Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has been accused of personally pressuring the chairman of Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE), the body that represents the country’s financial services, to drop a report on independence.
The Daily Telegraph says that Mr Salmond telephoned the chairman last November and discouraged him from publishing a paper on Scottish independence. Both Salmond and John Swinney, the Scottish finance minister, are also alleged to have rung senior executives of various SFE member companies to express their concern about the paper.
A source told the Telegraph that the ministers’ tone was “forceful” and that the Scottish government was “trying to discourage us from saying anything” on the independence referendum.
The SFE defied the ministers’ pressure, however, and published the report, which contradicted many of the central claims on Scotland’s finances made by pro-independence supporters.
A spokesman for Mr Salmond has said that the First Minister was simply trying to make sure that the paper was “properly balanced” to reflect all SFE members.
Labour MP Iain Murray, however, said the phone calls proved that Salmond had been “personally involved in trying to bully business leaders into silence”.
The revelations come after Channel 4’s Dispatches programme reported that anti-independence Scottish business leaders had been threatened with “retribution” by the Scottish National Party (SNP) if they spoke against independence.
Nineteen Scottish firms said they were aware of threats, with five companies saying they had been contacted directly by Scottish ministers.
On Sunday, it emerged that one of Scotland’s biggest whiskey distilleries, William Grant and Sons, had made a six-figure donation to the anti-independence Better Together campaign.