I’ve written about this phenomenon many times before. The promotion of anti-SNP smears by the BBC.
In my book ‘London Calling – How the BBC stole the Referendum’, I covered the issue of the political smear. Below is how I introduced the subject.
The smear is one of the oldest and most effective ways in which to undermine political opponents. In extreme circumstances a smear will propagate an untruth in order to destroy a reputation. In 2009, Gordon Brown’s spin doctor was sacked after he was accused of trying to launch such a smear campaign against political opponents. The Labour party advisor sent emails containing sexual allegations against several Conservative MPs including David Cameron. Damian McBride admitted to having routinely attempted to discredit Brown’s rivals by leaking stories about them to the press.
An effective smear can also involve the manipulation of something that is true in order to imply something that is untrue. One of the most notorious examples of the truth-and-lie smear happened in the USA in 1960. John F. Kennedy coveted the presidency of the United States, but to become the Democrat candidate he had to overcome his Democrat rival Hubert Humphrey.
The Kennedy campaign launched a smear campaign against Humphrey that trashed their rival’s reputation. Humphrey had been unable to serve with the US forces during the war due to illness. The fact was used by the Kennedy campaign in order to portray Humphrey as a cowardly draft dodger. It was a lie, and a decent and respectable man who had fought against corruption, organised crime and racism was eventually crushed by the damage the smear caused. He lost the contest as a result.
The SNP would be subjected to many smears throughout their first term in office.
The apparatus of the BBC in Scotland is regularly utilised in order to promote as widely as possible a smear attack on one or more SNP politicians. The most recent example occurred this week. The target was SNP politician Joanna Cherry.
When I was growing up in Greenock, the word ‘dyke’ was commonly used to describe a small wall. It was many years later that I learned it was also a derogatory term applied to lesbians. It’s a term that I have genuinely very rarely come across in my adult life. I cannot recall the last time I heard it used, even in the context of a wall.
Last Sunday I became aware of messages posted on social media by the SNP MP Joanna Cherry. The tone and content of the messages suggested the MP was responding to people who believed she should have been offended by the use of the word ‘dyke’.
Given the events of that day, which were centred on the anniversary of the 2014 independence referendum, I quickly forgot the exchange.
It had left my mind until Monday morning when I saw a tweet by BBC reporter Philip Sim [see image].
Could this be related to Joanna Cherry’s exchange, I asked myself? I looked around and found several tweets from others that were critical of the SNP MP. I realised that the exchanges from Sunday and the tweet from Philip Sim on Monday were related.
It didn’t take long to work out what the fuss was about. A satirical rap group, performing at a pro-Yes event, had used the term ‘Dykey’ in a reference to Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.
The rap song had contained the following lines:
“Here’s my girl, Mhairi ‘Black Belt’ B … With Nicola Sturgeon, minister primary … Versus Ruth ‘Dykey’ D … And Kezia Dugdale.”
The performance had prompted the following tweet from Joanna Cherry.
After saying she found the performance by the female comedy troupe very funny, Cherry came under attack on social media. The three tweets below are all from BBC Scotland reporters.
The wording of Philip Sim’s tweet, describing the event as a “hardcore independence event” at which the “sexuality” of Ruth Davidson was attacked, suggested the reporter was himself taking a line on the issue.
Joanna Cherry was coming under attack from some very peculiar quarters. Gerry Hassan and Jamie Maxwell, both ‘radical left’ figures and both male, were amongst the first to criticise the SNP MP.
Ms Cherry responded to these and similar posts by men on social media by pointing out that she herself was a lesbian and would not be lectured by men on what she should or should not find offensive.
But what was the thrust of the attacks? My own initial thoughts were that the performance had been ill-advised. Labelling Ruth Davidson ‘Dykey’ even in the context of a satirical rap song was surely not appropriate. What was worse was that the performance had taken place at a pro- Yes event.
