Nicola Sturgeon and the benefit cheat: how bad is it?

Nicola Sturgeon <em>Picture: Deadline Press & Picture Agency (c)</em>
Nicola Sturgeon Picture: Deadline Press & Picture Agency (c)
Today will be, without doubt, the toughest day of Nicola Sturgeon’s political career. Her ministerial future is on the line and she has become the sole focus of attention at Holyrood.

At issue is the letter of support Ms Sturgeon wrote to a sheriff lobbying on behalf of a serial benefit fraudster.

The Deputy First Minister wrote a letter of support for Abdul Rauf before he was due to be sentenced for defrauding £80,000 from the Department of Work and Pensions.

She referred to Rauf’s crimes, including a previous conviction for stealing £60,000, as “mistakes” and appealed for alternatives to custody for Rauf.

When the story broke yesterday, Ms Sturgeon insisted she had done nothing wrong. On the contrary, she claimed she was duty-bound to represent a constituent.

Labour, though, claimed this was a resigning matter and that the letter showed Ms Sturgeon’s lack of judgement.

Labour MP Ian Davidson said: “This kind of behaviour gives the green light to benefit thieves. Nicola Sturgeon should be ashamed of herself for saying there should be virtually no penalty for people who rob the benefits system.

“When public money is scarce we should not be doing anything to encourage people to defraud the benefits system. People expect politicians to crack down on benefit fraud, not encourage it. People will stare in disbelief at what has happened.”

So who is right, Labour or the SNP? Should Ms Sturgeon resign or, more pertinently, will she have to resign whether she should do so or not?

The first point to consider here is that this is not an isolated incident as far as accusations of lack of judgement is concerned.

As Labour have taken no hesitation to point out, Alex Salmond lobbied the Home Secretary last month for an illegal immigrant facing drugs charges to stay in Scotland.

And just this week both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond have faced intense criticism over their decision to auction off lunches with themselves in the Scottish Parliament restaurant to raise money for party funds.

All of this paints a picture of poor judgment, lack of objectivity and political naivete, none of which would be enough to force a resignation on its own but could easily lead to a resignation of anything more appears in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Ms Sturgeon is facing the toughest day of her political career firstly because she is at the centre of a Holyrood storm with opponents calling for her resignation but also because she has now the entire press pack – with Sunday journalists leading the race – searching for any possible link between her and Rauf.

The SNP insist he is not a party member and has not donated money to the party but he could be a member of Scots Asians for Independence or have family members who are party members. If anything along these lines emerged, then the pressure would intensify on the Deputy First Minister.

If, however, Ms Sturgeon manages to ride out today and, of equal importance, ride out the Sunday papers too, then she will probably survive in her job.

One thing she can be sure of, though, is the support of the First Minister. Mr Salmond may be hopping mad at her judgement in private because it has given the opposition something to beat the Scottish Government with, but he will be fiercely loyal in public.

Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon are close allies but, more than that, the First Minister will fight as hard as he can to prevent his opponents from forcing his deputy out of office.

So, will Ms Sturgeon quit over this? At the moment, she appears able to ride this one out but everything hinges on how this story develops. If there are any more major developments, she may have to go. Either way, we should all know the answer by Sunday morning.

One little twist, though, which is worth keeping an eye on is the use of government special advisers to help Ms Sturgeon clear up this mess.

Senior special advisers were involved last night in briefing the press on what is, ostensibly, a party matter. That is a grey area and the special advisers will probably get away with this even though they appear to have been treading on to this territory.

But what their involvement does is give the opposition the chance to raise this issue at First Minister’s Questions.

If this was purely a party matter for Ms Sturgeon’s Glasgow constituency then Mr Salmond could dodge all the questions he is bound to face today by saying it has nothing to do with him.

However, the use of his government’s special advisers gives the opposition a way of involving the First Minister and his government, bringing the questions into the First Minister’s remit.

The text of Ms Sturgeon’s letter

3rd February 2010

For the Attention of the Court;

MR ABDUL RAUF

I refer to my above named constituent and the case brought against him for benefit fraud.

I have been aware of Mr Rauf’s case since July 2008 when he sought assistance from me after a search warrant was executed at his home by the Department of Work and Pensions and officers from Strathclyde Police. It was clear at that time that he recognised the serious nature of the matter he was facing and that it would be necessary to pay back the money he had obtained unlawfully.

For a number of years Mr Rauf has suffered from poor health mainly associated with his heart; he has a family, including young children aged under ten; and he is heavily involved in his community. All of these aspects of his life have been significantly impacted upon by the mistake he has made.

Mr Rauf has accepted his wrongdoing and has experienced the consequences of it through the effect on his health, the distress caused to his family and the impact on his standing in his community. He has advised me that he has already paid £27,000 of the outstanding balance owed to the Department of Work and Pensions and has said, since he first sought my advice, that he will sell his interest in his property in Edinburgh to settle the remaining balance.

He and his wife are anxious that a custodial sentence may be imposed by the court and of the further affect this will have on Mr Rauf’s health and the impact on family life. I would appeal to the court to take the points raised here into account and consider alternatives to a custodial sentence.

Yours faithfully,

NICOLA STURGEON MSP
Member for Glasgow Govan

  • BT

    Is it it me or is there a wee touch of the race card being played here? Lunchgate revolved around an auction almost exclusively to Asian businessmen. Less than a week later we have the this trivia about an asian benefit cheat recieving a request for a non custodial sentence on health and family grounds.

    Utter utter trivia being pumped up into a major headline grabbing story by Labour’s usual media mouthpieces.

    Are the small n British nationalist supporters of the British Union now pitching for votes by playing at a more sinister type of British Nationalism?

    • alexander

      -1.

      BT, how disingenuous to accuse the Labour party of racism. The cash for access story was about cash for access, not asian people paying cash for access. The Sturgeon scandal is about speaking up for a career criminal, not an asian career criminal.

      You are the one making an issue of race, here. Which is either racist or a shameless attempt at smearing political opponents.

      • BT

        I’m not sure disingenuous has been used appropriately here. You might not like my question raising the relevance of race, but I’m not too sure why that results in your disingenous accusation.

        Unfortunately, and somewhat embarrasingly, there are votes to be had by playing the racist card, would you consider the Labour party too ethical to do this?

    • Kenny Duarte

      You might find when you look Nicola Sturgeon’s bad judgement in question.

  • Brownedov

    What exactly is the role of a consituency MP or MSP in putting forward a case for his or her constituents? We are certainly none the wiser from this article!

    What about representations from the “honourable” member for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath on behalf of a convicted felon? Again, we’re none the wiser.

    • Kenny Duarte

      ‘Discretion is the better part of valour’

      This idiom means that it is often better to think carefully and not act than to do something that may cause problems.

      When you see discretion is the better part of valour you know Nicola Sturgeon is clueless in these things.

      • Brownedov

        Duarte,

        You seem to be suggesting that Ms Sturgeon should have put personal expediency before her duty to her constituents and Mr Gray at FMQs seems to agree with you.

        How very New Labour.

  • Me Bungo Pony

    This is yet another example of the Labour Party whipping up an anti-SNP story which has little merit but distracts people from their own shortcomings and lack of credible policies. A supine Scottish media will, of course, aid them in this.

    The real issue here is not a standard type of letter sent in support of a constituent made by MSPs and MPs all the time. Just ask Gordon Brown who sent a similar letter in support of a constituent who had been discovered growing large amounts of cannabis with intent to supply. If Ms Sturgeon’s letter was the real issue then we should surely be expecting Mr Brown’s resignation soon. But we wont get it, because the real issue here is the continued “unionist establishment” assault on the elected SNP govt on anything and everything the spin doctors can come up with.

    The tactic is to throw as much mud as possible …. no matter how devoid of merit, no matter how little it stands up to close scrutiny (why bother, it wont get it in Scotland), no matter how much it distracts the people from the important issues (indeed, this is to be hoped for) and no matter how much it costs the public purse (see the Calman Commission and the recently set up alcohol commission) …. just throw it and hope some of it sticks and convince people to vote Labour.

