THE Capital’s highest-profile business association was today facing growing pressure to cut its links with Russian “propaganda machine” Sputnik as international condemnation of the Salisbury spy attack grew.
The city council called on the Chamber of Commerce to “terminate” its agreement with Sputnik UK, based at Exchange Tower in the West End, amid mounting concern about the deal which pledge support to the Russian state broadcaster. The Chamber said it was reviewing its position and is understood to be consulting lawyers about the legality of ending the relationship.
The move comes as international condemnation of Russia grew, with France, Germany and the US joining the UK in saying there was “no plausible alternative explanation” to Russia being behind the nerve agent attack. Prime Minister Theresa May also visited the scene of the poisoning as Russian former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, remained critically ill in hospital. Meanwhile, former first minster Alex Salmond defended his show on Kremlin-owned Sputnik stablemate, Russia Today.
In Edinburgh, city councillors agreed to call on the Chamber to cut its ties with Sputnik, backing part of a motion raised by Councillor John McLellan describing the agency as “the propaganda arm of a state linked to attempted assassinations”.
“Its role is not to grow business here or help commerce in this city, it’s not even here to build trade relations like some latter day Peter the Great seeking Scottish expertise to help transform their nation,” said Cllr McLellan. “As we’ve seen over the last few days, it’s here to sow doubt, to distort and to manipulate.”
“Sputnik’s membership is not just allowing it to buy a table at the odd black tie dinner, but promising it influence in the decision-making process in this very room. As Stalin might have put it, in the Chamber of Commerce it’s found a useful idiot to further its goals.”
Council leader Adam McVey questioned the “brass neck” of Cllr McLellan and claimed he was “incredibly conflicted” due to his role as director of the Scottish Newspaper Society and a media contributor. Cllr McVey later apologised on Twitter to Cllr McLellan for comments he made in the meeting.
A Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman said: “The Chamber is conducting its own review, and any decision we take will be made based on our constitution, on the legality or otherwise of member activities, and on the position taken by the Scottish and UK governments regarding the trading licences of any organisation.”