The Alex Salmond debacle provided evidence of serious shortcomings in the SNP government led by Nicola Sturgeon and there are growing concerns her government has become distracted by the pursuit of controversial political doctrine with result that it has lost its way in the efficient provision of Health, Education, policing and local government.
Worryingly boundaries between politicians, the Scottish Government, the Scottish civil service and the Law are being compromised, placing the health and well being of the people of Scotland increasingly at risk of political and social disorder due to the imposition of draconian laws and policies changing the accepted norms of society without consultation or approval of the electorate.
The Lord Advocate
Currently held by James Wolffe QC, the Lord Advocate is the senior Scottish law officer and principal legal adviser to the Scottish government and represents it in civil proceedings. The post also brings with it the role of leader of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Office, whose remit is to ensure an impartial criminal prosecution system and proficient representation of the public. The dual role requires him to be scrupulously independent as a prosecutor yet politically accountable as a legal adviser.
Absolute impartiality in thought and practice is not something that can be given over to “lip service” and there is increasing public disquiet over Wolffe’s perceived lack of impartiality in the handling of the Sturgeon Government’s badly botched civil Service led investigation and the criminal trial of Alex Salmond which, to the chagrin of Sturgeon resulted in his acquittal of all charges. Indeed she was so enraged that not long after the verdict was announced she used the cover of a coronavirus press conference to express her sympathy for the women who had made false allegations of harassment against him. Her actions also displayed a disgraceful lack of respect for the judicial system led by her Lord Advocate given that Alex Salmond had been acquitted of all charges.
Alex Salmond, when First Minster, to his credit, recognised the potential for difficulty and decided the attendance of the Lord Advocate at cabinet would be by invitation only. A measure used sparingly. But under Nicola Sturgeon’s government Wolffe has attended a majority of cabinet meetings.
Sturgeon has three options:
Do nothing and risk legal and political challenges to her authority.
Revert to the policy advocated by Alex Salmond and greatly reduce his attendance at cabinet.
Formally separate the dual roles. This would require legislation which would be very time consuming.
Afternote: There are two matters of public concern yet to be addressed and Wollfe needs to prove his legal judgement is not decided by the SNP government. First there is the unlawful release to the Daily Record of details of the Civil Service investigation of Alex Salmond. Civil Service officers completed an investigation and concluded that the service was not at fault. The investigation was a political “red herring” designed to close the matter down and the suspect most likely is not a Civil Servant. Wollfe needs to get the police involved and charge the person concerned with malfeasance in a public office. This one will run and run until it is resolved to the satisfaction of the public. Secondly. The investigation of harassment allegations against Alex Salmond was an expensive “cock up” from start to finish and the senior civil servant management team should be brought to account. Justice would be best served by dismissing the Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans. Sturgeon instead “cocked a snoop” at the Scottish public by giving Evans a whacking great pay rise as a reward for poor performance. Senior manager colleagues involved in the travesty with Evans, should be downgraded.
Jurisdiction over appeals to the sovereign (1876- 2009)
The House of Lords had authority over appeals from the lower courts since all such matters were to the Sovereign-in-Parliament, and she was represented by the Lords. Commoners did not participate in judicial matters.
The House of Lords did not necessarily include them but would be attended by judges who gave their opinions when the Lords desired. They did not, however, have a vote in the House and the “Lords of Appeal in Ordinary,” commonly known as Law Lords, were appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 to the House of Lords of the United Kingdom in order that it would be enabled to exercise its judicial functions including acting as the highest court of appeal for most domestic matters.
To be appointed a “Lord of Appeal in Ordinary “under the 1876 Act, an individual was required to have been a practicing barrister for a period of fifteen years or to have held a high judicial office (Lord Chancellor, before 2005 or judge of the Court of Appeal, High Court or Court of Session) for a period of two years.
Appointees were required to retire from judicial office at 70 or 75 years of age, although as peers under the style of Baron they continued to serve as members of the House of Lords in its legislative capacity for life.
Scottish appeals procedures to be absorbed by English law
In 2003 the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer brought forward the “Constitutional Reform Bill” which contained his proposals for reforming the powers of the Lord Chancellor and the dismantling of his office. The argument promoted in support of his initiative was that it would formally separate the powers of law makers from the judicial authorities. A major part of the reformation would be the repeal of existing legislation replacing it with a “Supreme Court.”
The Lords said there was no need for a “Supreme Court” and they were also discontented about a lack of consultation of the proposed changes to remove the Law Lords from the upper house to a new court and the absence of public debate. They also gave warning that the legislation, as drafted threatened the independence of Scots law which was guaranteed in perpetuity by the, “Claim of Right.” The “New Labour” government was defeated and the matter was remitted to the “Constitutional Affairs Committee” for discussion and amendment.
The committee interviewed a number of eminent figures from the political and judicial system, including Scotland’s most senior judge Lord Cullen and an amended bill was finally introduced into law in 2009. From that time there has been an amount of controversy in regard to the operation of the court and the matter of the Scots “Claim of Right” that pre-dates the 1707 “Act of Union” which dictates that the “Independence of Scots law” is guaranteed, in perpetuity and remains extant.
Afternote: On 4 July 2018, the House of Commons officially endorsed the principles of the Claim of Right, agreeing that the people of Scotland are sovereign and that they have the right to determine the best form of government for Scotland’s needs.
Dec 2003: Lord Cullen, Lord Justice General of Scotland and Lord President of the Court of Session addresses the Constitutional Affairs Committee
The Chair: We are particularly pleased to have the head of judiciary in Scotland.
Lord Cullen: we have met before when we were carrying out our inquiry into the judicial appointments in Scotland before the Government announced its plans for England and Wales.
The Chair: What we thought we might do is start by looking at the Supreme Court issue and initially looking at it in general terms before coming on to those aspects which are particular to Scotland.
Lord Cullen: It all depends what kind of Supreme Court we are talking about. We seem to be talking about one which is simply taking over lock, stock and barrel the existing functions of the Appellate Committee and perhaps also the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, so what is happening is to happen somewhere else in a different atmosphere and I do not quite see how that takes you any further. There may be opportunities possibly for making pronouncements which would be of use to the whole of the United Kingdom, but one has to remember that the existing civil jurisdiction as far as Scotland is concerned is that the Appellate Committee functions as a Scottish court (with a wall, as it were) between it and its functioning as an English court.
Q: Could I address my comments to you, Lord Cullen. I understand from your evidence that you are not wildly enthusiastic about the proposed changes?
Lord Cullen: That is right.
Q: Many of us were astounded that the Government could come up with proposals to reorganize our court of final appeals without consulting the outgoing Lord Chancellor, the incoming Lord Chancellor, the present members of the Judicial Committee of the Lords, and I think we would do better to discuss this in terms of a court of final appeal and leave the title to be chosen afterwards. Referring to perceptions. What would be the minimal changes that might meet the perception point?
Lord Cullen: I am not sure what you mean by “minimal changes”.
Q: Largely that the Lord Chancellor should not be able to sit as a law lord. The minimal change is the Lord Chancellor saying “I will not sit as a law lord” rather than throwing the whole system in the air. People argue that having the law lords meeting in the House of Lords is somehow the executive interfering, forgetting of course that Parliament is not the executive and that any arrangements are likely to be more expensive. Could they be cheaper than the present arrangements?
Lord Cullen: I cannot say because I do not sit as a Lord of Appeal but my impression is that it would be cheaper to leave things as they are than to create something free-standing outside, and there also is the advantage at the moment, as I understand it,that the Appellate Committee is funded through the House of Lords whereas if it is to be exported to some other place it would then be funded by the Department of Constitutional Affairs, hence you get a closer association or greater association with the executive which did not previously exist. Now that itself raises a problem of independence.
The Chair: Turning, Lord Cullen, to the Scottish aspects of this, are the Government’s proposals compatible with the Act of Union, Article 19 and the “Claim of Right” and, if not, what would have to be done to them to make them compatible?
Article 19 of the Act of Union states “… that the Court of Justiciary do also after the Union, and notwithstanding thereof, remain in all time coming within Scotland, as it is now constituted by the Laws of that Kingdom, and with the same Authority and Privileges as before the Union, subject nevertheless to such Regulations as shall be made by the Parliament of Great Britain, and without Prejudice of other Rights of Justiciary…”
Lord Cullen: I venture this matter in my response really in order to make the point that this aspect ought to be considered by the Government.
Before the “Act of Union” there is the “Claim of Right”, which was a Scottish provision at the time when the monarchy was returning to Scotland in 1689 and there was then a declaration by the Scottish Parliament as to the right of subjects to protest for remede of law to the King and Parliament and that is the ancestor, so far as Scotland is concerned, of the hearing of civil appeals from the Court of Session to the House of Lords.
The “Act of Union” was silent on the question of appeal from the “Court of Session” or, indeed, the “High Court of Justiciary” but it was later, much later, interpreted in such a way as to indicate that the “Court of Session” and its decisions should be subject to review whereas the “High Court”, the criminal court, would sit its decisions to be regarded as final and conclusive, so what you have, firstly, is an interpretation of the “Act of Union.”
