Something to hide about the honour, Mr First Minister ? INFORMATION likely to implicate Scottish Ministers & other figures in the Scottish Government involved in the awarding of ‘Dame’, the female equivalent of a “knighthood” to the Scotland’s former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC (nee McPhilomy), has been angrily withheld from Freedom of Information requests by Scottish Government Civil Servants, after leaks to the media suggested Scottish Ministers were involved “via the backdoor” in ensuring recommendations were made to London that the controversial former Lord Advocate received a knighthood for ‘her services’ to Scots law. Almost instantaneously after receiving the honour Dame Elish Angiolini was swiftly taken on by the First Minister Alex Salmond as his Ministerial Complaints Adviser in a role seen by most as little more than an exercise to ensure Scottish Ministers are not found guilty of misconduct while in office.
Several leading figures in Scotland’s legal establishment questioned the decision to give the controversial, former Lord Advocate a knighthood while other senior legal figures connected to the Lockerbie case have condemned Dame Angiolini’s tenure as Lord Advocate as "a disastrous experiment” a period which saw some high profile disasters for Scotland’s Crown Office including the collapse of the World's End murder prosecution where the Chief Prosecutor for the Lord Advocate ran away from the court, and judges criticised the handling of the prosecution, a scandal ranking high among other notable case losses, injustice & controversies including huge bonus payments made to Crown Office officials under Angiolini’s tenure as Lord Advocate.
However, it can also be revealed today the Scottish Government’s refusal to release the information on who made the recommendation to give the former Lord Advocate the honour, only came about after the Scottish Information Commissioner became involved in the case, after a journalist complained the Scottish Government HAD REFUSED to acknowledge or even reply to repeated requests for information.
A response from the Scottish Government to a Freedom of Information request by a journalist investigating the award who asked for “information & discussions on the awarding of (and any proposal to recommend) the dame-hood(OBE) of former Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, and the identify of who in the Scottish Government recommended her for the honour” stated :
“We do endeavour to provide information whenever possible. However, in this instance an exemption under section 41(b) of FOISA applies to the information requested. This exemption applies because the information relates to the exercise by Her Majesty of Her prerogative of honour.
As the exemption is conditional we have applied the 'public interest test'. This means we have, in all the circumstances of this case, considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption.
Whilst we acknowledge the legitimate public interest in information relating to Honours, in our judgement this is outweighed by the significant and greater public interest in preserving the integrity of the process by which people are nominated for honours. The Honours process relies on those involved being free to fully express their views, allowing for discussion and deliberation, confident that their involvement and views will not be made public. If this expectation of confidence is breached, people will be more circumspect and much less likely to give frank views, thereby weakening the integrity of the Honours system.
Disclosure may also make it more likely that prospective recipients will choose to refuse an award in the knowledge that views expressed during the consideration process might be made public. This protection of confidence is of equal importance for those considered for, but not awarded, an Honour.
Honours are a matter reserved to the UK Government and the Civil Service in Scotland deals with Honours under Cabinet Office guidance. When supporting the honours process, civil servants are acting in the service of Her Majesty the Queen in whose name awards are made. Since 2007 the First Minister and all other Scottish Government Ministers have chosen to have no role in any part of the Honours process. Nominations are processed by Civil Servant officials on the basis of UK Cabinet Office guidance and without reference to Scottish Ministers.”
Critics of the award to the former Lord Advocate today called for a full disclose of the information & discussions on who at the Scottish Government put Dame Angiolini forward for the award, saying “If they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear”.
During the time of Elish Angiolini’s tenure as Lord Advocate, she employed a private law firm based in Glasgow LEVY MCRAE, which operates for clients in the notorious tax avoidance haven of the Cayman Islands and who also represented shamed former Glasgow City Council Boss & Cocaine addict Steven Purcell to “go after” an anti abuse campaigner named Robert Green. The law firm employed by Angiolini threatened several media outlets with legal action over reporting of the Hollie Greig case and Green’s campaign to out the alleged abusers, while Scottish Ministers further covered up, refusing to disclose who funded the work carried out by law firms on Angiolini’s behalf and that of others linked to accusations in the case.
After further investigations into the prosecution of Robert Green, ordered by the Crown Office under Angiolini’s tenure as Lord Advocate, it later transpired the Crown Office, Police & other public bodies have spent at least £1/2 MILLION of taxpayers money going after the anti abuse campaigner, who was recently found guilty of committing a breach of the peace just because he was ‘handing out leaflets’ asking for an investigation into claims a downs syndrome girl had been abused in Aberdeen.
Curiously, while the Scottish Government adamantly refused to release any information on the controversial recommendation for the former Lord Advocate’s knighthood, hiding behind UK Cabinet Guidance & also using the grounds secrecy was of the utmost importance, a different stance was adopted on another honours issue after accusations were raised of involvement by the First Minister in recommending SNP Party donor Brian Souter for a knighthood.
In the Souter honour case, Dame Angiolini’s Ministerial Complaints Adviser colleague, another former Lord Advocate, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie was brought in to author a report which swiftly exonerated the First Minister and led to lengthy Press Releases from the Scottish Government denying any involvement on Scottish Minister’s part (which no one really believed – Ed)
Lord Fraser of Carmylie is of course widely known for being arrested on an aircraft after an alleged “air rage” incident, reported by SLR HERE
Sources have told Scottish Law Reporter today that the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion has been asked to look into the Scottish Government's refusal to release the information on the honour for the former Lord Advocate.
Profile : Former Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini :
Former Lord Advocate now Dame Elish Angiolini employed Cayman Islands hopping lawyers from Glasgow. 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. Glasgow 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