The contract value is £96m. This is higher than the £80m included in the VRDP – which will be updated prior to publication – and the revised estimate of £90m included in CMAL’s 3-year Corporate Plan, which has already been published.
This capital funding commitment will fall over 3 financial years to 2017-18 and has been submitted to Scottish Government Finance for consideration. The cost in 2015-16 can be covered from within the capital allocation to the Ferries Budget. The cost in 2016-17 will however require an increased capital allocation of around £20m.
Capital funding will be provided by loans from Transport Scotland to CMAL, repaid with interest over an agreed period , usually 25 years. An initial business case was drawn up by CalMac to inform the recommendation to initiate the procurement by CMAL. This is currently being updated to reflect the increased capital cost. Over the estimated 30-year lifetime of these ships, the capital cost represents a small share of overall costs.
Subject to Ministerial approval and the clearance by SG Finance of the in-year and future funding commitments, CMAL will formally offer the contract to FMEL on 31 August which will be confirmed following the statutory 10 day standstill period. An initial announcement can be made to coincide with the formal offer, in agreement with the shipyard, rather than waiting for the 10 days.
Given the significance of the award in respect of Scottish Government investment in the ferry fleet, retention and creation of jobs at a resurgent Ferguson shipyard and the scale of the costs, we will work with Press TS colleagues and CMAL to ensure maximum positive publicity from this significant announcement. We will ask Press TS to lead on a Communications Plan.
It would be appropriate for Mr Mackay as Minister for Transport and Islands to lead on this announcement, highlighting the benefits to the islands as well as the jobs and training opportunities in Inverclyde.
As with any procurement, a legal challenge from one of the unsuccessful shipyards cannot be discounted. CMAL have not identified any particular risks in this regard and, in any case, are confident that any challenge can be defended. That said, the relationship between Scottish Ministers and Ferguson’s owner is well known.
We recommend that you approve the award of the two shipbuilding contracts by CMAL to Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd.
Transport Scotland Ferries Unit 20 August 2015
Minister for Transport and Islands
DG Enterprise, Environment and Innovation PS/Transport Scotland
David Middleton, CE, Transport Scotland TS Directors
Alexander Anderson, Special Adviser to the First Minster
Official Sensitive From: Transport Scotland Ferries Unit Date: 20 August 2015 To: Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure Investment and Cities Subject: VESSEL REPLACEMENT – PROCUREMENT OF 2 NEW MAJOR VESSELS
In the absence of the Minister for Transport and Islands on leave, your approval is sought for CMAL to award shipbuilding contracts of a total cost of £96m for 2 new major ferries for the CHFS network to Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL).
Given procurement deadlines, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) are required to issue a notification of contract award letter to FMEL, and ‘Alcatel’ letters to the 5 unsuccessful bidders no than Monday 31 August – after that date the tenders will no longer by valid: the original 3 month validity period has already been extended for 2 months with the agreement of all the bidders. Subject to consideration by the CMAL Board on Tuesday 25 August and feedback from CalMac Ferries Ltd, Ministerial approval in principle is sought by Thursday 27 August.
The Vessel Replacement & Deployment Plan 2014 (VRDP), approved by Mr Mackay on 14 July (and to be published shortly) set out the case for the procurement of 2 new major vessels for the Clyde & Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS) network. On the basis of the initial analytical work behind the VRDP, and the indicative vessel replacement proposals set out in the 2012 Ferries Plan, you announced the start of the procurement process for these 2 new vessels by CMAL on 15 October 2014.
Following consideration of Pre-Qualification Questionnaire responses, CMAL issued Invitations to Tender to the following shipyards on 10 December 2014: Redacted
7 tenders from these 6 shipyards were submitted by the deadline of 31 March 2015. After detailed consideration of the quality and costs submissions by the CMAL vessels team, with technical input from CalMac Ferries Ltd, the CMAL executive team are recommending the award of the contracts to FMEL.
It was made clear to tenderers that the quality/price ratio for assessment of proposals was 50:50. FMEL was the highest quality bid received but also the highest price. Taken together, the FMEL tender achieved the highest overall evaluation score.
Although CMAL are responsible for vessel procurement, under the tripartite arrangements in place CalMac have been consulted extensively at technical level to achieve their endorsement of the detailed specification and designs which will form part of the shipbuilding contract. Intensive exchanges between CMAL and CalMac on the one hand and CMAL and FMEL on the other have resolved the vast majority of the issues identified by CalMac. CalMac are currently carrying out a final review of documentation, due to complete on 25 August.
