SNP leader Alex Salmond faces referendum rethink as sun sets on alliance with Rupert Murdoch's News International

Failure to win NI backing comes as major blow to SNP leader's Scottish independence campaign

Rupert Murdoch's interest in winning independence for Scotland has ended. News International's top selling title in Scotland, The Scottish Sun – whose support is widely regarded as crucial to the "Yes" campaign in the run-in to the September 2014 referendum – will not be backing independence.

In a significant blow to Alex Salmond's attempt to close the gap on the current substantial pro-Union lead, senior management sources inside News International in both London and Glasgow told The Independent that The Scottish Sun, which backed Mr Salmond in his landslide victory at the 2011 Holyrood election, is not looking to back the SNP ahead of the 18 September vote next year.

The decision effectively draws a line under a four-year charm offensive by Mr Murdoch towards Scotland's First Minister and ends a friendly and unlikely alliance between the global media mogul and the pugnacious ringmaster of Scottish politics. The SNP's failure to continue being supported by the Sun, which sells around 300,000 copies north of the border, will force a rethink of the "Yes" campaign's strategy.

The latest opinion poll puts support for independence at 36 per cent, support for Scotland to remain in the Union at 46 per cent, and those undecided at 18 per cent. With a shift away from any radical change widely expected to occur as the referendum gets closer, the "Yes" campaign technically needs to be close to 60 per cent within the next 12 months.

Mr Murdoch and News International formally maintain that the Sun's decision in 2014 will lie with the editor of the Scottish edition, Andy Harries. However Mr Salmond told the Leveson Inquiry last year that he knew London – in effect Mr Murdoch and his senior advisers – held a crucial veto on the issue.

A senior boardroom source at NI in London said "The Scottish Sun will not be backing the SNP on independence. We will have a neutral stance".

Mr Murdoch had tweeted last year "Alex Salmond clearly most brilliant politician in the UK," and met Mr Salmond at his official residence to discuss investing in Scotland. There have been five Murdoch-Salmond meetings in recent years, along with exchanged personal calls and letters, but there has been an effective silence between the two over the last 12 months.

The withdrawal of support for independence by Mr Murdoch also suggests he has rethought earlier calculations that Mr Salmond is a winner – routinely a pre-requisite for support by NI – and that any commercial advantages for News Corp businesses in backing the SNP can no longer be guaranteed.

The apparently close relationship between the First Minister and the News Corp boss was criticised in the Leveson Report. Lord Justice Leveson's examination of press conduct said that Mr Salmond displayed a "striking" willingness to lobby the UK government on behalf of the Murdoch empire and that during the attempted 2011 BSkyB take-over, Mr Salmond "stood ready" to contact ministers and to persuade them to support News Corp's takeover.

The Independent made efforts to contact Andy Harries, editor of The Scottish Sun, in Glasgow, however he was not available to comment.

Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Sport
Jose Mourinho restrains his assistant manager Rui Faria, Fabio Borini celebrates his winning penalty and Connor Wickham equalises for Sunderland
sportChelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Deafeat is extra bitter as former Chelsea player Fabio Borini scores late penalty to seal victory
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit