Nicola Sturgeon calls for RT ban and is "appalled" by Alex Salmond's show on the station

23 February 2022, 15:20

Alex Salmond has come under fire for hosting a show on RT
Alex Salmond has come under fire for hosting a show on RT. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

Nicola Sturgeon has revealed she supports a ban on RT (Russia Today) from broadcasting in the UK and says she's "appalled" at her predecessor, Alex Salmond's continued involvement with the channel.

Scotland's First Minister, who today met with the Ukraine consul-general in Edinburgh, said any decision on banning the TV station was for Ofcom, but she did support the idea.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has pushed for a review of RT's licence since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and raised the issue at Prime Minister's Questions today.

Boris Johnson told MPs that the Department of Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) has contacted Ofcom to ask them to look at whether the station should be allowed to continue to operate in the UK.

Read more: Ukraine to declare state of emergency as Putin boasts of high-tech hypersonic weapons

He also dismissed questions from the SNP’s Ian Blackford about Russian donations to the Tories, claiming his points were “a bit much” given former SNP member Alex Salmond’s links to the RT broadcaster.

Asked if she agreed RT should be banned in the UK, Nicola Sturgeon said: "Yes, I do. It's a matter for Ofcom, but I do think there is now a very serious question about whether RT should continue to have a licence to broadcast here in Scotland, and I would certainly encourage Ofcom to look at that very, very seriously and closely."

Further asked if she was "appalled" at Alex Salmond's involvement with the channel on which he has hosted a show for five years, she said: "I am appalled.

"I don't think it's any secret that I didn't think he should ever have had a television show on RT.

"But it is even more unthinkable now that that should continue. But as you know, for a variety of other reasons. I'm not answerable for Alex Salmond, but hopefully he will reflect."

Nicola Sturgeon also revealed she had told SNP MSPs, and Ian Blackford had told SNP MPs in Westminster, not to appear on RT.

"I don't think any elected representative right now should be contemplating appearing on RT.

"Every elected representative has to take their own decision, but right now when the international community should be standing united against Putin, against his aggression, against his egregious breach of international law, then appearing on RT, which in many ways, as we know, is a state backed broadcaster there to help Putin spread his propaganda, then I think that would be something that is completely wrong for any elected representative."

She refused to say if she would suspend any elected SNP politician if they did appear on RT, saying "I hope none will do it."

She added: "I think at the moment if we're calling on, as I am, the UK government to go further on sanctions... Ukraine is facing a potentially existential crisis here from a brutal dictator and aggressor and all of us have to think about what we can do as individuals ,as governments ,as political parties to make sure that we don't give any succour to Putin and his regime."

Her comments come a day after the Westminster leader of Alex Salmond's Alba party, Neale Hanvey MP, said NATO should not expand eastwards and the West needed to take account of Russia's "security interests" over the conflict in Ukraine.

The First Minister was backed by SNP defence spokesman, Stewart McDonald MP, who said: 'Spot on from Nicola Sturgeon. As RT’s Global Editor in Chief said RT is for ‘conducting information war against the whole Western world’. It is not a normal news service and we should stop treating it as such."

Ross Greer MSP, Scottish Greens external affairs spokesperson, also supported her comments, and called on Alex Salmond to quit RT, claiming as a former First Minister he was causing "real reputational damage to Scotland."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has also revealed he has written to the Lord President of the Privy Seal, Mark Spencer MP, asking that Mr Salmond be stripped of his membership of the Privy Council.

The former SNP leader was appointed to the position when he was First Minister in 2007, and membership is for life.

Mr Salmond was contacted for a response.

Nicola Sturgeon also said the UK government was not yet "doing enough in the form of sanctions" to tackle Russia. "We now need to see that rhetoric matched by action, and that's important because this is a critical moment for Ukraine, but it's a critical moment for the world - the choice is to hit Putin hard with the severest of sanctions, so that he understands that there will be consequences for his imperialistic ambition, and if we don't do that he will become even further emboldened.

"London is awash with Russian money and the UK government must target that wealth, those assets."

She said the Scottish Government was "very keen" to work with the UK government, and to persuade them to "go further".

"We will be a voice calling for the international community to stay united and united in solidarity with Ukraine. We've got a role to play in ensuring that there is support here for the Ukrainian community and that we're supporting them in giving their support to people back in their own country."