I thought they would have reached there by now!
    As far as a being a wee pretendy parliament is concerned I don’t think it is the fault of the Scottish government. The fault lies wholly with the numpties who make up the “alleged” opposition parties. How anyone from any of these “so called” political parties can walk about Holyrood with their heads held high is beyond me! I want to say that they are an embarrassment to Scottish politics. Unfortunately they are worse than that, they are an embarrassment to Scotland!

  16. redcliffe62 says:

    Lamont was woeful today, veering from the script on later questions frazzled her.

  17. Arbroath1320 says:

    As an aside.
    With all these “accusations” being made against the F.M. and his staff which are then found to be false perhaps the Scottish government should introduce a payment scheme. The party of the accuser MUST pay a financial sum, to cover the cost of the investigation, up front. If the complaint is up held they get the funds repaid, if the complaint is NOT upheld they lose their money!
    The amount to be paid “up front” for the complaint would be assessed by the investigating authority, independent of the Scottish government!

  18. Arbroath1320 says:

    Redcliffe, I think we all knew that would be the case. The evidence was there for ALL to see last week in Question Time from Inverness.
    Must admit though it sounded as though the Inverness in question was not the Inverness I know. There were an awful lot of English voices there. I guess Melanie Phillips’s newspaper must have paid for a plane load of audience members to attend!

  19. Macart says:


    A complete waste of time and money, couldn’t agree more. These b*****ds know exactly what they’re about and why, yet we are expected to foot the bill and watch our politics shot down in flames into the bargain. 

    Also watched FMQs, the opposition had a complete car crash. It was like watching petulant spoilt brats being lectured by a very patient adult. Some of the guff coming from an extremely put out and frankly shaken, Lamont was beyond farcical. Any onlooker must be horrified at the state of Action Krankie in full flow, shaking her head and desperately trying to be taken seriously over the laughter. And as for Rennie? Dear oh doctor, whit a mess. Whilst I’m delighted at the FM in full flow, just looking at the opposition perform has the most massive cringe factor. 

  20. Offended Beard Cultivator says:

    Great Article, as usual, in this excellent blog. Good comments too, you guys are as much a part of why this blog is a joy to read as the article writer is, but why the unneccesary attack on beards? Totally soured me to this website. To say that peope with beards are hiding something is a bit like saying all people who wear glasses are smart, yet we all know someone who wears glasses who is, shall we say, not the brightest. Or like saying all clergymen molest children. It’s not really true is it?

    I have a beard. (I don’t know why I had to say that, it’s not like you haven’t guessed already!) and I cultivate it because it looks good when I do historical Battle re-enactments. Robert Bruce had a beard. William Wallace had a beard. I regularly pretend to be both at Historic events all over Scotland.

    And please don’t tell me I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill, that’s what they told women in the 19220s and what they told blacks in the 60s and what tey still tell Gays today.

    As for your final statement, I preffer “As with all bearded people, you have to wonder if you would suit one yourself.”

  21. Arbroath1320 says:

    I think I’ve finally figured out who the “too wee, too poor and too stupid” remarks are aimed at.
    Up until now we have all thought that these remarks were aimed at Scotland and the Scottish people. Well I can exclusively reveal today that this assumption is incorrect. These remarks are actually aimed at the Labour, Tory and Lib/Dem parties in Scotland!” 😆

  22. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    I can only humbly apologise for this unforgivable outbreak of prejudice. I’ve even been known to sport the Russian-submarine-captain look on occasion. I’m off to have a stern word with myself.

  23. tearlach says:

    Thank goodness for an other offended beard wearer, as someone who has worn a beard since my teens, and am now in my 50’s I’ve often wondered what men who shave have to hide. Why do so many people go to great pain every day to disguise their true appearance?

     However back on topic.  Now I’m not one of those NNS green ink types who see a BBC conspiracy at every turn, but did anyone hear Radio Scotlands report on FMQs at 17:40 today? Having watched them live I have never come across a more Orwellian rewriting of history through selective editing. If thats all you heard you would have thought that the FM had had his bottom spancked very hard by Ms Lamont and Davidson. Quite amazing.

  24. Arbroath1320 says:

    Could this be the beginning of your journey over to the dark side tearlach? 😆
    Is this the moment that you join with us the conspiracy theorists? 😆

  25. Tearlach says:

    Now I’m not a conspiracy type, I’ll always look towards the cock-up theory of events. If pushed I’ll verge to the cocked-up conspiracy theory, as that explains most of history.

