The Public Eye

I’ve taken an antsi view of two issues today – it’s not like me at all…

You probably get a queasy feeling about cronyism and corruption and how people in the know get the ear of ministers. It’s an insidious business and yet it doesn’t need to be, so long as all the information is freely available and the rules obeyed.

This week ex SNP staffer and Salmond adviser Jennifer Dempsie was named in some outlets as having secured £150,000 for TinthePark from Fiona Hyslop. Old pal’s act! She only got it because they’re mates. All Nats together emptying the public purse, etc

Now, of course the papers involved didn’t actually say that but they wrote the story in such a way that you would. Former Salmond aide set up meeting with SNP government to win funds – enough said. Not only that but she’s a candidate, said some – an active politician. Former leader Gordon Wilson went volcanic saying she had sullied her credibility and the rules would have to be tightened to stop this kind of thing. One paper called it ‘secret taxpayers funding.’

But hold on. Dempsie no longer works for the SNP. She was at the time employed by the company that runs TinthePark. They had warned it might be scrapped because of problems associated its move to Strathallan. Her role was to set up a meeting to bid for government support. The fact that she is known to the government and presumably trusted must be a help, as it is to anyone in the networking business – which is why Tom Harris and Kevin Pringle are in the same game. It’s hardly illegitimate. The question is: Is it wrong? As director of Sense, the disabled charity, would it be wrong of Andy Kerr to ask for meetings with a Labour minister?

So Dempsie got the meeting. She did not attend it. She did not secure the grant. The money was awarded, not as a bung from Hyslop, but as an appropriately signed-off support for an cultural event which generates £15m a year. There are rules about how money is allocated and criteria have to be met.

Was it opaque? Hardly. There is nothing secret or dodgy in the story but the implication of the coverage is clear – SNP corruption. In one source, this is even tied to previous innuendo of ‘links between Alex Salmond and media baron Rupert Murdoch, as well as businesspeople like Donald Trump and Ineos chief executive Jim Ratcliffe.’ This is tabloid conflation to construct an argument. Doubt the morals of Salmond if you like but what is the pattern behind those names? They are seriously important businessmen with big investments in Scotland (Murdoch probably the biggest private employer) and Salmond was First Minister charged with improving the economy and creating a positive impression of the country. Holyrood investigations failed to nail a single nefarious act by Salmond over Trump and with Ineos, wasn’t it Salmond who stepped in to help save the Grangemouth plant?

A miasma of implication and smear is created over a non-event. (If there is corruption or maladministration, why haven’t the journalists called it?).

Here’s another perspective. Is the argument that no former SNP person can take up such a role? Or is that any approach from a former SNP person must be turned down even if means a major event goes to the wall?

Jennifer Dempsie hasn’t been selected as candidate in Highland and Islands yet. My own view is that at the point where that happens, if it does, she activates a political career and direct approaches for commercial reasons to ministers become inapprorpriate. The meeting she organized was back in May before selection processes began and she was officially a civilian. It would be a shame if a talented young woman was prevented from standing by the effects of ill-directed innuendo. Still, the price of public life, eh?

The other issue that got me was whether Ally MacLeod should be entered in the football hall of fame. The problem here surely is with the idea of a hall of fame at all and what it really is. It has become an elastic definition as they search for more and more characters to fill it. The reality is that if you have to ask the question of a sportsman then the answer is almost certainly No. It implies greatness and you either have that or you don’t. MacLeod was a damned good manager and a motivator as he proved at two clubs and in winning the British Championship. That alone wouldn’t be enough in my view to enter anything called a Hall of Fame. But when you add it the failure in Argentina it eclipses all of those accomplishments and must rule him out.

There is little evidence that he did any proper research on Scotland’s opponents and allowed overconfidence to cloud his judgement. His descent from admirable cockiness at Hampden to powerless ineptitude in Argentina was the mark of a man lacking any patina of greatness.

I liked Ally and respect him and I understand his family’s frustration at the abuse of his memory. He didn’t lose us a referendum. But if we’re judging on any criteria of fame meaning more than celebrity which he undoubtedly had, then I’m afraid Ally fails the test. As in the previous rant, fame is a fickle mistress.

