The First Minister, Alex Salmond, continues to be under pressure to reveal the source of his claim at the Leveson Inquiry into Press standards that he believes The Observer newspaper might have hacked into his bank account in 1999.
Says an article on the front page of Scotland on Sunday today, Samond is being urged to take his claim to the police by a 'campaign against press abuses', Hacked Off.
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”.
On Friday, despite him being one of several Scots working at The Observer around the time, only the name of Alex Bell was mentioned in the media, including in The Scotsman and The Herald. Bell is now a special adviser to Salmond. Bell declined to comment to allmediascotland – in which he has a small, non-participatory shareholding.
In today's Scotland on Sunday, political editor, Eddie Barnes, quotes a spokesperson for Hacked Off saying: “I would say that if there is evidence of criminality by any newspaper then any person should report that to the police.”
Barnes continues: “Asked if the source was former Observer columnist, Alex Bell, now a Scottish government special adviser, Salmond’s spokesman said that he had 'nothing to add' and added that the First Minister intended to 'respect the confidentiality' of his informant.”
Barnes ends by saying that the editor of The Observer in Scotland in 1999, Dean Nelson, “was unavailable for comment”.