The second point is that, until now, it has been recognized that there are some situations, not easy to define, where certain elements in our constitution may be unalterable – that is a possible view. It arises from time to time, most recently in the case involving Lord Gray’s Motion where certain members of the “Committee for Privileges” reserved their view on that matter. So however strange it may seem there is an argument that Parliament might not be able to alter or undo certain elements of a constitutional nature. That is a sketch of the argument: whether it is good or not I do not propose to advance, but simply say it is there to be considered.
The Chair: Are you proposing any way in which the Government’s proposals might be modified to avoid collision with that argument?
Lord Cullen: I am inclined to think that it may very well be that so far as civil appeals are concerned there is not a problem, but it is simply something that ought to be looked at. Therefore my answer to that is probably that no alteration is, in fact, required.
The Chair: Do you agree that legislative competence so far as any changes to leave to appeal and things of that kind are concerned does not lie with Westminster under the devolution settlement but with the Scottish Parliament?
Lord Cullen: That is quite a difficult matter. If you look at the Scotland Act you will find that what is reserved is the continued existence of the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary. The way that the Scotland Act is constructed certain matters are specifically reserved: the rest are not, and therefore it appears on the face of it that matters other than the continued existence of these courts is a matter for the Scottish Parliament. Nobody is entirely clear as to that being the case but that seems to be the position, in which case there seems to be a role here for the Scottish Parliament. Now I would hope that the matter was not, so to speak, nodded through in Scotland but given serious consideration, but that is the position, as I understand it.
The Chair: Lord Hope expressed the view that the Scottish Parliament would need time to deal with this matter before it proceeded at Westminster?
Lord Cullen: I would agree with that and the consultation paper, whereas it makes clear what the executive’s attitude is and we have seen the executive’s response since then, so far as I know as yet there has not been a considered discussion in the Scottish Parliament.
The Chair: There is a phrase which I think you may have challenged already which the Government use in respect of constitutional issues where they say that the establishment of the new court “accordingly gives us the opportunity to restore a single apex to the United Kingdom’s judicial system where all the constitutional issues can be considered”.
That is in the consultation paper. Is it your view that, leaving aside the devolution issues, there ever was or should be a single apex which combines the judicial systems of England and Scotland?
Lord Cullen: I do not think that is correct. The position until now is that the Appellate Committee functions sometimes as an English court and sometimes as a Scottish court, and I say that because what is binding in England is not binding in Scotland.
You have two completely separate jurisdictions so that whatever decision the House of Lords reaches in regard to a civil matter it does not bind in Scotland, and vice versa, so you really have two apices rather than one apex and, if the position is that that is to be taken over by the Supreme Court, it will have those two high points, whereas the paper tends to talk as if this is the opportunity for the United Kingdom court. Well, I say that is obscuring the point: that you have two separate jurisdictions each with its own head happening to be administered under one device, namely the Appellate Committee. That is what we have: it is a result of the separate growth of two legal systems, and it is preserved, of course, by the Act of Union.
Oct 2009: The Introduction of the UK Supreme Court
A new United Kingdom Supreme Court was formed separating the judicial function from Parliament (those who make the law from those who interpret it in courts). It assumed jurisdiction on points of law for all civil law cases in the UK and all criminal cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (the Law Lords) are the first justices of the 12-member Supreme Court and are disqualified from sitting or voting in the House of Lords. When they retire from the Supreme Court they can return to the House of Lords as full Members but newly-appointed Justices of the Supreme Court will not have seats in the House of Lords.
Apr 2015: Lord Carloway condemns the UK Supreme Court
The lord Justice Clerk attacked the UK Supreme Court, calling it remote from the realities of Scots law and a “depressing influence” on the legal system in Scotland. His remarks came in his speech, in Edinburgh, to the: “Conference of Commonwealth Law Reform Agencies.”
He said: “The UK Supreme Court, which has hitherto sat only in London, may be deemed to exercise greater autonomy in the selection of topics for the reform of Scots civil law than the Scottish Law Commission itself. While the criminal law court hierarchy in Scotland ends with the High Court of Justiciary, the Supreme Court can deal with particular questions relating to devolution and arising from civil or criminal proceedings. In some respects, the oversight of Scots Law from a position that is relatively remote, far removed from the practical realities of operating the Scottish legal system and of Scots society as a whole, is apt to have a depressing influence on the efforts of those operating positively within the jurisdiction.”
Nov 2015: UK Supreme Court overrules Scottish judges on two human rights cases
The UK Supreme Court over-ruled Scotland’s highest appeal court in two important human rights cases. In both, judgements passed in Edinburgh were unanimously overruled by a five-judge panel sitting in London on fundamental legal issues. Their decisions raise the possibility of another judicial and political cross-border row. Senior political figures such as First Minister Alex Salmond and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill have already raised concerns about what they see as the Supreme Court interfering in Scottish legal affairs. The Supreme Court bench in both cases was headed by Lord Hope, deputy president of the London-based court and former Lord President of the Court of Session in Edinburgh who has previously spoken out against the “corrosive anti-English sentiment” in Scotland’s courts, describing it as an obstacle to legal progress, and has been the subject of biting criticism by Alex Salmond, who accused Lord Hope of allowing “some of the vilest people on the planet” to win compensation from the taxpayer.
Nov 2016: Scotland’s application to overturn Brexit ruling triggers court battle
Scotland is to apply to the Supreme Court to be allowed to table a legal challenge at the Court against the UK Government as it tries to overturn a Brexit court ruling. The attempt is to make sure MPs and Scotland’s parliament have a say on triggering Article 50. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “it simply cannot be right” that European Union membership “can be removed by the UK Government on the say-so of a Prime Minister without parliamentary debate, scrutiny or consent”. She added: “legislation should be required at Westminster and the consent of the Scottish Parliament should be sought before Article 50 is triggered. Let me be clear – I recognize and respect the right of England and Wales to leave the European Union. This is not an attempt to veto that process. But the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland and the national Parliament of Scotland cannot be brushed aside as if they do not matter.”
Dec 2018: Brexit Legislation – UK Supreme Court Upholds Scottish Parliament – But its ruling is thwarted by the Westminster Government’s Introduction of counter legislation, (with Royal Assent) before the Supreme Court judged the Westminster government appeal.
Brexit legislation was drafted as an alternative to Westminster’s EU Withdrawal Bill, which MSPs refused to give their consent to following a row over how powers currently exercised from Brussels will be used after Brexit. Holyrood Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh wrote an official memo saying the bill was “not within the legislative competence of the parliament”. His assertions were denied by the Scottish government’s legal advisers. But the delay (as designed) provided time for UK law officers to apply to the Supreme Court for legal certainty about whether the Holyrood vote was valid. A two-day hearing was then held in London in July, with the UK government arguing that the bill should be struck down.
“On 4 July 2018, the House of Commons officially endorsed the principles of the “Claim of Right”, agreeing that the people of Scotland are sovereign and that they have the right to determine the best form of government for Scotland’s needs.”
Lord Keen Advocate General argued the case for the Westminster government. The Supreme Court judgement
Lady Hale said the judges had unanimously rejected all but one section of the UK government’s arguments. She said “the whole of the Scottish bill would not be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament”, but that one section – relating to MSPs having to give consent for UK Brexit laws – was not within Holyrood’s remit. The judges explained in their ruling that changes had been made to the UK legislation, (before the appeal hearing) adding a special schedule of protected legislation which MSPs could not modify , returning to Westminster authority over 21 previously devolved provisions. This meant that the bill was entirely competent when it was passed by MSPs in March 2018.
The ruling meant that the EU Withdrawal Act remained the basis on which Scotland’s statutes will be prepared for Brexit. MSPs could potentially bring the continuity bill back for reconsideration at Holyrood, but only provided action was taken in the areas highlighted by the Supreme Court.
The affair brought Scots of all political persuasions together under the “Patriot” banner to protest against Whig government abuse and disrespect of Scottish legal and political autonomy.
It began in the spring of 1736 when two habitual burglars were done for breaking and entering and robbing the Collector of Customs building in Kirkcaldy. A crime for which they were sentenced to Hang. While awaiting their execution one of the prisoners aided by the other escaped custody.
The exploits of the condemned men brought support from the public who considered the sentence to be unjust. But authorities ignored their pleas and went ahead with the execution.
The public execution in the Grassmarket was attended by a large crowd who were vocal in their protests and when the deed was done a few of them started to throw stones at the hangman and his helpers. This was not an unusual occurrence and usually passed without further incident. But on the occasion, there was an immediate and brutal response when city guard leader, Captain John Porteous fired into the crowd and ordered his men to do the same. When the shooting stopped there were eight dead and many more seriously wounded.
The public protested vehemently and Porteous was charged with murder, tried, found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging in the same Grassmarket where he and his men had committed the atrocities.
The unsavory incident would have been closed had the execution been carried out, but Whig peers petitioned the Queen Regent Caroline to suspend the sentence so that appeals could be gathered and presented to the courts.
She duly consented to their request and ordered the Scottish Lords of Justiciary to suspend the sentence for at least 6 weeks.
