By Humphrey Carter
SCOTLAND'S First Minister Jack McConnell has flown home after spending New Year in Majorca to be met by a barrage of press criticism over his decision to see in the New Year as guest of Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark and her husband Alan Clements at their rural home in Alaro.

The Bulletin reported before Christmas that McConnell was planning to spend his New Year holiday in Majorca “enjoying some sun and golf” despite sparking a furore over missing Scotland's Hogmanay celebrations and staying with a leading BBC journalist.

Yesterday, The Independent claimed “knives out for McConnell and Wark over Hogmanay holiday” suggesting that Wark has now been dragged into the controversy.

The Guardian puts the spotlight on Wark, “row over Wark's holiday guest.... McConnell's stay at Majorca villa ‘undercuts her neutrality'”.
The Times questions “So minister, should you be going on holiday with Newsnight presenter?” A spokesperson for the BBC says that the organisation “cannot dictate who people go on holiday with and we do not have a policy on who they can have a personal friendship with.” But the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Conservatives are calling on the BBC to take action to ensure that its political coverage is not only impartial but also perceived to be so by the public. “If Jeremy Paxman went on holiday with Tony Blair, eyebrows would be raised” said Michael Matheson the SNP culture spokesman.
A spokesperson for the First Minister said where Jack McConnell holidayed was a private matter.
However, McConnell's political opponents are upset that he missed the New Year's Eve party in Edinburgh which, with its all-star line-up of acts, was hailed as the biggest party ever, at which he was expected to lead public celebrations.

Wark's critics say her friendship with the First Minister appears to breach the BBC's strict guidelines over the impartiality of its news correspondents and, according to the Guardian senior managers at BBC Scotland are believed to be concerned about the Majorca holiday.

Wark has said that the 16 year friendship between families has at no point interfered with her ability to do her job in a fair and objective manner.

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