On the basis of discussions at the project steering group today, we anticipate that CalMac will not be in a position to fully endorse the shipbuilding documentation by the required deadline. However, under agree procedures this does not prevent CMAL from awarding the contract and further efforts will be undertaken during the detailed design of the vessel by FMEL to address any outstanding points. These issues largely concern the access of the vessels to the various ports that they may serve during their working lives and the potential requirement for modifications at some ports. However, on the basis of the information available to us at this point, the risk of major infrastructure requirements to accommodate these vessels – such as those at Stornoway and Ullapool to accommodate the MV Loch Seaforth – is considered to be low. That said, the CHFS port infrastructure as a whole, which was largely designed for a very different size and type of vessel – requires ongoing investment in order to continue to support safe and reliable ferry services which can meet the growing demand for travel to and from the islands.
The vessels have been designed as ‘dual-fuel’ so they can operate on LNG and marine diesel. LNG is significantly cleaner and is being adopted increasingly by ferry operators in northern Europe largely in response to tighter sulphur regulations which will apply on the west coast from 2020. LNG brings some logistics challenges, which CalMac are looking into, and may require some additional fuelling infrastructure. The benefit of ‘dual-fuel’ is that the vessels can be run on conventional fuel if there is any interruption in LNG supply. When the initial business case for this project was drawn up, the forecast price of LNG compared to marine diesel made a compelling case for its adoption. Since then, the fall in oil prices has, at this point in time, removed the price benefit of LNG; however, historically gas prices follow oil prices and over the long-term we would expect a financial as well as an environmental benefit from using gas.
Under the draft contracts, the first vessel will be delivered in January 2018 and the second in March 2018, subject to final clarification and permissible delays. As previously announced, these ships are earmarked for Ardrossan-Brodick and the Uig Triangle although the final decision on vessel deployment rests with the operator and will be informed by further analysis of demand on all major routes.
Sturgeon’s ever expanding army of “Special Advisers”
“Special Advisers” are political appointments and are exempt from impartiality requirements normally expected of civil servants in order to provide them with the freedom to give political advice to Ministers. Although never elected by the public nor subject to the normal rules of employee recruitment and formal interview they are gifted, courtesy of Nicola Sturgeon, and her alone, with a huge amount of power.
The leader of the “Special Adviser Team, (Liz Lloyd 2015-2021) has the authority to issue instructions to civil servants on behalf of Nicola Sturgeon.
The Devolution Act permitted recruitment of up to twelve “Special Advisers” to the First Minister.
But at 2022 Sturgeon employs nineteen, including a new adviser who supports the Green Party dual leadership and two new Green Party ministers in the Scottish Government.
At a total annual approximate gross cost to the Scottish taxpayer of £2 Million
Over two-thirds of Sturgeon’s special advisers are friends with senior SNP figures or are the partners Party influencers.
A self-perpetuating elite that thrives on patronage, using it to by-passing democracy and being surreptitiously slipped into positions of power and influence.
Responsibility for the recruitment, employment, management, conduct and discipline of “Special Advisers” rests with Nicola Sturgeon.
An informed ex servant of the crown commented:
“The introduction of “Special Advisers” into the Scottish Government established an alternative civil service.
They are an ill-disciplined bunch whose conduct is reported on through a “rebuttal unit” who feed distortions of the truth to the electorate, all with the purpose of ensuring the public are denied the truth of any given matter where the “image” of the Nicola Sturgeon or the SNP might be at risk.
In their efforts to establish and maintain their superiority they routinely pass negative value judgements on the ability of long term, full-time established civil servants.
They are immune to embarrassment and strangers to the appropriate and legal use of taxpayers monies.
They and their newly partnered green acolytes are enamoured with power and can be likened to a sick cancer bleeding off the efforts of hard working Scots.
The entire establishment should be sacked!!!!!
Special Adviser Team: April 2022
Colin McAllister – Chief of Staff to the First Minister: Briefs: First Minister’s Strategic Programme in Government including Inter-governmental relations co-ordination of the Special Adviser team.
Stuart Nicolson – Head of Communications: Briefs: Senior Political Spokesperson for the First Minister. co-ordination of the Special Adviser Communication Team.
Jeanette Campbell – Briefs: social justice and housing.
Gavin Corbett – Briefs: zero carbon buildings, active travel and tenants’ rights.
