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Salmond accused over Murdoch links
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond was branded Rupert Murdoch's "defender in chief" as he came in for sustained attack over his links with the media mogul.
Mr Salmond was pressed on his relationship with the News Corporation chairman at the Scottish Parliament, where he also came under fire over his dealings with flamboyant US businessman Donald Trump.
All three opposition leaders turned on the First Minister following disclosures at the Leveson Inquiry this week and Mr Trump's evidence to MSPs on Wednesday.
The American, who is building a luxury golf resort in the north east of Scotland, claimed he had been "lured" into investing in the country after Mr Salmond led him to believe during a dinner in New York that there would be no offshore wind turbines nearby.
That came the day after it emerged at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that News Corp's director of public affairs Frederic Michel emailed James Murdoch and said: "I met with Alex Salmond's adviser today. He will call Hunt whenever we need him to."
Furious opposition politicians hit out at Mr Salmond over the suggestion he would lobby UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt regarding the proposed takeover of BSkyB.
Mr Salmond insisted his interest in the deal was linked to employment.
"The job of a First Minister is to advocate jobs for Scotland," he said. "This First Minister will continue to do it."
But Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont claimed his dealings with both Mr Murdoch and Mr Trump showed Mr Salmond had an "infatuation with very rich men".
She said she would not press her rival on whether he had "supported Murdoch so that Murdoch's Sun supported him".
But with the paper having backed Mr Salmond's Scottish National Party in last May's Holyrood elections, she said: "The public will have made up their own minds on that."
Ms Lamont had challenged him on the issue at First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament.
She hit out: "He says it's about jobs. I think he just likes rich men.
"Isn't he just trying to cover up the fact a rich man has played him for a fool again? Is it not the case he's no statesman, just a sucker?"
She continued the attack, saying Mr Salmond - who met Mr Murdoch earlier this year and who wrote an article for the first edition of The Sun on Sunday - was now "the only senior politician in this country - perhaps the only one in the world" who met with the media tycoon in the wake of phone hacking allegations.
The Labour leader said: "His newspapers might be being investigated for bribery, perverting the course of justice, destroying evidence and perjury, but Rupert is still welcome at wee Eck's house."
She added: "Doesn't the First Minister realise all he is achieving is to demean the office he craved for so long?"
Mr Salmond responded by accusing the Labour leader of "humbug and hypocrisy" as he highlighted her party's links with Mr Murdoch.
The First Minister said: "I know the Labour Party would wish us to pretend the days of courting the Murdoch press were all back in the days of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Unfortunately it doesn't fit with the facts."
But Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie claimed the SNP leader was "fast becoming Murdoch's defender in chief".
The Lib Dem accused Mr Salmond of attempting to downplay News International's involvement in phone hacking and said: "It is beyond belief just how far Mr Salmond is willing to go to keep his billionaire buddies on side."
Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said Mr Salmond had "reduced the office of First Minister to a two-bit lobbying outfit for Rupert Murdoch".
While she said "his defence is that he did it for Scottish jobs", she added: "He has not shown how News Corporation owning more shares in BSkyB would bring jobs to Scotland, nor provided any evidence that he was given assurances that jobs would be the payback for his tawdry lobbying offer."
However, she said there was "evidence of the favourable newspaper coverage Alex Salmond received after he offered his lobbying service to Murdoch".
Ms Davidson also pressed the First Minister on his "candlelit Manhattan dinners" with Mr Trump, where she said the two men had talked "for hours on their favourite subjects of golf and wind farms".
However, Mr Salmond insisted that "no assurances were ever given" regarding the proposed wind farm.
He said: "This government has never given any assurance against a planning application for offshore wind in Aberdeen."
He added: "I think people in Scotland, when they look at this issue, will look at jobs and development. They'll see the prospect of 28,000 jobs in offshore wind."