Alan Roden, former Communications Director at Scottish Labour, says the UK Labour Press Office should announce a full-scale boycott of Russia Today. This article was first published on Alan’s blog.


“Journalists” at Russia Today don’t like to take no for an answer.

During my time as communications director for Scottish Labour, Putin’s propaganda channel repeatedly got in touch to bid for a politician. There were desperately poor attempts at hiding the ‘RT’ name, sometimes referring only to the specific show or the name of the presenter. When the requests were declined, they would contact MSPs or MPs directly, presumably in the hope the politician wouldn’t realise what they were agreeing to. The offer of money was also available.

Shortly after starting work, I introduced an absolute ban on any dealings with RT. At times, I had to issue weekly reminders to MSPs, just to be on the safe side. To the best of my knowledge, the policy was a success. Certainly no senior Scottish Labour politician appeared on the Kremlin’s mouthpiece during my time in the job. One election candidate unfortunately did so in 2017, but was unaware of the formal ban.

Politicians from other Scottish parties who turned up on RT were also quite limited in number. With one obvious exception, they tended to be backbench MSPs or MPs who were at the very bottom of the list for BBC and STV producers looking for talking heads.

The channel has had more success with UK Labour politicians, however. Peter Dowd is a shadow minister who went on the TV station only last week, and Jeremy Corbyn has appeared on it in the past, as has been widely reported. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has rightly said he will now stop dealing with RT, and urged other Labour MPs to do the same. “I think from what we’re seeing from Russia Today at times it goes beyond objective journalism,” he said.

The party’s Press Office should have taken that opportunity to announce a full-scale boycott, but instead opted for a disappointing fudge. I remain hopeful a firmer stance will be taken soon.

I remain considerably less optimistic that former First Minister Alex Salmond will reconsider his role with RT. He simply ignored the wave of criticism he received for taking the Putin Pound when his show was first announced. His decision infuriated the SNP hierarchy, with Nicola Sturgeon among those to speak out.

I was in the Scottish Parliament’s bar when the news broke, with a group that included SNP MEP Alyn Smith. He provided a quote to the journalists, who asked for confirmation that it was ‘on the record’ three times to make sure.

The quote was: “What the fuck is he thinking?”

If Salmond continues with his show, the next episode of which is scheduled for this Thursday, look out for the fireworks.

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9 thoughts on “Putin propaganda

  1. Anything Alex Salmond thinks is a good idea, I immediately question. Since he is also backed up in his programme by Tasmina makes it doubly concerning. This channel started out as a pure news channel about Russia, which I watched because I have very close Russian friends. It, like all the rest of the Russian media, has become simply a pro-Putin mouthpiece. Thus any involvement with it gives it a legitimacy in the eyes of the Russian state. Trust Salmond not to see that!

    1. I don’t think you’ve mentioned Alex Salmond often enough and you’ve only referred to Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh once.

  2. I only found out about the Alex Salmond show on RT because of the way senior SNP government ministers reacted I like it and its the only RT show I watch .
    But because of last weeks events I wont be watching from this week .
    Maybe the National will stop running ads for his show.
    And maybe also the people who see their e mails printed will think again about their vile personal attacks and the use of phrases like yoon loyalist unionist press Brit Nationalist it does their cause no good and is aimed at every single person they disagree with
    I buy it because I like to see what other people are thinking .
    And yes Tasmina has a column which I sometimes read but don’t agree with

  3. Well did not have to watch Alec Salmond show on RT .
    At FMQS Brian Taylor mentioned what he said in his defence . Then STV News and Reporting Scotland both ran clips.

  4. The National printed 5 emails today all critical of PM accusing Russia over Salisbury .
    Where is the evidence ect .Wander what tomorrows emails will say after Nicola backed PM at todays FMQS

