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Scottish Sun

untitledAndrew Nicoll has already successfully challenged several conventions: he is a former lumberjack who became a political journalist and he is a Sun reporter who writes sensitive short stories. But perhaps his greatest achievement is in confronting that waspish little comment from Russell Lynes about journalists and novels: “Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it.”

Smashing that idea completely, Dundee-based Nicoll found the time while being political editor of the Scottish Sun to write his first novel, The Good Mayor, which was acclaimed internationally and won prestigious prizes at home.

He built up a strong international fan base with The Good Mayor, so his second, The Love and Death of Caterina, available online and in bookshops, should also sell well.

It thoroughly deserves to do well. Nicoll is a very classy and accomplished writer. It is not just that he writes more beautifully than some of his contemporaries in Scotland today (although he certainly does that), but he is also refreshingly original.

The Good Mayor was described by some as a form of magic realism. Set in a made-up world somewhere between the Balkans and Dundee, it contained fantastical characters, a narrator who was a bearded nun, and a pangolin.

The Love and Death of Caterina is more grounded and realistic, although it too is set in an imaginary land – this time an indeterminate, landlocked South American country ruled by an oppressive military dictatorship. But there are no mystical narrators, flights of fancy or strange, half-imagined characters in this one. As a result, it is tighter, more direct and sharper.

The writing is as good – if not better than – in The Good Mayor. Nicoll’s real skill is in his descriptions which are, if anything, even more sparingly written and wonderfully evocative as they were in The Good Mayor.

The Love and Death of Caterina centres around a local literary star, Luciano Valdez, who has writer’s block. He meets Caterina who, he hopes, will help him unlock his writing once again. It doesn’t work out that way.

Indeed – and this is one of the interesting twists of the book – the reader knows right from the start what is going to happen. This is the opening line: “Only a few weeks after it happened, Luciano Hernandez Valdez was almost unable to believe that he had ever been a murderer.”

But, even though the end is flagged up so early and so clearly, Nicoll manages to make the progress to that point compelling and unexpected. He seems to enjoy indicating the way the book is going to go, then veering off at a tangent just when the reader least expects it.

In that way, The Love and Death of Caterina is a more complex but also a more polished book than The Good Mayor. The writing is better than the first book, the structure is tighter and more complicated, and the story more believable.

The way Nicoll develops his characters is also excellent. He lets the traits and characteristics drip out, slowly, as the story matures.

This book really shows one of Scotland’s best new writers really getting into his stride. Nicoll clearly now has confidence in his ability and is more subtle in his approach than he was before. Indeed, it is difficult to think of many better writers who have burst on to the Scottish literary scene in recent years.

And if there is a message that comes through at the end, it is this: watch out for men with moustaches – you never know what they’re hiding.

The Love and Death of Caterina, by Andrew Nicoll, is published by Quercus, 358pp, £12.99.

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Rory McIlroy – no Tweets <em>Picture: Danielbennett98</em>

Rory McIlroy – no Tweets Picture: Danielbennett98

By Stewart Weir

Gordon Smith is named as the new director of football at Rangers and a bunfight amongst Scotland’s newspapers breaks out as to who had the exclusive on the story.

Smith is, of course, the former Scottish Football Association chief executive, and the SFA is organisation which has former Rangers secretary/director Campbell Ogilvie as its president.

Good job no one in Scotland is paranoid enough to read anything into that…

Having folded like a cheap deckchair at the Masters, Rory McIlroy proves he is made of sterner stuff as he takes the US Open Championship, breaking and creating all kinds of records in the process.

McIlroy’s win made it back-to-back US Opens for players from Northern Ireland, following on from Graeme McDowell’s victory 12 months ago, and with Padraig Harrington a treble Major winner, the island of Ireland – in terms of population – must be the greatest golf nation in the world.

And if it isn’t, it won’t be long before the Irish Tourist Board is telling us.

