Alex Salmond stuck firmly to his script at First Minister's Questions yesterday: his warm relationship with Rupert Murdoch had nothing to do with the Scottish Sun's Damascene conversion to the SNP and everything to do with winning and safeguarding Scottish jobs.
"The job of a First Minister is to advocate jobs for Scotland," he declared.
Mr Salmond relishes a political fight and, though the Holyrood opposition party leaders threw some punches in this week's sparring match, none can claim a clean hit, even though this business looks bad for the SNP leader. The emails that have emerged at the Leveson Inquiry revealed a willingness on the part of Mr Salmond to go in to bat for the Murdoch empire in its bid to take over BSkyB.
Mr Salmond does not deny this but repeats his claim that it was all about Scottish jobs. Yet, as Labour leader Johann Lamont inquired yesterday, why then had SNP MPs at Westminster opposed the proposed takeover?
Despite the denials that this was a back-scratching relationship, in the public mind it is going to be hard to divorce the Scottish Sun's enthusiasm for Scottish independence last year and Mr Salmond's willingness to lobby Coalition ministers on the billionaire's behalf.
If the boot was on the other foot politically and Mr Salmond was an opposition leader, he would be making a huge hullaballoo about this, in a political arena where appearances are important. Let's not forget misdemeanours that were not earth shattering in themselves ended the career of Henry McLeish as First Minister and the careers of David McLetchie and Wendy Alexander as party leaders at Holyrood.
It is a testament to Mr Salmond's domination of Scottish politics that he is still scoring political points, as illustrated by the defection to the SNP of businessman Mohammed Ramzan, the uncle of Labour's deputy Scottish leader Anas Sarwar, revealed by The Herald today. More formidable opponents at Holyrood – Alistair Darling or Menzies Campbell, for instance – might have inflicted more damage on the First Minister. Yet he has not been seriously wounded.
Nevertheless, Mr Salmond has been tainted by this week's revelations. Yesterday he strove to remind his opponents of how their leaders has fawned over the Murdochs but that is not the point. David Cameron aside, perhaps, they had not been implicated, even through advisers, in the Murdochs' drive to help push through New Corp's biggest-ever deal, one which would have concentrated even more power in the hands of a global media tycoon.
How does this episode square with the new politics Mr Salmond promises Scots if they back independence? How does Scotland as a "progressive beacon" marry with a leader who appears to be dazzled by very rich men: Fred Goodwin, Brian Soutar, Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch. The list goes on. Alex Salmond remains the SNP's biggest asset. As we have seen this week, there is something of the liability about him too.
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