Edinburgh citizens, sorely aggrieved that they were being denied justice took matters into their own hands, dragged Porteous from the Tollbooth and hanged him in the Grassmarket.
News of the “riot” reached the Westminster government who immediately ordered General Wade and his English forces to Edinburgh to assist in the “speedy and exemplary punishment’ of the riots “ringleaders and abetters”.
A second large body of English soldiers was moved into Edinburgh castle to patrol the area and conduct “stop and search” patrols and enforce curfews.
The Westminster Whigs also formed the view that the Edinburgh city authorities were at fault. Opinions further strengthened in the weeks that followed when no-one had been brought to account.
General Wade complained that: “the magistrates had conspired to allow the murder of Porteous and aided their escape from justice”.
His unfounded assertions provided the catalyst the Whig government had been waiting for and it speedily introduced a new Scottish act, the “Bill of Pains and Penalties” and used it against Edinburgh, with the charge that the City authorities had “insulted the royal prerogative”.
Edinburgh’s Lord Provost was arrested and many “Royal” privileges were removed adversely affecting traders and the city was placed in purgatory.
Edinburgh citizens were angry at the actions of the government and questioned the legality of the English moves against the city. The question most raised was, “what right had been bestowed on Westminster that gave it the authority to punish Edinburgh for a crime involving Scottish citizens, that had taken place on Scottish soil?
Scottish politicians set their petty partisan quarrels aside and protests were raised at Westminster strongly condemning the Whig government for its, “contradiction to the express Articles of Union”.
But their protests fell upon deaf ears. Edinburgh was made to pay a heavy fine to the exchequer and every church minister in Scotland was forced to read out a proclamation apologizing for the behaviour of Edinburgh citizens.
The Porteous affair was one of many incidents in which the Walpole government protected the military from its excesses, imposed “Martial Law” and committed acts of public violence against the people of Scotland. What was particularly galling was the unequal treatment of Scottish protestors. Rioting in English cities had never been subject to military occupation and martial law.
The Whig victory was pyrrhic since it confirmed what many Scots knew in their hearts that Scotland was not an equal partner in a Union of countries but a colony of England.
The indignities inflicted by Walpole’s Whigs drove many Scots to seek the overturn the British and to invite the return of the Stuart’s to Scotland, but people in the Central belt and lowland parts of the country preferred to remain with the Union hoping for the removal of Walpole’s Whigs and a return to the ideals of the Acts of Union. Wishful thinking indeed!!!
Craig Murray, faced a contempt of court hearing after posting information on his blog in advance of Mr Salmond’s trial. The contempt proceedings at the High Court, Edinburgh, before Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, heard Alex Prentice QC, for the Crown argue that information Craig posted on his blog in January 2020 could lead to jigsaw identification of the women involved, breaching a contempt of court order, creating a substantial risk of prejudicing the trial.
John Scott QC, defending, argued that at the date of the publication there was no court order in place and Craig had gone to great lengths to keep the complainants identities hidden. He added that the Crown had contacted Craig over the article prior to the start of Alex Salmond’s trial, but did not demand he take it down. Craig viewed the contact as “inappropriate censorship, as opposed to welcome advice”.
Lady Dorrian questioned why the case against Craig had been brought after Mr Salmond’s trial. She said: “Both articles being addressed were published in advance of the trial. If the Crown was of the view these articles created a substantial risk, it seems strange the Crown did not take action at that time.”
Alex Prentice QC, said:
“I accept that that is factually correct and a matter that the court can take into account while assessing the allegation. However I still believe there was a risk of identification. In my submission, the respondent argued that the publication was limited to those who followed his blog on social media and not the wider public, but one must consider it could be potentially much more distressing for someone in a working environment to work out the identity of a person in circumstances such as those that occurred in this case. In any situation, there will be some people who know the complainers – members of immediate family, work colleagues. In any case, there will be members of the community who have some pieces of the jigsaw. If it’s people who have particular knowledge, perhaps knowledge imparted by the complainers themselves, there may be a category of people who have bits of the jigsaw and finding out – for example – that an allegation came from a particular place… that will then narrow the field. It requires greater care for anyone seeking to report responsibly but it is not by any means straightforward. It might be possible for good faith errors to be made there. Jigsaws come with varying complexities. A 500-piece puzzle is a very different proposition to a 12-piece puzzle of Peppa Pig. While some information in the public domain may be pieced together by those determined to do so, the risk may be relatively remote. There is no agreed path for the court to find there was a risk of jigsaw identification. There is no safe path through it. What is not accepted is that it is extensive information here. And what is accepted and agreed is there was not enough to safely do that and to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that this was contempt.”
John Scott QC, replied that the interpretation the content of the article by Mr Prentice QC, was all encompassing and unreasonable, saying: “If the Crown argument is correct, one wonders how anything would be reported at all. Nothing at all could really be published.
If the Crown had been truly concerned that the information published by Craig before the trial carried a real risk of jigsaw identification of the complainants, breaching a contempt of court order and creating a substantial risk of prejudicing the trial, it had every right to defer the start of the trial until such time as the contempt of court allegation against Craig had been heard and resolved. That it did not do so suggested the pursuit of Craig was driven by factors other than stated. Maybe because the Crown lost the case?? Additionally in his rambling statement Alex Prentice QC, for the Crown alluded to the fact that there were many members of the wider community who were aware of the names of the complainants, either through personal contact with family members, friends, work colleagues, the press and bloggers on social media.
A written judgement issued at a much delayed date decided Craig was guilty.
There is an answer but I am not sure just what it is. In my view the Crown erred by permitting the trial to start when, by it’s own admission it had concerns that Craig had facilitated a jigsaw identification spread with articles he posted many months before the trial start date. It is also noteworthy that the contempt of court charge should not have been levied against Craig using the January 2020 blogs since Lady Dorrian had not yet pronounced on the matter of jigsaw naming. She alluded to this with her questioning of the Crown’s motives.
Kirsty Wark is a BBC commentator, correspondent, journalist and political progamme maker. She is a close friend of senior Labour Party officials and office holders. Connected and powerful her influence over public opinion in Scotland is accepted by some as being absolute. She speaks the public listens and follows her lead. Is she impartial. Not on your nelly she’s not. Mention Alex Salmond in her presence and she’ll have a fit.
Feb 2006: Wark placed on probation by the BBC over bias
Wark was placed on probation by worried BBC chiefs in 1995 in punishment for her controversial fully financed holiday with First Minister, Jack McConnell. Her future behaviour is to be closely monitored.
Concerned corporation governors placed Wark under “review” amid public concern that her relationship with the First Minister, together with her closeness to former Labour leader, the late Donald Dewar and her role in the Holyrood parliament building fiasco, could be damaging to the image of the BBC as an impartial broadcaster.
The release of details of the trip sparked an intense “cronyism” row at Holyrood and within the BBC, taking in complaints about politicians’ declarations of gifts and over Wark’s impartiality.
The Tories led the charge, questioning whether it was “appropriate for a prominent BBC political journalist to be so closely associated with one party”.
The “Villagate” row erupted when it was revealed that Wark had invited McConnell and his wife, Bridget, to spend Hogmanay with her and her partner Alan Clements at their holiday home in Alaro, Majorca. The families previously holidayed together at the villa in December 2002.
It subsequently emerged that Wark and her family had twice been overnight guests at Bute House, McConnell’s official residence in Edinburgh.
IWC Media, the company, owned by Wark and Clements, (a long-term friend of McConnell’s) had been awarded 22 executive and quango contracts by the BBC in the past five years, including the production of “The Gathering Place”, a documentary about the Holyrood parliament building fiasco.
Asked if she felt she was under any kind of probation by the BBC, Wark said: “That’s not my view.” (The Scotsman)
But Wark was already on probation for previous misdemeanours
A close watch had already been placed on the Newsnight presenter’s performance, after Scotland on Sunday published a picture of McConnell, Wark, and their families enjoying a New Year break at her Spanish villa. She was supposed to be subjected to continuing scrutiny by her own managers, and a team of broadcast executives, who were to monitor her performance on air for anything which might give rise to accusations of bias. A hitherto confidential document, obtained under freedom of information laws, detailed exchanges between the BBC board of governors over the affair. It laid bare their fury over the embarrassing row, which was communicated to the Director-General, Mark Thompson. At the first meeting of the Board of Governors, after the pictures of Wark on holiday with the McConnells were published in January 2005, they recorded:
“The Board recognized that Kirsty Wark was highly talented and widely respected. Her integrity was not in question but her actions had put the BBC in a difficult position. The issue for the BBC is one of perception of impartiality both among the public and politicians. Addressing BBC management’s handling of the matter they were assured that management would assess her interviewing and presenting roles on a case-by-case basis to address the issue of perceptions of impartiality. The Board asked management to ensure this process remained rigorous.”
A follow-up statement issued by the BBC said:
“Kirsty Wark is a journalist of the utmost experience and integrity and we continue to have every confidence in her ability. In the context of past events, we still continue to review the position regarding interviewees and any issues regarding impartiality as would be the case with all our presenters. We want to make clear that Kirsty Wark has our full support.”
