Scotland and the Lobbyists
Gordon Beattie left the Evening Times at the age of 26 to set up a news agency and made it Scotland’s largest public relations company. In its early days the stories the young Lanarkshire news agency would flog to news desks were ‘crap’, according to one tabloid editor of the Eighties. Injuries in traffic accidents jostled alongside weak business stories, but editors admired the sheer work rate of the guy.
Beattie Media moved into PR and news editors became aware that the local stories were promoting the same Lanarkshire businesses who just happened to be Beattie Media’s PR clients. The clients were paying Gordon Beattie who also charged the newspapers who ran the stories. Editors stopped running the copy.
It was a neat trick revealing Beattie’s ability to see a novel business opportunity. “He’s a very dynamic guy, into all that American business philosophy,” said one former employee. “PR is all about learning things about people they’d prefer you didn’t know and Gordon is a great exponent of trading stories,” said one of the many ex-journalists who have passed through Beattie Media’s doors
Beatie Media’s greatest fillip was to popularise the Tory policy of forcing public agencies to outsource services. Indeed all of the local enterprise companies within the Scottish Enterprise network, negotiated lucrative PFI contracts with private concerns.
Beattie Media was the first winner of a contract with the Lanarkshire Development Agency and speedily expanded its base adding the Glasgow Development Agency, Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise Limited, and Ayrshire Enterprise. It also did the bulk of the PR work for Scottish Enterprise, including, Scotland the Brand and the Skills portfolio.
This domination of the enterprise sector led to concerns within the wider media that Beattie Media were monopolising the field and focused questions on just how a small and previously insignificant Lanarkshire based company had been so successful in winning big ticket contracts.
Losing PR companies were quick to suggest that Beattie Media owed its success to its benefactors, the aptly named and powerful Labour Party in Scotland “Monklands Mafia”
Scottish Water: Beattie Media inserted a PR team into West of Scotland Water before the contract had been advertised for tender. Losing rivals said Beattie Media had been in place for more than three months, the maximum limit for a public body to retain paid advisers without a competitive tendering process. A whistle blower source within West of Scotland Water said that Beattie Media was originally in the running against Shandwick PR, but “it didn’t matter what Shandwick did, Beattie were going to get it”. The revelations caused anger among employee’s that Gordon Beattie had been provided with privileged access to senior members of the board offering the services of Beattie Media when the in-house team was still in place.
An insider said: “Scotland is a small place, and who you know counts for a lot and the employment of Andrew Livingstone, (son of the chief executive of Lanarkshire Development Agency, Ian Livingstone) and Debbie Allison, the daughter of Beattie Media client, Clydeport’s chief executive, Tom Allison) greatly assisted the awarding of the contract to Beattie Media”
March 1996: Lanarkshire Development Agency – to put its PR out to tender
The Lanarkshire Development Agency reviewed its annual £100K PR account with Beattie Media which had been with the company since 1991. Managing Director, Gordon Beattie said: “The decision will be taken on the basis of cost and quality. As far as we’re concerned, if we retain the account it will be down to the quality of the proposal and the team we put in.’ Shandwick Scotland was one of the other companies chosen to pitch for the contract. Beattie media retained the account.
Jan 1997: Quango Blows £100K to engage a Media Company
A quango was accused of squandering almost £100K of public money by hiring Beattie Media for the run-up to the General Election. Scottish Enterprise, set up to attract inward investment, already had a 12-strong press and publicity office but it was desperate to reclaim power lost to a network of smaller Local Enterprise Companies (LECs) and it engaged the PR firm at £10K monthly in a bid to win Labour Party backing. The move ensured another lucrative contract for Lanarkshire-based Beattie Media which had already won deals worth more than £150K from LECs in Lanarkshire and Lothian.