    It is cynical and typical of a Labour Party that knows it cannot stand toe to toe with the SNP govt on the real issues so resorts to this form of low politics to undermine it with spin instead. Just as you think Labour cannot get any lower …. 🙁

    • Brownedov

      “scrutiny … why bother, it wont get it in Scotland”

      Too true. The CalMerc’s excellent start seems to reverting to form already.

    • Kenny Duarte

      Zero tolerance was the message Nicola Sturgeon was making out her policy was in this kind of fraud and has gone back on her word in supporting this fraudster. She also has had a hand in the dodgy lunchgate saga. Any mud being made here to be slung is being made by Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. When you see Nicola Sturgeon acted poorly it all makes sense somehow.

      • Me Bungo Pony

        Gordon Brown recently had cannabis upgraded to a class B stating …

        [“But I think people know my view about cannabis and particularly about this lethal version of it, skunk”]

        However, that did not stop him writing a letter to the courts in 1999 on behalf of a constituent found growing the stuff with intent to supply. Hypocrisy it seems.

        In contrast, Ms Sturgeon has not gone against her policy of “zero tolerance” to benefit thieves, as you claim, as she has not asked for her constituent to be admonished. Only that the sentence (ie punishment) reflect his circumstances and the fact he is paying back all the money. I realise you and the Labour Party want to mislead people into believing Ms Sturgeon wants her constituent to escape justice altogether but I’m afraid, as you know, that is a blatant lie 🙁

  • Soosider

    I think this is a very similar tactic as that deployed at Glenrothes and Glasgow North East. Which is to attack the SNP on their Scottish Government/Local Council record and keep the focus on that rather than on matters related to the actual election. It is not about reality it is about perceptions, it is not about policy, it is about getting the message that SNP bad to their own followers. It will almost certainly work, at least in the short term. Labour are looking to shore up their vote in Scotland by trying to ensure that their core vote remains loyal, they do this not by winning policies but creating the perception that the other lot are terrible.
    As regards this matter, it is another actually small matter, an MSP making representation on behalf of a constituent, not a particularly nice one but never the less a constituent. Interesting that the sheriff deferred sentence to allow for medical reports and to give the man the chance to make repayments as he claimed he would do, but is still minded to jail the guy. Cannae people sheriffs, I suspect he would have done this anyway.

    • Me Bungo Pony

      [” It is not about reality it is about perceptions]

      That is exactly what the Labour “campaign” against the SNP is ALL about.

  • Steve

    I may not agree with what Ms Sturgeon did by I back her right to act as a consituancy MSP and make representations as she did. At least she was not directly interferring with the Courts.
    The question has to be asked why Findlay QC leaked the letter which was supposidly confidential?

    An army major returned home snd shot his wife and baby daughter whist they lay in bed. He pled guilty at Court. The judge ajourned the case to consider sentencing. The next day he set the double murderer free. The judge got much critisism for this and was forced to explain himself. He staed that whilst making his deliberations he was phone by ‘the Governement ( conservative) and told to let the man walk free.

    Not much of a stick kicked up about that one.

    Her is an interesting link.

    http://www.thecourier.co.uk/output/2010/02
    11/newsstory14530020t0.asp

    hope that works ok as I am no geek.

    • alexander

      You’re worried about the leak – not the disgraceful actions of the DFM?

      • J. R. Tomlin

        Disgraceful HOW? She listed the facts of the case and suggested CONSIDERING a non-custodial sentence.

        Exactly what is “disgraceful” in that except that it was done by someone in the SNP?

  • Chicmac

    Another consequence of these irrational attacks by the swivel-eyed, frothing at the mouth, U-pack on the SNP, is that it runs the risk of compromising MSPs assistance for constituents for years to come. Not just SNP MSPs but all now may be reluctant to aid any constituent who cannot first prove they are squeaky clean first.

    “Sure I’ll help you, but first I need to get the results of a police records search, a prison record search, a credit status search, proof of national status and two referees (non family) to provide a lifestyle report. Oh and some of these things cost money, so you’ll have to pay, and they may take some time as well.”

    Another notch on the ratchet to a control-freak nazi state. Dubiously legal within EU Human Rights law and most certainly morally bankrupt.

    However if it gets another anti-SNP headline, its got to be worth it right?

    • alexander

      complete nonsense. there was no need to do any special checks on this guy – his criminal career was a matter of public record.

      • Chicmac

        You miss the point entirely.
        If MSPs are going to be subjected to condemnation for aiding constituents of a dubious character, then they will feel compelled to screen constituents who come to them for help before they decide to help them.
        This will lead to delays.
        This will lead to extra costs.
        This will lead to some being refused help because of their ‘character’

        All of these are negative and could be long lived effects.

        The last one is possibly even illegal under EU Human Rights legislation.

        Once again frenzy blindness strikes the Labour leadership with no thought to the consequences beyond scoring a petty party point.

        Just like the publicity those Balmoral paths got due to Gray’s rantings far exceeded that which would have accrued with the original proposals.

        They seem devoid of an extrapolation faculty.

  • brusque

    It is unfortunate that the CalMerc is lowering their promised journalistic standards to accommodate blatant bias against the SNP whilst simultaneously ignoring almost every reference to perceived wrongdoings of Labour Ministers and even the Prime Minister………………..and I’m not talking about petty issues like writing a letter in support of a constituent! I’m talking about warmongers, crippling the country with debt, and then having the gall to spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers money to protect the fraud which has been perpetuated against the taxpayers for the last 13 years. Fraud and outright theft that runs into millions of pounds, and in which Labour MPs and Ministers have led the way, and are now facing prosecution. I wonder if Devine, Morley and co will be writing a letter in their own defence, or if the Prime Minister will be asking for leniency on their behalf?

    I’m pretty sure Michael Martin or Lord Foulkes would be happy to write in support of this “miscarriage of justice” against their “honourable” colleagues.

    The word contempt has been used more by UK journalists (predominantly English ones I have to admit) in the last 18 months, than it was ever used before…………and it wasn’t being used to highlight wrongdoings on the part of Holyrood MSPs; you would think the Scottish Media would be thrilled to report about serious fraud and prosecutions at Westminster: instead of concentrating on minor lapses in political judgement at Holyrood.

    • Stewart Kirkpatrick

      Have you not been following our coverage of the Chilcot inquiry or Jim Devine or Labour tying itself in knots over an independence referendum?

      Ms Sturgeon’s letter is a story, whether you like it or not. And bias does not enter into it.

      Stewart Kirkpatrick
      Editor, The Caledonian Mercury

      • Rev. S. Campbell

        Oh, come on, Stewart.

        “All of this paints a picture of poor judgment, lack of objectivity and political naivete, none of which would be enough to force a resignation on its own but could easily lead to a resignation of anything more appears in the next 24 to 48 hours.”

        You can argue whether that’s correct or incorrect, and you can argue for Hamish’s right to hold those views (as I would too, though I disagree with them), but to claim that they don’t show bias is absolutely absurd. And please note: they show bias on the part of *Hamish Macdonell*, not on the part of the *Caledonian Mercury*, but bias they most assuredly do show.

        And Nicola Sturgeon’s behaviour is only a story because the media has chosen to make it one. She’s done nothing that hundreds and thousands of other MPs haven’t done, and certainly nothing that breaks any rules or laws. The notion that someone who has done neither of those things ought to be considering resignation is farcical.

        • Stewart Kirkpatrick

          Hamish is not saying that Ms Sturgeon has “poor judgment, lack of objectivity and political naivete” but that recent events have painted that picture of her. And that’s fair comment – fair, objective comment. She is a seasoned, sure-footed heavy-hitter. It is surprising – and a story – that she is at the sharp end of these questionable situations.

          This is not media flam. This issue and lunchgate are bona fide stories. They do raise genuine questions about the actions of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. We’d be derelict in our duty as journalists not to write about them.

          • Rev. S. Campbell

            “Hamish is not saying that Ms Sturgeon has “poor judgment, lack of objectivity and political naivete” but that recent events have painted that picture of her.”

            They haven’t, though. Events don’t paint pictures, journalists do. Events just sit there and happen, and wait to be interpreted/spun according to the view of the reporter.