But then more facts began to emerge that weren’t being highlighted on social media. The rap song had been written by a lesbian. Lesbians had taken part in the performance. Was this the homophobic attack that it was being portrayed as by many people on social media?
Of interest was a tweet by Joanna Cherry herself, posted shortly after the rap song performance, in which she pointed out that the word ‘dyke’ was used by lesbians as a self-referencing term.
By now I was beginning to form a picture of what had actually happened. Lesbians who apparently use the term ‘dyke’ themselves, had incorporated a variation of it ‘Dykey’ into a satirical rap song which poked fun at female Scottish politicians, some of whom are themselves lesbians. It was the Scottish Conservative politician that was referred to as ‘Dykey’. The issue was appearing to be more a political row than one of highlighting homophobia.
The Smear Machine
By lunctime on Monday this was confirmed when the story appeared on BBC Scotland. A complaint had been made by a Scottish Tory MSP, herself a lesbian.
It was at this point that the BBC Scotland smear machine kicked in. The story appeared in third place on the BBC Scotland online news site. It was also being included in regular Radio Scotland news bulletins.
These bulletins, as can be heard above, were erroneously informing the public that Ruth Davidson had been called a ‘dyke’, instead of being described as ‘Dykey’. To the uninitiated this is an important corruption of the actuality by the BBC. Whatever the informed may say regarding the difference [or lack of] between the two terms, there is no doubt that members of the public will consider ‘dyke’ to be a far more hard-core sounding term of abuse than the softer sounding ‘Dykey’.
As this coverage was going on, some people on social media were looking into the suggestion by Joanna Cherry that the term ‘dyke’ is not now seen as a term of offence within the lesbian community if it is used by those who are part of that community. The SNP MP had described how lesbians ‘self-reference’ using the term.
And it turns out that lesbians do indeed use the word ‘dyke’ as a non-abusive term of reference. Alongside is a headline from the news outlet ‘Pink News’.
The headline, from 2013, is quite remarkable: ‘London: One week until UK’s second Dyke March’.
The article contains the following:
The Dyke March tradition originated in America in the 1980s, and has a more political slant than Pride marches. It is also more geared towards being a space for “dyke”-identifying women and allies.
Last year a Dyke March took place in London for the first time in almost 20 years, with almost 800 attending. Speakers included Paris Lees, Lady Phill Opoku-Hyimah, and Kirsten Hearn.
This year organisers hope to see even more lesbians and allies turn up for the event, which will begin at 3:00pm at Berkeley Square on 22 June. From there, marchers will follow a 1908 Suffragette march route through central London to Soho.
Speakers at Berkeley Square will include Sue Sanders of LGBT History, diversity consultant Femi Otitoju, META editor Roz Kaveney, and National Union of Students LGBT Officer Finn McGoldrick.
It’s clear that the term ‘dyke’ is considered acceptable by many in the LGBT community when used within that community and is, in the case of the march at least, linked to politics. It is also clear, from the reaction of some to the ‘Whitsherface‘ routine, that there are still some within this community who find the term offensive regardless of context.
But this isn’t how the story was being portrayed by the Scottish media and in particular BBC Scotland. Instead of reporting on a lesbian scripted piece of satire performed by lesbians and appreciated by a lesbian MP, it was instead presented as a homophobic attack carried out by supporters of independence. The presentation was manipulated into an exclusively political story that damaged the SNP and the Yes movement.
In news bulletins Radio Scotland erroneously reported that the Ruth Davidson, rather than being referred to as ‘Dykey D’ had in fact been called “a dyke”. The bulletins also failed to inform listeners that the rap song had been written and performed by lesbians and that SNP MP Joanna Cherry was herself a lesbian.
The attacks on Joanna Cherry and of course the Yes movement also featured prominently on Monday evening’s Reporting Scotland.
And it didn’t finish there. Remarkably the issue featured on the following day’s Radio Scotland phone-in.