Apr 1998: Public Affairs Europe – Beattie Media and the the Jack McConnell affair
Gordon Beattie launched Public Affairs Europe, a joint venture with commercial lawyers Maclay, Murray and Spens. Jack McConnell (later the Scottish Executive First Minister) and former general secretary of the Scottish Labour Party, was recruited and employed as a director (for around 9 months) in which time he won no clients and brought in no fees. McConnell’s links with Beattie Media later became central to the Scottish Parliament Standards Committee’s investigation of the infamous Lobbygate affair which was told that McConnell had been recruited by Beattie Media because of his political connections and prospects:
Beattie said “We appointed Jack McConnell to head up our public affairs consultancy, in the certain knowledge that Jack would get a safe seat from the Labour Party, and in the hope and expectation that he would also get a cabinet position within the new administration. So we always knew that Jack was going to leave us. Our concern centred on the probity of such an overtly political appointment given the recent history of sleaze at Westminster which had brought down the Tory government.”
Damian Killeen, Director of the Poverty Alliance in Glasgow, wrote to The Herald expressing his fears:
“The growth in the number of lobbying companies in Scotland, in advance of the election of a new Scottish Parliament, is happening with relatively little critical comment. Some of these companies are staffed by people who recently or currently have occupied prominent political positions. There is little doubt that their access to senior politicians is an important part of these companies’ sales pitch. Government in Scotland has, so far, done little to disassociate itself from these developments. What signals does this send out to those who are looking to the new Parliament to provide a level of accessibility and inclusiveness?
Apr 1998: McConnell quit Scottish Labour Party for an agency post with Beattie Media
Jack McConnell, general secretary of the Labour Party in Scotland for five years, resigned from his post to head up a new Edinburgh-based government relations consultancy to be known as Public Affairs Europe. It was a joint-venture between leading Scottish PR agency Beattie Media and commercial lawyers firm Maclay Murray and Spens.
Public Affairs Europe’s aimed to provide legal and constitutional advice alongside traditional government relations counsel, in the run-up to the establishment of the new Scottish Parliament. McConnell said: ’I look forward to helping the public and private sectors have greater involvement in the democratic process in Edinburgh, Westminster and Brussels. My company will be at the cutting edge of the quality, innovation, ethical standards and success which must be central to the new Scotland’.
Chief Executive McConnell, headed a six-strong team including George McKechnie, (head of public affairs at Beattie Media) who took up the duty of chairman of the new agency. Other board memebrs included, Gordon Beattie, managing director of Beattie Media and Magnus Swanson, Bruce Patrick and Alec Barr, all partners at Maclay Murray Spens.
Oct 1999: Scottish Parliament hit by lobbying scandal
Scottish politics was convulsed by a row over a lobbying company’s access to ministers in the newly devolved parliament. The Observer newspaper, whose investigation exposed the scandal, likened it to the row that blew up around Labour Party aide Derek Draper some months before and redolent of the “sleaze” allegations that dogged the previous Tory administration, which contributed to their 1997 electoral collapse.
Scotland’s “lobbygate” undermined the democratic illusions built up around the new parliament and exposed the sordid reality of the Blair Labour government’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme.
On August 31, in the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Ben Laurence from the Observer newspaper posed as a representative of principally American investors during discussions with Kevin Reid and Alex Barr of the public relations firm Beattie Media. Reid is the 24-year-old son of John Reid, Scotland’s Secretary of State.
The Observer’s investigation followed rumours that lobbying companies were increasingly targeting the Scottish executive, touting for business.
Laurence told the pair that his clients were interested in “PFI stuff over here.” PFI is a means through which private capital is invested in services, such as education and healthcare. Begun by the Tory Party in England it was dramatically expanded by Blair’s “New Labour” government, PFI was extensively promoted by Labour as the saviour of public services when in reality it was privatisation via the back door.
Under the initiative, improvements, refurbishment, or the new construction of hospitals, roads, prisons, schools, sewage and water treatment plants was only permitted if they promised a long-term profit to venture capitalists. Those unable to do so were ditched.
The bogus businessmen were looking to Scotland because it had been established under the “New Labour” executive as a major area source of PFI contracting and “calculations suggested the level of financial return on PFI projects in Scotland provided financial rewards for foreign investors well above that in England.”