            In what possible way, for example, could her actions be reasonably held to show a “lack of objectivity”? That would imply subjectivity, would it not? And it’s hard to see how Ms Sturgeon’s actions in any recent regard display bias, prejudice or partiality. What conceivable benefit was there for the SNP to gain by her writing that letter?

            Once again – the CalMerc’s reporters are all human beings, and as such are inherently and unavoidably biased, as we all are. There’s nothing wrong with that, and all a reasonable person can ask is that there’s a balance of views on the staff, which there seems to be. But it’s self-defeating and slightly embarrassing to try to claim that Mr Macdonell isn’t presenting a highly coloured depiction of this situation. I’m all for standing up for your journalists, and for Hamish’s right to be anti-SNP if he likes. But it’d be nice if a spade admitted being a spade.

          • Roibert a Briuis

            Questionable situation!!!

            Now that sounds like bias Stuart

            How about some investigative journalism? How many other MPs/MSP have done this in the past? As to fund raising the SNP are squeaky clean compared to the others also i believe that NO lunches have actually taken place mmmmmmm.

            But then you have Hamish and his mindset so until you can have independently minded journalist(s) i guess you have to work with what you have.

            THE STORY is about the three other parties behaving like opportunistic lemmings – should you not be having a go at them for their lack of serious politics/input into the running of Scotland and how to get out of the mess that the saviour of the world and the banks has dragged us into. It would be nice if they could providing some genuine opposition and even perhaps (dont hold your breath now)consensual grown up politics that benefit their constituents the Scottish people. BUT then they ARE London based parties so there is no hope of that until we are independent and we have real Scottish based parties. How about some thought provoking articles on how things could be not just jumping on the ‘news’ bandwagon and reporting NON Events. Assuming you are Scottish i might even be able to understand a positive bias to the SNP and independence as the Caledonian Mercury looks like independence from the Biased Broadcasting Corporation as well as the biased lets kill more trees Scottish and UK ‘papers’ no point is adding news as almost anything political is just a reprint of a NU LIEbour press release. So since you seem to be Independent and Scottish – a bias to Scottish Independence would be both welcome and understandable.

      • Soosider

        fair comment Stewart, but just a little bit more analysis would be appreciated and assist people separate out the spin from the reality of this story.

      • Bill Wallace

        Dear Ed

        Is it a story? Is it normal business rather than actual interference?

        Moreover, since MPs can pay back fraud and escape custodial sentences, then surely if the man is paying back then a non-custodial sentence can be considered. it may be rejected, but it is, surely, an option as sanctioned by the Lords and Westminster

      • Chicmac

        I am no journalist, but some questions which immediately spring to mind, which, in the interest of balance, I would ask of Labour party spokespersons are:

        Aren’t all MSPs obliged to aid their constituents under parliamentary protocol?

        Should a Labour MSPs refuse to help a convicted constituent?

        If yes, was Gordon Brown wrong to do so?

        Doesn’t this attack on the SNP compromise the future aiding of constituents by all MSPs?

        How aqueaky clean does a constituent have to be before their request for assistance is granted by an MSP?

        Who pays for the required record checks and character assessment of the constituent, the government or the constituent?

        What will be the threshold which will allow the MSP to assist?

        Will the Labour party be suggesting threshold limits for assistance?

        How does this square with EU Human Rights legislation?

        I don’t see any of those questions being asked of Labour, until they are, how can an article be balanced?

  • Roibert a Briuis

    Surely this is a bit like a lawyer/QC who defends his client even though they may have committed the most heinous of crimes. Not having read the letter one does not know if she knew this man personally ie was it a character reference or simply stating some facts about his situation. I have to say he sounds like a totally unpleasant dishonest fellow but then i think something similar about the our Prime Mentalist and the grey man and most of the LIEbour MP/MSP’s with one or two exceptions – so were I an MP or MSP and one of them were my constituents i suppose i would be duty bound to help them stay out of jail even though i personally think hanging is too good for them – this particular miscreant missed his vocation he should have become a cheating LIEbour MP where pocketing shed loads of our money that has absolutely nothing to do with their job as an MP is ‘within the rules’:-(.

    • Rev. S. Campbell

      “Surely this is a bit like a lawyer/QC who defends his client even though they may have committed the most heinous of crimes. ”

      It’s PRECISELY like that. Lawyers aren’t obliged to take on any particular case either, but they do so because it’s their job and everyone deserves to have the right to a defence. It is an MSP’s job to act on behalf of their constituents, and it’s the court’s job to decide whether people are innocent or guilty, and then to decide what sentence should be passed. Nicola Sturgeon did not attempt to use her governmental power to interfere with that job in any way, she merely made *representations* – as she or anyone else is fully legally entitled to do – in her capacity as the person’s Parliamentary *representative*. The clue is in the word.

    • Bill Wallace

      I believe the rules are that if the advocate KNOWS the person is guilty, that they have said “I am guilty”, then the only action the advocate can take is to advise the person to plead guilty and then work to maybe plead mitigation.

      If the person says “I am guilty but I plan to plead not guilty” then the Advocate has a duty to withdraw from thecase, as ultimately the advocate is an officer of the court

      • Roibert a Briuis

        Yes i fully understand that……………however was this not actually what she did as he had been found guilty and she was providing info to the court so the judgement/sentence was taken knowing all the facts.

        The point i was making and AS made at FMQ was you dont pick and chose your constituents and you have a duty to represent them without prejudice ……that is actually why you are an MP/MSP Sadly that idea has been lost with the whips and voting fodder party system – it would appear that SNP MP’s/MPS’s are free to act in the best interests of their constituents and not really just be on message puppets something the others seem unable to comprehend.

        • Bill Wallace

          You said the lawyer and the MSP situations were analogous.

          They are not.

          The lawyer, after sentencing has to then argue mitigation, from that they can bring in character references and submissions. In this case a submission was sought from Miss Sturgeon.

          Her suggestion appears to be since that money was being paid back and there were family issues perhaps sentencing might not be custodial but could go down another route.

          It is still the lawyer’s task to decide whether or not to use this. That Miss Sturgeon gave a letter despite having to deal with Donald Findlay, who is not likely to be a political ally, speaks volumes to her credit.

          • Roibert a Briuis

            Pure diversionary tactics and total hypocrisy from the LIEbour party and that grey man as well as the CONservatives and Bella And as to Nichol Stevens was he not at the fiddle with a property in Edinburgh ‘all within the rules of course’ How many MP’s just paid stolen money back and walked away saying it was within the rules? 52% of the MP’s were at the fiddle and three LIEbour MPs were charged with fraud and they still remain MP’s and will still get their pensions and most probably their resettlement moneys and it was only belatedly that the whip was withdrawn from them. Did you watch Jim Devine on CH4 i wonder if our Prime Mentalist will give him a reference (he has form giving court references to criminals – so surely he should help one of his fellow fiddlers) for sure after that television performance Jim Devine needs some help to stay out of jail. And yes i know the LIEbour party lawyers are helping – totally unrelated to these three being LIEbour party MP’s of course – just a coincidence and working for free in the interest of justice – aye right!!!

  • Nautilus

    Nicola Sturgeon’s action was made as a constituency MSP – not as her other role as Health Minister. As such, it is a constituency matter, not a ministerial one. No one has criticised her running of the Scottish National Health Service. Indeed, so popular is she in this post, that any move by Scottish Labour to force her from office would be shooting themselves in the foot.

    I know very little about the details of this case, thanks to Gordon Brewer’s ill-mannered talking over the SNP spokesperson’s reply to his questions last night.

    The little I do know is that the constituent admitted the fraud and has offered to make good the loss to the benefits office. She was not asking the court for leniency, but for another form of punishment on health grounds – a constituency MSP’s duty, surely.

    • Mike MacKinnon

      I agree totally. I also agree that this IS a story! Now whether this will run and run will depend on Nicola and Eck. If Eck can demolish this at FMQs, it’s dead.

  • Lately, the Labour party (aided and abetted by their propaganda wing, the compliant MSM) seem intent on bringing the Scottish Parliament into disrepute, apparently cutting off their nose despite their face. Could it be that they are regretting Devolution and are setting up the right conditions to allow their incoming Tory brethren to do what they would secretly really like to do and wind the clock back?

