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Salmond criticised over reaction to Leveson report

ALEX Salmond has been accused of flawed judgment with opposition leaders in Scotland expressing astonishment that the First Minister insisted he was "very content" with Lord Justice Leveson's conclusions on his dealings with newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Salmond highlighted the inquiry's conclusion that he could "not be criticised" and welcomed the finding that Scottish jobs and investment were, as he had maintained, the motivation behind his dealings with the media mogul.

The Leveson report into press standards brought about by the phone hacking scandal found Mr Salmond had displayed a "striking" readiness to lobby Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, and Jeremy Hunt, the former Culture Secretary, on behalf of News Corp during their consideration of the legality of its planned BSkyB takeover.

Mr Salmond did not contact the UK Government ministers, despite indicating his willingness to do so, and therefore "cannot be criticised", the report found, saying he must be "judged by what he did and not what he said he was prepared to do".

However, the report also found that if the First Minister had been successful in persuading UK ministers, his actions would have knowingly led them to break the law if it advanced Scottish interests.

Asked if he accepted he was wrong to offer to lobby on behalf of Mr Murdoch's company, Mr Salmond said: "I'm very content with the Leveson conclusions, which said that I can't be criticised for what I did.

"I'm also very satisfied that he accepts without question that my motivation was Scottish jobs and investment and calls that an entirely laudable aim. So I'm very happy with the conclusions of the Leveson report."

However, Johann Lamont, the Scottish Labour leader, said: "It's astonishing. He should be more reflective on what Lord Leveson says because Leveson criticised him more than any politician in his report.

"The only reason he didn't act in the way that he intended to do was because the bid was withdrawn. So although he can't be criticised for what he did, we do know, in terms of what Rupert Murdoch's people said, he stood ready to go and act on behalf of Rupert Murdoch. He should reflect and be honest that perhaps his judgment was rather flawed there."

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, insisted the inquiry report contained "severe criticism" of Mr Salmond and called for him to stand aside from leading talks on the way forward for press regulation.

Willie Rennie for the Scottish Liberal Democrats said the SNP leader should "accept he went too far in what he was prepared to do for News Corp".

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