Justice Committee Convener Christine Grahame is being investigated by Police over election expenses claims CHRISTINE GRAHAME, the Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee is being investigated by the Serious and Organised Crime Division of the Crown Office over allegations made by a former member of Ms Graham’s staff, Mr Mark Hirst, who claims (and has allegedly provided video footage to back up his allegations) that Ms Grahame (67), misused ‘thousands of pounds of Parliamentary funds’ in her subsequently successful election campaign to win the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale seat in the Scottish elections during May 2011.
However, while the Crown Office have confirmed they have received information from the Electoral Commission in relation to a 67-year-old woman and that the information remains under consideration, there is no mention of whether the Lord Advocate is also considering or investigation allegations made by the former member of Ms Grahame’s staff of sectarian remarks allegedly made against Catholic MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.
If the Crown Office do proceed to investigate Ms Grahame over the claims of sectarian abuse against opposition politicians, it may be Ms Grahame may be one of the first to be investigated under the new anti-sectarian legislation backed by the SNP contingent on the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, chaired by Grahame herself.
The allegations of sectarian remarks have raised serious concerns of Ms Grahame’s conduct after the Justice Committee’s SNP members forced through the controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill after messy debates in the Scottish Parliament which features in earlier coverage by Scottish Law Reporter HERE
Scottish Law Reporter recently featured an article HERE on the allegations of ‘anti-catholic’ remarks by Ms Grahame, which were published by Mr Hirst. The accusations, which identify alleged comments made by Ms Graham against now former LibDem msp Mike Rumbles, were published on Mr Hirst’s online blog HOLYROOD CONFESSIONS and remained online for several weeks.
In an article titled “SCOTLANDS SHAME” posted on Mr Hirst’s blog earlier in November, the former employee accuses Christine Grahame of making the remarks during discussions on Margo MacDonald’s End of Life Choices Bill, which Ms Grahame was said to have initially opposed, then changed her mind & supported after the Catholic Church came out strongly against the proposed legislation. As msps including Mr Rumbles on Holyrood’s Health Committee which Grahame chaired at the time raised questions of her position as its Convener & supporter of the proposals, Mr Hirst’s blog, now widely quoted online alleges Grahame’s anger spilled over in the office and into a long diatribe aimed at Rumbles, where she is alleged to have said in reference to Mr Rumbles : “It’s because he’s a f*cking Catholic”.
Mr Hirst also alleged other msps who also happen to be Catholics are reported to have faced more name calling from Grahame, including Tricia Marwick, who defeated Christine Grahame in the contest to be the new Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.
Today the blog has had all its postings removed and can only be viewed via the Google Cache HERE, however a full copy of the content has been obtained by Scottish Law Reporter.
A spokesperson for the Crown Office confirmed to one of Scottish Law Reporter’s journalists earlier today : "The Serious and Organised Crime Division of the Crown Office has received information from the Electoral Commission in relation to a 67-year-old woman. The information remains under consideration."
Today, the Celtic Trust website reported on the story, stating :
Grahame who has the task of seeing the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill through Parliament in the teeth of a totally united opposition from all opposition parties (as well as the Churches, the Football Clubs and legal and academic experts), was accused recently of having anti-Catholic views (see Hirst Allegations) She has, so far, failed to deny these accusations or to take legal action against her accuser. The Justice Secretary has stated that she has ‘robustly defended’ herself but he himself has not provided any details of where and how she has defended herself. Celtic Trust members have asked their MSPs to ask Kenny MacAskill for more details of this robust defence and we will make them public if and when we receive them.
These latest revelations which suggest that the police are taking seriously the allegations of a ‘disgruntled employee’ cast further doubts on the credibility of Christine Grahame and, by inference, on this thoroughly detested and unwanted piece of proposed legislation.
The Scottish Government must take a step back from the precipice at least until Ms Grahame has answered these charges to the satisfaction of the police and the Crown Office. To proceed to force this Bill through against all reason and logic and in the light of these allegations which further taint the whole process of the passage of this Bill might be the most costly piece of bravado which this Government have ever engaged in.
The report from the Daily Mail newspaper :
Daily Mail, Saturday 26 November 2011 By Andrew Picken, Scottish Political Correspondent
A SENIOR Nationalist MSP is under investigation over allegations she used publicly funded workers and equipment on her election campaign. Christine Grahame, convener of the Justice Committee, is being investigated by the Serious and Organised Crime Division of the Crown Office over the claims. It has been alleged that she ordered three of her parliamentary staff to work on the SNP campaign ahead of May's election.
The veteran MSP is also facing allegations she used parliament computers, stationery, stamps and travel expenses worth thousands of pounds in her successful bid to win the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale seat.
The investigation was sparked by a former researcher who was sacked by Miss Grahame. Mark Hirst, who worked for the MSP for seven years before being axed in September, complained to the Electoral Commission about the alleged malpractice. Officials at the elections watch-dog last week passed the complaint to the Crown Office. It is understood the country's prosecution service has now asked the police to interview Mr Hirst about the claims. Secretly recorded video footage and emails, handed to the Crown Office but seen by the Scottish Daily Mail, allegedly show Miss Grahame directing parliament staff to carry out campaign work.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Hirst said: “She said at the declaration that winning this seat was like winning gold at the Olympics; well the evidence I have shows this was the political equivalent of doing that with performance enhancing drugs. 'It was unfair on the other candidates, she cheated - that is the bottom line. “We were all instructed to carry out work for the SNP using parliamentary resources. It might be more widespread I don't know but I know it is wrong. She was taking no chances, she was prepared to do anything to win.”
He continued: “I worked full-time for her and this was not just going on in the short campaign before the election, we are talking back to January. I was instructed to make the 200-mile trip from my home in Dundee to go to the Borders and help with the canvassing and keying in with the SNP database because they could not get the activists to do that. I know the two other staff were doing the same - it was overt political work. And we are not talking about a couple of stamps here and there, it was hundreds of stamps as well as use of thousands of pounds worth of IT equipment.”
A Grown Office spokesman said: “The Serious and Organised Crime Division of the Crown Office has received information from the Electoral Commission in relation to a 67-year-old woman. The information remains under consideration.”
Mr Hirst was suspended on full pay on May 16 when two of Miss Grahame's constituency workers claimed that he was secretly spying on her. He was dismissed for gross misconduct on September 13 but is taking the matter to an employment tribunal.
A spokesman for Miss Grahame said: “This is yet another complaint from a former employee who admits himself that he is disgruntled. The Electoral Commission has said that it does not intend to take any further action in relation to his complaint. "Miss Grahame has provided all organisations with all the information they have required and will continue to do so.”