  • J Hunter

    Another non-story from the New Labour machine as it spins out of control.

    The fact is the SNP weren’t involved in the Westminster expenses scandal, so Labour are spinning like Malcolm Tucker on acid trying to fling some sort of scandal at them. So far nothings stuck.

    You’d think they would be trying to shy away from the politics of scandal and corruption…

  • Ringan Redheugh

    But all of you who so disparage this story would be howling like rabid wolves if this were a Labour or Tory politician! At least have the frankness to admit that. Is anyone on this site capable of unpartisan comments? If the SNP ordered all of us to permanently wear tammies and get Wully Wallace tattoos would you all seek to justify the decision and lambast anyone who even reported on, never mind criticised, it?

    And, as you will all jump to the same mind-numbingly inevitable conclusion, no I’m not one of your “Brit nats”. Realise that real independence requires independence of thought.

    • Rev. S. Campbell

      “But all of you who so disparage this story would be howling like rabid wolves if this were a Labour or Tory politician!”

      Don’t tell me what I would and wouldn’t be doing. The SNP have done things wrong and there are plenty of us sane and reasonable SNP-inclined people out here who will admit that when it happens. (I was disappointed to see them cave in over the Edinburgh trams, for example, and to not even attempt to bring forward the local income tax bill.)

      The fact is that this is a total non-story. Nicola Sturgeon broke no laws and no rules and no guidelines. She simply did her job as a constituency MP.

    • Roibert a Briuis

      Yes but the journalists dont understand independent thought. In fact having independent though without bias requires a very discriminating mind set. Can i say typical of ‘Scottish’ engineers and not journalists. I want independence yes – and no i dont think the SNP are all good or all bad and i know that if/when we get independence then we probably will get some new Scottish parties from out of what was the SNP. Then for sure Scotland and Scottish constituents should be the focus of their policies and actions to my mind that can only make things better for the people of Scotland a desire i seem to share with AS and the SNP

    • Roibert a Briuis

      OH NO – this story would quickly vanish if it were something like using council facilities and money to support your local LIEbour party. OR the voting records from a rather surprising win for the LIEbour party at the Glenrothes by-election going missing.

      You have a strange mindset – you have no idea what i or any other think or how we would react – you are taking how you would react and assuming that this is how others would react – never a good idea. As to jumping to conclusions i think this is what you did – i do hope the gun was unloaded.

      And your further comments are just too silly to comment on apart of course for independent thought – something that is almost impossible to do in most circumstances except professionally when you use inherent or trained skills to attempt to detach yourself from personal prejudices. We are all coloured by circumstances, life, events, tragedies and successes and with the WWW now available to all independent thought on almost any topic is a vanishing quality. There is nothing wrong with the ability to look at a situation and evaluate it – come to a conclusion and adopt a position – even debate it here or elsewhere – that is not inferior to this utopian idea of independent thought.

      • Ringan Redheugh

        “having independent though (sic) without bias requires a very discriminating mind set”

        “independent thought – something that is almost impossible to do in most circumstances except professionally when you use inherent or trained skills to attempt to detach yourself from personal prejudices”

        The fact that these comments appear to be opprobrious is quite telling. Is it so wrong to bring a discriminating mind set to our analysis of politics? Or perhaps it is “just too silly” to try to detach yourself from personal prejudice when dealing with matters of social, constitutional and international policy.

        Should politics really be about relinquishing your own independent reason and towing a party line with a zeal that is blind to fairness and hypocrisy alike? Pick a party and pick a fight with anyone who fails in their absolute and unquestioning support of it at all times? And of course harangue the media if they don’t concur.

        These often seem be the dominant sentiments here but I can’t think this is the best way to proceed.

        • J. R. Tomlin

          For someone who made demeaning referrals in his first post to “requiring Wully Wallace tattoos” you don’t show enough independent reason and do WAY too much towing of a cyberbrit party line to throw in mud, friend.

          And let’s take a LOOK at exactly what Ms. Sturgeon did wrong:

          From the Code of conduct for MSPs:
          “SECTION 8: ENGAGEMENT AND LIAISON WITH CONSTITUENTS

          8.1 Dealing with individual constituents’ cases

          8.1.1 Every constituent is represented by one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs. It is expected that each member will take on a case when approached although it is recognised that there may be legitimate reasons for a member to decline a constituent’s case in certain circumstances, for example, where a constituent requests an MSP to take inappropriate action, or if that case seeks action which would represent a conflict of interest with existing casework or is contrary to the member’s political beliefs. If so, the member would ordinarily be expected to inform the constituent that the member is not taking up the case….”

          So she did exactly what she is supposed to do according to the MSP Code of Conduct and “took on a case when approached”. She did not deny the man’s wrong doing. She merely listed certain considerations and recommended CONSIDERING (ONLY considering) a non-custodial sentence.

          What is HIGHLY questionable is Mr. Iain Gray stating IN FULL VIEW OF PARLIAMENT that Labour MSPs as a matter of course would NOT abide by the Code of Conduct!

          • Ringan Redheugh

            I haven’t once suggested that Ms Sturgeon has done anything wrong. The reference to Wully Wallace tattoos was a facetious way of indicating that some people will tow the party line regardless. It seems that humour, as well as even-handedness, is out of the question.

            It is hardly surprising that the media have chosen to cover this story. They would have done so of any politician from any party. I wonder if it would have attracted quite as many cries of outrage on this site if it had concerned an MSP from another party. I frankly doubt it.

            I merely point out that whining every time any criticism is made of anyone from the party that you have chosen to support is not conducive to constructive political debate. Neither, incidently, is labelling anyone with whom you disagree “cyberbrit”, whatever that means. “Mind-numbingly inevitable” I believe was the phrase above. How disappointing to be proven right.

  • brusque

    Incidentally, why are my comments “awaiting moderation”; surely it is not because I’ve been critical? That doesn’t bode well for future comments, especially with a General Election coming up and desperate Unionist parties relying on the Scottish Media to aid their quest to bury anything remotely like bad news in reference to them!

    • Stewart Kirkpatrick

      There are many reasons why some comments have to be pre-moderated. Inserting pro-Unionist/Nationalist/Sagittarian bias is not one of them…

      I’ve got no problems with comments critical of the Caledonian Mercury at all. Your views (well, everybody’s, not just Brusque’s) are the lifeblood of our business.

      Stewart Kirkpatrick
      Editor, The Caledonian Mercury

      • brusque

        Thanks Stewart, I just wondered. I’ve never used profanity, and my cynicism about a journalist’s agenda are not concealed in any way, so I thought it was odd that my comments should require moderation….I’m going on the assumption that one, or more than one, of the words I used was a “trigger” word?

        It would be helpful to know which one(s) so that I don’t repeat that error:-)

  • Orrin Jim

    There is no fraud on Nicola Sturgeon’s part, unlike the four MP’s all loyal honest unionists,3 of which are by pure chance the liebour party.

    Then their was Tony/Cherrie Blair house dealings ect, ect.

    Typical Double standards one thinks

  • Spagan

    Quite amazing the level of scrutiny this is getting.
    Was it not newsworthy when GB Brown was pleading for a local drug dealer?
    Did the drug dealer have any previous?
    MPs, MSPs – even councillors are all asked to write wee pleas in support of individuals.
    The last thing the overcrowded prisons need are folk like this old crook. His assetts should be sold off and made to recompense and pay a substantial fine on top.
    Why on earth should he be given free B&B in one of HMPs?
    Hamish was almost wetting himself with excitement on the telly just now.
    Wish the Scottish media could get as het up over some of the major issues of the day.
    Some hope!
    Slainte Mhor

  • Alibi

    To me, this appears to be a made up story. I don’t criticise Stewart for covering it, but it’s only a big story because the unionist sections of the media are trying to make it one.

    I’d suggest that some journalistic research should be done and as soon as a Labour MP or MSP is found to have written a similar reference for an accused person, the story is dead. labour surely aren’t stupid enough to shoot themselves in the foot yet again, are they?

    Now, what was that someone mentioned about Gordon Brown and cannabis?

    FWIW, I don’t think MSPs should be writing references for their constituents except in exceptional circumstances. most times, they will know nothing about them, so why give them a reference?