Ewan Crawford – Senior Special Adviser: Briefs: constitution and external affairs portfolio (except culture).
Leanne Dobson – Special Adviser: Briefs: finance and the economy portfolio (excluding Local Government Finance and Business, Trade, Tourism & Enterprise). Programme for Government.
Kate Higgins – Special Adviser: Briefs: local government (including local government finance). business, trade, tourism and enterprise. transport portfolio.
Davie Hutchison – Special Adviser: Briefs: health and social care portfolio. broadcasting policy. First Minister’s Questions.
Harry Huyton – Special Adviser: Briefs: green skills, circular economy and biodiversity.
Ross Ingebrigtsen – Deputy Political Spokesperson for the First Minister. Briefs: strategic communications planning. First Minister’s Questions.
David Livey – Special Adviser: Briefs: education and skills portfolio.
Liz Lloyd – Strategic Policy and Political Adviser to the FM: Briefs: strategic advice to the First Minister on transformational policies and projects.
Comment: March 2021: An investigation by a Scottish parliament committee into the government’s unlawful handling of harassment allegations against Alex Salmond concluded that Nicola Sturgeon had misled parliament.
A few weeks after, Liz Lloyd was dismissed from her post as Chief of Staff to Nicola Sturgeon and took an extended leave of absence, returning to the Scottish Government in August 2021 as a “Special Adviser” reporting direct to the First Minister fulfilling a new role, created by Sturgeon with responsibility to work across government and with stakeholders to provide strategic advice on the delivery of the government’s policy programme.
A kick in the teeth for many Scots who thought that a small amount of justice had been gained by her dismissal. No chance!!!!
John MacInnes – Special Adviser: Briefs: political research. support for First Minister’s Questions and Parliamentary debates. support to communications and policy Special Advisers
Emily Mackintosh – Special Adviser: Briefs: media communications including communications and events support for the First Minister. support for the First Minister and the First Minister’s Private Office. outreach and stakeholder engagement
Callum McCaig – Special Adviser: Briefs: COVID recovery portfolio.
John McFarlane – Special Adviser: Briefs: rural affairs and Islands. net zero portfolio (except transport). parliamentary business and parliamentary liaison. First Minister’s Questions.
Gavin Corbett – Special Adviser to the Green Party dual leadership and two new Green Party ministers in the Scottish Government.
Comment: Canadian born, Lorna Slater, in her quest for a place in Holyrood in 2021 asked the voters of Edinburgh North and Leith for their nomination.
Of the 80,000 strong electorate she gathered a measly 1,727 votes.
But Sturgeon was determined to destroy the hopes of other Scottish independence supporting Party’s with her instruction to SNP supporters not to give their constituency vote to ALBA and Slater, who topped the Green Party LIST benefitted greatly from Sturgeon’s largesse and was elected as a constituency MSP.
The reasoning that drove Sturgeon to act as she did became clear soon after the 2021 election when she committed the SNP to the establishment of a coalition government within which the Green Party would nominate two Green Ministers to serve in the Scottish Government and there would be consultation and agreement with the green Party leaders on all matters of policy. What a bummer of a deal!!!!!
“Special Adviser” activities are constrained by a number of restrictions.They are:
Not permitted to participate in Westminster or Scottish political activities, including, in a party political organisation, any office which impinges wholly or mainly on party politics.
Not permitted to speak in public on matters of Westminster or Scottish political controversy.
Not permitted to express views on Westminster or Scottish politics in letters to the Press, or in blogs, books, articles or leaflets
Not permitted to being announced publicly as a candidate or prospective candidate for the Westminster or Scottish Parliament.
Not permitted to canvass on behalf of a candidate for the Westminster or Scottish political institutions or on behalf of a political party.
Comment: In reality all of the foregoing restrictions are, with the tacit support of senior government ministers routinely ignored by Sturgeons “Special Adviser” team whose conduct is placed above the laws of good political practice.
16 Feb 2021: Nicola Sturgeon’s special advisers accused of ‘pumping out blatant propaganda’
Sturgeon has been urged by opposition politicians to curtail the inappropriate and scurrilous political activities of Liz Lloyd and her ever increasing number of “Special Advisers”.
The allegations of misbehaviour were supported by a damming dossier of evidence including reference to Lloyd’s breach of the “Special Adviser” code of conduct through the use of blatant propaganda on more than 100 occasions.
