Tuesday, November 29, 2011

‘Alleged’ Air Rage incident ex Lord Advocate Lord Fraser of Carmyllie exonerates Alex Salmond over Brian Souter honour nomination complaint

Lord Fraser of CarmyllieLord Fraser of Carmyllie, the former Conservative Scottish Lord Advocate who was arrested at Dundee Airport in 2006 for a breach of Article 78 of the Air Navigation Order 2005, which related to "acting in a disruptive manner" and was personally appointed by the First Minister Alex Salmond to investigate complaints against Scottish Ministers along with former Lord Advocate now Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC, has expectedly cleared First Minister Alex Salmond of any ‘involvement' in the nomination of Brian Souter for a knighthood. Lord Fraser’s report claims the allegations made against Scottish Ministers by Jim Sheridan MP were wrong and ‘ill-founded’

Lord Fraser’s report containing his findings & correspondence with the Cabinet Office & Jim Sheridan MP. The report can also be downloaded it from the Scottish Government’s website HERE (pdf)

The report states : Mr Jim Sheridan MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North complained to the First Minister concerning the award of an Honour to Brian Souter. As I understood it, his complaint was that directly or indirectly Alex Salmond had intervened to secure a knighthood for Brian Souter not on the basis that he had been a distinguished entrepreneur in Scotland but he had made a substantial contribution to the SNP. Mr Sheridan seized upon the apparent inconsistency that the recommendation of a knighthood came from the Scottish Government whilst Alex Salmond and' ministerial colleagues denied any involvement. That complaint was simple enough but after I wrote to Mr Sheridan I received this reply, which to avoid any ambiguity, I set out in full:

To Alex Salmond I wrote that, as I have done in past inquiries, I would leave "no stone unturned". To his credit he replied that was exactly what he had anticipated. As part of that investigation I wrote to the Cabinet Office who responded "In confidence". I take no exception to that qualification but quote the salient section from [Redacted in the report, was from Cabinet Office] reply: "In this particular instance, I have not been able to fmd any evidence that Mr Salmond approached my office either directly or indirectly with regard to an honour for Sir Brian Souter. There is certainly no written communication from him on our files."

In my time, and as I understand it, as was the practice of the subsequent Labour administration, ministers offered comment to the Committee headed by the Permanent Secretary but never sought to direct it other than in the notorious but unproven allegation that the late Donald Dewar sought to veto any award of an honour to Sean Connery on the basis that he supported the SNP. Whilst aware of that as anyone involved in politics in Scotland would be, it is beyond my remit to determine the truth or falsity of that widespread allegation.

What is clear to me and within my remit is that:

I) On taking up office as First Minister Alex Salmond required that neither he nor any of his ministerial colleagues should have any involvement in the grant of a UK Honour beyond a possible letter of congratulations once an honour had been offered and accepted.

2) That stern stance was never modified and Alex Salmond did not seek as First Minister nor as leader of the SNP to bypass the Scottish Government by going directly or indirectly to the Honours Unit.

Given those facts checked out with the Pennanent Secretary and the Honours Unit there appears to me to have been no breach of the Ministerial Code by Alex Salmond as First Minister and he should be wholly exonerated of any breach.

Mr Sheridan is a respected MP and not a careless populist. He was entitled to assume that when it was asserted that a nomination came from the Scottish government that Scottish Ministers either approved the nomination or at least had some involvement in its submission. In fact he was wrong in that assumption. Scottish ministers, most particularly Alex Salmond, had no involvement.

I have some sympathy with Mr Sheridan in that ministers might have been expected to have had a measure of involvement in the process without directing it. Sir Peter Housden has an unenviable task but I conclude he undertakes that, as he should, without fear or favour. That is, however, beyond my remit as would be the comment that Brian Souter as one of Scotland's leading entrepreneurs is very worthy of any honour.

I would only suggest that to avoid any repetition of this ill-founded complaint that the First Minister take the opportunity before the Scottish Parliament to set out his position and that of his colleagues on Honours. He may feel that his stance is already sufficiently clear although this complaint would demonstrate that it is not unequivocally so.

The Scottish Government issued the following Press Release : FM 'wholly exonerated' in honours claim

Scottish ministers had no involvement in the nomination of Brian Souter for a knighthood and the First Minister should be 'wholly exonerated' of any breach of the Ministerial Code, an independent report into complaints made by Jim Sheridan MP has concluded. Lord Fraser of Carmyllie - an independent adviser to the Scottish Government on the Ministerial Code - has found that allegations Scottish ministers had directed the nomination of Mr Souter were wrong and 'ill-founded'. Lord Fraser concluded that the Scottish Government had not deviated from the FM's policy announcement, made when he took office in 2007, that the FM and all other Scottish Government ministers have chosen to have no role in any part of the Honours process.

Lord Fraser's report says: "Given those facts checked out with the Permanent Secretary and the Honours Unit there appears to me to have been no breach of the Ministerial Code by Alex Salmond as First Minister and he should be wholly exonerated of any breach."

Lord Fraser said that, while Mr Sheridan had been entitled to assume a Scottish Government nomination had been approved by ministers, that assumption was wrong. "Scottish ministers, most particularly Alex Salmond, had no involvement," the report adds. This is the fourth complaint referred to the independent panel of advisers on the Ministerial Code since the system was introduced in June 2008. In each case, the complaint against the FM has been dismissed.