  • James

    To give the Labour party its due, it is doing a sterling job at setting the (overwhelmingly anti-SNP) media agenda in Scotland.

    But then again it does have its lacky reporters waiting with baited breath for the next media handout and directive.

    I often find it astonishing that reporters do not display a greater sense of principle whereby they will not report on outright tosh.

    There seems to be a mentality of ‘Yes, we know it is outright tosh, but we have given the other party a right to reply and it is a story – even though the initial accusation is nonsense’.

    I read with interest some non-entity Labour MSP saying he had never heard of anything so scandalous as ‘lunchgate’.

    Now, surely such bizarre haverings should be treated by contempt by a reporter of principle. At the point of utterance, the MSP should have been questioned continually until he explained his remark.

    Given we’ve had MPs charged with fraud, duck moats on expenses, etc, etc – did he REALLY want to go public with his comment that this was the most scandalous thing he had heard of in politics?

    His comment should have been exposed by the reporter for the utter nonsense it was – not treated as some sort of ‘evidence’ to futher what in the grand scheme of things should rank as 2/10 in terms of significance within the public domain.

  • Stewart Kirkpatrick

    Dear all,

    Hamish has added the full text of Ms Sturgeon’s letter to the end of his story, which will hopefully help inform your judgments about her actions.

    Stewart Kirkpatrick
    Editor, The Caledonian Mercury

    • Gavin Greig

      Thanks for this responsiveness – somewhere an online newspaper can win over the printed ones.

    • brusque

      By the way Stewart, I have indeed read those other articles you directed my attention to.

      However, I still don’t think you can compare the benign “Labour in a guddle over independence referendum” headline with even the “Nicola Sturgeon and the benefit cheat. How bad is it?” headline here.

      Only the most dullwitted would miss the fact that the first line in the Nicola Sturgeon headline is implying some sort of liaison with Rauf. And the second sentence tells us immediately that Hamish thinks it is bad, and wonders just HOW bad.

      And just to try to get some balance here, I have always despised the kind of journalism which attempts to “dumb down” the readership and treats us all as though we are typical Sun readers. And I feel the same regardless of who, or which political persuasion, the headline is referring to.

    • Bill Wallace

      Well done you

      Make it look less of a story mind

      The real story is in the spin. Perhaps one of your guys can look at “Is there a balance in the media in Scotland”

      Perhaps you might say “Yes there is” and provide evidence that has all the Cybernats going “Jings’ i never considered that, maybe I was wrong”

      On the other hand ….

    • Thank you Mr. Kirkpatrick.

      This morning I was thinking “Hmm, seems you slipped up, Nicola. I’m disappointed in you”.

      Now I am thinking “Fair enough, I wouldn’t have expected anything else”.

      These tactics are backfiring on the media. A year ago I, rather naively, trusted a fair degree of what they came away with. Now, I question everything. And I am not alone.

    • Spagan

      Thanks Stewart
      Just because we are paranoid – doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get us!!
      As others have said – there is no reference in Ms Sturgeon’s letter – to your Hamish’s portrayal – i.e. – referred to Rauf’s crimes, including a previous conviction for stealing £60,000, as “mistakes”.
      When a journalist uses quotation marks – as per “mistakes”, does this mean that it is an exact quote – or just something he dreamt up?
      Your on-line paper is good – but if Hamish wants to print the press releases of other parties, please stop him!
      Moran taing agus Slainte Mhor

  • Alibi

    Having now seen Ms Sturgeon’s letter, I am even more convinced that this is a non-story.

    • James

      Could not agree more. She isn’t asking for the guy NOT to be jailed – simply that the court CONSIDERS alternatives.

      From her point of view, if the court CONSIDERS alternatives but still jails him – job done! Doubt she’ll shed a tear over it, yet she’ll have written a pretty non-commital letter on a constituent’s behalf.

      How about the CalMac setting its own agenda rather than following suit?

      Wonder if you’ll answer this one Stewart… Taking this story out of the equation, and just considering this in general terms, do you believe there is an institutional bias within the Scottish media (owners?) which is against independence and pro unionism?

      Or do you think the Scottish media industry is inherently impartial?

  • ratzo

    Seems a fair report from Hamish. There’s obviously an issue about the lame Britnat attempt to build a narrative about judgement; and his point about how this might move beyond a constituency issue to a broader one on account of the involvement of special advisers was useful. And the quotation from the NuLab gimp was a pointed reminder of the wacky heights of everyday Unionist hysteria, and outright fear of the SNP.

  • Sean Allan

    “I would appeal to the court to take the points raised here into account and consider alternatives to a custodial sentence.
    Yours faithfully,

    NICOLA STURGEON MSP
    Member for Glasgow Govan”

    Personally asking the court to effectively spare this man jail goes beyond the role of a constituency MSP in my opinion.

    Nicola Sturgeon’s integrity and judgement should indeed be questioned. She did more than make the court aware of the mitigatng circumstances of her constituant, she has pleaded to the court that he be excused from a custodial sentence.

    If her ability and judgement as a constituency MSP are open to question, it is only sheer common sense that her abilities as a minister come under scrutiny also!

    • J. R. Tomlin

      No, she did not. She asked that a non-custodial sentence be “considered”, nothing more.

      • Sean Allan

        So she was “teaching her granny to suck eggs then?” I doubt that very much.

        She knew full well that the court would consider all available options, there was no need for her to ask it to.

        Her intention, clearly and obviously, was asking the court not to jail him.

  • ratzo

    In the meantime there are stories in the real world – like Geoff Hoon standing down from Westminster, having built a property empire worth £1.7 million after “flipping” his second-home designation between various taxpayer-funded properties, while avoiding paying capital gains tax on his London property.

  • A_Scottish_Voice

    I’ve read the letter and I can’t see what all the fuss is about.

    And I would have come to that conclusion no matter what person or party had written it.

  • Astonished

    I think the report is fair. The bias lies in the appalling lack of scrutiny of any labour politico.

    Come on Mr Kirkpatrick strike a blow for journalism. How about a story about how much Mr Marshall scammed ? And about why no one is willing to write about it ? Where is he now ?

    Finally I think the letter shows that Ms Sturgeon did the right thing on behalf of a constituent. And that in the long run will prove its worth.

  • Angus Jura

    As a solicitor, Ms Sturgeon would, no doubt, have been more circumspect in her judgement.As a constituency MSP,she is in the horns of a dilemma; does she refuse to represent her constituency because he is a convicted felon (remember, under Huiman Rights legislation, priisoners are claiming the right to vote to elect their consituency MSP/MP) or does she try to help a consitiuent with a problem, which is what shew was elected to do. I would be interested what Mr Gray woud have done if confronted with a similar situation.
    I also echo the point made by a previous contributor that I find it strange that the two main ‘diversions’ to have hit the Scottish government over the past 2 weeks have involved the Scots-Asian community, three if you include the Osama Saed affair of a few weeks ago. Who tipped the press off, I wonder? Perhaps Mr S should be more careful in his choice of friends.

  • Steve

    Funny I would have thought that the story of the day would be abour Labour trying to withhold evidence that a Brittish subject was tortured and that our secret services were involved or at least knew about it. It appears that the Brittish Governemnt brok e the law when asking judges to water down their comments.

  • Deasún

    I don’t mean to be pedantic but these two statements don’t square:-

    From your report: “She referred to Rauf’s crimes, including a previous conviction for stealing £60,000, as “mistakes” and appealed for alternatives to custody for Rauf.”

    From NS’s letter: “For a number of years Mr Rauf has suffered from poor health mainly associated with his heart; he has a family, including young children aged under ten; and he is heavily involved in his community. All of these aspects of his life have been significantly impacted upon by the mistake he has made.”

    So in your report, there are a catalogue of crimes to which she referred (and by implication would have been actively aware of, not least the sum of money) but in her letter she talks only of this one incident. That is not an academic difference. Your report implies that she is an apologist for serial crimes whereas the text of her letter suggests more of a standard reply.

    Thank you for publishing the full text – it is much less sensationalist.

    • James

      Publishing the full text – bit of an own goal?

      Or was the real own goal being carried away with the mainstream media in the first place?

