Alex Salmond now has his own weekly show on RT UK, the British subsidiary of what used to be called Russia Today.
This is good news, in the sense that it has further undermined Salmond’s credibility and has added to divisions within the SNP.
RT is a propaganda channel for the Russian government. Not simply because it is funded by the Russian government, but first and foremost because that is what it understands its role to be.
For Putin, a Russian-government-funded TV channel will promote the official government line on events and issues both inside and outside Russia.
Thus, when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, Russia Today loyally repeated Kremlin claims that the Georgian army had been attempting genocide in South Ossetia and that the Georgian president was a psychopath.
When pro-Russian separatists —or Russian troops stationed in Ukraine — used Russian-supplied missiles to shoot down a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in 2014, coverage of the event by RT was so tendentious in absolving Russia of blame that one of its London reporters resigned in protest.
Contrary to claims by SNP cybernats, RT is not the Russian equivalent of the BBC.
The BBC can rightly be accused of bias and news manipulation. But that is far removed from a TV channel which exists for the specific purpose of being part of a broader government propaganda exercise.
And the government in question — that of Vladimir Putin — is one which has annexed Ukrainian territory, waged war on Chechnya and Georgia, crushed domestic political dissent, outlawed homosexuality and stifled freedom of the press.
According to a recent report by “Reporters Without Borders”, Russia is the 148th worst country for press freedom out of 180:
“Leading independent news outlets have either been brought under control or throttled out of existence. More and more bloggers are receiving prison sentences for their activity on online social networks.
“The climate has become increasingly oppressive for those who try to maintain quality journalism or question the new patriotic and neo-conservative (political agenda).”
But Salmond himself has spoken admiringly of Putin: “He has restored a substantial part of Russian pride and that must be a good thing.”
When it comes to press freedom, the main enemy for Salmond is in London: BBC news output, he has claimed, is akin to that of the Soviet Communist Party’s Pravda.
Salmond’s decision to take the Kremlin kopeck, together with his new business partner and former Conservative Party member, former Labour Party member, and former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, has created ructions within the SNP.
Salmond’s cult-followers and cybernats have rallied round their hero.
SNP ex-MSP Kenny MacAskill claims Salmond would not have taken the job had he been offered some kind of international role by the government. MacAskill has not explained why someone opposed to the existence of Britain should be appointed to represent Britain.
SNP MEP Alyn Smith, on the other hand, has lashed out at Salmond (“What the f**k is he thinking?”) And for the first time ever, Sturgeon has publicly criticised Salmond.
Some SNP members have also demanded that Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh be removed from her post of SNP Women’s and Equalities convenor, given Russia’s repression of LGBT rights. There must also be a question mark against her membership of the SNP NEC.
Politicians who have given interviews on Russia Today and RT, including Corbyn, deserve to be criticised. But running a weekly show on RT UK is in a manifestly different league.
And while The Alex Salmond Show has little entertainment value, the infighting which it has triggered within the SNP is priceless.