  5. I gave up watching BBC Question Time a long ago but a I did continue with the sound turned down reading the texts . I even had the odd one printed . Some of the texts were vile and racist including from Scotland .
    I stopped watching altogether when with no explanation they dropped the texts .
    By accident last night I put the BBC on last night as QT was starting .
    I was about to switch over when I saw the panel Keir Starmer Mairead McGuiness Chris Grayling Brian Cox
    None of them would have kept me with QT but Afshin Rattansi did because he is a correspondent for RT.
    I thought RT were one of the big bad boys this week .
    So why were they represented on QT and why did the other panellists except Brian Cox who is an actor appear on the show with someone from RT
    The RT guy got into a slanging match with the other panellists for complaining that Russia was being blamed for Salisbury and asking where is the proof etc .
    One audience member said that he felt that Salisbury was being used as a smokescreen by the Government to cover up for backsliding over leaving the EU.
    Brian Cox when his turn came lost his temper over the smokescreen remark .
    He said to boos from the audience he wants to leave England not the EU.
    There was a general discussion over information supplied by the intelligence services .On this
    Now we spend a fortune on the GCHQ etc .
    They completely failed to predict the Falklands and 2 Gulf Wars ..
    I am a labour party member I was hard line if the party said some thing was right it was there was no arguing with me I took the party line rigidly
    Over Gulf War 2 I totally backed the party line fell out with 2 family members no longer here
    They passed away without me apologizing .
    So I no longer blindly follow without thinking .for instance if we threw out 23 spies
    Why did we allow them to operate in the first place .
    We are getting away from this is 3 attempted murders that need to be resolved human beings are involved and daft talk like a cyber war and the crap our so called Defence Secretary came up with is not helping .
    On my National Email watch 1 SNP member is considering whether to stay a member because our FM is supporting the PM after assurances from the national security team .
    In fact the they seem to be angry that the Senior SNP team are in back ground talks we did not know about and what are they speaking about

  6. What we have here is a beleaguered UK government espousing a conspiracy theory over this tragic event that blames Russia with nothing but a tenuous motive and no evidence. The “smoking gun” the Govt is hanging it’s entire case on is the nerve agent used. However, the assertion that this proves Russian govt involvement is tissue thin.

    The UK Boffins who identified the nerve agent would only agree to state it was “of a type developed by Russia”. They would not commit to stating it actually came from Russia, they were the only ones working on it or even that Russia had ever actually completed the project and produced any. It could have originated anywhere. So when the UK govt and their newfound cheerleaders state they have proved the nerve agent definitively came from Russia they are not “factually accurate”.

    Here’s another conspiracy theory that is just as plausible though unlikely. In the age old detective cliche, we are told to “follow the money”. So we ask ourselves, who stood to gain from this? It is difficult to see what Russia gets out of it. International vilification and more sanctions resulting in a sizable economic hit just to take out a former double agent who had already been convicted, jailed and exiled and therefore of no more threat to Russia what-so-ever.

    However, the UK govt is “having a good war”. It’s seen to be standing up to Putin which has played well with the “rule Brittania” sentiment coursing through brexit Britain, western govts are lining up to support them, opposition parties have shelved their critical senses and fallen into line behind May, the brexit shambles has been all but forgotten and the opportunity to settle some old scores on the back of it all (especially Salmond) is being taken with little thought being given to the attack on freedom and free speech that it constitutes. Add to that the fact the UK chemical weapons establishment is just 8 miles from Salisbury, you then have another plausible source of the nerve agent that doesn’t have to get over the hurdles of somehow being smuggled into the country.

    I’m not saying the UK govt actually perpetrated this crime. I would be shocked if they did. This is just an indication of how it could be one of several suspects including organised crime. However, given the paucity of evidence, I feel Ms Marple, Columbo and Jessica Fletcher would at least be considering them a credible suspect. Obviously, Russia would also be a very credible suspect, perhaps even the prime suspect, but not the slam-dunk guilty party the UK establishment in all its guises (including the FM unfortunately) is portraying them as.

    I’m no fan of Putin or his policies. He is a global threat that needs to be taken seriously. He deserves all the condemnation he gets over his actions in the Crimea and Ukraine. As with his intolerant and repressive domestic policies. But that does not mean I’m happy to let the guilty go unpunished just to have a go at him and give a shambolic UK govt a convenient distraction from its brexit mess. Especially as the escalation of the situation could be truly apocalyptic.

  7. One guy has been torn apart for questioning what happened .Jeremy Corbyn
    Alec Salmond said at the Weekend Corbyn in asking the questions he did at last weeks PMQS was doing what the leader of the opposition is supposed to do hold the Government to account.
    I also wander if the FMQS show between Nicola and Ruth was staged and no I have no evidence for that its just what I was wondering.
    We need to remember people are very ill because of this and might lose their lives

  8. I have seen in the weekend press That dozens of Russian diplomats are about to be expelled from EU countries and the USA .With Russia expected to retaliate .
    Somebody somewhere tell me how any of this takes us any closer to finding out what happened in Salisbury.

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