  • lets have the truth

    Requesting the help of your MP/MSP must be close to the last effort of a UK Subject prior to the final acceptance of an official decision.
    I`ve been unfairly locked-up with only an appeal to my MP left before suicide.
    All politicians receive lots of mail from prisoners. Letters to MP/MSPs and discovering God are principal prison activities.
    Every MSP should be asked to supply statistics of correspondence with convicted persons. `How many a year? How many were awarded letters of support?`

  • Helena Brown

    May I say that it is a pity that not all the Scottish Press and Broadcasters are being as even handed as the CM. All we hear is of Nicola Sturgeon and the Benefit Cheat. Shame that most of the true benefit cheats are residing in comfort in Westminster with no chance of conviction.

  • Jock Tamson

    Something is puzzling me and I hope someone can furnish some answers.

    Sentence has been deferred until May and yet this letter is made public and turned into a political skirmish.

    Is my logic missing something here? Or is this normal in the Scottish legal system?

    • Cyril Matvech

      it has been normal for Labour Gray (and his illegal funding cabal) to jump the gun over leaked documents such as he did with a secret Home-office leaked letter about the Balmoral pathways. We still have silence from the Home office about the breaches of British security and they still insist Gray is the best man for the job. Lol.

  • Dr Goose

    I am not an SNP voter. I have read the text of the letter and I can’t say it reflects that badly on Nicola. She wasn’t seeking to force a decision from the court, only to make a representation on behalf of a constituent. I’d hope my MSP would do the same for me in the circumstances.

    Anyone who reads a racial element into this, in whatever direction, really needs to grow up.

  • Peter

    What is now clear is that ONLY SNP MP/MSP’s will represent all of their constituents.

    I heard Elmer state that neither he nor any labour member would have acted in the same situation.

    Nice to know that your elected representative will choose wheatehr or not to do their job based on the possible reaction in the media or what other political parties would say.
    That’s a vote loser if ever there was one. Vote for us and we’ll ignore you.

    This is a non-story kept alive by slavering brit-nats. Like former labour spin doctor P Mcmahon on radio 5 just now painting the SNP government as in crisis and telling outright lies about the events of FMQ’s. Funny that he wasn’t named as a creature of the labour party informing listeners that he was in no way an impartial observer.

  • Peter

    The BBBC just repeted the lies on the news this instant. She wrote to ask that he be spared prison. No she didn’t. Just asked that every possible sentence be considered.

    They are not getting my labour propaganda tax anymore. Done. Finished. Over.

  • lets have the truth

    Requesting the help of your MP/MSP must be close to the last effort of a UK Subject prior to the final acceptance of an official decision.
    All politicians receive lots of mail from the convicted. Letters to MP/MSPs and discovering God are principal prison activities.
    Every MSP should be asked to supply statistics of correspondence with convicted persons. `How many a year? How many were awarded letters of support?`

  • ratzo

    FMQs on this issue today – The unionists made a ridiculous mistake in all of them asking virtually the same question.

    It just meant that Salmond massacred them over and over again with the same technical answer. That sheer repetition made Nicola’s case appear unassailable and it looks to have killed the issue there and then. Iain Gray fared appallingly but Tavish Scott sounded as ever like a sniggering schoolboy. Change of leader for both these parties must be on the cards I’d say.

    • Cyril Matvech

      If they had been asked to vote on the issue, Tavish would have abstained/don’t know again. That is abuse of his constituents.

  • Cyril Matvech

    It is clear that Labour wish to introduce penalties by Ministerial order. Did Tony Blair write for leniency of the NatWest fraudsters? So much for Labour’s worthless pleas for higher standard in politics. There are thousands of cases where Labour politicians have written to courts, inquiries and council investigations on behalf of their constituents, but mostly for some personal reason.

  • Gary Inserik

    Don’t shoot the messenger! Mr Kirkpatrick is doing his best to maintain balance and integrity. Lets not bring the nasty and odious style of “debate” across from the Scotsman!

    I’m sure Mr Krkpatrick will get round to printing articles equal to this about members of other political parties.

    In the mean time, we have Rab McNeil offering almost unbiased withering comment on the usual Thursday afternoon stramash in the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament!

  • Danny Clark

    I’ve just read the letter and I’m at a complete loss to see what she has done wrong.The day after the British government is found to have covered up torture of a British citizen this is what gets Scottish journalists going.And the SNP are accused of being insular.
    Was it a big story when Gordon Brown wrote a letter for his constituant,I doubt it.
    And I agree there is no racial element and while at times the SNP have been slow to get into the gutter to take on new labour I am glad to see that so far they haven’t tried to make a racist case out of what new labour are doing.
    So again lets see some good journalisim, follow the story up, ask Iain Gray why its OK for Gordon Brown to do this for a constituant but not Nicola Sturgeon and don’t let Gray off the hook lets see him justify one but not the other.
    There is an attempt to overshadow absolutely evrything the parliament is trying to do by calling in the media to every nonsense story .I’m begining to think its worse than Westminster and that is really saying something.

  • Sheumais

    Are those who are predisposed to favour the SNP really sure there is merit in complaining about the spin of other parties?

  • obiter

    There is a distinction between a character reference and a plea in mitigation to consider an alternative to imprisonment.

    If the last two sentences of NS’s letter had been omitted then she was simply providing a character reference – and not a very fulsome one at that. But she goes further and comments on the strain on the family coupled with a request to consider an alternative to imprisonment. Both matters are hardly unique or complex and can be well made in court by the accused’s lawyer.

    By failing to understand where a reference ends and a plea in mitigation begins, Nicola Sturgeon has expressed a view on an appropriate disposal to the court. No member of a government should do that and when and if they do – it should be robustly ignored by the courts. Any attempt to influence the outcome of any case – criminal or civil – by a member of either the Westminster or Holyrood governments is at best an error of judgement.

  • Jock Tamson

    Just heard FMQs. Hilarious.

    Collusion or coincidence? Even the constituency questions tended towards the Sturgeon portfolio.

    This seems to reflect the Labour(Scotland) tactic of targeting a single government figure in an attempt to bring them down. Just for the sake of it, I would suggest, as they don’t appear to have much else to offer.

  • Dubbieside

    The comments from Danny Clark re a follow up to this story and the justification from Iain Gray is a very sensible one.

    Will the Calmerc do it and justify Mr Kirkpatricks claims of even handedness?

    Doubtful, but we can live in hope.

    • James

      We are indeed waiting for proof of even-handness… CalMac?

    • Danny Clark

      Exactly,we want to see proactive journalisim rather than reactive.Anyone can sit and wait on the new labour spin doctors putting out their press release then commenting on it and thats whats happening.
      In the NE the Evening Express could get rid of their political editor and just let Richard Baker (New Labour) and Mike Rumbles (lib) phone in their copy.
      So come on follow up their comments look a bit closer, did Lord Watson get any character references when he was caught playing with matches,did Lord George Foulkes get any a few years ago when he fell down in London.

      • hunter

        Could not agree more Danny the press have no backbone in the North East and rely on pre prepared statements that a six former could replicate. Mind you Richard Baker must be one of the most untalented MSPS in the parliament wih his vacuous and reactive statemnets on all things.

  • Democracy has taken another blow in 21st century Scotland .We elect people to be our MP – MSP – Councelor.To act on our behalf in a ‘ Democratic Society ‘ now we have an admission from one MSP that he would be judge & jury on any constituent who comes seeking help in his constituency,is this the ‘Labour party in Scotland’official line or is this just an isolated case in IAIN GRAY MSP, constituency?

  • KP

    I thought that the idea was that she represents her constituents in Parliament, not in court.

  • James

    My post about some of CalMac’s reporters having a track record for partizanship was deleted for some reason!?

  • livilion

    Watched Hamish interviewed by Glenn Campbell at Holyrood after FMQs and he said he couldn’t find any other examples of MSPs representing constituents this way, but only last month Sturgeon’s boss, the First Minister himself, was taken to task by M Curran for just that when Alex Salmond personally intervened to help keep an illegal immigrant, charged with serious drugs offences and who had evaded the authorities, here in Scotland.