    But that BBC report did make me wonder if Elvis is working in that Gairloch Chip shop, with his tatties, burgers and palm oil supplied by the Illuminati, and top cover provided by a noiseless black helicopter. Maybe I do need a new tin foil hat, or instead just listen to Moray Firth Radio on the way home rather than the Beebs Drive Time…….

  26. Arbroath1320 says:

    Elvis is alive! 😆

  27. Macart says:

    Thankewverrimuch, uhhuh! 😀

  28. Juteman says:

    Company ends up insolvent.
    They have 3 assets. A football ground, a car park, and a training ground.
    The insolvency agents are required by law to maximise the money available to the creditors by selling the assets to the highest bidders.
    Have i missed something?

  29. MajorBloodnok says:

    The guy in the North Berwick Fry chip shop (you know the one) actually is called Elvis. I know because I heard his mum shouting on him when he’d left the toilet seat up or some such.

  30. Don McC says:

    If it hadn’t come from such a discredited politician, Rennie’s statement yesterday that the FM “hadn’t shown any evidence of his innocence” at the enquiry would be really frightening.  Is this going to be lib dum policy now?  People must prove their innocence, regardless of how spurious an allegation actually is?  Or is Rennie just being an arse? (Is that a rhetorical question?)

  31. Arbroath1320 says:

    Don, Rennie is just being Rennie, a first class numpty! 😆

  32. YesYesYes says:

    @Don McC,
    Well spotted.
    I’ve just remembered also that, so ‘controversial’ was Alex Salmond’s evidence to Leveson that, in the BBC news headlines last night, Nick Clegg was given a name-check before Salmond. Normally, this would be an insult but, on this occasion, it was a huge compliment to Salmond.
    Wee Willie Rennie reminds me in so many ways of Labour’s wee Willie Bain. Put their two names together and you come up with ‘wee Willie Brainnie’ or, with a bit of jiggling, perhaps the more appropriate, ‘wee Brain Willie’.

  33. Arbroath1320 says:

    Tearlach, I know we had a light jesting earlier regarding BBC bias. However, perhaps you might like to read this from NNS and watch the videos at the end.

    This is the reason I will NEVER watch FMQ’s on the BBC. I will either wait till later and watch the full session on BBC Democracy live or BBC parliament at night.
    Further, it is interesting that the BBC is all too willing to give uninterrupted air time to,currently, Labour MSP’s who can spread their bile without any interruption from the interviewer  yet anyone from the Scottish government is constantly interrupted. 
    I know to some this may sound petty, but in my view, it is because of instances like this that lead to the,I believe, wide spread accusations against the BBC of being biased. There is only one way for the BBC to stop this accusation of bias. Treat all interviewees on a level playing field. Until such times  as they do this there will always be the accusations of bias!

  34. Morag says:

    A big part of the problem is that it’s very rare for a single incident to be clearly biassed in itself.  Kirsty Wark’s famous melt-down being a case in point of course.  Usually, the bias is within what would (and indeed should) be acceptable limits, if it was even-handed.  There has to be some editing, and there has to be some comment.  It’s only when the editing is persistently and almost exclusively to favour one side, and the comment also presented to favour that side, that there is a problem.
    This is a great deal harder to prove.  A single example isn’t good enough.  You’d need a dozen, or a score.  And even then, you’d be accused of cherry-picking, and maybe one or two atypical examples in the other direction used to slap down the entire thesis.
    I remember back when the BBC still allowed comments on BWB.  I wrote a fairly long comment which was mainly well within their allowed limits.  But there was a paragraph of criticism in the middle.  I said that the BBC was in the habit of using the interrogatory interview technique in an asymmetrical manner.  When interviewing a Labour spokesman, the interviewee was allowed to state his case, and the interviewer pretty much agreed with him in a cosy little chat.  When interviewing an SNP spokesman, the interviewer would aggressively put forward the Labour point of view, while refusing to accept the interviewee’s case at all.
    I see them at it all the time.  The comment didn’t make it through moderation.  So I deleted just that part, and re-sent it.  Magically, it was now OK.
    This is all quite subtle.  Just repeated slanting of a nature that would be perfectly OK if there were also equal and opposite slanting to balance the coverage.  But there never is.  The trouble is, it’s almost impossible to point this out without it simply sounding like sour grapes.

  35. Offended Beard Cultivator says:

    Thanks for the Apology Rev, but you are too honest. Don’t you know appologies need to be done on one of the back pages that no-one ever reads, or written in white ink? I commend your honesty, but you’ll never get a job in the MSM behaving like that!

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