So what was different between McIlroy’s Masters week and last weekend? Nothing much, apart from the outcome and that we were told he didn’t Tweet once during the tournament.

I never realised that not using your thumbs could have such an impact on your game…

Celtic fans rejoice with the news that club manager Neil Lennon has signed a one-year rolling contract worth – depending on whose report you read – double or even treble his previous deal.

It has taken time for the detail to be confirmed, considering BBC Scotland broke the story on cup final day when the intrepid Jane Lewis ambushed Dermot Desmond on the steps of Hampden.

So who did BBC Scotland have commenting on the big contract signing?

Well, I’m not sure, but judge for yourself. Am I to assume this chappie’s name is actually Celtic Blogger?

Now that is dedication to the cause…

Wimbledon is in full swing. And whilst we hope a Scot triumphs, at least one of his countrymen has picked up an award just two days into the tournament.

The Scottish Sun’s Robert Martin collected a virtual gong having successfully managed to connect events at SW19 with the SPL by revealing that Andy Murray’s second-round opponent Obias Kamke once owned a Hamburg shirt emblazoned with the name “Albertz” on the back, when Jörg of the Rangers was once Jörg from Hamburg.

Kamke’s knowledge of the Scottish game also extended to knowing that Stefan Klos was also once at Rangers.

Mr Martin need not take offence. We’ve all done it in our day.

My most spurious association between another sport and the SPL came when I once got West Indies cricketer Carl Hooper talking about how good a goalkeeper former Scotland all-rounder Andy Goram was.

How I managed it, I do not know. I’ve even less of a clue how it ever made it into print.

The CONCACAF Gold Cup deserves an award of its own for being the most tongue-twisting tournament name in “soccer”.

Of course, the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football Gold Cup would be even more of a mouthful. So CONCACAF it is.

Many of those participating are instantly recognisable. Well into Thursday morning, USA beat Panama 1–0 in the semi-finals, a goal created by Landon Donovan (ex-Everton) and scored by Clint Dempsey (Fulham).

In the other semi, Mexico defeated Honduras 2–0 in extra-time, goals from Aldo de Nigris (one of 14,629 players linked with a summer move to Celtic) and Javier Hernández, “El Chicharito” of Manchester United.

So Sunday sees USA play Mexico in the decider at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, the third successive Gold Cup final between two nations who have won nine of the ten Gold Cups contested since this biennial tournament was instigated in 1991.

You can’t help but think Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica, Grenada, Cuba, Honduras, Guadeloupe, Guatemala and Panama are there just to give the big two somebody to play, other than each other.

Not the best of starts to the day with the news that my friend and former colleague John Quinn had died.

By coincidence, one of those John wrote about and followed featured in the Great Britain Olympic football team debate.

After the British Olympic Association jumped the gun by announcing that the associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would support a Team GB soccer side at the 2012 Games – and were instantly and suitably rebuked for their potentially dangerous press announcement – there was plenty written about who would, who could, and who wouldn’t wear the red, white and blue next summer.

But some had a bit of fun with the whole thing, the Daily Mail for one – they amassed a tidy number of scribes and ex-players to give their all-time British XI, with some interesting selections and even more interesting takes on criteria of selection.

Michael Walker, in particular, limited his selection to those who had never played in either a World Cup or European Championship, and came up with a mixed bag which included Jimmy Johnstone, Celtic and Scotland – “Jinky” to many, including John Quinn.

But Johnstone did go to a World Cup, in 1974 in West Germany, albeit as a non-appearing member of the 22 which climbed aboard the plane. Or in his case, the rowing boat.

Still worth a read, though.

Up early and straight online. The next batch of Olympic 2012 tickets was up for grabs. Good luck to those who succeeded.

But to be reading a “We cannot process your request” message on the official site at 6:01am because it had been weighed under by the sheer volume of interested parties raises the question yet again of how prepared or transparent the ticketing process has been for the London Games.

Not that I held out much hope anyway. But I will be there in either body or spirit.