Corporation insiders said that the step of subjecting any presenter to such a long period of scrutiny, together with the unusual step of allowing a statement to be issued on the subject, was a sign that management was “exceptionally sensitive” about Wark and allegations of bias.
Managers within BBC News had been “very annoyed” about the revelations and had devised “a kind of quarantine and rehabilitation period” which saw her taken out of the front line of the news operation for several weeks and then eased back in.
A BBC insider commented:
“The BBC hates giving the impression that it is being told what to do and that it is bowing to pressure. In all such cases the BBC will publicly dismiss the outside world’s criticisms but then say, ‘Don’t you ever do anything so stupid again!’ to the broadcaster in question. While keeping someone under observation is common in such cases, it can be a precursor to ditching someone from a programme because it allows them to build a case to defend themselves in case of a comeback.”
Another insider said:
“Look, it’s all about the viewers’ perception. If people think that she is not impartial then she can’t do it. Luckily for Kirsty, she was taken off the main part of the election coverage and she doesn’t do many political interviews in Scotland anymore. But it would be inconceivable if someone had to interview Jack on Newsnight, for her to do it.”
Jun 2007: Just a year down the road and free of her probation she struck again. There was public outrage following Wark’s “Newsnight “interview” of Alex Salmond
Wark’s persona markedly moved towards the Labour hackery she had long managed to keep reasonably hidden. Jack McConnell’s favourite holiday villa companion looked a right twit in the interview which was more like an inquisition with the Scottish Government’s, First Minister.
The interview was fully covered in a media clip published on Utube (removed later by the BBC claiming breach of copyright)
Outraged viewers wrote to the BBC complaining about Wark
Over 200 people added their name to the following petition:
“We, the undersigned, call upon the BBC to recognise Kirsty Wark’s evident pro-Labour bias, and non-professional associations with the Labour Party and Jack McConnell. We demand that she is removed from any political programming, current affairs, or news reading, especially any dealing with Scotland. We believe that she has crossed the bounds of journalistic impartiality, letting her personal political opinions cloud her judgement, and that this came to the fore during her recent confrontation with Alex Salmond on Newsnight.”
Hundreds of viewers also wrote expressing their anger and disgust
“I watched the interview and have read the comments on this and other blogs. The interview was far from impartial; Ms. Wark was more interested in exonerating Mr. Blair than in trying to get to the truth of the matter.”
Ms. Wark, was a poor choice, even if she were impartial, her close personal links to the leader of the opposition in Scotland should have instantly disqualified her from an interview on so contentious an issue.”
“The BBC prides itself on impartiality, in this instance it has at best failed the Caesar’s wife test of being seen as pure as well as actually being pure and at worst allowed itself (consciously or otherwise) to be a tool of Labour.”
“Ms. Wark’s apology by e-mail, seems to me to be as insincere as it is cowardly and a curiously fitting poor end to this issue.”
“For the record I am no nationalist, but feel that political discourse has been ill served by the BBC and Ms. Wark and the reputation of the BBC has been tarnished, if it really is going to be an effective reporter of Scottish affairs, it should do so with reporters untainted by political links as blatant as Ms. Wark’s.”
“No, the “encounter” was’nt “tetchy”; Ms Wark was. The BBC should apologise not only to Mr salmond but to viewers for the unprofessional rudeness she displayed during the whole of the interview.”
We lodged a complaint immediately after the broadcast about the interview. Kirsty Wark appeared to be more interested in aggressively attacking the messenger rather than pursuing the truth about the message. We think that it would be appropriate that Newsnight tonight, and Ms Wark in particular apologises to Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister live on air, at the start of the programme.”
“As someone who voted SNP at the recent election I wouldn’t want to get too carried away with criticising the way Newsnight handled the Alex Salmond interview last night. I have nothing against a robust interviewing technique but on this occasion, Ms Wark took a dismissive tone from the start of this interview. She was interviewing Scotland’s elected First Minister yet gave the impression she was contemptious of every word he uttered. I had the feeling that she allowed a personal distaste for Alex Salmond to affect how she conducted the interview. Not good.”
“I have a lot of time for Kirsty Wark, and I believe she’s done a lot of good work. Last night, however, was awful. I cringed watching it. It was not professional television journalism.”
“I presume that Mr Salmond and Ms Wark are not friends. However, Alex Salmond appeared to rise above that and Ms Wark didn’t.”
“Most people who watch Newsnight, I guess, by the very nature of the programme, ,have little objection when interviewers adopt an assertive or aggressive approach in the face of evasion, confusion, an apparent intention to mislead or a lack of evidence. However, Alex Salmon made his points in a perfectly comprehensible and supported way. Kirsty Wark behaved as if she was determined to adopt a combative approach regardless of any response she received.”
“I must express my disappointment at Kirsty Wark’s lack of professionalism and sheer bad manners. this certainly falls way below the standards of journalism by which the BBC have formerly purported to set and hold as an example to others. This contained evident bias, continually cut across the Mr Salmond and was thus uninformative. To be honest, I’m actually more concerned about the interview than the cutting off. Having people cut off like that has to happen every now and then and whilst it came across as dismissive I know it has to happen. What I didn’t like about it was the patronising way Kirsty Wark said ‘exactly’ as she turned away from him. However, most concerning was the interview where she seemed to keep pressing the same point getting what seemed to be a fair answer from Salmond.”
“I don’t agree that the interview stayed within acceptable boundaries. Ms Wark is NOT a democratically elected representative of anyone. She is paid by our licence fees to do a professional job as a reporter and interviewer. Much as she obviously loathes Mr Salmond – he is the First Minister of Scotland and is entitled to basic respect and courtesy. Ms Wark showed herself up very badly and made it quite plain that she has completely lost her objectivity (and her cool) where Mr Salmond and the ‘New Politics’ in Scotland are concerned. Fortunately for all of us our elected politicians are, so far, all behaving much better and are swallowing their pride and getting on with the business.”
“The interview was so bad I actually went out of my way to find this page and complain. The interviewer was totally disrespectful to the First Minister of Scotland. Who does she think she is? She was interviewing the most powerful man in Scottish politics and treated him like a nobody. It was poor journalism. Wark did not even listen to the answers given by Mr Salmond.”
“The Newsnight Scotland presenter was a joke too with her line about him “never phones, never writes” comment. Who told her to say that? Mr Salmond was quite right to not enter into further discussion which such an obviously biased programme. I didn’t vote SNP by the way.”
“Had the interview been with our previous First Minister I am sure it would have been much more of a love in. Surely Miss Warks conflict of interest continues when Mr. McConnell is in opposition. And I would have loved to have seen how this whole story would have panned out it Jack had still been in charge.”
“I watched the interview and frankly had Ms Wark conducted an interview of, say, Tony Blair, in that manner, I suspect she’d would have been out of a job within hours. Alex Salmond was trying to answer her hectoring questions, but she rudely interrupted him and basically lost her rag. Perhaps she is too close to Jack McConnell.”
“Kirsty Wark is a good friend of the former first minister of Scotland (and Alex Salmond’s opponent) Jack McConnell. Well, friendy enough to take holidays with him.”
“I can only imagine the furore if John Humphries of the Today programme took holidays with one of Westminster’s political leaders. How could he be seen to be impartial afterwards?”
“I think Kirsty Warks political affiliations are too obvious and are hindering her ability to carry out impartial and unbiased interviews – on Scottish matters in particular.”
“Clearly this is unnacceptable and the BBC must take action to ensure if they task Kirsty Wark with political interviewing, she at least complies with appropriate standards of impartiality that we expect of the BBC. This interview falls way short.”
“Not good enough. Dont blame running out of time either. That was the least of it. Poor, poor show people. Wark was totally unprofessional (intense and tetchy dont even come close). Her objectivity has been completely compromised. Not fit for the Newsnight chair. As far as Newsnicht Scotland is concerned…pathetic.”
Having watched the “interview”, I was appalled at Ms. Wark’s ill-mannered hectoring. As has been commented previously, I am far from wanting to see politicians given an easy ride (as is far too often the case), but Ms. Wark’s attitude did no credit to herself, nor the BBC. She opened and closed the interview in a very impolite and unprofessional manner, and the less said about the content the better.”
“I’m no particular supporter of Alex Salmond, but in this case he made reasonable points, and well put – the tone was entirely unwarranted.”
“To think the BBC pay her for that level of performance. Come to think of it, no, I pay her – she should refund my license fee.”
“Isn’t Kirsty Wark a close friend of Jack McConnell – the man Mr. Salmond took his new job off of? Now I’m not suggesting there is a connection….but.”
“Your summary is very wrong. “not straying outside the boundaries of what viewers expect or find acceptable”. I found it very offensive and for the first time ever have made a formal complaint to the BBC.”
“I was appalled by the behaviour of Kirsty Wark in her interview with Alex Salmond. The venom and spitefulness in her questioning of Scotland’s First Minister was outrageous. She clearly lost all objectivity in her task which I can only put down to the fact that she has a dispute running with Salmond with her company and the proposed film on Hollyrood and the fact that her personal friend the ex- First Minister of Scotland Jack McConnell lost the election to Salmond.”