In the clip above presenter Kaye Adams again omits to mention that Joanna Cherry is herself a lesbian. Joanna Cherry is portrayed as someone who has been “forced to apologise” and who is “a bit confused” over the issue. Adams, in her intro, also fails to inform listeners that the rap song was itself written by a lesbian and performed by lesbians.
So BBC Scotland provided considerable resource to ensure the politicised version of this story was promoted to as wide an audience as possible. Key elements of the story, which would have provided a highly relevant context and which would have given the story a wholly different slant, were simply omitted. For example at no point were Ruth Davidson’s own jokes, made at the expense of a lesbian Labour politician, quoted.
Davidson had, only weeks earlier, jokingly described a lesbian Labour MP as a “short-haired, flat shoes, shovel-faced lesbian”.
But there’s another aspect of this coverage that is deserving of attention. Why was this story deemed worthy of considerable resource by BBC Scotland but an equally newsworthy story featuring offensive language denied the same coverage?
I refer of course to the recent statement issued by the Scottish Conservatives that was described by the Scottish Greens as “casual racism”. The xenophobic response to French-born former SNP MP Christian Allard by Ruth Davidson’s party prompted letters from the First Minister and the Consul of French Nationals in Scotland. Yet, despite the issue of xenophobia dominating UK news in recent weeks due to the Brexit fallout, BBC Scotland refused to give the story any high-profile coverage.
Unlike some who have pontificated on this issue despite being ignorant of the complexities of it, I’m in no position to say who should or shouldn’t be offended by the word ‘dyke’. I bow to the judgement of author and commentator Paul Kavanagh, himself gay, on this subject.
What I have learned is that there is disagreement within the LGBT community itself over use of the term ‘dyke’. And that’s what this row is all about.
A lesbian artist writing a rap song which is then performed by a female comedy troupe that includes lesbians and which is subsequently praised by a lesbian politician, is not promoting homophobia. It is no more promoting homophobia than black rap artists who use the ‘n’ word promote racism against blacks.
But there is also another issue here. If lesbians are to be prevented from using terms they wish to take ownership of because those terms are used in order to abuse them, then what does it say about those who suffer discriminatory abuse? Is this not another form of discrimination?
Will those who attacked the female comedy troupe ‘Whitsherface’ also attack black artists who have taken ownership of the ‘n’ word? Are those of us who enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, the comedy of ground-breaking artists like Richard Pryor to be labelled racists because Pryor turned the ‘n’ word around and used it in his act to generate laughter?
There is of course a parallel, albeit nowhere as serious as racism and homophobia, within the constitutional debate. The term ‘Cybernat’ has been coined in order to insult, abuse and demonise anyone who challenges the pro-Union orthodoxy promoted by the corporate media.
When wielded by journalists, reporters and other Unionists, it is an offensive term. It is frequently used by the BBC without any regard to the offence it causes.
Yet it is embraced within the Yes community and, literally in some cases, worn as a badge of honour. This character was drawn by myself in 2012 when the abusive term began to be used by Unionists and their media allies.
The BBC didn’t report on the ‘Dykey D’ row because it wanted to highlight homophobia and the issues faced by the LGBT community. It highlighted the row because it offered an opportunity to cast the SNP and the wider Yes movement in a homophobic light.
Others like Gerry Hassan, who published criticism of ‘Dykey D’ on Bella Caledonia, and Jamie Aitken probably misread the context of the rap song and weren’t aware that the term ‘dyke’ has indeed been widely used by lesbians to self-reference, and given the Pink News headline, collectively reference, for quite some time.
There were very many high-profile figures at the Scottish Independence Convention event on Sunday. Some were from the world of journalism, both new media and old media. Some were from the world of politics, not all were SNP. Some were from the arts world. They saw the performance, they probably laughed and then applauded. I have yet to see a collective statement in support of both ‘Whitsherface’ and Joanna Cherry.