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39 thoughts on “The Public Eye

  1. Jennifer Dempsie has a cheek trying to influence the decisions of elected government ministers . It’s not as if she has even agreed a rate for the job as true professionals would , like Sir Malcolm Rifkind or Jack Straw . She has clearly fallen short of the high standards one would expect from a lobbyist as exemplified by those at Westminster .

  2. Defintion of Bung in dictionary:” Bribary in order to gain reward”. I.E Glasgow City Council….lol

    • But there’s no evidence she didn’t comply with any normal access rule. She applied on behalf of her employer just as parents at St Josephs Milngavie got a meet with the First Minister by asking. She’s being pilloried because of a previous existence as if it’s a criminal conviction. If there are doubts about the validity of the grant, that’s different.I have sympathy on the effects of networking but it must help to have someone at least known to government. That’s why all organisations and most companies do it. Twas ever thus.(On Caesar’s wife, why are you anonymous?)

    • You say that “applying for public funds should be exactly the same for any interested party”, but you go on to insist that it shouldn’t. That certain people should be excluded.

      What kind of connections are there other than “personal”? It’s all people talking to one another. That’s how the world works. You seem to be suggesting that we should somehow get by with only answering machines talking to voicemail. I don’t think so. At best you seem to want regulation to ensure that communication at the interface between government and commercial interests should only be between complete strangers. That is almost equally unrealistic

      You don’t just want ministers to be above suspicion, you want them to be so isolated from the society that they are supposed to serve that there cannot even be the kind of trumped up innuendo that Derek refers to.

      Apparently, it would only have been OK for the Scottish Government to give a grant to T in The Park if the process had been initiated by somebody completely unfamiliar with the proper procedure and signed off by a Culture Minister who had never attended a festival or any other kind of cultural event, nor spoken to anybody involved in the culture industry.

      Behave yersel!

    • Spot on .
      They weren’t needing the money anyway

  3. Is it good for Scotland, is it good for Scottish business,did secret money change hands
    Get a life and move on, if you’re going to do SNP bad come up with something or shut up
    It’s not as if our Government sold the Royal Mail or RBS on the cheap or anything

    Oops!! that was the big “Real” Government wasn’t it not our wee pretendy one

  4. I’m honestly not seeing where Ms Dempsie did anything wrong.

    • So a lobbyist lobbies for and gets £150k cash of public money to give to an obscenely wealthy mega-bucks American corporation, which does not need it and you are saying;

      “I’m honestly not seeing where Ms Dempsie did anything wrong.”

      Now the fact that lobbyist is a former SPAD to Alex Salmond, and touted as a parliamentary candidate, and the money is coming from an SNP Minister might, just might start to ring a few alarm bells at this point.

      Or it should do.

      Predictably the ‘Writer, Thinker, Reader, Listener, and Thinker’ Peter A Bell typically has gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick along with Mr Bateman, in seeking to exonerate Ms Demsie, and Ms Hyslop.

      As this whole affair smells bad.

      There are lots more questions to ask;

      Has T in The Park received other “grants” for past years? (Looks like it)

      Have any Scottish Ministers received free T in The Park tickets (Looks like it)

      Did the Scottish Government view T in The Park as an outlet for their referendum message (Looks like it)

      If, as now looks likely, T in The Park was carrying out a service for the Scottish Government – has this “ad-hoc” grant been a method of avoiding VAT?

      Has the entire move of T in The Park away from Balado been orchestrated by the Scottish Government to bring the economic spin off into “friendly” constituencies?

      How much of that £150 went to line Ms Dempsies coffers?

      Did she get a bonus for her successful lobbying?

      Was any of it ‘re-cycled’ back to the SNP?

      The questions are not going to go away.

      Oh and as an aside that £150k of public money could have been better spent, as Angus council next door is ‘phasing out’ uniform grants for some of the poorest pupils.

      So yes this will run and run, despite the efforts of Messrs Bateman, Bell and yourself to make it go away.

      • I notice you make no mention of the lizard people and their possible involvement in this affair. This raises a number of questions.

        Are you one of the lizard people?

        Are you a paid agent of the lizard people?

        Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the David Icke Fan Club?