Sep 2016: The Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched in 2011 to provide an international platform for those committed to making governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. In each member country, government and civil society are working together on government reforms which ensure people can see, understand, participate in and influence the workings of government and to hold government to account. Until now all of the action has been on governments eligible for full United Nations membership. Each ‘subnational’ pioneer involved is not a full member country, but does have a substantially devolved legislature. During its Pioneer year, Scotland will be able to work directly with the OGP, sharing learning with the other Pioneer Governments, as well as learning from the wider international OGP community. The Scottish Government is working in partnership with civil society to create an open government movement in Scotland. More here (http://www.opengovpartnership.org/how-it-works/subnational-government-pilot-program)
United Nations Sponsors Open Government Partnerships
Scotland is one of 15 pioneer members of the Open Government Partnership’s inaugural International Subnational Government Programme. This places Scotland in the world spotlight on its commitments to democracy, human rights and how it engages its citizens. Scotland was chosen because of its commitment to Open Government reforms, including community empowerment and improvements in democracy.
In committing to the programme the Scottish Government established itself as one of the “global leading light in the campaign for more open and accessible government” in partnership with all branches and interests in Scottish society to create an open government movement in Scotland. In a statement, Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick welcomed the new status, which places Scotland as a leading pioneer state of the world, saying:
“Scotland’s involvement in this programme holds us as a government up to the light over our promises to be honest, transparent and reachable. “Nicola Sturgeon has already committed us to being ‘an outward looking Government … more open and accessible to Scotland’s people than ever before’. This pioneer status puts us on the world stage and gives us the opportunity to really prove ourselves. More than any of this, it gives us the motivation to continue to be a beacon of good government, the kind that Scotland truly deserves. Our action plan will show clear commitments to making Government in Scotland more open, accountable and responsive. We are working with people from all walks of life to shape and create Scotland’s OGP agenda, increase awareness of the benefits of open government and the importance of increasing democracy and participation. This is a huge learning opportunity, allowing us to highlight our strengths and share our own learning and to create a clear story about how Scotland is reforming government and public services, and the impact this has – from the streets of our towns to the United Nations.” (https://www.gov.scot/news/world-leaders-on-openness-and-transparency)
8 Jun 2018: “Special Adviser” expenses and travel and subsistence costs(primarily Liz Lloyd)
The total cost of “Special Adviser” expenses and travel and subsistence costs for 2017/2018 was £26,029.40.
The figure includes expenses claimed through the Scottish Government iExpenses system and expenditure under the Scottish Government travel and accommodation contracts is broken down as follows:
iExpenses = £1,455 (sweeties etc.)
Hotel accommodation = £6,188.06
Travel = £18,386.34
The expenses were primarily incurred by “Special Advisers” supporting the First Minister and Scottish Ministers at events in other parts of the United Kingdom, including intergovernmental negotiations and on foreign visits to Europe and the United States of America taking forward the Scottish Government’s programme. Examples of such visits include:
Supporting the First Minister in New York and San Francisco on visits to discuss potential trade and investment opportunities for Scotland and to boost Scotland’s tourist industry;
Supporting the First Minister at a range of engagements associated with her attendance and speech to the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavik;
Accompanying the First Minister to Dublin to meet with the new Taoiseach and engage with potential Irish investors at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce;
Supporting the First Minister when she addressed the COP21 Plenary in Bonn on behalf of the UNFCCC Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action Change;
Accompanying the First Minister to the British Irish Council in Jersey;
Supporting Ministers at meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations in London and in Cardiff;
Supporting Ministers in London at the Devolved Administrations’ meeting with the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs;
Supporting Ministers in London at the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare; and
Supporting Ministers at the Confederation of the Highlands and Islands in Shetland.
Centrica: Head of Public Affairs (Scotland, Wales and the English Regions). Jan 2016 – Present. Group Deputy Head of Corporate Communication Aug 2018 – Feb 2020.
Scottish Chambers of Commerce: Member, Scottish Business Advisory Group. Apr 2019 – Present. CBI (Confederation of British Industry) Council Member. Jan 2019 – Present. Elected to CBI Scotland Council for three-year term from January 2019.