This kind of smear will appear across the media from time to time. BBC Scotland will, every so often, assign considerable resource to smear attacks. The Michelle Thomson episode was a good example of this. Listen to the Good Morning Scotland recording from October last year where several anti-SNP smears are promoted. The voices are those of Iain Macwhirter and David Clegg.
We’ve been here before on so many occasions. Smear after smear, accusation after accusation … given birth by Unionist politicians, then nurtured and caressed by a compliant media. It’s sometimes easy to forget the litany of claptrap that has passed for an ‘SNP scandal’.
Late last year I decided to look through my old notes and compile a list of some of the smears that were aimed at the SNP after they took power in 2007. Take a look at some of them and marvel that they actually found their way onto the pages and airwaves of our intrepid media outlets, then mysteriously disappeared when the smear was proven baseless or when, usually, Labour hypocrisy was exposed.
dentist gateOne of the most pathetic attempts at smearing the SNP came about on 10th November 2009. That day an orchestrated smear campaign was aimed at the then First Minister Alex Salmond. The smear revolved around Mr Salmond’s invitation to a dinner and concert of a dentist friend.
Murray Bremner and his wife Jane were among 19 guests at a dinner at the First Minister’s official residence in Edinburgh in August 2007. The event at Bute House followed a performance of the Edinburgh Tattoo.
There was already a well established and accepted practice of allowing First Ministers to invite members of the public with whom they were friendly to events such as these. The practice had been accepted since the days of Donald Dewar and had been carried on by every FM since then – Alex Salmond was no exception.
What was exceptional was the way every news outlet decided to report the invitation as somehow inappropriate. Among news outlets running the smear was BBC Scotland. When the station’s Political Editor, Brian Taylor appeared on Good Morning Scotland that day he compared the invite to the expenses scandal that was engulfing Westminster at the time, telling listeners that the shocking display of avarice witnessed amongst some MPs somehow “probably” (yes, probably) rendered the FM’s invite as now “perhaps” (yes, perhaps) inappropriate.
It wasn’t just the BBC that ran with the nonsense. STV and newspapers were at it as well. Fuelling the tripe were comments from the usual suspects in the form of Mr Salmond’s then political opponents.
Labour leader Iain Gray said:
“This misuse of funds shows the First Minister’s disregard for public money. At the very least he should pay the money back.
“Alex Salmond seems to think that he can run Bute House as though it’s an old pals’ act.
“Somehow he thinks it alright to invite personal friends to events at the taxpayers’ expense.”
The identity of guests was only possible due to the new SNP administration publishing the list, something the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration had refused to do. The irony was that one of the guests at the event was Labour MP Michael Martin who was ousted as Speaker of the House of Commons due to his role in trying to prevent details of MPs expenses being made public.
letter gateOn Wednesday February 10th 2010 the Telegraph newspaper reported that Nicola Sturgeon had written a letter on behalf of a constituent who was about to be sentenced for fraud. Abdul Rauf was awaiting sentencing after he had been found guilty of defrauding £80,000 from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). His constituency MSP, Nicola Sturgeon, was asked by his family to write a letter to the court on his behalf. The MSP wrote a letter to the court asking the judge to “consider alternatives to a custodial sentence”.
During Rauf’s appearance at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Donald Findlay QC handed over the document, announcing: “I have a letter of support from the deputy first minister of Scotland.”
Although she was the Deputy First Minister, Sturgeon was acting in her capacity as Rauf’s local MSP. Indeed MSPs are duty bound to consider such requests from constituents. However Scottish Labour, sensing another political opportunity, responded by calling for the MSP to resign.
Richard Baker, Scottish Labour justice spokesman, said:
“This letter of support for a convicted fraudster shows an astonishing lack of judgement from Nicola Sturgeon.
“I do not know how either her constituents, or anyone else in Scotland, can continue to have faith in the judgement of such a senior minister when she has acted so inappropriately.”