His clients were aware that the initiative was “politically sensitive” and required a consultancy firm that would help them navigate Scottish politics and facilitate discussions with those political leaders whose approval would be essential for any project.
Invited to present their “USP” (unique selling point) for the role, Barr noted Reid’s parentage and boasted of his company’s relationship with Jack McConnell, ex-general secretary of the Labour Party in Scotland and current Scottish government finance minister.
Although no longer officially on their payroll, McConnell was recently appointed Chief Executive of Beattie Media’s public affairs consultancy and his personal assistant , Christina Marshall was formerly employed by Beattie.
Reid was previously head of the Labour Party’s Scottish monitoring and research department and several other leading politicians and their offspring had close relations with Beattie Media.
Their corporate clients included West of Scotland Water, Scottish Enterprise and local investment agencies and referring to this the Beattie men explained that “we work for them all full-time, so we’ve got our finger on the pulse of what’s happening in business and in construction.
Major capital projects don’t tend to happen especially within these areas without us knowing about it.” They then made it clear that the entire Scottish government was accessible to any company with money to invest, stating: “First of all, it’s been set up so there shouldn’t be a problem with meeting ministers, executive members.”
Reid then boasted: “I worked for Jack McConnell and for Wendy Alexander, Minister for Communities and for Henry McLeish, Enterprise Minister and for the First Minister, Donald Dewar on a one-to-one basis. I also daily briefed press officers of the Labour Party media monitoring team”.
Reid then played his ace: “I know the Secretary of State very, very well, because he’s my father.” The father is John Reid, Secretary of State for Scotland, one of Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s closest allies and the man widely tipped to succeed George Robertson as Defence Secretary. The son is 24-year-old Kevin Reid, a former Labour Party helper who is now a key player in a “New Labour” lobbying firm peddling claims of influence and access to Ministers.
Whilst Reid said that he couldn’t promise access to people, he went on to explain how informal contacts could be arranged. He cited a meeting with Sports Minister Sam Galbraith in the Rangers football club directors’ box over a youth centre contract, and claimed to have helped win approval for a number of recent contracts involving freight transport from Prestwick and a £60 million tourist development around Loch Lomond.
Whilst media scandals are by no means new, this one drove the Labour Party in Scotland into crisis breaking as it did soon after the Party’s near defeat in the Hamilton bye-election.
John Reid and Donald Dewar reportedly came close to blows at the Labour Party conference over their differing responses to the scandal. Dewar called for a full enquiry, while Reid dismissed the revelations as a storm in a teacup. The press speculated that the spat involved broader rivalries between the two men. Blair was forced to dispatch a team north to investigate the whole sorry business and Beattie Media was instructed to close down its public affairs wing.
The Scottish Parliament’s Standards Committee announced an “in camera” investigation but after the intervention of the press it was forced by the law courts to conduct an inquiry in public. So much for the Labour Party manifesto promise of no more sleaze and cover-ups. The scandal also contradicted and consigned to the dustbin of history the political promotion of Scottish devolution as a “rebirth of democracy”.
Corporate control of politics in Scotland was transferred wholesale to private contractors by politicians whose undeclared intent was to asset strip the nation ensuring financial reward for themselves and their political organisations at the expense of those who elected them to office. New Labour’s programme of devolved government simply enabled a wide reaching exploitation of the electorate by transnational corporations and global money markets.
Leading Scottish National Party member George Kerevan commented, “The incestuous links between politicians, lobbyists—and journalists—means phone calls are returned. Cases are put to the right people. After all, in backward Scotland, trading influence is currency. Some day a politician might need a job or pertinent information or a message passed to the right ear.”
Sep 1999: more on Beattie Media and its role in the Lobbygate scandal
Beattie Media was allied with the second largest PR firm in the United States, APCO Worldwide. A global public affairs and strategic communications consultancy who put the Beattie Media public affairs wing in place in 1998 only months before the establishment at Holyrood of the New Labour executive. The company employed the offspring of no fewer than three MPs – two of them, including Reid, Cabinet Ministers. Malcolm Robertson, son of the outgoing Defence Secretary George Robertson, moved on to work as a lobbyist for the Scottish Airports Authority.
