First Minister Alex Salmond has today referred himself to the independent advisers to the ministerial code after claims made in various newspapers by Paul Martin MSP regarding SNP donors and official engagements at Bute House.
Mr Salmond has written to Mr Martin outlining that he will make the referral after the Labour MSP blundered the process by which a complaint should be made.
In his letter to Mr Martin, the First Minister writes:
Dear Mr Martin
I write following press reports that you have written to Dame Elish Angiolini making complaints under the Ministerial Code.
I am sure that you are aware that as First Minister I established for the first time an independent panel to investigate alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code to provide a robust and transparent process. The procedure for making such a complaint is made clear in paragraph 1.6 of the Ministerial Code. Any complaint should be directed in the first instance to me as First Minister so that I may consider whether the matter should be referred to the independent advisers. Hopefully you will manage to get this simple procedure right on any future occasion.
Despite not having received such a letter of complaint from you, I have decided to refer the issues reported in the media about visitors to Bute House in the Daily Telegraph on 28 March, the Daily Mail on 31 March and again in the Daily Telegraph today. I would not wish your misunderstanding of procedure to prevent an independent evaluation of the merits of the points you have been so keen to publish.
I have therefore written to Dame Elish Angiolini, as one of the independent advisers, and asked her formally to investigate whether a breach of the Ministerial Code has occurred. Dame Angiolini has been provided with copies of the three press reports and, of course, will have received your letter. f you have anything further to provide a basis for your complaints then let me know so that this material can also be provided.
The rest of the procedure is now in the hands of Dame Angiolini. The findings of the independent adviser will be published. I will accept them and I hope that you will now indicate that you will so the same.
It is unfortunate that you have chosen not to follow the procedures set down to investigate allegations such as these. I am confident that, as on each of the three previous occasions your party has made complaints of this nature, the independent advisers will find your allegations to be entirely without any foundation.
A spokesperson for the First Minister added:
“The First Minister has taken the decision to refer this issue because we have total confidence in our position, in light of this entirely spurious and absurd complaint from Labour.
“All complaints previously considered by the independent advisers since 2007 were dismissed and we will similarly accept the results of Elish Angiloini’s findings in this case - we ask that Paul Martin does the same.
“No private dining for donors takes place at Bute House, never has under this administration, and never will. Labour, the party of cash for honours and the Ecclestone affair, are guilty of the most appalling hypocrisy.
“Government functions are all in the public domain because, unlike the last Labour-led administration, we publish details of everyone receiving Bute House hospitality at a reception, lunch or dinner. No-one has ever suggested prior to this that individuals should be excluded from Government events simply because they are donors. This is a totally ridiculous proposition.
“By long-standing practice for many years, First Ministers and before that Scottish Secretaries have nominated personal guests for the Royal Garden Party in Edinburgh, and since 1999 for the Opening of the Scottish Parliament, and offered such hospitality. It is insulting to suggest any upstanding person should be excluded. If SNP supporters were to be excluded, by definition that would cover half the population.
In addition, it should be noted that hospitality costs at Bute House are significantly less for this administration than under the previous Labour/Lib Dem Executive.”
PREVIOUS COMPLAINTS - NONE UPHELD
The list below shows the First Minister has been wholly exonerated in terms of all previous complaints made of him.
Complaint 6 March 2009 by Tavish Scott
Ex-PO’s - Funding of Scottish Inter-Faith Council, 8th January 2009
ES – ‘The Panel finds that the First Minister acted in good faith and presented an accurate account of the Scottish Government’s position on the issue raised with him in debate’
Complaint 5 August 2009 by Iain Gray
Ex-PO’s - Notification to Parliament of absconds from the Open Estate
28th May 2009
ES – ‘The Panel finds that the First Minister adhered to established protocol in terms of which any public announcement’ in respect of any prisoner who has absconded from the Open Estate is an operational matter for the police.’
Complaint 20 January 2010 by Hugh Henry and Tavish Scott
Ex-PO’s - Class size reduction target in relation to commitment in 2007
3rd December 2009
Panel concluded that ‘this referral is not appropriate for the panel to consider’
3rd February 2010 Sir Thomas Legg, HoC Auditor - Additional Costs Allowance Claims
The report said: “Mr Salmond has no issues.”
Complaint 3rd February 2010 by Dr Gordon Macdonald
Sir John Lyons, Westminster Standards Commissioner – on food claims
The letter to the complainant said: “I do not, therefore, uphold your complaint and I now regard the matter as closed.”
24th February 2010 Stuart Allan, Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner – auctioning of lunches
“Having fully considered the terms of the complaints and the terms of your own response (jointly with Ms Sturgeon) and other evidence, I have concluded that . . . the complaints, as submitted and insofar as within my jurisdiction, are not relevant and that there is no evidence of sufficient substance warranting further investigation. I have, therefore, dismissed the complaints for the reasons set out in the attached Note of Decision.”
Complaint 27th November 2011 by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie
Jim Sheridan MP alleged that FM had intervened to secure a knighthood for Brian Souter
First Minister ‘wholly exonerated’ in breach of Ministerial Code’.
Mr Sheridan’s allegations were wrong and ‘ill founded’.