Responding, Ms Sturgeon said of her letter:
“Under the MSPs’ code of conduct, I’m duty bound to make reasonable representations on behalf of constituents.
“That’s what I did but, ultimately, the decision, rightly, is for the court to take. This constituent has accepted his wrongdoing, he had made attempts to pay back some of the money.”
The issue was raised at First Minister’s Questions where Alex Salmond defended his deputy against the Labour attacks. The exchanges were reported by the BBC where the corporation again ensured the man’s conviction for benefit fraud was prominent.
Salmond backs Nicola Sturgeon over fraud plea
Alex Salmond has backed his deputy first minister “110%” after she wrote a letter in support of a man who could be jailed for benefit fraud.
Incredibly, the leader of the Conservative opposition at Westminster was also given a platform by the BBC to attack Nicola Sturgeon. On February 13th the BBC reported that David Cameron had ‘waded into the Nicola Sturgeon fraud plea row’. Just what locus the Conservative MP had over the issue was never fully explained.
Mr Cameron told BBC Scotland:
“I wouldn’t have written that letter and I think she has got some serious questions to answer.”
“I think in advising that there should not be a custodial sentence that does seem to me to cross a line, so having read the letter that she sent I must say there are some parts of it where she has some very big questions to answer.”
The BBC’s Scottish news department was operating as an amplifier for Unionist politicians. It had become a conduit through which attacks on the SNP administration could flow, unhindered, into homes throughout Scotland. Scottish newspapers, overwhelmingly opposed to the nationalists and their quest for independence, added to the wall of noise.
Faced with such a relentlessly hostile media machine, it was no surprise that Nicola Sturgeon eventually succumbed and issued an apology for the wording of her letter. On February 24th the MSP issued a statement to parliament.
“I do believe in certain respects it could, and should, have been written differently. I regret the use of the word ‘mistake’ to describe Mr Rauf’s offence.
As I hope will become clear from other parts of the letter, I did not intend to downplay the seriousness of the crime that had been committed. However, I accept the use of the word mistake was open to that interpretation. Having drawn the court’s attention to Mr Rauf’s personal circumstances, I should have left it there,”
“I should not have gone on to ask the court to specifically consider alternatives to custody.
On reflection, that was a request more suited to my former occupation as a solicitor than to my current job as an MSP.”
What most of the public were unaware of, as it had been downplayed by the media, was that it wasn’t the first time a senior Scottish politician had written a letter in support of a constituent who had been found guilty of an offence.
In April 1999 a man had appeared in court charged with possessing £10,000 worth of illegal drugs. Forty nine year old John Penman had been found guilty and was awaiting sentence when he asked his local MP to provide a character reference. The MP agreed and drafted the letter which was passed to the judge. The MP was Gordon Brown who was then the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
On 28th April, the case appeared in the Scotsman newspaper.
Chancellor helps keep drug grower out of jail
A CHARACTER reference from Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, helped save one of his constituents from jail yesterday on a charge of growing almost £10,000 worth of cannabis.
The letter from Mr Brown, MP for Dunfermline East, was included in a number of testimonials produced on behalf of John Penman, 49.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard that the MP and others had spoken highly of Penman as someone with the ability to make a positive contribution to society. Mr Brown stressed that he did not condone Penman’s offence of cultivating the drug for his own use.
After studying the letters, the judge, Lord Cowie, decided he could spare Penman a prison term and ordered him to do 300 hours of community service.
Unlike the article which appeared in the Telegraph newspaper highlighting Nicola Sturgeon’s letter, the Scotsman article did not result in calls for Brown to resign and no headline reports appeared on the BBC. In fact few people were even aware of the Labour party hypocrisy until Alex Salmond highlighted it in response to Labour attacks on Nicola Sturgeon. In keeping with its pattern of downplaying stories that could embarrass Labour, the BBC tagged mention of Brown’s letter onto the end of a couple of articles – nothing more.
