Salmond says bank account was hacked by The Observer - Press Gazette

Salmond says bank account was hacked by The Observer

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has said his bank account might have been accessed by a reporter.

The Observer newspaper looked into his account in the run-up to the 1999 Scottish election, he told the Leveson Inquiry into media standards.

“I have no evidence that my own phone has been hacked,” he told Lord Justice Leveson.

But he added: “My bank account was accessed by the Observer newspaper some time ago, in 1999, and my reason for believing that is I was informed by a former Observer journalist.”

Salmond has repeatedly refused to answer questions at the Scottish Parliament on whether he had been the victim of phone hacking, leading to accusations he has treated Holyrood with contempt.

The First Minister always insisted the Leveson Inquiry was the correct place to air the issues.

A reference to purchases he made in a shop called Fun and Games, for young relatives, was mentioned in the alleged breach of his bank details.

The revelation has “coloured his view” of press standards, he said.

Guardian News & Media, the publisher of the Observer, issued a statement saying: “Mr Salmond first raised the matter of an alleged unauthorised access of his bank account with the Observer’s editor last year.

“The allegation was that a journalist working for the Observer had accessed his bank details in 1999. As we explained to him last year, on the basis of the information he had given us, we have been unable to find any evidence to substantiate his allegation.

“As our response to him at the time made clear, we take this allegation very seriously and if he is able to provide us with any more information we will investigate further.”

On wider Scottish press behaviour, he said: “More recently I think we’d have to accept, given the information which has now been into the hands of the police in Scotland, there are a significant, perhaps proportionally less but significant Scottish examples of possible criminality.”

A number of Scots have been informed by police over the past year that people may have been victims of “illegality”.

Much of the Scottish indigenous press and regional press has had no part in allegations of criminal behaviour, he said.

He criticised the Metropolitan Police for not handing over information quickly about possible criminal acts to Scottish police.

“It’s only in the last few months that Strathclyde Police have examined all of that information and informed the potential victims of the possibility of criminal acts against them,” he said.

“That seems to me a highly undesirable situation and something similar applies to possible breaches of data protection as well.”

The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader has also faced pressure from his opponents about his relationship with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, whose News of the World tabloid was closed amid the phone hacking scandal.

The pair met in February at Bute House, Salmond’s official residence in Edinburgh. It led to accusations he was keen to court the businessman despite public outrage over phone hacking revelations linked to the family of Milly Dowler.

During an earlier inquiry session, it was suggested that Salmond’s office was prepared to intervene on behalf of Mr Murdoch and lobby UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the proposed takeover of broadcaster BSkyB. One of Mr Salmond’s advisers, Geoff Aberdein, was named in March as the person making the lobbying offer.

The Scottish Government has always maintained the only interest is in securing jobs.

Nick Clegg says press ‘ignored’ him and Lib Dems

Nick Clegg earlier claimed the press “ignored or derided” him and the Liberal Democrats before they entered government.

He was put at the “very end of the table where the children sit” at one dinner party with Rupert Murdoch and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks in 2009, the Deputy Prime Minister told the inquiry.

Most of his meetings with editors and proprietors were “fairly humdrum”, he told the inquiry.

Clegg said that when he became Liberal Democrat leader in 2008 many senior figures did not “know me from Adam”.

He was little more than “an observer” at the dinner on December 16, 2009, which he attended with Murdoch, Brooks and Sunday Times editor John Witherow, Clegg said, adding: “I was at the very end of the table, where the children sit, so to speak.”

The following March he had lunch with Sun editor Dominic Mohan, and a “brief” meeting with Brooks and Murdoch which lasted a maximum of 10 minutes.

Clegg said he knew News Corporation lobbyist Fred Michel – whose close contacts with Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s office sparked controversy – because their children were at the same school.

His strong performance in the first televised general election leader’s debate had sparked a major shift in attitudes towards him and his party, Clegg said, adding that newspapers went from being “indifferent at best” to “lashing out” after his ratings spiked in the polls.

“If that is what you are used to in the press it must come as a bit of a shock, I guess, when you suddenly have these people who you have been either ignoring or deriding suddenly doing well in a general election, you start lashing out a bit and that is what happened,” Clegg said, adding that some papers started “going after the man rather than the ball”.

His contacts with journalists and media executives were more formal since entering government, partly because he was based in Whitehall rather than Parliament.

Discussing his meetings with editors and proprietors, he said he often could not remember what they talked about.

“All of these meetings are a whole lot less intriguing and surprising, I suspect, to the outside world than it might initially seem,” Clegg insisted. “A lot of them are fairly humdrum.”

‘Our main preoccupation is the economy’

Clegg said he had had a number of conversations with media proprietors and editors who were hostile to or concerned about News Corp‘s bid for BSkyB, including Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre.

But he said: “I didn’t act on their views and made it clear this was a process being dealt with in a sort of box.”

He also confirmed he had spoken with various newspapers before the 2010 general election and asked the editors of The Independent, The Guardian and The Observer whether they would be supporting the Liberal Democrats.

But there was a danger of such discussions becoming “transactional”, Clegg said, and it was not possible to legislate against that.

“You’ve got to guard against that becoming a means by which good government is warped and the public interest is undermined,” he said.

He was struck by how the Leveson Inquiry appeared to be a “very, very great preoccupation” among media proprietors and editors at a time of economic difficulty and suggested that the man in the street would be less concerned about it.

“Our main preoccupation is the economy, is employment,” Clegg said.

“You can have conversations with people where that overarching national concern is swept aside by a forensic interest in the conduct of this inquiry.

“I don’t want to suggest the inquiry is not important – it’s immensely important – but it’s more important for those who it directly affects than it is for people who are worried about the price of petrol when they fill the tank in their car and when they find it difficult to make ends meet and do the weekly shop.”



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