The Observer accessed my bank account, says Alex Salmond

 

Details of Alex Salmond's bank account were accessed by The Observer in the run up to Scottish elections in 1999, the First Minister claimed yesterday.

Mr Salmond told the Leveson inquiry that a journalist at the newspaper presented him with evidence of purchases made from his account which could have come only from someone who had access to his bank details.

He said among the items he had bought in the run up to the Holyrood elections were some from a store called Fun and Games which the journalist said had caused "great anticipation" on the paper.

"I had bought some toys for my then, at that time, young nieces in a toy shop which was called Fun and Games, and the person who informed me told me that this caused great anticipation and hope in the Observer investigation unit because they believed that perhaps Fun and Games was more than a conventional toy shop," he said.

Mr Salmond said that he had been told that it caused "enormous disappointment" at the newspaper when it turned out that Fun and Games was "just a toy shop".

Guardian News & Media, publisher of The Observer, said that Alex Salmond first raised the subject in a letter written to The Observer's editor in July 2011.

During his evidence to the inquiry Mr Salmond added he had no evidence that his phone had been hacked but said he believed there was a "substantial case" that improper practices were "rife across many newspaper titles". Mr Salmond was pressed on his attitude to newspaper owners, particularly Mr Murdoch, and what exchanges they had on politics – including Scottish independence.

But the SNP leader denied having specific discussions about the independence issue with media moguls.

"I wouldn't explicitly raise it at meetings necessarily because they'd always say 'go to the editors'. That certainly was Rupert Murdoch's practice, and I can't even remember, it may have cropped up in a James Murdoch meeting, but if so, he would say 'go to the editors', and go to the editors I did - as I say, sometimes successfully, sometimes not."

The Sun newspaper famously depicted Scotland in a noose in 2007 in a warning against voting SNP. In the 2007 Scottish election. The paper changed its position to back Mr Salmond for a second term as First Minister in 2011.

Today's witness: Questions PM should face

Why did you appoint Jeremy Hunt rather than Ken Clarke to oversee the BSkyB bid when it was clear that Mr Hunt had firm prior views in favour of the bid?

The Liberal Democrats were in favour of giving the job of deciding on News Corp's bid for BSkyB to the Justice Secretary rather than the Culture Secretary because they felt he was too close to News Corp. Mr Cameron is likely to be closely questioned on the chronology of events, and specifically why Mr Hunt was chosen ahead of Mr Clarke and who made that choice.

What was the extent of your investigation into how much Andy Coulson knew about phone hacking at the News of the World?

This is difficult territory for the Leveson Inquiry as charges are pending against Mr Coulson. However it will be important for Lord Justice Leveson to establish both why Mr Coulson was appointed by Mr Cameron in the first place and what due diligence he did when it became apparent that the extent of phone hacking at the News of the World was far greater than previously thought.

Did Rupert Murdoch ever try to influence Conservative Party policy, either before or after the last election?

John Major, in his evidence, suggested that Mr Murdoch made a direct link between support for the Tories and the party's position on Europe. The inquiry will want to establish whether similar conversations took place with the current Government.

Oliver Wright

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