Alex_SalmondAlex Salmond cleared of any involvement in Souter honour. Mr Salmond today welcomed Lord Fraser's report: "I would like to thank Lord Fraser for his thorough examination of this issue and I welcome the findings that have entirely exonerated Scottish Government ministers. I trust that Mr Sheridan will also welcome this conclusion. This is the fourth complaint to be referred to the independent panel of advisers I set up in 2008 to rule on matters relating to the Ministerial Code, and I am pleased that, in each case, the complaint has been dismissed.” Mr Salmond continued : "Lord Fraser indicated that I should restate the Scottish Government's position on awarding Honours and I am happy to do so, in the form of a parliamentary answer. I am grateful to Lord Fraser of Carmyllie and the other adviser on the panel - Dame Elish Angiolini - for their commitment and diligence in carrying out this important role."

Read Lord Fraser's report online HERE or download it from the Scottish Government’s website HERE (pdf)

The report will also be placed the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe). The Scottish Government established a system of independent advisers in 2008 to enable the First Minister to refer complaints made under the Ministerial Code. In August of this year, Lord Fraser and former Lord Advocate, Dame Elish Angiolini, were appointed as the latest advisers to take up the role, covered by Scottish Law Reporter HERE

Dame Elish Angiolini is not listed in Lord Fraser’s report to have played a part in the investigation into the Souter honour affair.

Profile : Former Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini :

NMG0505123Former Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, now independent adviser to First Minister Alex Salmond is caught up in Scotland’s longest running most expensive Breach of the Peace charge against anti-abuse campaigner Robert Green. The RECORD TWO YEAR CASE against anti-abuse campaigner Robert Green, revolving around a public campaign for justice for Hollie Greig, a downs syndrome victim who is alleged to have been abused by an Aberdeen based paedophile gang, is about to hit it’s THIRD YEAR under Sheriff Principal Bowen and a collection of Crown Office prosecutors, is reported to have already cost taxpayers over HALF A MILLION POUNDS and with a witness list of 61 individuals, is set to hit £1 MILLION in 2012. Reporting on the background of the case, Robert Green was arrested by Police on 12th February 2010 in relation to a breach of the peace alleged to have been committed in Aberdeen when Mr Green attempted to hand out leaflets regarding the anti-abuse campaign. It was also revealed the then Lord Advocate, now Dame Elish Angiolini had employed private law firm Levy McRae to serve interdicts on Mr Green in connection with his campaign to ‘out’ alleged abusers of downs syndrome victim Hollie Greig. Glasogw law firm Levy McRae who later represented shamed former Glasgow City Council Boss & Cocaine addict Steven Purcell, proceeded to threaten several media outlets & journalists over their reporting of the case, covered by Scottish Law Reporter HERE & HERE. The Purcell scandal caused some newspapers to ‘evaluate’ their relationship with Levy McRae, details of which were featured in a report here : HERE

Profile : Lord Fraser of Carmyllie :

Lord Fraser of CarmyllieLord Fraser led the inquiry in to the building of the Scottish Parliament, which saw no one held to account for the massive overspend to £500 MILLION on the hapless Holyrood building now in a constant state of disrepair and leaking more water than the Firth of Forth during rainstorms. Earlier in June after an Al Jazera documentary exposed major flaws some may say amount to corruption within the investigation into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, Lord Fraser was featured in the documentary telling a film crew he accepted a key witness in the Pan Am 103 trial had been bribed by Scottish Police, yet nothing has been done about it. Lord Fraser also went onto attack the father of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing, Dr Jim Swire, accusing him of suffering from ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ with regard to Dr Swire’s campaign to find out the truth behind the Lockerbie bombing.

Tory Lord in Air Rage Arrest Daily Record Dec 21 2006With regard to the in-flight incident, the Daily Record newspaper reported the arrest of Lord Fraser of Carmyle, saying : A LORD who was Scotland's top lawman has been arrested over an alleged air rage incident. Lord Fraser of Carmyllie was escorted off a flight by police at Dundee Airport. The Tory peer was Lord Advocate from 1989 to 1992.

Witnesses claimed he smelled of drink and argued with a female steward on Tuesday night's delayed ScotAirways flight from London City Airport. A passenger said: "When he got on the later one, he had been hanging around for quite a few hours. He berated a female member of the cabin crew about the delay. He was smelling strongly of drink and requested more drink but was refused. When that happened he became disruptive again and the female crew member became alarmed as did some of the other passengers."

Last night, Tayside Police confirmed that a 61-year-old man had been charged and a report sent to the procurator fiscal. It is believed to be the first time that a former Lord Advocate has been charged with a criminal offence.

Lord Fraser, born Peter Fraser, was among passengers whose ScotAirways flight was delayed for more than three hours. Fog in London led to it being cancelled and travellers were put on to a later flight. The plane's pilot called ahead for police assistance after a stewardess complained Fraser was being disruptive. Officers were waiting for the flight when it touched down in Dundee at around 9.20pm. Fraser - a former Tory minister - was asked to stay in his seat until other passengers had cleared arrivals. He was arrested and taken to police HQ at Bell Street. The QC was not held overnight. Police refused to give details of the charges against the politician, who was MP for Angus South then Angus East. He was appointed Solicitor General, the No2 job in the prosecution service, under the Thatcher government in 1982.

The case was later dropped when the Crown Office said there was “insufficient evidence” to proceed, a now familiar claim from the Crown Office on just about every controversial case it receives.


Anonymous said...

Nice to have such people on hand to whitewash sorry I mean investigate complaints

Anonymous said...

As you say, it is surprising how often the Crown Prosecution Office can't find its own thumb when a case against one of the 'have's' is in the offing - an entirely different story of course when it comes to the 'have not's'.