The First Minister, Alex Salmond, has been challenged to reveal the details behind a claim he made last week at the Leveson Inquiry into Press standards or resign.
Writing in yesterday's Scotsman newspaper, columnist, Brian Monteith, was referring to claims made on Wednesday, when Salmond said: “What I can say is that I believe that my bank account was accessed by The Observer newspaper sometime in 1999. And my reason for believing that is that I was informed by a former Observer journalist who gave me a fairly exact account of what was in my bank account.”
Salmond made the remark when saying he had not been approached by the police, with a suspicion that his phone might have been hacked by the (now closed) News of the World.
Immediately afterwards, The Observer's publisher issued a statement saying the matter had been raised with them last year but, on the basis of the information given, it was “unable to find any evidence to substantiate his allegation”.
Wrote Monteith: “The First Minister would have to be a fool not to recognise the seriousness of the alleged crime and realise it should be brought to the attention of the police – if not in 1999 then certainly now when there is an investigation into such media practices. As the First Minister is no fool I can only conclude that he has wilfully withheld knowledge of this alleged crime for political advantage.
“That would be no way for any MSP to behave and it certainly cannot be the example that a First Minister should set to the public. Alex Salmond has a duty to uphold the law. By his own actions he appears to have avoided reporting a possible crime and now, having alleged that crime, intends to withhold evidence pertinent to the scope of existing police enquiries.
“If that is how the First Minister treats his office, then I must conclude that he is unfit to hold such a post and should resign. It really is that serious. Mr Salmond must either provide every piece of evidence he has to Strathclyde Police or he and his government cannot be taken seriously again on matters judicial. As government acts within, through and by the law that must mean the whole government is culpable. Having put up, he cannot shut up. The First Minister must come clean, or go.”