Bell Declines to Comment on Salmond-Observer Reports

A former Observer journalist and a co-founder of has declined to comment on his name appearing in newspaper reports of claims made by Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, at the Leveson Inquiry into Press standards.

On Wednesday, Salmond said he hadn't been approached by the police, with a suspicion that his phone might have been hacked by the (now closed) News of the World. But he went on to remark: “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.”

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”.

Despite him being one of several Scots working at The Observer around the time, only the name of Alex Bell is mentioned in today's media, including in The Scotsman and The Herald. Bell is now a special adviser to Salmond.

Bell retains a tiny, non-participatory shareholding in ltd but – after attempts by to contact him throughout today – he declined to comment.

Both The Herald and The Scotsman report Salmond refusing to name his alleged informant or making contact the police with the allegation. Paul Gilbride in the Scottish Daily Express writes of Salmond being “urged to confirm… is not the source.”

The Leveson Inquiry was set up amid allegations of phone hacking against the News of the World newspaper, which was closed, following them, in July.