Former First Minister Alex Salmond has hit back at the political backlash over agreeing to host a talk show on RT, the Russian state-owned broadcaster.

Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond’s successor and leader of the SNP, questioned his decision to work with RT in an unprecedented public rift with her predecessor.

The First Minister said she had not been asked about the arrangement, and that if had she had been, she would have advised against it.

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RT [Russian Today] "would not have been my choice," she said.

The SNP also distanced itself from Mr Salmond's decision to host a weekly show on the controversial broadcaster, which is being forced to register in the United States as an arm of the Russian government.

But Salmond hit back saying: "It's bizarre, because there are 50 Labour MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, 38 Conservative MPs including cabinet members like Liam Fox for example have appeared on RT, 17 SNP, seven Liberal Democrats, three Sinn Fein, two Democratic Unionists, and the Green MP Caroline Lucas.

HeraldScotland:

"Given that number of their own colleagues from their own parties who have appeared on this channel, why on earth are they questioning it.

"Look, if any one of these people said, look my views weren't properly represented, I didn't get an opportunity to express my views without fear or favour, that would be a legitimate complaint. But none of these people, none of that more than 100 MPs have ever said to me that they censured (ored) in anyway."

After being urged by opposition parties to speak out on Mr Salmond's action, Ms Sturgeon issued a personal statement on the matter.

She 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.

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

HeraldScotland:

Mr Salmond, who will host an eponymous weekly chat show on RT – a network widely seen as a mouthpiece for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, hit back at questions of bias in relation to RT.

He said a year ago he appeared on RT and had "pretty strong things to say" about Russian internvention in Syria. "That was an interesting test, was that going to be altered in anyway, but no, the show was broadcast. The issue is were my views altered? And the answer is they weren't."

He added: "I found that this channel allows me to express my views without fear or favour, therefore a programme... broadcast on RT should be able to do that as well.

"Secondly, there is an underlying question about freedom of speech. Are all these other media outlets so worried that they won't allow things to be shown on RT, do they think the viewers are going to desert in their millions. What exactly [is] the problem they have with it. If they can't find a problem with content, why should they find a problem with being on the channel."

But critics have condemned the move as “deeply troubling” at a time of widespread concern over Russian influence in the West.

An SNP spokesman said: "This is entirely a matter for Alex Salmond , who is not currently an elected politician and as such is free to ?take on broadcasting and other opportunities of his own choosing, just as those from other parties have done.

"The SNP has no connection to Alex’s company or his media interests.

"The SNP has regularly expressed concern over actions by the Russian government, including reports of persecution on the grounds of race and sexuality, attacks on journalists and concerns about the integrity of the democratic process, and we will continue to pursue these concerns."

Scottish Labour leadership candidate Anas Sarwar said: “It demonstrates an astonishing lack of judgement for a former First Minister to host a show on Kremlin-backed TV. Alex Salmond’s decision to become Putin’s puppet in the UK is deeply troubling.