“This interview was so unprofessional that Kirsty Wark embarrased herself and that it is clear to me that she cannot disguise her personal views which I have noticed on other occassions. To rudely cut off Salmond at the end when she had no time pressures forcing the termination is all the evidence you need.”
“It’s time to take her off the air and not pretend any longer that she is a competent journalist. I am surprised that the producers of Newsnight allowed her to do the interview knowing of her personal dislike for Salmond.”
“For your information, I am not a supporter of the SNP and live in Buckinghamshire. I am a supporter of Newsnight, certainly up to now and of good journalism.”
“I thought people on here were exaggerating until I saw it for myself. I do not believe that the apology given is enough. Wark behaved in a dreadful manner – she was angry and nippy and downright rude. And for Peter Barron to say “the interview” was at times “tetchy” followed by this (by way of explanation)”Mr Salmond is a … challenging interviewee” is just not good enough.”
“He was calm, not tetchy in the slightest. He listened, he spoke in a measured way and wasn’t the slightest bit challenging. God knows what was wrong with Kirsty Wark but she should apologise or go and present gardening programmes.”
“You need to remember Ms. Wark’s chumminess with what was the Labour establishment in Scotland. Close pals with both Dewar and McConnell. I would however have expected a more professional approach from her and Newsnight.”
“In the latter part of the interview, Wark seemed to concentrate on making assertions to the exclusion of actually asking questions. Maybe that’s a legitimate technique but surely you then have to give the interviewee an opportunity to refute those assertions. Given the previous controversy over Wark’s political links this interview has to raise questions about her ability to be impartial.” Many more comments here:
“We’ve had a lot of complaints about Kirsty’s interview last night with the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. Some questioned the premise of the interview – that the new SNP government appeared to be picking a fight with London – others thought that Kirsty’s line of questioning was too aggressive and therefore discourteous. But all agreed that the way the interview ended was, to say the very least, unfortunate. The encounter was indeed intense and at times tetchy – Mr Salmond is always a robust and challenging interviewee – but for most of the interview, I don’t think we strayed outside the boundaries of what viewers expect or find acceptable in a Newsnight interview. At the last minute, however, that changed. As the programme producer tried to wind up the interview because of time pressure we cut off Mr. Salmond in a way that came across as rude and dismissive. We have apologized to Mr. Salmond for that.”
So no apology then!!!
Fast forward to August 2020 and the BBC and Wark’s televised retrial of Alex Salmond
The BBC’s decision to commission Wark’s production company to produce and present a biased documentary about the Alex Salmond trial was irresponsible. The verdict of many journalists and the public was that the programme was a hatchet job and it should not have been aired when events were still the subject of an on-going Holyrood inquiry and many aspects of what had occurred had yet to be placed in the public domain
To the viewer the programme was a mish mash of innuendo, biased comment and “fish wife” conversations led by Wark and involving the BBC’s, Sarah Smith and hard line WOKE supporting women who had pre-conceived agenda’s to vent . But their “bitchy” comments were well and truly stuffed down their throats by the jury, (comprised with a majority of women) who had the temerity to undermine Wark and her friend’s plans by finding Alex Salmond not guilty. Stunned but still feisty Wark and her team soon got to grips with the situation and decided the jury had not listened to the evidence properly and he really was guilty and the poor complainants had been treated abysmally. Never mind the evidence of the women who had appeared for the defence and the women on the jury who had listened to all of the evidence. They were clearly not the right type of women.
Scottish Journalists have their say
Well, well, well! What a remarkable stooshie has erupted over the BBC documentary, The Trial of Alex Salmond, broadcast on 17 August 2021 and fronted by Kirsty Wark. The controversial documentary was made for the BBC by Glasgow-based Two Rivers Media production company of which Wark’s husband, Alan Clements, is managing director.
Subsequently, a veritable rash of Scottish journalists queued up to lambast both Wark and the quality of the programme This Scottish broadcasting brouhaha has all the makings of a saga which could run and run amid reports that Salmond, who was cleared on 13 charges by the trial jury, may take legal action against the BBC over the documentary.
It is confirmed that the BBC has received 43 complaints about the documentary, via broadcasting regulator, Ofcom. A BBC spokesman said: “The programme is an accurate and fair reflection of events and we stand by it . The outcome of the trial was fairly reflected in the programme and would have been known to everyone watching”.
Martin Hannan, of “The National”, told social media: ‘Just to let you know that as the result of the Warkumentary on Alex Salmond, I have told the BBC not to bother contacting me for comment or participation in any programme… It would be hypocritical to be associated in any way with the purveyors of such absolutely biased shite masquerading as “journalism”. I can also assure you this issue of the Warkumentary is not going to go away. Even now a cold dish is being prepared’.
The Scottish Daily Mail’s London-based TV reviewer, Christopher Stevens. Recalling that the documentary ended with an actress reading the words of a woman witness at Salmond’s trial, Stevens wrote: “Clearly, it leaves us in a situation where a BBC documentary may cast doubt on the findings of a jury that “fails” to deliver a guilty verdict in a sex case. And it leaves us with a national broadcaster whose double standards are breathtaking. Wark has been with Newsnight since 1993, after all, but as she lamented the damage wreaked by the Salmond trial to the #MeToo movement, she said nothing of the programme’s failings over an equally high-profile sex case… After the death of BBC presenter and DJ Jimmy Savile in 2011, a Newsnight investigation into rumours of his appalling sex crimes was shelved. It was deemed to clash with an adoring obituary and a planned Christmas special of his children’s show, Jim’ll Fix It. Savile never stood trial and, even after he was dead, some at the Beeb tried to turn a blind eye to his vile activities. Alex Salmond won his court case and also won a victory in a previous civil lawsuit against the Scottish Government over its handling of the allegations against him. Unless the BBC is trying to argue that Britain’s entire judicial system is unfit for purpose, Kirsty Wark should not be suggesting the trial has done serious damage to women’s rights across the country. Instead, she should never lose sight of the fact that Jimmy Savile, a BBC employee, committed foul offences against women and children, sometimes within the BBC’s buildings. And the Newsnight report into that was dropped.’
Jack Irvine, of Media House, posted: “interesting to note that Ms Wark had never attended a High Court trial before. It showed. She came across like a wide-eyed trainee journalist. It reminded me of the hatchet job the BBC did before the Rangers [FC] trial and, guess what, they also walked free. I was also intrigued that other BBC journalists were used as camera fodder in a non-BBC production. Is there anybody actually at the helm of BBC Scotland?”
Broadcaster Lesley Riddoch wrote in The National: “Alex Salmond’s court case they say could tear the SNP and the wider Yes movement apart. The verdict – others say – has been a major setback for the cause of feminism and the #MeToo movement. So, it’s tricky to have any publicly-stated position on the trial of the former First Minister, his allegations of conspiracy, the plight of female witnesses (indeed opting to use the word “plight”), the role or non-role of the FM, the behaviour of key advisers and the conduct of the civil service. Like taking a walk along Sniper Alley, if you don’t get hit by one side in the first 100 yards, you’ll soon get hit by the other. And that’s unpleasant for thousands of folk like myself, who are both feminists and independence supporters. So, I should thank Kirsty Wark for providing some blessed relief from the “What To Think About” Alex Salmond quandary. For 59 glorious minutes the broadcaster’s biased and overwrought BBC Two documentary swept aside all the big, troubling and unresolved ramifications of the former First Minister’s court case, with the sheer weirdness and self-referencing, salacious and blatantly biased nature of her programme.”
Oliver Mundell – Dumfriesshire is the Mundell family dynasty
Oliver Mundell is to stand for re-election in tomorrow’s Scottish Parliament Election. He is confident that his strong stance in defence of the Union, in the South of Scotland will count in his favour with voters.
education & early employment
After leaving school in Moffat, he attended Edinburgh University, graduating in 2012. He worked for (7 months) for the multinational oil and gas firm Royal Dutch Shell and in the UK Parliament, (courtesy of Daddy) where he was employed, on a large salary, as a senior parliamentary aide to Geoffrey Cox QC MP. This was the launching pad for a political career as an MSP for Dumfriesshire
At Edinburgh University his campaign for election to the post of Student Association President was hindered by an allegation that he had harassed a fellow student Alice Stanes, a disabled NUS liberation officer reducing her to tears, in a discussion about disability and policy
In a later apology he said: “I understand that liberation is a sensitive issue but I have always tried to keep my own personal emotions out of decision making, putting the needs of students first, I’m really sorry if my point of view has been upsetting or misinterpreted but, rather than engaging in petty student politics, I’m moving forward with my plans to make the Student’s Union more representative.”
He was not elected. Evidently his fellow students disagreed with his statement about being unconcerned about engaging in “petty Student politics”
Dec 2014: Oliver works for his dad at the expense of the public
Mundell employed his son, out of university a few months. (salary £30,000+) as a Parliamentary Assistant from 1 March 2013. having previously employed him in the same position from May to 2012″. Then, in November 2014, Mundell transferred his SPAD duties taking up a position as a Senior Parliamentary Researcher (more money for the boy) working in the Westminster ,House of Commons office of a Conservative MP representing South West Region.
