Nicola Sturgeon has blasted Alex Salmond’s continued involvement in a Russian state-backed broadcaster following the invasion of Ukraine.
The First Minister said she was “appalled” at her predecessor and backed calls for the Kremlin-supported RT to be banned.
It came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK Government had asked Ofcom to review RT’s ability to broadcast in the UK.
Mainstream political parties in the UK have united this week to condemn the actions of Russia in invading Ukraine.
The spotlight has turned on the decision by Salmond, who was first minister between 2007 and 2014, to front a show for RT.
The broadcaster is widely dismissed as a propaganda unit for Vladimir Putin’s worldview and Labour has called on Ofcom to suspend its license.
Sturgeon, who has vigorously condemned the actions of Russia, was asked by STV whether she agrees with calls for RT to be banned in the UK.
She replied: “Yes, I do.
“It’s a matter for Ofcom, but I do think there is now a very serious question about whether RT should continue to have a licence to broadcast here in Scotland.
“And I would certainly encourage Ofcom to look at that very, very seriously and closely indeed.”
She added that it is now “even more unthinkable” in the wake of this week’s events that Salmond maintains his relationship with RT.
She said: “I’m appalled at Alex Salmond’s continued involvement with RT.
“I don’t think it’s any secret now that I didn’t think he should ever have had a television show on RT.
“But it is even more unthinkable now that that should continue.”
Sturgeon added: “For a variety of other reasons, I am not answerable for Alex Salmond, but hopefully he will reflect.”
She said: “I don’t think any elected representative right now should be contemplating appearing on RT.
“I will give that message, have given that message, to elected representatives here in the Scottish Parliament. I know Ian Blackford has done so in Westminster.
“You know, every elected representative has to take their own decisions, but right now, when the international community should be standing united against Putin, against his aggression, against his egregious breach of international law, then appearing on RT, which in many ways as we know is a state-backed broadcaster there to help Putin spread his propaganda, then I think that would be something that is completely wrong for any elected representative to do.”
Asked whether she would suspend any SNP members who might appear on RT, she said: “I hope none will do.”
She said: “Ukraine is facing a potentially existential crisis here from a brutal dictator and aggressor.
“And all of us have to think about what we can do as individuals, as governments, as political parties, to make sure that we don’t give any succour to Putin and his regime.”
Sturgeon and Salmond were close political allies, but fell out over the SNP Government’s unlawful probe into him over sexual harassment allegations.
Salmond quit the SNP and formed the pro-independence Alba.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Starmer said: “We must also do more to defeat Putin’s campaign of lies and disinformation.
“Russia Today is his personal propaganda tool. I can see no reason why it should be allowed to continue to broadcast in this country, so will the Prime Minister now ask Ofcom to review its licence?”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson replied: “I believe that my right honourable friend the secretary of state for culture, media and sport (Nadine Dorries) has already asked Ofcom to review that matter, but what I will say is that we live in a democracy and we live in a country that believes in free speech, and I think it’s important that we should leave it up to Ofcom rather than to politicians to decide which media organisations to ban.
“That’s what Russia does.”
Green MSP Ross Greer said: “Alex Salmond’s continued involvement with Putin’s RT propaganda department is utterly disgraceful. He’d struggle to disgrace his own reputation more than is already the case, but as a former First Minister this is causing real reputational damage to Scotland too. If he and the Kremlin’s other useful idiot George Galloway still possessed an ounce of integrity they’d quit that channel immediately. The fact that neither will speaks volumes.”
Dame Melanie Dawes of Ofcom said: “Recognising the serious nature of the crisis in Ukraine, we have been keeping the situation under close review and have already stepped up our oversight of coverage of these events by broadcasters in the UK. We are expediting complaints in this area as a matter of urgency and we will not hesitate to take swift action where necessary.
“I am confident that we have the full range of enforcement tools at our disposal and our track record shows that when we find a breach of our rules, we can and do take action. As always we will be fully transparent about any investigations we open, and the outcomes of those.”
Anna Belkina, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, RT: “RT’s operational and editorial independence from all governments is legally protected and always has been. Ofcom recognizes this and has long-endorsed RT as a license holder. Even in the face of undue political pressure it has continuously found RT to be in line with other UK broadcasters, without a single breach of broadcasting Code to be found in the last 4 years – not something that can be said about many other channels in the country.
“Yet UK politicians are now openly and brazenly interfering in institutions they have long touted as supposedly independent and wholly free from political pressure, exposing their self-proclaimed commitment to such values as free speech and regulatory independence as nothing but a sham.”
Salmond has been contacted.
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