Russian TV show would not have been my choice, says Sturgeon in Salmond row
Alex Salmond announced on Thursday he is to host a talk show on the RT station, previously known as Russia Today.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has criticised her predecessor’s decision to host a talk show on state-funded Russian TV, making clear the channel RT would not have been her choice.
Alex Salmond, who was first minister of Scotland from 2007 to 2014, announced on Thursday he is to host a talk show on the RT station, previously known as Russia Today.
It has been branded a “Russian propaganda channel”, prompting an angry backlash from opposition politicians in Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I am sure Alex’s show will make interesting viewing – however, his choice of channel would not have been my choice.
“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.”
The First Minister also made clear: “Neither myself nor the SNP will shy away from criticising Russian policy when we believe it is merited.”
The weekly television programme was set up after Mr Salmon had a sell-out show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
He has previously expressed some admiration for “certain aspects” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and after news of the show emerged Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson accused him of “taking the Kremlin’s rouble”.
The Conservative said on Twitter: “It’s not often I feel sorry for @NicolaSturgeon, but Salmond taking the Kremlin’s rouble on Russia Today? Ooft….”
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “It’s clear that Alex Salmond’s moral compass now points towards Vladimir Putin’s corrupt regime in the Kremlin.
“It beggars belief that a man who led Scotland for seven years should be reduced to a puppet of Russia’s deeply damaging propaganda unit.”
Scottish Labour leadership candidate Anas Sarwar said the decision “demonstrates an astonishing lack of judgment for a former first minister to host a show on Kremlin-backed TV”.
He added: “Alex Salmond’s decision to become Putin’s puppet in the UK is deeply troubling.
“Nicola Sturgeon can’t laugh this one off – she must demonstrate leadership and condemn this shameful decision.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton challenged the former first minister to use the new programme to interview opponents of the Putin regime such as punk band Pussy Riot or Marina Litvinenko, the widow of murdered spy and dissident Alexander Litvinenko.
I've submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament to ask @AlexSalmond to re-examine his decision to sign a chat-show deal with #RussiaToday. I hope @theSNP colleagues will feel able to sign. pic.twitter.com/wEpplIEP9j— Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP (@agcolehamilton) November 10, 2017
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Frankly, it is quite impressive if Mr Salmond has managed to secure free rein for his chat show on the Russian state broadcaster.
“If this is the case, he should start with a bang and use this as an opportunity to give a platform to some of the courageous opponents of the Putin regime like Pussy Riot, Marina Litvinenko or one of the many prominent gay rights activists standing up in the face of Russian thuggery.”
Mr Salmond has said his programme will include guests from the world of business, politics and entertainment.
“This programme will give people with something to say a platform to say it, and we intend to find out something about the personalities behind the public figures,” he said.
The announcement of the new programme came as Mr Salmond seeks to become chairman of the newspaper group Johnston Press, publisher of The Scotsman and The i.
Scottish Conservative MP Colin Clark, who ousted Mr Salmond from the Gordon constituency in June, said: “I am only too happy to have helped Alex make the move into journalism.”