He departed Westminster for Scotland only a year later and in 2015 was subsequently elected to serve as the MSP for Dumfriesshire.
In announcing his intention to remain as the MSP for Dumfriesshire in the 2021 Scottish General Election it is expected his father will be elevated to the House of Lords very soon paving the way for Oliver to take up a seat in Westminster further entrenching the Mundell dynasty in Dumfriesshire. Nepotism gone mad.
The decline of the Liberal-Democratic Party in Scotland
2007: In the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections, the party won one fewer seat than in the two previous Scottish elections. The outcome led to criticism of the party’s election strategy. Although it was arithmetically possible to form a majority coalition with the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Green Party, the party refused to participate in coalition negotiations because of a disagreement over the SNP’s policy of a referendum on Scottish independence. The Tories, stepped forward and agreed to support the SNP minority subject to agreement to implement a number of Tory Manifesto commitments.
2008: On 2 July 2008, Party Leader, Nicol Stephen was dumped. Former Deputy Leader Michael Moore MP served as acting leader of the party until the election of Tavish Scott MSP on 26 August 2008.
2011: In the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, the Party lost all its mainland constituencies, retaining only Orkney and Shetland. It was by far the party’s worst electoral performance since the re-establishment of the Scottish parliament in 1999. Tavish Scott was dumped. Willie Rennie was elected leader unopposed.
2014: In the 2014 European Parliament elections, under the leadership of Willie Rennie, the party lost its only MEP.
2015: In the 2015 general election, under the leadership of Willie Rennie, the party lost 10 of its 11 MPs with only Alistair Carmichael narrowly retaining Orkney and Shetland with a 3.6% majority.
2016: In the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, again under Willie Rennie’s leadership, the Party had 5 MSPs elected but was pushed into last place in Holyrood by the Scottish Greens. While it gained the 2 constituency seats of Edinburgh Western and North East Fife from the SNP, its vote share was further reduced.
The Decline is Terminal
1999: Share of seats: 13%
2003: Share of seats: 13%
2007: Share of seats: 13%
2011: Share of seats: 4%
2016: Share of seats: 4%
The European Referendum outcome – The Scottish Lib-Dem Party public statement
In the early hours of the morning of June 24th, everything we understood about the UK’s relationship with the rest of Europe changed.
The European Union and our belief in its goals of peace and economic prosperity is an enormous part of what it is to be a Liberal Democrat. We are internationalist, co-operative, tolerant. And as that reality sank in we realised there was another consequence: What did this mean for our relationship with the rest of the UK?
And that is why Liberal Scotland in Europe has put forward a motion to this autumn’s Scottish Conference which aims to keep the party’s, and Scotland’s, options open. Other parties may only be about unionism or nationalism, but the Liberal Democrats are about more than that. Our policies are decided by the membership, and as a membership we need to live up to our radical traditions and take on the challenge of finding a creative way forward for Scotland.
We want to encourage our leadership to explore all possibilities, with all parties, to pursue the best possible outcome for Scotland. This period of political history may prove to be the most significant for our constitution in 300 of years. It is for the Scottish Liberal Democrats membership to decide what role the party will play and what route we will choose. But if we are to secure the best future for Scotland and the strongest relationship with both the UK and EU, we will need to leave no possibility unexplored.
Willie Rennie – should be replaced with a better leader– shouldn’t be that difficult
Previous leaders have stepped down or have been replaced while retaining the Party share of the vote at around 13%. Rennie took the Party to much lower levels achieving a vote share of about 4%.
The Newly Built Events Complex Aberdeen (TECA) Aberdeen’s replacement exhibition centre, built using finance borrowed from the London Stock on a long term loan, cost £425m to build has been devalued by KPMG and is now worth only £318.7m. A whacking great financial loss from which it doubtful the council will ever recover.
Alex Nicoll the leader of the SNP on the council, said: “It is incredibly concerning that the value of only recently completed property investments have dropped so much in such a short time.
Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said: “In respect of valuation, it is important citizens look at the council’s total value of assets which the accounts show the council’s net worth is £1.21bn.”
Comment: But the council owe the city of London £1bn
Aberdeen (there is a mafia in Aberdeen) its called “lab-Con”
The city has returned the labour and or Tory party to power in all but one election in the last 20 years and is very much a Unionist party stronghold. In every circumstance domination of the electorate for an extended period of time by parties of a particular leaning leads to an abuse of power and this is very much the case in Aberdeen where the Unionists reign supreme.
In the May 2017 election it was hoped that voters would seriously consider the appalling record of financial and administrative mis-management, abuse of power, rejection of the wishes of the majority of city residents expressed in the Union Gardens proposal referendum and many other insults visited upon voters. There was a genuine hope that the SNP would be given a chance at local government but, yet again the Aberdeen electorate decided to ignore the misdeeds of the City Councillors and returned the Unionists to power.
2005 The Italian Mob (and there is a real Mafia Presence)
Antonio La Torre and Michele Siciliano, brothers of Augusto La Torre, the former head of the powerful crime clan from Mondragone and influential members of the Camorra Mafia, came to Aberdeen in 1984.
They opened the Pavarotti and Sorrento restaurants, expanding into health and fitness centres, import-export food firms, pubs and betting shops in Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. They and their lieutenants were also involved in dealing in luxury cars.
Their many property deals included buying city council land (College Street) for peanuts, building a car park then selling it on for a massive profit purchasing a city centre building, on the cheap and converting it into flats gaining a six-figure profit.
Expanding their empire, they also set-up a number of phantom companies, in Scotland and Italy enabling bank loan credit guarantees’ providing the finance necessary to purchase building materials, plant machinery, office equipment, computers and huge amounts of wine, pasta and olive oil and other produce from Campania for use in restaurants in Aberdeen and throughout Scotland.
But as soon as the phantom firms got the cash, they were bankrupted and the money was diverted into other accounts. They were both extradited to Italy in 2005 to serve long prison sentences. Disposal details of their massive property and business portfolios has not been released but much of it was sold off before extradition procedures were complete. Much more information here:
2006: Audit Scotland investigated council property sales and identified major deficiencies bordering on fraud.
The report was passed to the Police Fraud Squad for further investigation. They have not yet reported back.
“The most serious comment by independent assessors related to the College Street car park where they concluded that proceeds from sale should have been double the £1.8 million achieved. They concluded that the deal struck by the Council was ‘extremely poor, bordering on negligent’.
2007 Newly Elected SNP and Liberal Democrat City Council Ask Police to Investigate Potential Fraudulent Sale of Council Property
A police investigation has been ordered into potential fraud surrounding transactions in which Aberdeen city council sold some of its assets for up to £5.5 million below their market value.
Grampian Police confirmed it was called in by the new Liberal Democrat and SNP administration after senior officers requested details of transactions up to 2006.
And a damning report, published by the accounts watchdog, Audit Scotland, revealed “serious deficiencies” in a series of deals in which six council-owned assets were sold for £3.7 million when their maximum potential value was £9.2 million.
The transactions included the sale of land at the Seafield Club and allotments for £685,000 when the maximum potential value was £2,930,000, and the sale of the College Street multi-storey car park for £1.8 million when its potential value was £3,630,000.
The council faces a special hearing by the Accounts Commission into its finances. Read the full blog:
Over the past three years expenditure by the Labour City Council has been significantly in excess of its budget, giving rise to concern over diminishing reserves leading to the need for a substantial package of savings. Councillors accepted the views of the Controller of Audit, who also identified a reluctance, on the part of some to fully appreciate of the seriousness of the financial difficulties the Council faced.
In regard to the report by the Controller of Audit on the property sales investigation, the Council accepted there were significant procedural shortcomings which would need to be addressed as a matter of priority.
The incoming SNP/LibDem Council was forced to implement a 4 year programme of austerity measures designed to ensure a balanced income and expenditure.
In the 2012 election voters punished the SNP/LibDem Council for imposing stringent cuts over the previous four years and returned Labour/LibDem council to office. Voters have very short memories!! The need to make the cuts was forced on the SNP/LibDem Council by the Auditor mitigating the financial mismanagement of the Unionists.
Redeveloped Aberdeen City Chambers (projected cost £20m Actual cost £140m)
2009: Union Square Development
The College Street car park (built on ground) purchased from the City Council for peanuts, by the Italian brothers, who sold it on for a large mark-up and a car park build, was resold, to Hammerson PLC forming part of the £250 million Union Square regeneration project in the heart of Aberdeen.
The development was built by Miller Construction and included multiple shopping units, a civic square, multi storey car parks and a hotel with conference facilities.
In May 2012 Labour formed a coalition Council Administration. Crockett was elected Council Leader.
Not long after taking charge the Unionist conducted a referendum seeking the electorate’s views on a city centre development. The outcome failed to return a “no” vote and was set aside by Barney Crockett who said “I am not bound by the views of the voters. Aberdeen Council business is restricted to local policy issues and these are not subject to the whims of referenda.”
