Brian Monteith: Alex’s Scotland is easily bought

There was a time, not that long ago, when Scots could not be bought easily if the price involved loss of face. An obvious example is when the trade unions told Ford motor company where it could stuff its non- unionised engine assembly plant, and it wasn’t going to be Dundee. It was instead built in Cardiff.

Friday, 27th April 2012, 1:10 pm

Such were those times that if Rupert Murdoch, who had broken a bitter and violent union dispute at his new publishing plant in Wapping, London, had even mentioned opening a new venture in Scotland there would have been mass demonstrations, pickets and the implied threat of violence on the streets.

Socialist politicians would have huffed and puffed and beat their chests with all sorts of bravado and bluster about the sins of capitalism, the plight of the workers and the scabs who were willing to break strikes and work for the likes of Rupert Murdoch.

To be acceptable, rich men had to be Labour supporters like Robert Maxwell, willing to have their newspapers back the Labour Party and oppose capitalism in all its forms – except for the sphere where they themselves made their money. Later, people like Robert Maxwell, a former Labour MP, would be exposed as an insolvent fraudster who had pillaged the pension funds of his far poorer workers.

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When Labour politicians, such as Helen Liddell who had worked with Maxwell, rushed to revere his memory on his death the stench of hypocrisy and humbug was nauseating.

In all of this time there were SNP politicians who lined up to attack the rich politicians such as Maxwell and Murdoch and to strike a sanctimonious pose that was holier than thou. Not for them the likes of Maxwell who supported Labour, not for them the likes of Murdoch who (at that time) supported the Tories.

In the Nineties all of this changed. Not only had Maxwell died in mysterious circumstances and the truth was exposed, allowing a line to be drawn by the New Labour leadership, but Labour had decided that to win a general election it had to have the Sun newspaper on its side and so the courting of Rupert Murdoch began in earnest.

The rest is media history. Over the years Murdoch’s papers supported the Labour Party in the 1997, 2001 and 2005 general elections and the relationship of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to the Murdochs and their executives was one of mutual adulation.

All of that changed when just before the 2010 general election the Murdochs finally decided that Brown was taking the UK to hell in a handcart and the editorial position of News International papers changed back to supporting Cameron’s Conservatives.

In Scotland there was a difference, for the political scene was complicated by the existence of the SNP, and with the Tories being so unpopular the Scottish Sun had decided to back the Nationalists rather than Labour. This opened the door to the SNP developing its own love-in with the Murdochs and over the years the terms of endearment blossomed.

We now know that the First Minister, Alex Salmond, has been willing to lobby the British Government in matters that have nothing to do with his responsibilities, ostensibly because it would help secure jobs in Scotland. Not that many years ago people like Murdoch would have been told by politicians such as Salmond where they could stuff their jobs – but not now.

The First Minister has been exposed as a groupie of the rich and infamous.

First it was his love-in with Brian Soutar, the wealthy co-owner of Stagecoach – a company whose success grew on the back of the privatisation of Britain’s municipal buses, a policy that Salmond opposed – but the colour of Soutar’s money was irresistible.

Then he swooned over Fred Goodwin, the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, who was given every encouragement and support in private letters to make the very deals that helped bring the Royal Bank crashing down.

Then it was an affair with Donald Trump, a wealthy and controversial American property developer, who, Trump alleges, was given private commitments that would make his investment in a multi-million golf resort on the Menie coast possible. Given that Trump already had land available in Northern Ireland and the support of local politicians there, it is difficult to understand why he would invest in Scotland without such political assurances.

Now there are e-mails from the Leveson inquiry showing the betrothal of the First Minister to Rupert Murdoch’s cause in News Corporation’s bid for ownership of BSkyB. Is it just circumstantial that Salmond’s rough wooing coincided with the Sun again backing the SNP in subsequent elections?

There is an old axiom that applies to the establishment of the poison botulism that the First Minister is surely aware of. One is an example. Two is a coincidence. Three is a trend.

The First Minister stands accused of abandoning his hallowed socialist principles and backing the likes of Soutar, Goodwin, Trump and Murdoch because there was advantage to his party. His defence is he was only thinking of Scottish jobs.

There was a time when Scotland could not be bought so easily. Welcome to the New Scotland.