THE UK Defence Secretary has lamented Alex Salmond’s loss of credibility through his work for a Russian-backed TV channel, saying he used to be “deeply respected”. 

Ben Wallace, who was an MSP alongside Mr Salmond at the start of devolution, said he couldn't explain why his old parliamentary colleague had made the choices he had.

“It’s really for Alex to answer why he did it,” he said ruefully, referring to the former First Minister’s decision to host a weekly show on Russia Today (RT).

Mr Wallace made his comments to the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists Association at the Ministry of Defence after criticising Russia’s malign influence overseas.

He said Russia’s “aggression doesn’t know any boundaries” and it would try to weaken other states and “spread division”.

Asked if there was evidence of Russia meddling in the Scottish independence debate online, he said: “I think what we've seen is Russia and other nations take an interest to magnify division in nationalist debates around Europe, including Scotland. So, yes.

“I can’t talk about the here and now [for security reasons] but I could say there is an interest - and more than that.”

Asked how he therefore felt about Mr Salmond working for a Russian TV channel, Mr Wallace said: “The public know what Russia Today does and what it is and it's really for Alex to answer why he did it.”

Asked if he had respected Mr Salmond, now the Alba party leader, and if that had changed, he said: “When I was in the Scottish Parliament, Alex Salmond was a consummate politician and he was a big beast of Scottish politics.

"Just like Donald Dewar, he was deeply respected.

"He was always very kind and considerate to me as a new boy.

"And, remember, being a Tory [then] in Scotland, not many people bought you a cup of tea.

"Just like Margo MacDonald. Margo and I were very good friends.

“I suppose I put it this way - I don't think Alex Salmond needed to do that, to be honest, to go on Russia Today. No one's credibility is served by going on Russia Today."

Asked if it was sad, he said: “People make their own choices in life.”

Mr Wallace was a Tory list MSP for North East Scotland from 1999 to 2003 before moving to Lancashire, where he has been an MP since 2005, currently for Wyre and Preston North.

He was Northern Ireland minister from 2015 to 2016 under David Cameron, security minister to 2019 under Theresa May, then promoted to Defence Secretary by Boris Johnson.

In response to the comments, Mr Salmond plugged his show on RT, which he has hosted since late 2017.

Mr Salmond said: “I am delighted that Ben recalls the kindly and avuncular advice I gave him when he was a young MSP.

"Perhaps he will now as Defence Secretary accept some more.

“He should watch the interview on my show this week with Professor Akbar Ahmed of the American University in Washington about rapprochement between the west and the Islamic world

“It might, as Defence Secretary, prevent some of the grievous mistakes of the past bring repeated.”