Senior Special Adviser to the First Minister of Scotland. Nov 2014 – Jan 2016. Portfolio responsibility for Transport, Infrastructure, Investment and Cities – including: European structural funds, government procurement, Scottish Futures Trust, Scottish Water, cities, transport policy, public transport, air, rail and ferry services, roads, veterans and cross-government co-ordination on Scotland’s islands. Also, portfolio responsibility for Rural Affairs, Food & Environment – including: Rural Scotland, land reform, the physical and marine environment, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, food and drink, crofting, sustainable development, biodiversity, natural heritage, environmental protection, flooding, water quality, national parks and environmental & climate justice.
In addition to serving as Deputy Head of Communications and Official Spokesperson to Alex Salmond I held portfolio responsibility for Culture, Europe and External Affairs. Responsibilities included: Culture and the arts, national records, national identity, built heritage, architecture, broadcasting, cross-government co-ordination on European Union and international relations, international development, fair trade, the Scottish diaspora and cross government co-ordination on bringing major events to Scotland. Aug 2012 – Nov 2014.
House of Commons: Head of Press and Communication, (SNP). Aug 2007 – Aug 2012.
Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) Expert Adviser, politics. In the wake of the Arab Spring, I delivered a series of cross-party workshops in Tunisia for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (an independent democracy-building public body supported by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office) on parliamentary procedure, effective communication, political campaigning and mass mobilisation.
Centrica Energy policy
2020: Anderson is a member of the Fuel Poverty Partnership Forum Whose mandate is to alleviate fuel poverty in Scotland. Jun 2018 – Present. The forum brings together partners between public sector, private sector, agencies and third sector delivery bodies to understand the issues facing those in fuel poverty in Scotland, and advise Ministers on issues and potential policy changes required. Quite how this squares with his role with Centrica is puzzling.
2020: Centrica chief executive Chris O’Shea advised consumers the energy crisis may last for two years. He said: “the market suggests high gas prices will continue for the next 18 months to two years. The high demand for gas is partly driven by a move away from coal and oil. As we move towards net zero, gas is a big transition fuel, and so as you turn off coal-fired power stations in other countries, there isn’t an abundance of gas that you can just turn on quickly.”
He also threw cold water on the idea of boosting supply from the North Sea as a domestic solution to the crisis, saying: “I’m not sure an increase in UK supply would have brought the price down. We bring gas in from the United States, from Norway, from Europe, from Qatar, from other places. So we’re not in a position to simply have the UK as an isolated energy market. We are part of a global market.” And Anderson is a member of the Fuel Poverty Partnership forum!!!
Comment: Promises, promises: On 14 June, 2016, 13 Government ministers and senior Conservatives pledged to abolish VAT on household energy bills in an open letter. Signatories included George Eustice, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Boris Johnson, Penny Mordaunt, Dominic Raab, Iain Duncan Smith, Desmond Swayne, Theresa Villiers and John Whittingdale. We are still waiting on the promised action!!!
2022: British Gas owner Centrica posted a surge in profits amid soaring gas prices and announced that its CEO will waive his annual bonus after the company was bombarded with complaints from angry customers. Chris O’Shea will forfeit the £1.1 million award he is due on top of his annual £775,000 a year salary.
Adjusted operating profit for the year to 31 December more than doubled to £948m from £447m a year earlier. Statutory operating profit came in at £954m against a loss last time of £362m. No dividend was proposed but the company, which trades as Scottish Gas north of the border, is repaying £27m received in 2020 through the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Centrica said its 2022 outlook was broadly positive, but cautioned that “high and volatile wholesale commodity prices and a changing regulatory environment create a wider range of outcomes than normal.” (Daily Business)
Cal-Mac Ferry contract
To: Keith Brown: Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure Investment and Cities
CC: Alexander Anderson. Senior Special Adviser to the First Minister of Scotland. Nov 2014 – Jan 2016. Portfolio responsibility for Transport
Subject: Vessel Replacement – Procurement of 2 new Major vessels
Date: 20 Aug 2015
Purpose: In the absence of the Minister for Transport and Islands on leave, your approval is sought for CMAL to award shipbuilding contracts of a total cost of £96m for 2 new major ferries for the CHFS network to Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd (FMEL).
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, the former SNP MP, and the first witness to swear her oath on the Koran (“I swear by Allah that I will tell the truth …”) was asked about an incident at Stirling Castle where Mr Salmond had allegedly touched a female member of his staff on the bottom as a photograph of them both was being taken. “Did you see anything untoward?” she was asked. “Did [the woman] show any discomfort while the photo was taken?” “No,” answered Ms Ahmed-Sheikh to both questions.