In 2014 Crockett circulated a Unionist political letter, (using Council finance) promoting “Better Together” rejecting independence. It said: said, “Aberdeen is stronger now and will be stronger in the future – as a partner within the United Kingdom.”
He failed to note that Aberdeen’s safety, (from the policies of Westminster politicians) is guaranteed by oil and energy whilst the rest of Scotland gets weaker suffering the ravages of increasingly right wing governments, based in the city/state of London whose only interest in Scotland is the revenue it gathers from its colony to the North
Barney Crockett epitomizes everything that is wrong with the Unionists. The public votes but the Con/Lab council decides. It is their way or the highway. What a sad city led by a bunch of self serving bunch of incompetent opportunists. Read the full report:
Barney and friend Unionists together in Harmony
2014: Mafia Tightens Its Grip on Aberdeen
Aberdeen is a “mafia Stronghold” for a notorious crime syndicate which controls swathes of the city’s economy, according to a new report from the European Union organisation “Transcrime” who advised that the Naples-based Camorra crime organisation, linked with many killings, in Europe maintains a stronghold in catering, retail, transport finance and property sectors in Aberdeen.
An Unconcerned Barney Crockett said; “I think the attraction of Aberdeen is that they can swap over a lot of (laundered) money without trace, because Aberdeen is a thriving business environment. But I am totally confident that there is no involvement in public works of any description.”
Dream on Barney!!!What about the sale of city property at knock-down prices to Antonio La Torre and Michele Siciliano.
Fishing – what are the Tories and Lib/Dems up to ?
In Scotland, quotas for species such as herring and mackerel have been bought up by a handful of families. Two-fifths of the entire Scottish catch by value and 65 per cent by tonnage was landed by 19 powerful super-trawlers in 2016.
More than half (13) of the top 25 quota holders have directors, shareholders, or vessel partners who were convicted of offences in Scotland’s £63m “blackfish” scam – a huge, sophisticated fraud that saw trawlermen and fish processors working together to evade quota limits and land 170,000 tonnes of undeclared herring and mackerel.
Small-scale coastal fishermen, who operate 80 per cent of Scottish boats, have to make do with just one per cent of quotas. Despite the pleas of smaller concerns the new bill failed to bring forward any redistribution of the UK’s existing quota rights. So the ultra-large companies owned by a small domestic Tory Party supporting elite who behaved so badly retain their monopoly over fishing catches in Scotland.
The shadow environment secretary said Tory ministers needed to take “urgent action to use the powers that they have domestically to redistribute fishing quota to deliver a fairer deal for smaller boats”.
“Fishing was the poster child of the “Leave” campaign and environment secretary Michael Gove has already broken promises he made to the industry to secure full control of our waters during the transition,” she continued. “With all the talk of ‘take back control’, ministers have the power to distribute UK quota now and put the smaller-scale fleet first. So why wasn’t it mentioned in their white paper?
“This shows that, while it points the fingers at others, this Tory government is to blame for a sector rigged in the interests of the super-rich. Any future fishing policy must consider how new and existing quota can be more fairly distributed and we will treat this as a priority in the upcoming fisheries bill.”
The rich Tory-supporting fishing families of Scotland
Alexander Buchan and family. Estimated worth: £147m. The family’s Peterhead-based Lunar Fishing Company owns or controls 8.9% of the UK’s quota holdings (739,153 FQAs), making it the biggest quota holder in the UK.
Robert Tait and family. Estimated worth: £115m. The family’s Klondyke Fishing Company is the UK’s third-largest quota holder, with 6.1% of the UK total (506,953 FQAs).
Sir Ian Wood and family. Estimated worth: £1.7bn. (a fortune built largely on oil and gas services). Sir Ian’s fishing business, JW Holdings, holds 1% of the UK’s fishing quota (83,463 FQAs) and has minority investments in businesses/partnerships that hold a further 2.3% (192,169 FQAs).
May 2018: leaked paper shows Tories want to trade away fishing
UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove had been expected to publish the white paper on the fisheries policy for leaving the EU in December last year but has yet to do so. A leaked draft commits the UK Government to consult the Scottish Government on fisheries decisions with Mr Gove retaining the final say.
Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson, SNP, said the paper was evidence the Conservatives still regarded Scottish fishing as expendable.
“The Tories’ White Paper utterly fails to deliver the control over our waters and who catches fish in them that was promised in the Brexit referendum,” he said. “It confirms the Tories want to keep control in London so they can again trade away our fishermen’s rights as part of their Brexit negotiations – as they have already begun to do.
“It’s even worse than taking fishing powers away from Scotland for seven years as threatened in the UK Withdrawal Bill. This is a bid to permanently remove control over fishing from Scotland’s fishermen.
“The Tories infamously described Scotland’s fishing industry as ‘expendable’ on our way into the EU – this proves beyond all doubt they plan to do the same on the way out.” (Press & Journal)
Jun 2018: Peterhead fish processing could be relocated to Europe after Brexit, expert warns
MPs on Westminster’s Scottish affairs committee heard the warning from Kristen Hopewell, a senior lecturer in international political economy on trade at Edinburgh University. She said:
“Companies had already moved to the North-East from Norway in order to access the EU market and will now move again, even in the event of a soft Brexit. Norway does not have the same kind of tariff-free access to Europe that Scotland has and that is part of the reason Norway moved a lot of its fish processing to Scotland. If Scotland all of a sudden faces a very high tariff on its exports, that could have profoundly negative impacts on the Scottish fish processing industry. We may well see Scotland’s fish processing industry move to places like Poland in order to access the rest of the market tariff-free.” (Press & Journal)
Small boat owners are being starved out of business
Their spokesman said:
“Inshore fishermen are facing a crisis never witnessed before. And the merchants that they supply are in utter despair at the difficulties that lie ahead.
Creel and dive fishermen working these small boats are horrified that the interests of the few owners of deep-sea fishing vessels are being put above the interests of the many. Of Scotland’s 2,089 fishing boats, 1,539 of them are under 10 metres (33ft) long – too small to go beyond the 12-mile limit that marks the edge of our inshore waters.
They have little to gain and much to lose from Brexit. European boats are already excluded from our inshore waters, so there will be no new fishing opportunities for us after Brexit.
Instead, there will be tariffs on our shellfish products and the strong possibility of our fresh produce going bad in the lorry parks of Dover as they wait to access Europe – our main market.
Shame on the quota barons for saying Brexit is a sea of opportunities. Self-interest and greed have been displayed in copious amounts, with little or no regard to those that may suffer.” (Press & Journal)
Mar 2018: Fishing sector’s fury over Tory Government’s Brexit ‘betrayal’
The UK Government was last night facing a furious backlash after sanctioning a “massive sell-out” of the Scottish fishing industry in its interim Brexit deal. Fishing leaders branded the decision to “capitulate” to EU demands that Britain continues to abide by its hated quotas during the two-year transition as a “disgusting betrayal” and “extremely harmful”. (Press & Journal)
Mar 2018: Fresh fishing pledge from UK ministers amid backlash over ‘unforgivable’ deal
Michael Gove appealed for Tory rebels and furious fishermen to keep their “eyes on the prize” yesterday as he promised full fisheries control by the end of 2020. The under-fire UK environment secretary was warned of “palpable anger” in fishing communities over a Brexit transition deal which will keep the UK in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) (Press & Journal)
Nov 2019: Fergus Ewing warns Fishing communities facing ‘extremely challenging picture’ ahead of talks
Looking ahead to annual negotiations that will determine catch and quota limits for the coming year, Mr Ewing warned jobs and livelihoods are at stake in the Brussels talks. He said:
“Scientific advice published by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) were testing for fishing communities. We have got a lot to lose. Reductions have been advised for whiting, saithe and hake, while zero catch advice remains in place for cod and whiting on the west coast. Advice on North Sea cod recommends a 61% reduction in catches next year, which will result in an “immediate and severe choke risk”. (A choke species is a type of fish with a low quota that can cause a vessel to stop fishing even if they still have quota for other species.)
Ewing also clashed with the Tories over their view that Brexit would result in regaining control over UK waters enabling fishermen to leave the “hated” Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Ewing accused the Tories of promising the “earth, moon and stars” a no-deal Brexit would result in “bankruptcies” as a result of the need for certificates to export fish, which could cost up to £15 million. (Press & Journal)
Nov 2019: Scottish fishing chief warns of looming crisis for the inshore fleet
In a strongly worded “Brexit Situation Statement” Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF) (which represents creel fishers and comprises nearly three-quarters of the country’s inshore commercial fishing fleet) national co-ordinator Alistair Sinclair claimed that the much-vaunted benefits of the break-up for Scotland’s fishing industry were “only for the few”.
“Those who stand to gain most from exiting the EU are wringing their hands in delight at the prospect. But let us consider those within coastal communities who stand to lose most, many with the real prospect of losing their markets and livelihoods.
Scotland’s inshore fleet of small fishing boats supplies Europe with the finest shellfish – widely acknowledged to be the best in the world, sourced from the ‘best wee country in the world’.