    Hamish also seemed to think that an individual in Gordon Brown’s constiuency on drugs charges was worthy of defence by his Westminster MP, the UK chancellor, as this was of a different magnitude to this guy’s crimes.
    Pardon my ignorance but is there such a thing as only a wee bit guilty in the eyes of the Law?
    Are parliamentarians given a sliding scale of criminality when they are sworn into office that they can consult when approached by constituents looking for help in mitigating their sentences being handed down by the courts?

  • John MacLeod

    I’m left rather mystified as to why the CM has run with this story.

    1. I’ve read and re-read what Nicola Sturgeon actually wrote. All sorts of persons with a status in the community are approached frequently to make submissions on behalf of individuals whose actions they cannot defend. It does not seem to me that Nicola Sturgeon has in any way condoned the actions of the individual in question, either explicitly or implictly.

    2. Nicola Sturgeon is a MSP. A constituent has laid his problem before her in her capacity as his MSP. It is surely her responsibility to assist him in bringing such matters as she can with due propriety express in his interest before the court.

    3. I am unfamiliar with the full details of the rules of sub judice, but the spirit of such rules is clear. The individual at the heart of this matter is guilty, but unsentenced. Is it really deemed appropriate for such a matter to be treated in this way before sentencing has been done? Is there not an element of political pressure with regard to the sentence to be imposed?

    4. Are we now to understand that henceforth we will not be able to approach Labour, Conservative or Lib-Dem MSPs or MPs if we are “in trouble with the law?” I am thankful that when I had some major difficulties as a result of false allegations against me I got very considerable help from my MSP and MP; both of them, as it happens, Lib-Dems, and to both of them I am extremely grateful.

    5. It does appear that the matter of race is just under the surface here. Who’s exploiting it is an interesting question, but it’s fascinating to see a significant proportion of the so-called “immigrant” community turning to the SNP rather than to the other major parties. It does make it rather difficult for Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dems to use the racist tag against the SNP any more, doesn’t it?

  • J. R. Tomlin

    I have no problem with the stooshie being covered, but, frankly, the article is poorly written. Poor job, Mr Kirkpatrick, letting this through.

    In spite of your attempts, you can not really justify blatant spin such as: All of this paints a picture of poor judgment, lack of objectivity and political naivete…

    What it paints is Mr. Macdonald’s political bias. While he has every right to that bias, being human, you need to see that it stays OUT of his articles.

    This is not up to your usual stardards.

  • Quite frankly Hamish’s reporting on this story was a factual representation of what has happened, good on him. To those out there that object to any reporting of complaints against the SNP should take the Scottish chip of their shoulder! Don’t shoot the messenger.

    I fully agree that the interogation on the BBC last night was incredibly biased against Nicola Sturgeon, however the C.M. is not to blame for that.

    I do not think Nicola Sturgeon should resign, I do think it right she should give account as to why she should give a character reference to some one she does not in any way know, surely to give some one a reference you have to know them a little more that the short time they may visit you at a surgery.

    I can understand Mr Rauf’s defence team putting up the points that N.Sturgeon put, politicians deal in politics, lawers deal in law, the law courts should be left to the judiciary. Prison should be their for criminals that pose a threat to society, if a fraudster can be made to pay back there fraudulent gain with costs and a fine then surely our overburdened prisons should not be further burdened. I wonder if the SNP supporters will aggree this about the labour MP’s facing trial?

    Finally I lay my cards down I have voted labour and SNP in the past, never have I voted Tory or the kid on labour party the lib dems. In the future who knows other than I will never vote Tory, and never again will I vote labour, although I am not strong on independance, after listening to some of the SNP support here, I am even less inclined!

    • Jock Tamson

      I’m not entirely convinced about you either.

      • I don’t mind being uncertain about me that’s your perogative. You do sound a little like a lib dem though are you abstaining?

    • livilion

      No, if you’ve been stealing old biddies’ pension books you go to jail. That sort of thing can often prove fatal or at least make life a living hell for the poor souls that are the victims.

      You can tell the judge that you’ll pay it back and your young family will miss you in jail but I think it would take more than a few short paragraphs from your MSP to keep you out of chokey.

      Sturgeon didn’t exactly go overboard on her prose for this crook, she did her job. Any judge swayed by an argument put with that level of persuasion might be forgiven for wondering if they’d chosen the appropriate vocation in life.

      • If Mr. Rauf were stealing old biddies pension books then I would be surprised any MSP would vouch for him, he would certainly be a threat to society and should go to jail, however the fact is he was stealing from the taxpayer, no old biddy was threatened or hurt.
        To follow through your reasoning the government will need to build more jails, instead would it not be better to get this man to pay back what he stole, get him to pay all costs and punish him with a fine, rather than him go to jail costing the taxpayer even more he not paying back what he stole, then to add insult to injury his family claim even more benefits from the taxpayers.

  • alexander

    How predictable that nationalists attacl the journalist whenever a story they dislike appears.

    • James

      Is it not reasonable to ask for even-handedness and for the hypocrisy of the accusing parties to be exposed? Or should people keep quiet when they sense an injustice?

    • Jock Tamson

      We all in hope for the day that unionists will find a publication to moan about.

      There won’t be a union then. So you can live in your hope and continue to moan that the NUJ is on your side.

      Geez. What are you like? What will you be like in an independent Scotland if you are moaning now?

    • livilion

      alexander
      >>How predictable that nationalists attacl the journalist whenever a story they dislike appears.<<

      On those rare occasions you mean when a journalist might accidentally write a story critical of the SNP or decry something overtly Scottish?
      Heaven forfend, that should actually happen?

  • James

    Can we expect reference to Labour’s hypocrisy and past, shall we say ill-judged actions, in tomorrow’s CalMerc?

    By which I don’t mean ‘here’s a story holding Labour to account as a separate issue’.

    What I would like to see, in the interests of balanced journalism, is Labour being held to account specifically in the context of their throwing stones while in the largest of large glass houses.

    THAT would make me take note of CalMerc and would convince me that we may indeed have the balanced, impartial news outlet the Scottish media so evidently needs.

    • livilion

      You mean like MPs: oops sorry my mistake, take the money back and let’s say no more about it?

      Aye, a good day to bury news about the torturing of a British Islamist prisoner by a friendly power.

      Saw Hamish on Newsnight tonight, not terribly impressed I must say.

  • Is it not just that Nicola Sturgeon is guilty of poor political judgement? That she has allowed her moral compass to steer her and not her political one?

    • Sid the sceptic

      morning , I fully agree, but there is the problem for the SNP . Do they continue the way they are at the moment or do they drop their standards and “get stuck in” to the opposition??
      The Sunday papers might just be interesting ,as a lot of people will be digging and shock horror “investigating” to see how many politicians had written letters in support of constituents in the past couple of years.all the main party’s will have someone who has done it lately and wished they hadn’t.

      unfortunately the reason this is a story at all is simple and sad .

      -blind hatered of your political opponents –
      Sid

  • Once the dust has settled, Nicola Sturgeon will come out of this with flying colours. She has not committed any offence, not even “an error of judgement”.

    She is an excellent Deputy FM and handles the Health portfolio confidently.

    The other Holyrood parties are jealous, and no match for the SNP.

    No matter how much they grub around in the dirt, in order to be able to deliver grubby headlines to even more grubby so-called journalists, they will not succeed.

    The Scottish people are far too canny to be taken in by the behaviour of the opposition parties, and, what’s more, they can see when they’re onto a good thing, i.e. a Scottish Government which has the capability and vision to steer a course through the difficult times to come.

    Nicola, don’t let the b…ers grind you down!

  • Craig Gallagher

    It astounds me how some people are simply incapable of viewing anything objectively. As an ardent supporter of the Scottish National Party, I regard this article as a fair and considered account of what is, unfortunately, an inflammatory subject. For Labour supporters to decry a lack of concentrated attack and SNP supporters to decry ANY negative publicity is utterly ridiculous on both accounts.

    As to the subject matter, I am wholly behind Nicola Sturgeon on this one. I can’t personally see anything wrong with the letter she has written, which is careful to stress the guilt of the accused as well as pointing out steps taken towards immediate renumeration by him. It seems all she is asking for is a degree of leniency in light of the accused’s health and previous contributions to his community, something she – as his MSP – would surely be better informed about than Labour’s attack dogs, who once again, predictably, are approaching this issue not from a position of informed decision making, but of populist emoting.