So I’ve already put in motion the plans I revealed several weeks ago to hire a submarine and take it in to shallow waters around Weymouth Bay for the sailing – or I could just buy another 60-inch plasma.

Or, even more unbelievable, I could get back into training…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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The Copa del Rey – a bit bashed <em>Picture: Erik1980</em>

The Copa del Rey – a bit bashed Picture: Erik1980

By Stewart Weir

Semi-final weekend in the respective premier knockout cup competitions either side of the border, with one tie holding a slight advantage when it came to national interest. And you’ve guessed – it wasn’t Motherwell–St Johnstone.

On a day when Wembley was filled with the blue and red of Manchester, Hampden looked somewhat sorry only a quarter-filled – or, more noticeably, three-quarters empty – with the “hordes” from the shires of Lanark and Perth.

Motherwell deservedly won 3–0, with Saints ‘keeper Peter Enckelman the unfortunate recipient of the “Estate Agents Award”, presented to the man who did most to sell a semi.

But while Jamie Murphy and John Sutton scored crackers, you couldn’t help but notice the empty seats around Hampden, which raises the question – as ever – of why a match like this is ever taken to the National Stadium.

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Justification for building it appears to be the only answer. Because with just under 12,000 deciding the big day wasn’t that big in reality, Tynecastle or Easter Road would have made much better sense.

In the south, City shocked United. The next day, Aberdeen and Bolton were just shocking.

From Steeltown to Steel City. I know it began yesterday, but given that it lasts a mere 17 days, there was always going to be time to catch up with the action from Sheffield and the Betfred.com World Snooker Championship.

Saturday brought two big stories. One came before a ball was potted in anger, and was so big it even made the front page of the Scottish Sun. It was the collapse, or near-collapse, of 110sport, snooker’s biggest management stable and a twice-former employer of mine. Indeed, in healthier times, I once was a board director there.

It is a sad state of affairs, which is about all I’m willing to say on the matter as I am restricted for space, something that won’t be a problem when my tale comes out in book form. Take that as the first plug.

Damned or doomed, 110sport’s demise was of their making, nothing to do with events conspiring against them, bad luck, chance or fate.

And certainly not a curse – although the second big snooker headline from the weekend could fall into the category.

No first-time winner of the world title had ever successfully defended the title in Sheffield, hence “the Crucible Curse”. And as if by magic, or other powers we cannot explain, title holder Neil Robertson crashed out, beaten 10–8 by Judd Trump, who this year looks to be fulfilling the potential everyone knew he had.

Speaking to Stephen Hendry last week, he believed Robertson could have been the one to break that trend. But he also conceded that few, other than the person who returned the cup from the previous year, could appreciate the enormity of the task and the expectation around being champion – because regardless of who you are, what you’ve done or how well you are playing, all anyone wants to mention is the dreaded curse.

So the next first-time champ, whoever you may be, be afraid… be very afraid!

Sunday also saw Mandy Fisher, who founded the World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Association 30 years ago, resign as chairman, chairwoman or chairperson (delete where applicable).

Fisher, 49, began the women’s circuit in 1981 and her commitment has been the main reasons it has survived this long. That said, it has always been the very poor relation in the snooker family. While the winner of the world title (an event open to men and women) pockets a quarter of a million, ladies winner Reanne Evans won just £1,000 for retaining her world title in 2010.

“Mandy’s heart was always in the right place,” said former WLBSA secretary and tournament director Jane O’Neill, “[but] there were always the knockers.”

Which many give as the reason why women can’t play…

And still in Sheffield, Barry Hearn, the Don King of snooker, unveils announcement after announcement for next season.

