Salmond Accused of Sponsoring 'Tartan TV'

Daily Mail (London), March 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Salmond Accused of Sponsoring 'Tartan TV'


Byline: Alan Roden Scottish Political Reporter

ALEX SALMOND has used taxpayers' money to sponsor 'tartan TV shows' sympathetic to the SNP cause.

Ministers colluded with STV to help finance the documentaries, which were screened in place of hit network shows such as The Bill and Midsomer Murders.

The home-grown programmes, including Scotland Revealed and Made in Scotland, were a celebration of Scotland's traditional 'tartan and shortbread' heritage.

That suited Mr Salmond's repeated attempts to seize on Scottish patriotism as part of his bid to break up Britain.

But critics last night demanded to know why public money was used to sponsor three such shows. Mr Salmond is also under intense pressure to explain how the deal was reached, after documents revealed a series of meetings and correspondence between ministers, civil servants and STV. Although there is nothing to prevent the Executive sponsoring a TV show, a letter reveals how cash-strapped STV promised early last year to work 'for the benefit of the Scottish government'.

Media regulator Ofcom has strict rules that forbid any meddling in TV programming.

Both the Executive and STV strenuously deny any wrongdoing.

In January 2009, STV axed a number of prime-time ITV shows, including The Bill, Midsomer Murders and Doc Martin, and replaced them with repeats, old films and low-budget offerings. At the same time, Mr Salmond held a meeting with STV and a deal was reached whereby it would help promote the Homecoming Scotland campaign.

The Executive agreed to sponsor Scotland Revealed, a series of documentaries on the beauty of our landscape, which was subsequently shown instead of The Bill last autumn. It also sponsored Made In Scotland, which replaced The Bill last summer. The third show was a series called The Greatest Scot.

It is not known how much money the Executive paid out.

Last night, Scottish Tory culture spokesman Ted Brocklebank said: 'If the SNP government has being trying to use taxpayers' money to undermine the impartiality of STV, there must be an investigation.

'Mr Salmond's attempts to manipulate the media for his own ends is well known but if he has been using taxpayers' money to buy favour and influence then that would be a serious breach of power. How much was spent sponsoring these programmes and why won't the SNP tell us?'

Ofcom declined to comment, but its guidelines say: 'A sponsor must not influence the content and/or scheduling of a channel or programme in such a way as to impair the responsibility and editorial independence of the broadcaster. …

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