The third was Christina Marshall, daughter of David Marshall MP, chair of the Scottish affairs select committee at Westminster who transferred her employment taking up a new post as personal assistant to Jack McConnell, the Finance Minister in the Scottish executive and former general-secretary of the Scottish Labour Party and a central figure in Beattie Media’s lobbying sales pitch, having headed its public affairs wing before the 1998 elections to the new Scottish Parliament.
At the Balmoral meeting, Reid said that, in politics ‘relationships’ mattered. before he reeled off a list of the people he had got to know while working in the Labour Party and what positions they now held in the new administration in Edinburgh.
‘Anthony James’ said his ‘American clients’ wanted reassurance before they would invest and needed face-to-face meetings with Ministers. They also needed information about public projects using private finance before they were announced.
In response, Barr indicated that Beattie Media’s status as Scotland’s largest public relations business gave it an excellent information network. Not much happened in business north of the border without the firm knowing about it. He also said that McConnell’s appointment to head the public affairs wing had been made: “in the certain knowledge that Jack would get a safe seat from the Labour Party, and in the hope and expectation that he would also get a Cabinet position within the new administration”.
At the time McConnell was employed by Beattie Media the firm, acting for the Scottish Premier League in October 1998, invited Sports Minister Sam Galbraith to a Rangers European Champions League game so that he could meet league chief executive Roger Mitchell. The league wanted to establish youth soccer academies, but needed government financial help.
Weeks after the election the Labour executive pledged £10 million to develop the academies. Barr described the outcome as, “a tangible example of our work'”
At the time McConnell was selected to stand in Motherwell and Wishaw, he announced his retirement from lobbying saying: “I have always made it clear that I would put the constituency I hope to represent first, and I would never contemplate any potential conflict of interest”. But not long after Barr told the press that: “McConnell is still in close contact with the company”. A weird statement by Barr since McConnell, questioned only a day the day previously had stated: “I have only spoken to Beattie Media twice since I was selected by my constituents to serve as an MSP in the Scottish executive”.
Barr was right in his assertion but wrong headed to expose it. Measures had been put in place so that close contact by proxy could be maintained between Beattie Media and McConnell ( now a senior government minister). The measures!!!
Beattie Media permitted Christina Marshall, who worked at the firm at the same time as McConnell, to leave to work with him after the election ad it was through her that Beattie Media were enabled to to place appointments into McConnell’s diary.
In another example Barr said that Beattie Media handled PR for the Financial Director of the Year Award and he had rung Christina and said: “I’d love it if Jack could make the keynote speech. It would generate good coverage and provide opportunity for him meet movers and shakers. Christina ‘s response: “Consider it done”!!!!!
Questioned on Barr’s assertion Marshall responded: “McConnell had not yet decided whether he would speak at the presentation which she had only pencilled into his diary. But, in any event I still talk to my former colleagues at Beattie Media and conversations are not always on business issues”.
Barr didn’t give up instead insisting that he, Kevin Reid and company boss Gordon Beattie were each able to contact the Finance Minister in person, as they wished. They had his office, home and pager numbers and, as a Labour “gofer”, Kevin Reid routinely briefed future Scottish Ministers on a daily basis and he had also become close friends with a number of Labour officials who had gone on to to become SPADS to other Ministers in First Minister Donald Dewar’s Cabinet. Reid also implied that, through its connections, the company had influenced government policy on freight shipment rights at Prestwick Airport.
The US corporation Federal Express had threatened to pull out of Prestwick because under existing protocols it could not forward goods by air to Europe. Reid said: ‘I was quite pleased with the outcome of that bit of business” adding ” Our contact in London, Lord Gus Macdonald, UK transport Minister was very, very, useful indeed”. The decision by the Westminster government to give Fed-ex trans-shipment rights out of Prestwick was a bitter blow to other British shipment carriers since an opportunity to secure reciprocal rights at US airports had been ignored.