These inshore fishermen are facing a crisis never witnessed before. And the merchants that they supply are in utter despair at the difficulties that lie ahead. Creel and dive fishermen working these small boats are horrified that the interests of the few owners of deep-sea fishing vessels are being put above the interests of the many.
Of Scotland’s 2,089 fishing boats, 1,539 of them are under 10 metres (33ft) long – too small to go beyond the 12-mile limit that marks the edge of our inshore waters.
They have little to gain and much to lose from Brexit. European boats are already excluded from our inshore waters, so there will be no new fishing opportunities for us after Brexit.
Instead, there will be tariffs on our shellfish products and the strong possibility of our fresh produce going bad in the lorry parks of Dover as they wait to access Europe – our main market.
Shame on the quota barons for saying Brexit is a sea of opportunities. Self-interest and greed have been displayed in copious amounts, with little or no regard to those that may suffer.” (Press & Journal)
Dec 2019: Fishing industry boss claims Tories do not have ‘credible vision’ for the future of the sector
Fraserburgh-based William Tait SNR, who is a director at the Klondyke Fishing Company, has cast doubt over Boris Johnson’s pledge to take the UK out of the common fisheries policy and has warned that the Tories would “disregard fishing in Scotland and trade away opportunities”.
He called on fishermen in the north-east to now back the SNP at December’s election. (Press & Journal)
He was born in Aberdeen in 1983 and educated at Forres Academy and the Scottish Agricultural College.
His early years were spent on a dairy farm near Forres where his father worked as a cattleman. On completing his secondary education he completed a 4-year course at Agriculture College returning to dairy farming to continue his career as a dairyman.
He maintains links with influential people of like mind, within the farming and forestry communities in the North East of Scotland.
He is a professional football referee, officiating in the Scottish Premiership and international soccer tournaments earning up to £40,000 a year as a self-employed specialist assistant football referee.
He was widely criticized for missing a House of Commons debate on Universal Credit in October 2017, due to his commitments in Europe as a football referee after which he was forced to undertake not to accept soccer commissions during the working week whilst the UK Parliament was sitting. His earnings from politics and soccer calculated to be around £130,000 P/A.
There were angry scenes at the Scottish parliament, as a row over unbridled racism in the Conservative Party unfolded. The row was centred on two Stirling Tory Councillors and Tory MP Douglas Ross.
Robert Davies: Posted several tweets with black and white photographs of a group of black people next to a cargo plane. His comments included “keep your loincloths with you at all times. Spears go in the overhead locker”.
Alastair Majury: Made public comments comparing Scottish nationalists to Nazis, attacking benefit claimants, and saying the SNP was too busy talking about gay marriage. Both politicians were suspended from the Tory Party in Scotland but silently reinstated after only 3 months.
Compounding the issue Douglas Ross stepped up and lambasted Scottish gypsy’s, stating he would “like to see much tougher enforcement against Gypsy travellers who are Scotland’s oldest ethnic minority being in the country for over 400 years”.
The Scottish Football Association launched a disciplinary investigation into his remarks, following which he received a warning about bringing professional football into disrepute and told to clean up his act.
Ross and the EU Referendum
Moray voted to remain in the European Union, albeit narrowly. The turnout was lower than is usual for the area. The “leave” campaign focussed their efforts on broadcasting a message that the European Fisheries policy would no longer be applicable to Scotland and all fish in Scottish waters would once more be landed at the ports of North East Scotland. A return to days of riches guaranteed.
Voters in Buckie, Lossiemouth, Burghead, Hopeman, and Cullen succumbed to the lies of the Leave campaign and strongly backed leaving the union.
But the residents of Findhorn turned out in strength and voted in favour of “Remain”, overturning the other majority.
Describing himself as a “reluctant remainer” he said his agricultural background had led him to disapprove of the “red tape” imposed by Brussels, stating: “I didn’t campaign in the EU referendum at all. I was a lot less motivated to persuade people to back “remain” than for Scotland to stay part of the UK.
I wasn’t convinced by the arguments to “leave” at that time, but I’m a democrat as well and I respect the view of the UK people. While I think there will be challenges to leaving the EU, I also think there are opportunities”. He professes to be a democrat and as such he intends to respect the view of the UK people. Note the play on words. But he is a Scottish MP representing the voters of the Moray constituency. His binding loyalty should be to those who sent him to Westminster.
He was first elected to Moray council in 2007, representing the Fochabers-Lhanbryde ward, and became part of the Tory-led coalition council. He resigned from the council administration in December 2009, but continued as a Councillor.
In 2012 he was re-elected to the Moray council and again became part of the ruling administration group, but was ‘ousted’ from it in 2014, following an acrimonious debate about school closures.
He was unsuccessful when he stood as the Conservative candidate in the Moray constituency in the 2010 and 2015 General Elections.
He was also unsuccessful in his bid for election to the Scottish parliament in 2011 and 2016. But his connections ensured he would be added to the Tory “List” and he was selected to be a Tory MSP for the Highlands and Islands in May 2016.
In his short time at Holyrood he was appointed Shadow Minister for Justice and was criticized for being absent from parliamentary duties, skipping a crunch vote and a meeting of the Justice Committee because of his soccer commitments.
He stood again in the 2017 UK general election for the seat of Moray and was elected to office. He resigned his List MSP post under a year after being been appointed.
Ross – The Local Councillor – Moray Council -Same-Sex Marriage
Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor Sean Morton delivered a statement to the full Council calling on the local authority to show its support for the decision taken at Holyrood that made Scotland the 17th world nation to make same-sex marriage legal. The openly gay Councillor added that he could only have dreamed that one day he would live in a society that allowed loving couples to marry regardless of their sex. He also expressed his thanks to Richard Lochhead for supporting the bill.
Ross voiced a different view, saying: “While it is right and proper that we recognize the momentous achievement, we also recognize that there were hundreds of thousands of people in Moray and Scotland who opposed this.” Sour grapes methinks!!!
2014: Ross Sacked By Moray Council
Ross was barred from the ruling administration group and removed from his role as chairman of the council’s police and fire and rescue services committee and planning committee. The convener said the decision to remove Ross from the administration group resulted from the fact that he had: “actively canvassed against the administration’s ambitions and had shown no wish to be aligned with the general direction that the administration group had taken”.
In his letter, the convener added: “I regret that this course of action has become necessary, however, the group can see no way forward until we have made it clear that the views he holds publicly are not those of the administration.”
His dismissal came shortly after the defeat of plans to reorganize the school estate. He was also a member of the previous council administration following the election in 2007 but resigned two years later citing disagreements with their decisions and expressing a desire to be able to speak freely on matters.
His short time as an MSP
May 2016: He was named shadow cabinet secretary for justice in Davidson’s shadow cabinet and vowed to fight against centralization. Fine, if he intended to fight against the ever-increasing Westminster’s centralisation but he was happy with that. Its the SNP he was after. He said: “At the election, we were returned as the main opposition party on a pledge to hold the SNP government to account and I’m looking forward to getting involved in all the areas included in this significant brief.”
Ross – In the Commons
Many of his contributions comprise the usual Tory banal rhetoric attacking the record of the SNP in Scotland referring to devolved matters which have no agenda for discussion in the House of Commons. Where his contributions were relevant the content was tainted by his right-wing views and grandstanding, exposing his desire to impress his Lords and masters of the Tory party.
He is a member of the “Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill Committee” which has met and debated issues on a number of occasions. Ross has yet to speak in any debate. Reading of debate contributions is highly recommended since it provides information relevant to the perilous state of HM forces under the Tory government.
Carilion PLC (since gone bust) gets more than a mention being severely criticized for the appalling state of military accommodation and married quarters throughout the UK. Recruitment and retention is well below targets and many experienced servicemen are departing the military having had enough of cuts to weapons replacement programmes and endless deployment to combat missions and “showcase” exercises without adequate rest. The military is in crisis.
He consistently votes against: more EU integration, any future referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, a right to remain for EU nationals already in living in the UK, UK continued membership of the EU, transferring any more powers to the Scottish Parliament.
His Financial supporters (mainly dark money)
Name of donor: Alasdair Laing: Address: private. Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £5,000.
Name of donor: Scottish Unionist Association Trust. Address: Glasgow G52. Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £7,500. Donor status: Tory party, friendly society. This is the Tory “Dark Money” fund that provides financial support to all Tory candidates. But the source of the funding is unknown despite numerous formal requests from the Electoral Commission. A useless toothless organization set-up to protect the state, not the electorate.
Name of donor: Stalbury Trustees. Address: London W1J. Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £10,000. Donor status: Tory Party Political Company. Another “Dark Money organization, reputedly run from a piggery in East Anglia.
Name of donor: John Martin. Address: private. Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £5,000.
Donor: Conservative Friends of Israel Ltd. London SW1P. The estimate of the probable value (or amount of any donation): Travel and accommodation with a value of £2,000. Destination of the visit. Israel and the West Bank. Dates of visit: 31 July – 5 August 2016. Purpose of the visit. A fact-finding mission for Scottish Conservative MSP’s. Their week-long visit to the West Bank breached UN rules forbidding visits by politicians to the illegally occupied West Bank.