Mr Jackson wanted to know from Ms Kay whether the former first minister was a “tactile” person, “touchy-feely, an old-fashioned man?” “Yes, definitely,” Ms Kay said. “He was mannerable in an old-fashioned way,” as she put it. “He was always hugging people — that was his way.” “But did he go over the line, was there inappropriate sexual behaviour?” asked Mr Jackson. “No,” she said.
Alexander Anderson, who worked for him as special adviser, agreed. “Mr Salmond has always been tactile,” he said. Campaigning with him meant a succession of selfies, with hugs in the streets, at bus stops and in any business he entered. “At party conference there would be hugs and kisses for everyone,” he added.
Campbell Gunn: Member of Runrig for a brief spell in 1976. Political journalist of note for many years. Retired then appointed “Special Adviser” to Alex Salmond in 2013. Deputy Spokesperson for the First Minister and Communications Adviser. Retained by Sturgeon finally packed it in around 2018. Regular contributor to Twitter. 8 July 2013
Alex Salmond was “collegiate and would take advice from everyone”, observed Campbell Gunn, who worked for both the former and current first ministers, Sturgeon relies on a small group for advice. The close circle includes Liz Lloyd, her chief of staff, and her husband. Gunn recalls that when he was working for Salmond and monitoring press coverage over the weekend they would be in constant communication. In contrast, Sturgeon is happy to delegate. “Call me if there’s something urgent,” she’d say. “Otherwise leave me alone.”
The Alex Salmond debacle
“If, as they say, they have nothing to hide, then surely they shouldn’t hide things. Do ministers, advisers and senior civil servants have any conception of how their current position looks from the outside? When I was involved in the case as media spokesperson for Mr Salmond two years ago, during the judicial review, few, if any, of my former press colleagues actually believed any of the ‘Salmond conspiracy’ allegations. Now most of them do. And that change in attitude is entirely down to the way the Scottish Government has dealt with the parliamentary committee.”
Supporters of Mr Salmond have claimed figures within government conspired against the former first minister by creating an anti-harassment policy that was out “to get” the ex-politician. Civil servants, appearing in front of the Salmond inquiry, denied such suggestions. Gunn was also critical of Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC’s appearance in front of the Salmond inquiry last week and his response to MSPs’ questions about the legal advice. He accused Scotland’s most senior law officer of “breath-taking” obfuscation and also claimed the Scottish Government’s botched handling of the claims against Mr Salmond would have cost the taxpayer “well in excess” of £1 million. His remarks were made as MSPs on the inquiry prepared to meet in private after Deputy First Minister John Swinney blocked two Spad’s from giving evidence in public. (https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/politics/scottish-politics/1755322/campbell-gunn-says-scottish-government-just-fuelling-alex-salmond-conspiracy-theory)
So what should Nicola Sturgeon have done? By last autumn, it was obvious the game was up. If, at that stage, the First Minister had ordered the release of everything the committee wanted, probably including documents of which at that stage they were still unaware, there would undoubtedly have been a media storm. But it would have been short-lived, over in a week or so. Instead, she has had to suffer month after month of a continuous drip-drip of damaging revelations.
And that, it appears, is where loyalty has come in. Nicola Sturgeon is fiercely loyal to her staff, particularly the small group closest to her. Political expedience should have seen two or three senior people being sacrificed – in popular parlance, thrown under the bus – to save her own skin.
Top of the list should have been Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, the head of the civil service in Scotland, who defiantly proclaimed the flawed procedure ‘her’ policy. Instead, she was handed an extension to her contract. Then there’s the small matter of the First Minister’s husband, Peter Murrell, who just happens to be the SNP’s chief executive. That cosy situation should never have been allowed to exist in the first place, and he should have gone. Sturgeon’s chief of staff Liz Lloyd too should have been sacrificed.
Instead, all three – and others perhaps equally culpable – are still in their well-paid jobs, and we’re still not sure if everything relevant has been published. Full disclosure, a few bodies to satisfy the baying media mob, and a fulsome apology might well have seen the entire affair consigned to history. Instead, Nicola Sturgeon will continue to face questions over the issue for some time to come. (https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/is-nicola-sturgeon-s-loyalty-her-big-weakness)
Holyrood not fit for purpose
Given recent events, it may now be time for reflection on how the Act is working in practice. Holyrood was designed as a unicameral legislature, a single body, with scrutiny and amendments to legislation being undertaken by what was supposed to be a powerful committee system. Those of us who have been forced to sit through various committee sessions over the years have known for some time that this system is unfit for purpose.
