The Scottish Sun today condemned the “pro-Unionist parties” as its owner gave the strongest hint yet that he backed Scottish independence.
Scottish Nationalist Party leader Alex Salmond has, according to the 2012 Leveson Report, “a close relationship with Rupert Murdoch and News Corp”.
And today News Corp chairman Murdoch said on Twitter that he was “wrestling with Scottish vote”
He added: “head over heart, or just same maybe both lead to same conclusion….
“Scots better people than to be dependants of London. Hard choice with real pain for some time. Maybe too much.”
Making reference to his family’s Scottish ancestry Murdoch said: "Generations of Scottish preacher forefathers came from beautiful northern fishing village, Rosehearty. Now totally silted up. Sad."
The Scottish Sun has yet to make a declaration one way or the other on the referendum.
But its leader column today was strongly critical of the 'no' campaign:
It is a measure of how inept Labour’s national leadership has been for so long that the party’s supporters north of the Border would prefer to leave the UK than be governed by the Miliband team looking increasingly likely to be handed power next May.
These same Labour diehards will be at the forefront of Scots who will now be asking the obvious question: Why has it taken until the future of the UK is on the precipice to pull a rabbit out of the hat?
Mr Cameron’s Government has known officially about the referendum for two years, so why weren’t Gordon Brown’s goodies on the table long before now?
The pro-Unionist parties are starting to sound as insulting as they are inept.
Today’s English edition of The Sun backed a “No” vote in its leader column, urging readers to call their relatives and: “Tell them why you value them and the ties that have bound us for three centuries".
It said: “Tell them why you do not want to be separated by borders and nationality.”
The Leveson Report noted that Salmond’s evident willingness to assist Sun owner News Corp in its bid to buyout BSkyB was “striking”.
In early 2011 Salmond indicated to News Corp that he stood ready to lobby then culture secretary Jeremy Hunt in support of the bid.
The Leveson Report revealed that in February 2011 News Corp lobbyist Fred Michel met an adviser to the SNP leader who told him Salmond would "call Hunt whenever we need him to". In the same conversation Michel said the adviser "noticed a major change in The Sun's coverage recently" whereas the Daily Record "is running a very personal campaign against him [Salmond]".
In the same conversation he also said he wanted to discuss Sky News holding a debate between the two main First Minister contenders ahead of the general election.
On 2 March 2011, Michel sent another email to James Murdoch (then chief exec of News Corp in Europe) reporting back on a dinnner which had been held between the editor of the Scottish Sun and Salmond.
At this stage Hunt was still considering News Corp's bid to buy the 61 per cent of BSkyB that it did not already own (against the backdrop of the unfolding News of the World hacking scandal).
The email said:
Alex Salmond called. He had a very good dinner with the editor of The Sun in Scotland yesterday.
The Sun is now keen to back the SNP at the election. The editor will make his pitch to the editorial team tomorrow.
Alex wanted to see whether he could smooth the way for the process…
On the Sky bid, he will make himself available to support the debate if consultation is launched."
The Scottish Sun later publicly gave its backing to the SNP in April, ahead of the May 2011 general election.
Leveson said Salmond’s “readiness to intervene in the bid” was of “real interest” and that if he had influenced the “quasi judicial process” it would have rendered the decision “unlawful”.
The Leveson Report made clear that Salmond was “expressly seeking the support of The Sun in the same conversation as he was repeating an offer to assist with the bid”.
Leveson also noted that Salmond and Murdoch (pictured above in 2007) have a relationship of “mutual respect and admiration” built on “frequent interactions”.