A ranking event staged in Australia in July (on the back of Robertson’s success), a World Cup in Bangkok, a biennial event where Scotland will be defending champions (and holders since 1996 when since the tournament has been absent never mind bi-anything), and a new format for the Premier League as it becomes a World Snooker event,

Sky Sports will broadcast an event for the next three years, prize money on the circuit will rise to over £6m (although it was once above that) and there will also be the Brazilian Masters, with traditional rules, namely unwaxed balls…

Hearn did however threaten that he wants players to come forward to record a new version of the Chas ‘n’ Dave “classic” Snooker Loopy, which reached number six in the chart 25 years ago.

Who will step up? Hopefully not some clown.

I can also exclusively reveal the song might be revamped to include an instrumental halfway through, just in case Ronnie O’Sullivan doesn’t turn up for his verse.

And the sale of Rangers takes another twist after the club’s chairman, Alastair Johnston, questioned the ability of would-be owner Craig Whyte to fund the reigning Scottish champions to the level required.

Whyte has been reportedly trying to purchase David Murray’s 85 per cent stake in Rangers since last November, thus wiping out their debt with Lloyds Bank.

However, Johnston and some of his fellow board members also want to see money spent on the team.

“Based on the documents we have only been able to review within the last week,” Johnston said, “we are disappointed that they ultimately did not reflect the investment in the club that we were led to believe for the last few months would be a commitment in the purchase agreement.

“Given the requirement to repay the bank in full under the proposed transaction, there appears to be only a relatively modest amount of money available that would positively impact the club’s operations, especially as it relates to an urgent requirement to replenish and upgrade the playing squad.”

As much as he is disappointed, there isn’t a queue outside Ibrox willing to part with £30-odd million to be then told what they should and shouldn’t be doing with their money.

Indeed, there is only one other offer on the table – this sees Rangers FC being exchanged for an apple, a kite (in good repair), a dead rat and a string to swing it with, 12 marbles, part of a Jew’s-harp, a piece of blue bottle glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar (but no dog), the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel and a dilapidated old window sash.

That bid offer comes from a Mr T Sawyer, USA. Negotiations are ongoing, although they say there is nothing of significance in the last item listed.

On the field, Rangers ease past an equally dilapidated Dundee United 4–0. So easy was it that striker Nikica Jelavić had to amuse himself in other ways.

And this week’s competition is: from Paul Mitchell’s commentary, what would you pay good money for?

And as if nothing ever happened, Paul McBride QC will not now face legal action from the Scottish Football Association after expressing regret over recent criticism.

McBride had attacked the SFA after Rangers trio Ally McCoist, Madjid Bougherra and El-Hadji Diouf escaped further bans for their part the “Debacle of Parkhead XXVII” (as you can tell, there have been a few over the years).

McBride had represented Celtic boss Neil Lennon over his disciplinary charge and had accused the SFA of bias, publically stating they were “the laughing stock of world football” and “had been shown to be not merely dysfunctional and not merely dishonest but biased”.

Then he changed his mind, mentioning in his excuse note that he recognised “that offence has been taken to my remarks by the Scottish Football Association as an organisation, its council and its staff, and for that I express regret. I have a lot of respect for many individuals within the SFA…”.

What brought about that change of mind isn’t clear. Legal action, or of being reported to his bosses, who could say? Or did the threat of a parcel bomb just focus things a wee bit more?

I should say, I am not making light of what is a serious matter, and particularly dangerous series of events, least of all for the poor buggers collecting and delivering our post. But I’m surprised no one from the cry wolf brigade hasn’t commented on the potential of a conspiracy, given the Royal Mail have been entrusted with the safe passage of these unsafe parcels.

Terrorist officers from Strathclyde Police have conducted searches and enquiries into who is behind these threats, and have focused extensively on Ayrshire – where despite using ultra-modern and groundbreaking profiling techniques, they have been unable to track down the perpetrators as everyone in that area shares the same DNA…

And in the wee small hours, Real Madrid return home from Valencia to triumphant scenes where the city celebrates their winning of the Copa del Rey after beating arch-rivals Barcelona 1–0.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s extra-time header gave Jose Mourinho his first trophy as Real Madrid coach. But it was more about what happened on the team coach – or, more accurately, what happened under it – that made this particularly memorable.