The problem was brought into sharp public focus with the high-profile appearance of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon before the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints. Thanks to partisan, soft-ball questioning by the majority SNP members and frankly, some political grandstanding by opposition representatives, the committee got nowhere, and the first minister was able to emerge virtually unscathed, having skilfully avoided any awkward pitfalls by claimed lapses of memory and in some cases obfuscation.
And recent behind-closed-doors shenanigans by the SNP reserving places for members of specific groups has effectively blocked the chances of many potential list candidates ever being elected, while virtually guaranteeing seats for others. It may well be time for an overhaul of the Scotland Act. Let’s learn the lessons of the past couple of decades. Replacing the current electoral system with multi-member wards elected by alternative vote and the addition of a second chamber would be, I suggest, good starting points. (https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/opinion/columnists/2974336/right-time-for-overhaul-of-scotland-act)
National grid outrage
Nowhere is better placed for renewable energy than the north of Scotland. But development here is being constrained by outdated electricity transmission charges, imposed by the UK Government. The system was introduced almost 30 years ago to encourage the establishment of power stations near where they were most needed – close to city conurbations, and in particular the heavily populated south-east of England. It is an extremely complex charging system, but basically the idea was that transmission of electricity over a short distance was charged less per megawatt-hour than power sent from further away. The system was initially introduced only for England and Wales but was later extended to Scotland.
And that brings us to the present situation, where the expansion of renewable developments in the north of Scotland is now being seriously held back by these charges. A wind farm in the north of Scotland pays £5.50 per unit of electricity, while a wind farm in Wales is paid £2.80 per unit. Transmission charges in the north of Scotland are £7.36 per megawatt-hour, compared to £4.70 in southern Scotland. In some areas of the south of England, generators are actually paid to use the transmission network. It produces the ludicrous situation where a wind farm in the north of Scotland pays £5.50 per unit of electricity, while a wind farm in Wales is paid £2.80 per unit. The knock-on effect on the economy of the north is palpable. (https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/environment/3207658/net-zero-scotland-transmission-charges-campbell-gunn-opinion)
11 Aug 2019: Noel Dolan, born in Balham of Irish descent, sounds about as Scottish as Bob Hoskins was Nicola Sturgeon’s most senior adviser for nine years. Dolan first worked for Sturgeon in 2004 when she was depute SNP leader and was her senior special adviser until his recent retirement. 26 May 2011.
25 Mar 2020: Dolan, said Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans had to go for the “good” of the Scottish civil service. He added: “As she cost the Scottish taxpayer a large amount of money, she should have gone in 2019.” Alex Salmond was cleared of sexual assault allegations by nine women after a two week trial at the high court in Edinburgh. He had initially been accused of sexual misconduct against two civil servants and the Government reported the findings to the police.
Alex Salmond funded a judicial review against the Government and a judge ruled in 2019 that the internal probe had been biased and unlawful. The botched investigation cost the taxpayer over £700,000 in legal and associated fees. Evans, who earns around £175,000 a year, did not carry out the probe herself, but as the most senior civil servant in the Government she had responsibility. Although she was criticised for the fiasco, she remained in post and even had her contract extended.
Dolan hit out at the way the initial probe was carried out saying: “For the good of the Scottish civil service, she should go.” During a procedural hearing of the criminal trial, Alex Salmond’s defence team claimed the Government and those working there turned to the criminal process to try to “discredit” him after he won the civil case.
Judge Lady Dorrian rejected an application for the evidence to be led at the trial, saying the judicial review was “wholly irrelevant”. In a text message read out at a hearing ahead of the criminal trial, Alex Salmond’s QC Gordon Jackson said Evans had texted a civil servant, saying: “We may have lost the battle – but we will win the war.” Dolan said: “A general may survive a battle, but if she loses a war, she should go.” (the Record)
17 Jan 2017: Sturgeons recruits Ex MSP Stewart Maxwell to her “Special Adviser” team
There is the belated announcement of the appointment of yet another new Special Adviser. Stewart Maxwell, formerly Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee, lost his seat in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. But on 13 January 2017 he announced on Twitter that he had just completed his first week as a “Special Adviser”. It appears Maxwell is now responsible for “Business, the Economy, Skills & Fair Work”, duties formerly the responsibility of Jeanette Campbell, who retains “Communities, Social Security, and Equalities”.