Barr also claimed that Beattie Media scooped an environmentally sensitive but financially lucrative contract’ for a client to build the “Lomond Shores Centre”, a £60m tourist development on the banks of Loch Lomond.
Reid went on to say that the company could not promise meetings adding that its ethos was to fix face-to-face meetings rather than lobbying directly.
The potential clients ventured: “Can you actually arrange a meeting with a member of the Scottish Cabinet then”?
“What time scale are we talking about”? asked Alex Barr.
“In the next month”? the clients responded.
“That should be achievable,” replied Barr.
“Whom would Beattie approach”? asked the clients.
Barr and Reid looked at each other. “Probably Jack” ? Reid asked his senior colleague. “I would say so,” confirmed Barr.
Sadly, less that 15 months into the New Labour government Party apparatchiks who had duped the electorate and helped the party to power were now filling their boots with finance looted as lobbyists providing their services securing access to Ministers in government in Downing Street and Holyrood.
Sep 1999: The Scottish parliamentary inquiry
Scotland’s First Minister Donald Dewar asked the parliament’s standards committee to investigate reports of links between Beattie Media and Ministers of the executive. The chair of which was the ineffectual Lib/Dem, Minister Mike Rumbles. Events:
30 Sep 1999: Donald Dewar an opening statement at Holyrood at the start of a debate on the matter
Full transcript here: “https://www.theyworkforyou.com/sp/?id=1999-09-30.937.0&s=speaker%3A14075”
Full transcript of the meeting in the Balmoral Hotel between Beattie Media and the Observer: ” https://www.theguardian.com/politics/1999/sep/29/scotlanddevolution.devolution1 ” “https://www.theguardian.com/politics/1999/sep/29/scotlanddevolution.devolution2”
1 Oct 1999: It was reported that constituency case notes requested by the committee had not been provided because, McConnell claimed “they contained confidential information which if released to the public could place the lives of his constituents at risk”.
A notebook containing details of a private invitation to McConnell from Beattie Media to attend a financial awards dinner had been destroyed. and it was also alleged that a constituency diary entry containing details of a another Beattie Media event had been blotted out by tippex. A good start!!!
6 Oct 1999: Trish Marwick, SNP list member for Mid-Scotland and Fife, the real find of the Scottish Parliament got stuck into the stuttering Lib/Dem committee chairman Mike Rumbles and under her prompting the Standards Committee showed its teeth by holding a public morning matinee of the disgraceful Lobbygate video.
8 Oct 1999: Barr and Reid, the public relations executives embroiled in the Beattie Media Lobbygate row admitted they had “over-stated” their company as part of a sales pitch.
The Observer’s Scotland Editor, Dean Nelson, said the investigation began after the newspaper had been approached by concerned politicians. He went on to say that Beattie Media was targeted because it had employed Dr Reid’s son although he had no previous experience of lobbying. Nelson repeated allegations that Barr and Reid said they could influence McConnell’s diary and had close contacts with other ministers and advisors.
8 Oct 1999: Gordon Beattie, head of Beattie Media, told the Standards Committee that ‘people are employed by the company because of their abilities and skills, full stop.’ The growth of the company had ‘not happened because of political contacts,’ he said. But biographies of Beattie staff sent out to potential clients show that the political contacts of Kevin Reid, the son of Scottish Secretary John Reid, and Gordon Beattie were highlighted as key attributes when the firm was trying to win new business.
Beattie is described as ‘one of Europe’s leading communications professionals with contacts at the highest levels of political and business life’. Reid, who was recruited from his job monitoring the media for the Scottish Labour Party to head Beattie’s political lobbying operation, is described as having ‘extensive contacts in the Tony Blair Cabinet and throughout the Scottish political party network’.