It brings back memories of other cup celebrations gone wrong, like the night in 1988 when Dean Richards and John Jeffrey took the Calcutta Cup for a walk down Rose Street.

Of course, Sergio Ramos will be reminded for evermore about dropping that cup off the bus.

But what is the best case of dropsy after a cup final? Steve Morrow, Arsenal’s League Cup goalscoring hero, takes some beating – or rather took a beating.

Two days to go to the final Old Firm game of the season and Strathclyde Police chief constable Stephen House believes everything from three league points, to the climate and a day off work could brew up mayhem in the west of Scotland.

“It’s a Bank Holiday,” House said, “it is the last meeting of the season – which is crucial for a result – and the weather forecast is hot. That means people will be drunk and they will get injured or raped, assaults go up and so does domestic violence.

“We do not see the clubs as the enemy. We do not blame Celtic or Rangers for the violence. The people who are responsible are those who use knives, fists or whatever other weapons on their fellow human beings.”

And I don’t disagree. I have seen the frightening aftermath of an Old Firm game first hand. But I’ve seen similar scenes throughout the country when there is not a Celtic or Rangers top to be seen.

Not meaning to trivialise in any way the concerns of some, but I do wonder on occasions whether all this reported serious crime is down to the factors the chief constable details, or the fact the same gentleman has vowed to put 1,000 extra officers on the streets.

More cops doing their job usually means more arrests and more frightening statistics. And more calls for more resources for more of the same and more overtime next time.

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snp1Welcoming the support of the Scottish Sun for the re-election of the SNP Government, Alex Salmond, First Minister and SNP leader, said:

“It’s fantastic news – Scotland’s biggest daily paper is backing the re-election of Scotland’s Government. The Scottish Sun‘s welcome support for the SNP reflects the hopes and aspirations of the people for a successful Scotland.

“The SNP now has a record in government – one to be proud of, but above all one to build on. The SNP’s positive campaign is winning support across the country – it’s great that the Scottish Sun backs the re-election of the Scottish Government and ambition for Scotland.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister and Depute SNP leader, added:

“The Scottish Sun‘s support is a big boost for the SNP’s re-election campaign – there is still two weeks before polling day, but our message to re-elect Alex Salmond as First Minister is proving a winner on the doorstep.”

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On the day that all political leaders addressed the Scottish Police Federation, the SNP said Labour’s credibility on justice has collapsed completely as their knife crime policy has been exposed as a sham.

Interviewed on Newsnight Scotland and Good Morning Scotland, Labour’s Justice Spokesman admitted basing the numbers for knife crime costing on press reports – numbers which a series of independent experts have since dismissed.

In addition, the General Secretary of the SPF called for tougher action on alcohol, saying mandatory sentences were “not going to solve the problem of people being murdered in their own home” – where two thirds of knife crime takes place – and that the real problem is “you have a toxic mix of individuals who misuse and abuse alcohol, are prone to violence and have access to a kitchen knife”.

Community Safety Minister and SNP Candidate for Inverness and Nairn, Fergus Ewing said:

“Labour’s policy on knife crime has descended into chaos and disarray. Labour are not just making up policy they are making up the numbers.

“Their knife crime policy is a deception. Labour are misleading voters and concerned communities across the country. Richard Baker has recent Parliamentary answers making it clear that no figures exist for the cost of knife crime to the NHS in Scotland – so he has resorted to making them up.

“On this shambolic performance he isn’t fit to be a shadow justice minister – never mind part of a government.”

Commenting on Labour Holyrood leader Iain Gray’s remarks to the SPF about growth and jobs, a Scottish National Party spokesperson said:

“This election is about Scotland. We’re working hard for jobs, opportunity and fairness – and the SNP will always put the people of Scotland first.

