ALEX Salmond has been accused of "inappropriate and ill-advised" behaviour after hosting a meeting at his official residence with News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Murdoch and News International chief executive Tom Mockridge were said to have discussed the potential for further investment in Scotland during the meeting with the First Minister at Bute House.

Yesterday's talks were held three days after Mr Murdoch's new title, The Sun on Sunday, revealed what it claimed would be the date of the referendum on independence.

Although this date – October 18, 2014 – was later played down as only a possibility, it came on the back of two statements by Mr Murdoch lavishing praise on Mr Salmond and seemingly backing independence.

The businessman arrived for a visit to Scotland on Tuesday but at a briefing late that evening Government aides continued to insist there were no plans for Mr Salmond to meet Mr Murdoch.

However, a spokesman for the First Minister said they had shared a "very constructive meeting" yesterday afternoon.

Anas Sarwar, deputy leader of Scottish Labour, said: "Given the revelations at the Leveson Inquiry and the row over the referendum date, this was an inappropriate and ill-advised meeting for the First Minister.

"The scandal that has engulfed News International has shocked the public, and the thought of the First Minister enjoying a cosy cup of tea with Rupert Murdoch will not be well understood."

Revealing the one-hour meeting had taken place earlier in the afternoon, an aide to Mr Salmond said: "This was a very constructive meeting focused on News Corporation's substantial economic footprint in Scotland and the First Minister and Mr Murdoch discussed the potential for further investment within the country."

The spokesman said the stance of Mr Murdoch's Scottish titles "formed no part of the discussion," but added: "Mr Murdoch was keen to express his view the current debate on Scotland's constitutional future continued to make Scotland an attractive place for inward investment.

"The first Minister indicated firm support for the Leveson Inquiry and police investigations into journalistic malpractice. Mr Murdoch gave strong assurances News International is intent on consigning these matters to the past and emerging a better organisation for it."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP said: "We need to know he argued with force that News International must clean up its act. Passing reference to the Leveson would be insufficient. The people of Scotland would expect more from their First Minister."

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The meeting came as James Murdoch relinquished control of his family's UK newspaper empire, stepping down as executive chairman of News International. Parent company News Corporation said it would allow him to focus on expanding the company's TV businesses.

The announcement is seen as a way of distancing Mr Murdoch from the hacking scandal.

James Murdoch remains News Corporation deputy chief operating officer and keeps responsibility for BSkyB but Mr Mockridge, who was appointed after former NotW editor Rebekah Brooks was forced to resign because of phone hacking scandal, will now report to News Corp president and chief operating officer Chase Carey.

James Murdoch said: "News International is now in a strong position to build on its successes in the future."

Meanwhile, Mr Murdoch leapt to the defence of Rebekah Brooks, saying his former protegee is being criticised for "saving an old horse from the glue factory".

He took to Twitter to defend the former News International chief executive after it emerged Scotland Yard chiefs loaned her a police horse.