Reid met senior Scottish political figures in his Labour Party job. Former colleagues say his only contacts with the UK Cabinet were with his father and any Ministers he might have met through his father. John Reid was a Transport Minister when Kevin Reid was interviewed for the job with Beattie and later became Scottish Secretary. Giving evidence under oath to the Standards Committee, Beattie said: “I will tell you why I recruited Kevin Reid. I was extremely impressed by Kevin when he came along for an interview. I gave him the hardest interview that I have ever given anyone, because I was not going to recruit him just because his father was the Minister for Transport.” He went on to say: “I do not ask people whom I recruit who their daddy is.” Aye right and pigs fly”
10 Oct 1999: McConnell, the Scottish Executive, Finance Minister was forced to face the public embarrassment that he had been a abject flop in his short-lived business career – a career in which the lobbying company he headed attracted no clients and had no revenue. Members of the Scottish executive’s standards committee were convinced by McConnell’s business failings that the Media’s claims about access to the minister were justified but the revelations allowed the prospect of other Ministers being called before the Committee to recede. So McDonnell under the cosh!!!!
15 Oct 1999: Gordon Beattie refused to let the ’lobbygate’ scandal which engulfed his agency, bring him down but it triggered media and political interest in Beattie’s stranglehold on public sector PR contracts for agencies which compete for public money and inward investment.
24 Oct 1999: The press kept applying the pressure alleging that Beattie Media boasted openly of close ties between Kevin Reid, head of its lobbying arm, and senior members of the UK Cabinet when it bid for new business. The revelation further undermined Gordon Beattie’s insistence that he hired employees for their abilities alone, rather than their contacts through friends and family with figures in the political hierarchy.
28 Oct 1999: Finance minister McConnell and his secretary Christina Marshall appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s standards committee and flatly contradicted claims made by Beattie Media executive Alex Barr about their conduct. Speaking under oath, McConnell said there was no truth to claims that Beattie Media, his previous employers could influence which events he attended as a minister. He told the Committee “I give a categorical assurance I have never at any stage breached the Ministerial Code. There is no evidence to suggest I have ever been, or would be, improperly influenced in conducting my ministerial duties.”
Marshall, previously questioned about Barr’s claim said she had not agreed to accept an invitation from Beattie Media for McConnell to speak at a dinner. Committee convener Mike Rumbles reminded her: “Alex Barr in his evidence on several occasions made it quite clear that he understood this would be confirmed.”
But Marshall, 22, daughter of Labour MP David Marshall, said: “I cannot comment on Mr Barr’s evidence. “My version is different from Mr Barr’s. I never gave any indication that Mr McConnell would attend.” She said the shorthand notebook she was using at the time of Barr’s phone call had been destroyed. She said her only other contact with Beattie Media, other than through personal contacts with junior members of staff with whom she had worked, was an invitation to McConnell to attend a Scottish Premier League match.
McConnell backed Marshall’s version of events and claimed he had told her not to follow the matter up unless there was a formal invitation. It was the type of event he might like to attend, but had already decided to keep his diary clear in January and February because he would be responsible for piloting the first budget Bill through the Parliament. He said that since he had become an MSP, his only contact with Beattie Media had been two phone calls from owner Gordon Beattie – one to congratulate him on his election and the other about a mutual acquaintance who had taken ill And he insisted that he had had no contact whatsoever with Kevin Reid or Alex Barr.
29 Oct 1999: The real star of the Holyrood horror show was Victoria Marshall who took centre stage and gave the performance of her life. As constituency secretary to McConnell, she became the focal point of the Lobbygate scandal. The final judgement of the Committee would come down to whether they believed her or Beattie Media. If the decision went against them McConnell and the Scottish Labour Party could be forced into another election and possible elimination from the Scottish political map. The Committee chose to ignore the wide discrepancies in Beattie Media and Marshall’s version of events. But one of the Party’s lied. !!!!
1 Nov 1999: The inquiry was forced to clear McConnell of any wrongdoing but highlighted differences in evidence between Barr and Marshall.
Committee member Tricia Marwick MSP said Marshall had called it “a difference of recollection”. She added: “In my view, there was a difference of fact but, “I don’t think it is the role of this committee to decide who, between Marshall and Barr, was not telling the truth.”