“Under an SNP Government, employment has been rising for the past nine months – there are now 25,000 more jobs than a year ago – and unemployment has fallen for the past five months. Iain Gray’s party wrecked the economy and delivered recession – the SNP are delivering jobs and recovery.”

Rupert Murdoch <em>Picture: World Economic Forum</em>

Rupert Murdoch Picture: World Economic Forum

There can’t have been many times when a single Sun front page gladdened the hearts of SNP activists as they passed news-stands all over the country – but it happened this morning.

The splash headline “Play it Again, Salm” was accompanied by the strapline “The Sun Backs SNP at Holyrood election” and a huge picture of Alex Salmond reading the Sun.

This is a newspaper which is not used to being cautious or timid about handing out support. When it does so, it does so with gusto.

Just look at these first three paragraphs on page one: “Alex Salmond cares passionately about Scotland.

“He is ambitious for this country and has the drive, the personality and the policies to lead us through these troubled times.

“That’s why The Scottish Sun today urges voters to hand him a second term at the Holyrood election on May 5.”

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It couldn’t have been written more enthusiastically by one of the first minister’s spin doctors. Given that many readers only read the first few paragraphs of a story and many more never turn to the resumption of a story inside, these first three paragraphs were all the SNP needed.

But, if any readers needed any more, they got it: on pages 4, 5, 6,7, 8 and 9. The coverage was, indeed, remarkable.

Politicians are used to tabloid papers coming out for them, but this was akin to turning over most of the newspaper to praising the first minister.

The headline on pages four and five was: “It has to be Salmond” and then, on pages six and seven, there was a spread written by Mr Salmond under the headline: “Give us another kick of the ball.”

Just in case anybody had forgotten what happened in 2007, the Sun helpfully provided us with an image of the paper’s front page ahead of the 2007 election.

It was the complete opposite of today’s offering, bearing the headline: “Vote SNP today and you put Scotland’s head in the noose.”

So what’s changed? Labour strategists believe the Sun is doing Rupert Murdoch’s bidding and is cosying up to David Cameron – under the logic that the Tories would rather see the SNP than Labour in charge at Holyrood.

This is debatable. The real reasons are likely to be a touch more prosaic.

For instance, Sun managers are acutely aware of their rivalry with the Labour-supporting Daily Record and this is designed to fuel that rivalry, elevating it from mere sales to a more political level.

Also, the Scottish Sun has a new editor. Andy Harries came from the south of England via the Scottish Daily Mail and has now shown he has a more independent streak (if not necessarily Independent) than some of his predecessors.

But it is also true that the Sun likes to back a winner, and Alex Salmond has proved himself to be more of a winner than Iain Gray.

There will be many SNP activists who will remember that 2007 headline with anger and who won’t like the idea of getting matey with a paper they regard as something close to evil.

But they will also see the considerable benefit that such a massive endorsement will give their campaign.

The Sun is bought by 330,000 Scots every day and read (or glanced through) by three times that number.

Its effect will be galvanising for the SNP, but nobody should underestimate the opposite impact it will have on Labour.

With the Labour campaign already in the doldrums, with bitching and backbiting starting to surface fairly regularly about the leadership, the campaign and the policy agenda being pursued, this will dishearten Labour activists still further.

And, in an election as tight as this one is proving to be, it is just that sort of difference which can allow one party to sneak through ahead of its rival.

Remember the old Sun claim from 1992 election? “It was The Sun wot won it.” Mr Harries will be delighted to say the same again this year – whether or not it turns out to be actually, strictly true.

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Steven Purcell

Steven Purcell

Steven Purcell, the disgraced Glasgow City Council leader, who quit earlier this month in a whirlwind of stories about drug and alcohol problems, has spoken out for the first time to explain the circumstances which led to his downfall.

Mr Purcell chose the Scottish Sun for his first full “sit down” interview and today’s front page sums up his tale.

“Purcell: my story,” is the headline and below it are four sub heads.