On February 4th 2010 news emerged that MPs who had been investigated over their expense claims were about to find out if they would face charges. Speculation had been mounting that one of the MPs facing possible criminal proceedings was Scottish Labour MP Jim Devine.
Devine had hit the headlines after claiming for shelving work which newspapers later reported had not been done. Receipts handed in by the Scottish Labour MP also appeared to have come from a firm that didn’t exist. Doubts had been raised by the Sunday Herald about expenses Devine claimed for £2,326 to install shelving and do repair work at his constituency office, and £2,157 in electrical work at his London home. The paper alleged there was no evidence the shelves were at his office, and said the invoice for electrical work had a fake address and an invalid VAT number.
On February 5th the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that Devine was indeed one of three serving Labour MPs who would face charges. The other two Labour MPs were Elliot Morley and David Chaytor.
Devine faced two charges under section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 of false accounting. The first charge alleged that the Labour MP had dishonestly claimed £3,240 for cleaning services using false invoices. The second charge alleged that Devine dishonestly claimed £5,505 for stationery, again using false invoices. If found guilty, the Labour MP faced the prospect of being sent to prison.
The timing of the story was not good for the Labour party in Scotland. The UK general election was only 13 weeks away. The last thing Labour needed was Scottish news dominated by the resurrection of the Westminster expenses scandal and a Scottish Labour MP facing prison.
Then, by a quite remarkable coincidence, as the Devine story looked set to dominate the news, another story emerged from nowhere.
Earlier that week SNP leader Alex Salmond had taken part in a fund-raising event at an Indian restaurant. The event, held on Tuesday February 2nd, was organised by the Scots Asians for Independence group and was attended by around 200 people from Glasgow’s Asian community. Midway through the evening a mock auction was held. Diners were encouraged to ‘bid’ for the privilege of having lunch with the SNP leader and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon at the Holyrood canteen. Both Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon would pay for the respective lunches.
There was nothing unusual about the light-hearted mock-auction, it had featured at SNP fund raising events before. There was also nothing preventing party donors from dining in the Holyrood canteen.
However ‘lunchgate’ hit the headlines like a tsunami and all but wiped the Jim Devine story from the Scottish media. It was ‘spiced up’ when Labour Party member Bill Johnston reported Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon to the Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.
On the afternoon of February 4th, BBC Scotland ran the lunch auction story with the headline – Holyrood officials to clarify SNP lunch auction.
So important did BBC Scotland deem the story that its Political Editor Brian Taylor covered ‘lunchgate’ in his blog twice, once on February 4th and again on February 8th.
Newspapers, as you would expect, also covered the lunch story with the Herald publishing at least nine separate articles in a four week spell. So sensational was its coverage that some readers accused the newspaper of going over the top and of displaying an anti-SNP bias.
The newspaper reacted and a Herald editorial published on February 5th contained the following paragraphs:
“This is a very serious issue and The Herald will pursue it rigorously until it is resolved satisfactorily. Our doggedness has prompted accusations in Nationalist circles that we are anti-SNP. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We are an independent newspaper that scrutinises each party on its record in a disinterested way. A party that is in government comes under the greatest scrutiny because it holds the levers of power and is held to account because voters have put their trust in it to act on their behalf.”
It was a bizarre response and an indication that traditional media outlets were perhaps beginning to feel pressure from criticism from hitherto passive readers.
It wasn’t that the lunchgate story wasn’t newsworthy. Holding mock-auctions offering supporters a lunch with Salmond in the Holyrood canteen may well have been unwise, but the story was nowhere near the magnitude of the Jim Devine story. Indeed within hours of the Crown Prosecution Service confirming Devine was to be charged, the Labour MP hit the headlines again when he appeared to admit guilt in a barely believable TV interview.
On the evening of February 5th, Jim Devine gave an interview to Channel 4 news. Quizzed by Krishnan Guru-Murthy on his expenses, Devine made a quite sensational claim when he said:
“I was moving money from communications to the staffing budget.