Labour member Adam Ingram said: “I think a message has to be sent out loud and clear from here that if individuals do not take the oath seriously, then there are implications that follow from that.” Yesterday committee convenor Mike Rumbles said: “There are major concerns by committee members that we have conflicting evidence given under oath. “It is obvious in the view of members that one of these two people was not telling the truth.” But the Committee’s remit only extended to MSPs and its investigation can go no further.
Dewar favoured the appointment of a commissioner saying: ” I think there is a very strong feeling across the parliament that the procedure was clumsy and if there had been someone to sift the evidence and gather the facts before the Standards Committee then we would not have seen so much damaging speculation and difficulty.”
19 Nov 1999: The son of Scottish Secretary John Reid resigned from his public relations job. A spokesman for Beattie Media stressed it was Reid’s own decision to leave.
But this was not the end of the matter???? there was a lengthy epilogue!!
29 Jun 2008: It was revealed Christina Marshall’s daddy was not an honourable member MP for Glasgow East. He was a crook who struggled with the truth. He resigned his seat at Westminster rather than face questioning by the Westminster ombudsman about illegal payments to his family members. In the 3 years leading up to his resignation he claimed nearly £220,000 to pay for staff, plus £7,000 for their travel expenses.
And what of Christina? Well she found herself having to answer questions from the fraud squad about £11,000 missing from the Red Rose Dinner Account, which managed cash raised at a Labour fundraiser attended by McConnell and the then Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid. McConnell also had to explain why one of three accounts under investigation had paid £168 for a five-star room for Christina Marshall’s father at Edinburgh’s Caledonian Hotel during a Scottish Labour conference in March 2000. Local Labour bosses called in the police after unearthing the shortfall and, as one of only three signatories to the fund, Christina was closely questioned. A charity she was working for at the time asked her to leave, telling her that it did not want its reputation to be tarnished by the affair.
Well – Well – Well that’s it then!! No just a little bit more- Jack McConnell survived to Lobbygate scandal for the single reason that his Personal Assistant supported him and denied there had been open access to his diary.. Had she confirmed the allegation made by Mr Barr her boss would have been forced to resign and the future of Scotland would have been so different. The inquiry gave credence to her evidence. After all she was the daughter of an Honourable member of the Westminster Parliament. But was the inquiry willingly conned by a young lady?? I believe so. But just to confirm my thoughts are based on fact and not supposition read on;
4 Dec 2011: A convicted car fraudster is back in business selling second-hand motors to unsuspecting customers. James Doyle, 47, is the man behind the Glasgow Motor Company, based in Paisley. The father-of-two runs his new showroom with his wife Christina, 34, who is the daughter of former Labour MP David Marshall. They sell second-hand and luxury motors, including Maserati’s, Rolls-Royce’s and Audi’s. But people who flock to his forecourt will be unaware that Doyle served time in prison for duping past customers.
In February 2007 at Dumbarton Sheriff Court he admitted defrauding 57 people out of pounds £89k worth of deposits at his UK Vehicle Solutions Business in Clydebank and was jailed for eight months. The 57 victims had paid deposits in August 2005 for top-of-the-range luxury cars – but never received them. Trading standards investigators from West Dunbartonshire Council received 150 complaints about his firm the next month from furious customers. They passed the file to Strathclyde Police who launched a major fraud probe. But it took officers 18 months to bring Doyle to court because he disappeared after UK Vehicle Solutions shut down.
He was eventually traced and appeared in court on February 22, 2007, charged with 57 fraud offences equating to more than pounds £136k worth of stolen deposits. But the value of the fraud was reduced to pounds £90k after he agreed to plead guilty. It’s thought the total value of the cars ordered by customers was around £1m. But it is not known how many of the cars were Doyle’s to sell.