7 Aug 2020: Maxwell off to CalMac Ferries
Sturgeon’s former “Special Adviser” Stewart Maxwell left the Scottish Government to become the Policy and Public Affairs Manager at CalMac Ferries – which is also owned by the Scottish Government through a labyrinth of holding companies. Why take a demotion from government to do PR for a ferry operator?
CalMac is at the centre of a row with Clyde-based shipbuilder Ferguson Marine over the latter’s contract to supply the ferry company with two new hi-tech vessels powered by liquid gas. Ferguson won the £97m contract back in 2015. Unfortunately, construction fell behind schedule while the final bill for the ferries rocketed to an absurd £200m. As a result, Ferguson collapsed last year, with debts of £49m to the Scottish Government, and was taken into public ownership itself. What went wrong?
It soon emerged that CalMac, the publicly owned ferry operator, had had very little to do with the contract, which had been placed by CMAL, another of the chain of front companies that leads to the Scottish Government. CMAL is the actual legal owner of the vessels that CalMac Ferries operates. It seems that the boys at CMAL didn’t talk to the guys at CalMac and that CalMac did not even want the complicated new boats that Ferguson were building. Meantime, CMAL kept changing the specs for the new ships, driving the Ferguson engineers bonkers, and driving up the price. The inference in all this being that somebody inside the Scottish Government was pushing the agenda for a new gas-powered ship technology and was using CalMac as the guinea pig.
Which may explain the arrival of Stewart Maxwell. His updated Linkedin entry actually has him working for David MacBrayne Ltd which is the overall holding company for CMAL and CalMac Ferries. Which suggests he has been recruited to give the whole kit and caboodle a public relations makeover. I wish him luck. Stewart, of course, was a veteran SNP MSP from 2003 to 2016, when he lost his seat. At which point – in the revolving door between public office, special advisors and external PR work – he was rescued to become a paid “Special Adviser”.
The interesting thing about Stewart Maxwell’s career is that it exemplifies the “influence” conveyor belt between the SNP leadership and the business community via a legion of former party special advisors, elected members and staffers who have gone on to work in the public relations business. Of course, working for private PR and “communications” agencies is an interchangeable career move for the modern political class everywhere. However, for a tiny political party which does not even command office in a nation state, the SNP has been able to create organic links to the UK and global PR industry of an extraordinary nature.
Party insiders have always defended this development as being useful in offsetting media attacks through insider activity with the business community. It is noteworthy that the former SNP cadre who go into public relations and communications still retain their support for the SNP and maintain close links with the party. Also, many switch back and forth between the SNP and private work. Probably no other UK party apart from the Tories maintains such close links with the PR industry as the SNP. It is the party’s secret weapon. (https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2020/08/07/the-snp-and-the-lobbying-business
has concluded that on key areas of life expectancy, education, and income a newly independent Scotland would be ranked higher than the rest of the United Kingdom.
According to the report’s authors, an independent Scotland would be ranked four places higher than the rUK.
The report said:
Scotland would rank 23rd if we include a geographical allocation to Scotland’s GNI [Gross National Income] related to the North Sea oil output, versus the current 27th place for the UK and the hypothetical 30th for rUK.
Note: Even excluding any allocation of oil output, Scotland would still rank ahead of the UK.”
Comparing the success of small countries with that of larger nations the report said:
Small countries are more homogeneous and homogeneity plays an important role in determining the success of a country. Cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity creates a ceiling to the potential size of a country. Small countries are more open to international trade and have embraced globalization to a higher extent than larger countries. Small countries are successful and in general much better off than bigger countries.
Public services in smaller countries benefit more from ‘pooling resources’ and the ‘economies of scale’ than larger countries.
Research shows that large countries tend to have higher tax rates for individuals (by 5%). So the cost of funding public services for the individual is higher in larger countries than in small countries. The Credit Suisse Research Institute also explained that small countries are one of the “leading geopolitical trends of the last fifty years“.
A spokesman for Alex Salmond’s government issued a statement saying:
“These comments are very welcome. Using academic data, the report sets out Scotland’s potential and how our development rating would outperform the UK- even without oil- following a Yes vote.
The report also found that an independent Scotland would be better able to ‘effectively’ and ‘cheaply’ deliver public services.
The report also confirmed what Alex Salmond has been saying for many years, that Scotland as an independent nation would flourish since it would be able to concentrate on our talents, grow our economy and build a better and fairer society.