  • I feared gang bosses had video of me on cocaine
  • My week-long booze bender as I had breakdown
  • I considered suicide when I hit lowest ebb
  • I was facing constant battle with loneliness.

The rest of the interview, done by Scottish Sun editor David Dinsmore, deals in considerable depth with the week leading up to Mr Purcell’s breakdown and his resignation as council chief.

Mr Dinsmore lets Mr Purcell’s words speak for themselves, letting the quotes run on for paragraphs and paragraphs as the 37-year-old former Labour high-flier explains what happened to him.

The key to his collapse appears to be the visit from officers of the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency last year.

Mr Purcell told The Sun: “They said there might be a video of me using cocaine and that could be used to blackmail me.”

He then pledged never to use the drug again. “The last time I used it was a year ago, a few weeks before the police came to see me,” he said.

Although he stayed off the cocaine, Mr Purcell then started to drink, very heavily.

The week before his resignation was the worst for Mr Purcell, a week which included the visit of the Prime Minister to a glitzy Labour fund-raiser in Glasgow.

Mr Purcell told The Scottish Sun: “I began to drink heavily. I was drinking on my own at home – glass after glass of wine. I really couldn’t say how much. My head was literally bursting with the pressure.”

Mr Purcell said he “steadied himself” for the Prime Minister’s visit and added: “I went up the road at the end (of the dinner) then started drinking again.”

After a morning meeting with Labour MSPs on that Friday 26 February , Purcell went home and started drinking at home in the afternoon.  “By the Saturday I was contemplating suicide, I thought to myself ‘life isn’t worth living like this’.”

Having admitted his problems to himself, Mr Purcell told his family and close colleagues, decided to resign as council leader and checked himself into the Castle Craigs rehab clinic in the Borders.

There had been some speculation that Mr Purcell might have attempted suicide while at the clinic because he sparked a search after disappearing from the clinic.

But he explained what happened. He said: “I had gone for a walk to accept where I was and what was happening. I didn’t really know where I was or what I was doing. I was just wandering basically.

“I just walked onto some ice and fell through it up to my thigh. That woke me up.

“I could see lights in the distance and people calling my name. Staff at the clinic had arranged a search party and this was them. The police had also been called.”

Mr Purcell resigned as council leader the following Monday. He resigned as a councillor later that week and flew to Australia to stay with family and get away from all the pressure.

He is now in Ireland, a stop-over to prepare him for a return to Scotland soon.

He stressed, though, that he does not expect to return to politics. “It is highly unlikely that I will return to political life … I don’t know what I am going to be next. The first step is to strengthen my health and then think about my future.”

Mr Purcell’s departure sparked a number of opposition complaints over the handling of some Glasgow Council contracts, with opposition politicians warning that some of the contracts might have to be investigated or re-visited as a result of the former leader’s resignation.

One of those at the centre of these allegations is multi-millionaire tycoon Willie Haughey.

Mr Purcell told the Scottish Sun: “I have never treated Willie Haughey any differently from any other businessman in Glasgow. I make absolutely no apology for our reputation as an administration that is business friendly.”

He added that he had never been offered a bribe or an inducement. “I have never once seen a hint of corruption. Regulations are tougher than people think. Everything is audited and legalled.”

Mr Purcell’s interview with the Scottish Sun has cleared up many of the half-answered questions and the speculation over his downfall.

It makes clear quite how low the politician had sunk, due first to drugs and paranoia and then because of alcohol and why he acted as he did. But it still leaves several unanswered questions over the way Glasgow City Council handled some of its contracts, particularly “arms length” companies.

The controversy over these issues will continue, even if Mr Purcell no longer remains the focus of the story, as he has been for the last month.

In another, unrelated, development, Gordon Brown spoke publicly for the first time about Mr Purcell to The Herald newspaper.

The Prime Minister said: “I think people will see it more of a personal sadness, a tragedy, and I think whatever the judgements on individuals. Glasgow City Council, in the last few years, has been responsible for really pushing forward the regeneration of the city.”