LONDON — Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch on Tuesday appeared to throw his weight behind Scotland’s independence bid, a move welcomed by Scottish First Minister and pro-independence campaigner Alex Salmond.
The News Corporation chief, who is in London for the launch of The Sun on Sunday weekly newspaper, used micro-blogging site Twitter to urge: “Let Scotland go and compete. Everyone would win.”
On Sunday, the Australian-born mogul tweeted that Salmond was “clearly most brilliant politician in UK” who was “loved by Scots.”
Scottish National Party head Salmond called Tuesday’s message “a very interesting eight words”.
“We are in a debate in Scotland and internationally about Scotland’s future and I welcome all contributions to that debate, including Mr Murdoch’s,” he added.
A spokesman for the minister confirmed Salmond had held a telephone conversation with Murdoch earlier on Tuesday in which they discussed Murdoch’s new paper and his Twitter comments.
British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed in a speech in the Scottish capital Edinburgh last Thursday that he would to fight to keep the United Kingdom intact as Scotland’s leaders push for a referendum in 2014 on independence.
Later, Cameron held his first talks about the referendum with Salmond, but the British premier said they had made little progress.
Cameron described the discussions as “constructive”, but told BBC television: “On the issue of independence, separating Scotland, leaving the United Kingdom, I am afraid there wasn’t much progress.”
The Scottish and UK governments disagree on a number of referendum issues, including who has the legal authority to organise a vote.
The Edinburgh government is open to including a second question on the ballot paper, asking people if they want more powers for the Scottish parliament but stopping short of independence.
In his speech, Cameron conceded that Scotland could go it alone if its people so wished.
Opinion polls show that only a third of Scots currently back independence.
Salmond has pushed for a referendum since May 2011, when the SNP won the first majority in the Edinburgh parliament since the assembly was formed in 1999.
The Scottish government already has powers over some policy areas, but defence, energy and foreign affairs remain with London.
Murdoch, 80, flew in to Britain last week to announce the creation of the new Sun publication and to promise demoralised staff he would stand by them despite the arrest of senior journalists over bribery allegations.
The Sun on Sunday’s launch comes seven months after Murdoch closed sister paper News of the World in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.