    • livilion

      Just what the lawyer defending told STV news tonight, it goes to show how boring Scottish politics are that this non-event could cause so much interest, everyone involved was just doing their job and the opposition are so stuck for a way to land a glove that they come up with manufactured character assasinations to gain any kind of capital they can.
      Sad to see the BBC complicit, sad but not unexpected these days. Hamish looks to me to be getting in on the feeding frenzy on the telly and sounding gey Scotsmanesque for my money.

  • BT

    My apologies for repeating a post from the other Nicola Sturgeon thread, but many of the issues are being rehashed here.

    I have been speculating on the possibility of the race card being played by Labour. The cut and paste below from a Labour supporter in the Scotsman forum helps demonstrates that it does appear to be a factor.

    “The SNP are that desperate for the Asian vote in Glasgow that there are no depths they will not stoop to.

    Writing a letter backing a serial fraudster however is an absolute disgrace even by the SNP’s lowly standards.

    Ms Sturgeon is finished.”

  • Independista

    I don’t agree with Stewart Kirkpatrick that this story is worthy of the type of treatment it is getting from every blat in Scotland and I am disappointed that Caledonian Mercury have followed the baying herd. How about investigating why this story was leaked at all? Is it not obvious to all and sundry that there is an anti independence agenda across the entire Scottish Media, as there was in the 70s, when MI5 were used by both Labour and Tories to discredit the SNP by fair means or foul. Check out George Rosie’s excellent ‘Diomhair’ the BBC Alba documentary.
    It can be viewed on the Scottish Independence Convention website, or if you cant be bothered to scroll through the episodes, Ill arrange to send you a copy DVD. It really is an eye opener http://scottishindependenceconvention.org/ResouceMain.asp If they did it in the 70s you can bet they are doing it now, when the threat is far greater. How about it CM?
    Meantime here are a few things the Scottish press could investigate.
    Edinburgh MP, Alistair Darling, who claimed £70,000 in five years for his family home in Edinburgh. He obtained taxpayer funding for mortgage payments, household bills and furnishings by classing the £1.2million townhouse as his ‘second home’. The taxpayer contributed almost £10,000 to the costs of Alistair Darling buying a new London flat after the Chancellor changed the official designation of his second home.
    Mr Darling has changed where he considered his “main home” to be located four times in four years. This has allowed him to claim thousands of pounds towards the costs of his family’s home in Edinburgh – and buy a flat in London that has been furnished and mortgaged at taxpayers’ expense.
    Lord George Foulkes who writes a column for the Edinburgh Evening News under the description of “a respected politician” who last year claimed nearly £45,000 in overnight expenses to stay in a property he inherited from his late mother.
    George Foulkes, who is also an MSP, billed the public to stay in a London flat registered as his company’s address. His London abode also appears to be the business address for his work as a director and political consultant with Carrick Court Associates, which makes £50,000 per year.
    House of Lords: claimed £54,441 in allowances for 94 days attendance (£579/day)
    Earns £36,000 as a Parliamentary Consultant to Eversheds LLP for 36 days work (£1000/day)
    Claimed £3061.17 in allowances from the Scottish Parliament between April 2008 and March 2009
    Aside from this, his salary as a Member of the Scottish Parliament is £56,671, so he trousers £110,000 in salary from the taxpayer- more than a government minister.
    There are plenty of things out there to investigate, far sleazier than a letter to a sheriff, or a pie and a pint at the Scottish parliament. But I dare say, it all depends on where your priorities lie.

  • if there is one thing this pavlovian vomitorium proves,…. it is the futility of political struggle ,certainly , within the current dispensation .

    human progression has been written out . the machine rolls over anything that stands “proud” by even a millimetre .
    the politicians …..dullards…..preen and trough but their power is so diminished and proscribed by an authoritarian state that they are reduced to cyphers ,and yet they will lie to the nth degree to retain their position ,

    the lack of space given to untidy human qualities like compassion and community means they have become atrophied , and have become replaced by orwells “ersatz” .

    i fear there is no hope …..the secret police are watching

  • crazed romanist

    I have a problem here and I wonder if others share it.

    I have read the Sturgeon letter. Is it a “character reference”? She refers to his health and familial circumstances in asking that an alternative to a custodial sentence be used. True, she refers to his standing in the community and his awareness of the seriousness of his offences,but is that a character reference?

    She does not say “he is a fine upstanding chap who as done sterling work for others”.

    The emphasis seems rather to be on his health and family and the whole is a plea for mercy based on those two considerations rather than a plea from mitigation based on his character.

    Of course Ian Gray is right. This man should be incarcerated and the key thrown away. MSP’s should only speak to constituents with no criminal convictions and in the Kingdom of the Just all quango type jobs will go to defeated Labour candidates.

    Sturgeon must go.

  • John J. Sheridan

    Endless words on this subject just keep on coming.

    Here are mine for what there worth.

    I have the utmost respect for Nicola Sturgeon as a principled and extremely competent politician, I have met and spoken to her on several occasions.
    In my opinion her heart and head are very much in the right place, she is head and shoulders above anything that bays and howls on the labour benches (with the honourable exception of Malcolm Chisholm).
    However……whilst I accept her technically accurate reply to the furore created by a rabid media and its nulabour handlers, I cannot help but think that she gave this subject only the briefest of considerations.

    It is of course right and proper that we should keep people out of prison and off the public purse when possible and when they pose no physical threat to the public (especially when the accused health is concerned), but this man is a serial fraudster of the lowest sort and deserves a further term in prison for his dishonesty.
    His promise to repay the amounts stolen by selling property should be neither here nor there, the money should be recovered by the state in this manner and it should not be used in mitigation of sentencing.

    As to the effect on his family, well he should have been thinking about them as he committed the crimes and should have put the possible consequences of his actions at the forefront of his thinking instead of expecting the state to consider it after the offence.

    Ms Sturgeon has gotten this wrong, but for all the right reasons.
    There is no getting around it, it was a judgement call which she called poorly.

    Should she resign in light of it?

    Don’t be so bloody silly.

    We need politicians of her calibre at the top of government, especially when faced with political pygmies such as those facing her for labour and representing us (the voters) as the official opposition, and doing it so very poorly and with such small minded, self interested malice.

    • Keith Roberts

      Well said that man. We have to rise above the low levels to which the unionsists in general and the labourites in particular wish to stoop. This was nothing other than an unjustified personal attack, seeking revenge for Wendy, from a party with form in the same representation for constituents. Instead let us hear policy, by Scotland, and for Scotland, and let Rab continue to expose the absurdities and failing of Elmer.

  • Uncle Fester

    Nicola Sturgeon is acknowledged to be an efficient and effective Health Minister who is articulate and at ease, fully in charge of her portfolio when she appears in the media. Her constituents comment on the way that she represents them as their MSP and have made favourable comparisons of her constituency office and the way it functions compared to previous incumbents.

    These are the major factors in the rush by opposition MSPs in trying to bring her down.They would far rather that our generally supine Scottish media would carry headlines about the SNP than have them focus on the multitude of breaches by the likes of Michael Martin, Nigel Griffiths, Eric Joyce,David Marshall, Iain Gray -yes folks the grey man has questions to answer- to say nothing of top class “Flippers” like Tavish Scott and Alasdair Darling.( strange to relate that the person in charge of the nation’s finances cannot decide where he lives.)
    The MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath apparently had to repay a sum in excess of £12,000 for an “overclaim” of his expenses for a summer house but without any censure or reportage.

    Her letter pleading an alternative sentence,is a perfectly normal level of support and in no way would put pressure on a sheriff or judge. Such matters are normal practice

    • Sean Allan

      “Her letter pleading an alternative sentence,is a perfectly normal level of support and in no way would put pressure on a sheriff or judge. Such matters are normal practice:

      Clearly Ms Sturgeon herself does not agree with that as today she acknowledged…

      “Having drawn the court’s attention to Mr Rauf’s personal circumstances, I should have left it there,” she (Sturgeon) said.

      “I should not have gone on to ask the court to specifically consider alternatives to custody.