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Labour leader urges Sturgeon to condemn Salmond over RT show

A spokesman for Sir Keir Starmer has called for a public statement from Scotland’s First Minister.

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Alex Salmond during the launch of his RT chat show The Alex Salmond Show (Chris Radburn/PA)

Alex Salmond during the launch of his RT chat show The Alex Salmond Show (Chris Radburn/PA)

Alex Salmond during the launch of his RT chat show The Alex Salmond Show (Chris Radburn/PA)

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon should publicly condemn her predecessor Alex Salmond for hosting a show on the Kremlin-backed TV channel RT, a spokesman for Sir Keir Starmer has said.

Speaking to journalists after Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, the spokesman said none of the Labour frontbench had appeared on the channel since Sir Keir was elected leader of the party earlier this year.

Mr Salmond, who was cleared of sexual misconduct charges earlier this year, began the show in November 2017, five months after he lost his seat at Westminster.

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Sir Keir Starmer would not endorse members of his frontbench appearing on RT, his spokesman said (Jacob King/PA)

Sir Keir Starmer would not endorse members of his frontbench appearing on RT, his spokesman said (Jacob King/PA)

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Sir Keir Starmer would not endorse members of his frontbench appearing on RT, his spokesman said (Jacob King/PA)

The call comes a day after the release of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russian meddling in UK democratic processes.

It said RT, formerly known as Russia Today, put out “serious distortions” along with fellow state-owned broadcaster Sputnik.

The spokesman for the Labour leader said: “We completely condemn it and we advise the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to do the same.

“She should make a public statement condemning it.”

The spokesman added: “He (Keir) would certainly say it is the wrong thing to do (appearing on RT).

“As Keir said, no member of the frontbench has been on Russia Today since Keir was put in charge and it is certainly not anything we would endorse.”

The First Minister has previously voiced her uncertainty about Mr Salmond’s choice of channel, saying in 2017 that “the choice of channel would not have been my choice”.

She added: “Of course, Alex is not currently an elected politician and is free to do as he wishes, but had I been asked, I would have advised against RT and suggested he seek a different channel to air what I am sure will be an entertaining show.

“Neither myself nor the SNP will shy away from criticising Russian policy when we believe it is merited.”

A spokesman for the party said: “The First Minister stood up at a press conference literally the day after the Alex Salmond Show was announced – three years ago – and made her views clear.

“This is little more than a smokescreen to try to conceal the devastating criticisms by the ISC report of the Tory Government’s negligence in failing to even assess the level of Russian interference into the EU referendum.

“If Labour and the Tories really want to move things forward then perhaps they should be looking into unelected Labour and Tory Lords’ business links with Russia, which was one of the most serious conclusions from this report.”

Mr Salmond resigned his membership of the SNP after he was charged with sexual offences in 2018.

The former leader of the party said he did so to avoid internal division within the party and planned to become a member again once he was cleared.

The SNP confirmed to the PA news agency that the former first minister is not a member of the party.

Former Scottish secretary David Mundell backed calls for Ms Sturgeon to condemn Mr Salmond’s appearances, despite her 2017 comments, saying: “It is now abundantly clear that the RT network, controlled by the Russian state, is used to disrupt and destabilise other countries.”

Scottish Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton urged Mr Salmond to quit his show, saying that RT “has a damaging agenda for western democracy”.

PA