        Have you stopped beating your wife?

        The questions are not going to go away.

      • Very entertaining Stuart. When you get evidence of the corruption, let me know and I’ll publish. (Maybe check a few ‘facts’ too?)

        • You know very well, as surely does Peter Bell, that this is not just about what was done but what was seen to be done, or not.
          I am continually surprised that politicians who should either know better, or be better advised, continually get involved in words and actions that can be presented in a bad light. Once the MSM has thrown up a story of corruption, bribery, expenses fiddling, gifts, and/or junckets, the story does not go away. The comments column of the Scotsman has seen to that. It is surely not beyond the wit of the Scottish Governmetnt to publish the full story, with details of money and meetings and value received in respect of all grants. The Scottish Government gives away lots of grants to all sorts of people but one has to dig deep to find it.
          Whenit is big money then it is surely glaringly obvious that some justification is required to be not only available to the public but to be clearly broadcast. that is even more the case when money id given to commercial organisations, set up to make profits for the owners. The Government has no business contributing public money to private profit.
          It would be very nice if the Government would check out the purpose to which such grants may be put, and the competence of the recipient.
          In the case of TinthePark the access arrangements were amateurish betond the point of non-existence.
          My question would be slanted slightly differently. Why is taxpayers hard-earned money being given to incompetent clowns?

          • You really have no idea of the facts of this matter, do you? And you don’t really care. Facts are an inconvenience.

            The “full story” of the grant is already known. There was absolutely nothing untoward or extraordinary about it. The required process was followed to the letter. There was full compliance at every stage. It was a perfectly unremarkable instance of government support for an event that is a significant part of Scotland’s cultural calendar.

            What you and a few other numpties are demanding is that the Scottish Government should address, not just actual, rational concerns, but absolutely anything and everything that can be conjured by the fevered imaginations of determinedly ill-informed numpties. Were the government to be foolish enough to be guided by the advice of numpties it would do little else but swat an endless stream of complaints ranging from the merely trivial through the vexatious and malicious to the downright insane.

            The media loves numpties like you. Numpties with great big buttons that almost demand to be pressed. It is numpties such as you who enable the media to sensationalise the mundane, either to serve their own commercial interests or the political agendas of their establishment clients.

            If you had actually been interested in the facts of this matter rather than indulging your inane numptyism, you wouldn’t be posting drivel here. You’d have gone to the Scottish Government website*, where you would have found all the information which, in the manner of the true numpty, you convinced yourself was being kept from you as part of some fiendish conspiracy.


            BTW – You’re a numpty.

          • Peter

            Your response seems a bit rude, why?
            The basis for handing out the grant seems to be rather a stretch. That the rules allow it is not the point here. Is this really a good use of public money?
            I make no alusion to corruption or anything underhand, you impute this on no basis at all.

          • There was nothing or inappropriate about the transaction at all. Nothing. No matter how desperately you and other numpties strive to spin a scandal out of insinuation and innendo, the transaction was totally legitimate and above board.

            I’m sorry if my earlier post left you in some doubt. Unless it’s “Be Nice To Numpties Day”, I feel no obligation to treat you as anything other than a numpty. The numptiness in which you wallow invites disparaging comment.

        • OK Mr Bateman, what of this then?

          The SNP Government is to be investigated by Audit Scotland after gifting TITP music festival £150,000 of public money

          Perhaps you might care to answer why they might be doing this?

      • “So yes this will run and run, despite the efforts of Messrs Bateman, Bell and yourself to make it go away.”


        You find any evidence of corruption, please be so kind as to post the evidence and sources.

        • Guff eh Second SNP Minister now involved in lobbying for TITP,

          “Transport minister Derek Mackay met DF Concerts after an approach by Jennifer Dempsie, a former adviser to Alex Salmond who was working on a short-term contract with the firm.”

          Any thoughts from Messrs Bateman & the ‘‘Writer, Thinker, Reader, Listener, and Thinker’ himself?

          As this story is not going away…

          • Since I am one of those actually thinking about this, my first thought is that it is perfectly fitting for the Transport Minister to take an interest given that transport was one of the main issues around the new venue for T in the Park.

