John McLellan, who edited the Edinburgh-based daily from 2009 to 2012, has joined current editor Frank O’Donnell in issuing a warning to Mr Salmond about his proposed new role, which he is slated to take up if investor Christen Ager-Hanssen is successful in his bid to topple the regional publisher’s present management.
Last week Frank attacked Mr Salmond in an editorial after the former Scottish First Minister described The Scotsman as “largely irrelevant”, saying he would restore pride and confidence in the flagship JP daily by pursuing a “pro-Scottish” agenda should the planned coup take place.
Frank questioned both Mr Salmond’s suitability to run a newspaper business, and his commitment to editorial independence, in the piece.
Now John, who serves as director of the Scottish Newspaper Society and currently sits as a Conservative councillor in Edinburgh, has warned Mr Salmond of the potential political problems posed by his new ambition.
Discussing his suitability for the role in a column for his old paper, John said: “He would instantly become a lightning rod for everything that goes wrong and in a murderously complex and fast-changing digital business environment that’s plenty.
“Problems would therefore be magnified. Political opponents would pounce on every misplaced comma and typo in every paper as evidence of his incompetence, while every pro-SNP story would be condemned as puppetry and every critical story interpreted as an embarrassment or a political challenge.
“Never mind what Mr Salmond does or doesn’t bring to JP, it will do few favours for the party to which Mr Salmond has dedicated his political life.”
John also criticised Mr Salmond for focusing on The Scotsman when JP’s portfolio is mainly made up of English titles.
He added: “Pundits on share comment websites are already sceptical about Mr Salmond’s involvement, not helped by him speaking almost entirely about The Scotsman when JP’s interests are far wider, and the challenges it and all news organisations face are far deeper than the print run of one title.
“Saying the Yorkshire Post should put Yorkshire first only stated the blindingly obvious, as is the fact that being more pro-Scotland isn’t the same as being more pro-independence or SNP. Neither is much of a basis for a business plan.
“Further, to describe The Scotsman as ‘irrelevant’ doesn’t square with his interest or the attention his involvement has created, never mind the thousands of online readers its stories attract and its recent increase in hard copy sales.”