“I was advised by a whip that I could do this, who said that you could move money about like this.”
What Devine was effectively saying [although the whip in question would later deny the conversation ever took place] was that it was normal practice amongst Labour MPs to move money from one area of expenses into another. If the Devine story wasn’t considered big enough to be the top news item in Scotland before, then the interview changed that.
Or rather it should have. In fact it didn’t alter news agenda in Scotland where a relatively insignificant politically motivated story about a fundraising auction and lunch in the Holyrood restaurant was being used to effectively kill off the larger more dramatic Devine story.
As the lunch story looked to run out of steam, the Labour line changed from one of improper use of Holyrood facilities to one of access to ministers.
Scottish Labour leader Ian Gray issued a statement:
“It shows a complete lack of respect by Alex Salmond for the integrity of the office. This sort of grubby behaviour is totally unacceptable. A full investigation of cash for access to the First Minister and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon is now necessary.”
The BBC ran the story again – Alex Salmond cancels auctioned lunches.
In a statement to the BBC, Gray said:
“Rather than draw a line under the issue of ‘cash for access’ it would appear now the first minister and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon were systematically selling access for private meetings in order to raise party funds.
“Now we know this was not a one-off occasion. Alex Salmond has to answer for this rather than trying to cloud the issue. This is not about charity lunches in the parliament but extremely serious allegations over the systematic abuse of the first minister’s office.”
The Scottish Labour party needed only to issue accusatory statements and headlines were generated. But just how unusual were mock auctions that offered party backers the opportunity to spend time with senior party figures?
In fact mock auctions that offer time with senior politicians was commonplace well before the SNP held its own version. In 2008 the Labour party offered tennis with Tony Blair to the highest bidder at one of its own fundraising events. In another more distasteful mock-auction in 2006, Cherie Blair signed a copy of the Hutton Report into weapons inspector David Kelly’s death. The signed report was then auctioned off to raise money for the Labour party.
Indeed Labour continued to use such auctions. At a fundraising event in 2014, the party auctioned off two games of five-a-side football with a team of Labour ‘all stars’ including Ed Balls, Jim Murphy, Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, raising £24,000. Backers at the same event were charged thousands of pounds for the privilege of having dinner with members of the shadow cabinet.
Holyrood’s Standards Commissioner eventually dismissed Labour’s complaints against the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, ruling that auctions for lunches at the Scottish Parliament’s restaurant did not breach the code of conduct for MSPs. By then of course the impetus of the Devine story had passed and the public had been regaled by another smear against the SNP.
At the end of March 2012 one of most pathetic smear attempts against Alex Salmond hit the headlines. News emerged that the First Minister had met with a couple of SNP party donors at his official residence and had given them a cup of tea. There were also claims that Salmond’s guests had enjoyed a biscuit or two. It made headlines on BBC Scotland.
The BBC reported:
First Minister Alex Salmond is facing a formal complaint after meeting SNP donors at his official residence.
He hosted Euromillions winners Chris and Colin Weir for tea at Bute House days before they gave £1m to the party.
Labour said Mr Salmond broke the rules on using government and public resources for party political ends.
A spokesman for the first minister said the complaint was absurd, as Mr Salmond had his own stock of tea at Bute House.
It was a Labour party attack. The Weirs were well known supporters of the SNP and advocates of independence. They had donated the cash after winning an incredible £161m on the Euromillions lottery.
Labour MSP Paul Martin was quoted in the BBC Scotland report:
“It is not befitting of someone holding the office of first minister to chase after Lottery winners and hold tea parties for them at his official residence in a bid to secure donors for his separation campaign.”
The attack was, sadly, typical of the Scottish Labour party which had made several similar complaints against various SNP ministers. The headlining of the attempted smear by BBC Scotland was also, sadly, typical of the state broadcaster. Salmond killed the ridiculous story off by asking independent advisors to investigate whether he has breached the ministerial code. He was eventually cleared.
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