            My second thought is that you have still failed to provide any evidence of wrongdoing. But plenty evidence of your dumb prejudice.

            There were almost certainly a large number of government officials involved with TITP – local and national. Are you accusing all of them of corruption simply because they were doing their jobs?

  5. If you are involved with any major event it is not difficult to meet MSPs and Scottish Government ministers. Scotland is a small country. Movers and shakers know one another. If you are involved with a large event that attracts visitors and brings money into the local economy then local authorities, VisitScotland, MSPs and government (and in the Highland and Islands the enterprise company) want to know how they can help because the event helps grow the economy, and growing the economy is what pays for the things we all want.

    As was said to me when involved with running a festival – the festival helped deliver objectives. Governments can’t deliver these on their own, they need input from others – the reason why grants are available. But if anyone thinks obtaining a grant is easy – as easy as having a wee word in the right ear – then they have never run a major event. Nothing is given away, all monies only come after many hoops are jumped, many financial statements and projections as to visitors and benefits provided. If you fail as an organisation to make the grade then no money is forthcoming.

    • The assumption being, of course, that the Government via its functionnaries can understand the information. If one looks at the business case for the Border Railway one must be sceptical.

  6. I agree there seems to have been nothing untoward going on, but there is the issue of lobbying which in WM has got out of hand and in the US has virtually become the government. Pay £50k or so and you can get a meal with the PM. The rich and powerful can always get a meeting with a government minister. Could I?

    • I don’t know; have you tried?

    • You can have a chat with a Scottish Government minister without too much bother. I’ve spoken to many in the Cabinet on their summer tours when a cup of tea is provided and an opportunity to talk to them. If any come to your area for meetings or events they always make themselves available. Both Nicola and Alex posed for thousands of selfies with members of the public and happily answered questions. A few years ago my husband and I had had a long chat with Alex Salmond when he approached us after an event at the book festival, wanting to know what we thought about about this and that.

      Members of the Westminster Government are of course a different kettle of fish. They fly up, are surrounded by advisors and security people, and no-one gets near them. But the Scottish Government and SNP MSPs and MPs are definitely accessible to the public. Maybe you just haven’t tried.

      • I don’t know, of course, but I imagine there is a world of difference between “captain of industry”, large donor, or “mega” celebrity like Geldof burning the ear of the PM at a “working” breakfast/dinner at No 10 and you or I chatting to AS or NS informally. The rich and powerful have a direct line to top politicians that just isn’t available to the ordinary citizen. And that’s what worries me about lobbying and making large donations to political parties.

  7. I wish Gordon Wilson would STFU. Every ttime he opens his mouth these days it seems as if his intent is to damage The SNP.

  8. We seem to have forgotten that Jennifer Dempsie was never a civilian. She was – and is – the partner of Angus Robertson MP.
    And given that Geoff Ellis was a guest of Alec Salmond at the Ryder Cup, she should have been more scrupulous in her dealings. At the very least, she has a great contacts book but questionable moral hygiene.
    Gordon Wilson is right to go tonto – the SNP have to present clean hands in dealings

  9. Steve Asaneilean

    What a lot of heat for bugger all light.

    Scotland is effectively a big village where just about everyone in public life knows or is related to or sleeps with everyone else!

    The T in the Park folk wanted to meet with the Cabinet Secretary for Culture – now there’s a surprise!

    This meeting was requested by someone who used to work for the SNP but she didn’t attend the meeting herself. The organisation concerned had to apply for funding in the usual way and go through the usual channels. So are we really saying that TitP are corrupt as is their employee as is the Cabinet secretary as are all those involved in the funding process? Really?

    I too have found Scottish ministers easy to speak to even though I am not in their party and frequently act as a bit of a thorn in their side. Yet without even asking for it one of them called me at home when I raised an issue with my local MSP.

    That to me sounds like a proper democracy.

    Yes politicians need to be whiter than white but go after the real villains – all those at Westminster who hold directorships and who turned a blind eye to the corruption at the heart of the City of London and who once out of Westminster exploit there previous positions to secure six figure salary places on company boards and charge five figure sums for an after dinner speech.

    They are the ones who are corrupt and morally bankrupt.

  10. I agree with you Derek but time to get a sub-editor?

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