Company boss Stuart Green, from Birmingham, paid a £ 1176 as a deposit for a £40k Porsche Boxster in August 2005 to Doyle’s company. But when he phoned the next month to check on his delivery date, the lines to the firm’s offices were dead. He realised he had been duped and called the trading standards department, who told him of other victims. At the time Doyle was offering people the chance to acquire the luxury cars through a leaseback arrangement, paying so much a month for the first three years. After that they had the option of buying the car or trading it in.
Stuart, 39, said: “I felt very stupid being ripped off but Doyle and his firm seemed so genuine. “It is ridiculous that he can set up a car business after being sent to jail for defrauding previous customers. “There is surely a greater need for some sort of licensing or regulation. “I never saw a penny of my money but he doesn’t seem to be out of pocket.” A West Dunbartonshire Council spokeswoman said: “Officers are unaware if any consumers received a refund for deposits paid.”
1 Jul 2012: Luxury car fraudster James Doyle is at it again. He is being probed by police after his latest business went bust. Customers of the Glasgow Motor Company looking for their cars or payment last week found the doors locked and Doyle nowhere to be seen. A notice said the firm had ceased trading. Scores of luxury and second-hand cars, including Maserati’s and Rolls-Royce’s, had disappeared overnight.
Police have been inundated with complaints from angry customers. Many had been sold faulty cars and were waiting for them to be fixed. Some of the victims had given Doyle cars to sell but haven’t been paid. Others had paid for cars but couldn’t collect them. Strathclyde Police said: “We are investigating a number of complaints from the public about the Glasgow Motor Company. ” Detectives and plain clothes police searched the premises in Ralston, Paisley, on Tuesday.
Renfrewshire Council trading standards officers are also probing complaints from people whose cars were faulty. And it’s been revealed the council are owed £82k by Glasgow Motor Company for three years of business rates. A few staff had been left to handle customers. One said: “We’ve been told to refer calls to police.” Dad-of-two Doyle, 48, ran the showroom, which he took over in 2010, with wife Christina, 35, the daughter of former Labour MP David Marshall. Records at Companies House show Christina resigned as a director on June 15 – 10 days before the firm shut down.
31 March 2013: Car fraudster sets up new business just nine months after his last firm went bust
Luxury car fraudster James Doyle is back in business only nine months after his last firm went bust with debts of £19k. Doyle did a runner at his Glasgow Motor Company business in Paisley, leaving customers out of pocket and 13 staff out of work. He has now set up a business called the Maryhill Motor Company in the north west of Glasgow and advertises a range of cars, including an £18k Jaguar, a £19k BMW and a £60k Ferrari online through Auto-trader, using the name Jim Smith or Maryhill Motor Company.
A journalist posed as a customer to meet 48-year-old Doyle, who uses the name Mr Smith on his new lot in the city’s Maryhill Road, near Partick Thistle’s Firhill ground. The new premises have no signs marking out his new venture –keeping him disguised from former staff and creditors. When we confronted Doyle about his latest business, he refused to comment.
One victim of Glasgow Motor Company Andy Dunlop, the manager of Scots rock band Twin Atlantic, was stunned whenhe was told that Doyle was back in business. Andy, 31, bought a second-hand BMW from the Glasgow Motor Company in January 2012 for £2500 but the hand-brake, power steering and engine were faulty. He said: “I find it astonishing that this man is still able to sell second-hand cars.”
When Glasgow Motor Company went bust in June last year, scores of cars, including Maseratis and Rolls-Royces, disappeared from the forecourt overnight. Customers had been sold faulty cars and were waiting for them to be fixed. Some had given the firm cars to sell but haven’t been paid. Others had paid for cars but couldn’t collect them. One creditor gave a car to Glasgow Motor Company to sell, never got the money or the car back, and was then landed with the existing HP payments.
Renfrewshire Council trading standards officers also investigated complaints of faulty cars. The council were also owed £82k by Glasgow Motor Company for three years of business rates. Doyle ran the showroom, which he took over in 2010, with his wife Christina, 36.
Now do you believe Christina’s assertion that she told the truth to the Lobbygate inquiry??? The end