The Press Complaints Commission has rejected a complaint made by Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, over two articles from the Scottish Mail on Sunday which detailed his involvement in an immigration case.
Through law firm Levy & McRae, Salmond had complained that articles headlined “Salmond and the asylum fugitive” and “Salmond faces probe over case of illegal immigrant”, published on 17 and 24 January, were inaccurate and misleading.
The first article claimed that Salmond was at the centre of an immigration “scandal” after “lobbying for an illegal immigrant facing drugs charges to be allowed to stay in Scotland”.
The second piece claimed that Salmond was “facing a Westminster investigation” as a result of writing to the Home Office in support of the man’s application.
Salmond told the PCC is was incorrect for the paper to suggest – through the use of a quote from an MP – that he had stepped outside normal parliamentary procedures in writing to the Home Secretary.
At the time of his letter to the Home Office, he had been unaware of both the man’s background and the existence of an outstanding criminal warrant, Salmond told the PCC.
In addition, he said the article in question was published before a complaint had been received by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards which rendered the claim that he was facing a “probe” into his conduct untrue.
However, the PCC did not uphold his complaint. Publishing its adjudication today, the press watchdog ruled the essential facts of the story were “accurately reflected in the articles under complaint”.
The adjudication stated: “It was accepted that the complainant [Salmond] had written to the Home Secretary on behalf of a Chinese national, who – unbeknownst to the complainant – was subsequently found to be illegally resident, with an outstanding warrant for arrest.
“This position had been accurately reflected in the articles under complaint.
“The newspaper had also carried comments about the situation from named opposition MPs. While the complainant denied the validity of the criticism, readers would recognise that they represented the partisan comment of rival politicians.
“The complainant’s own position in response, and that of the constituent who asked him to write the letter, had been made clear.
“The newspaper itself had not asserted that the complainant was guilty of wrongdoing.”
The PCC said that both parties accepted that a complaint had eventually been received by Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, which he was bound to consider, and that the newspaper’s claims that Salmond was facing a “probe” had not suggested that proceedings were already underway at the time of the article.
“Nor did the newspaper speculate as to the outcome of the Commissioner’s considerations,” the PCC added.
“Furthermore, a third article had subsequently made clear that the matter was not eventually pursued and that Mr Salmond had not been subject to any disciplinary action.
“The newspaper was obliged to report this outcome, having already referred to the existence of the complaint to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. The Commission ruled that this clarified the position appropriately.”