Beattie Media

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:27 pm on 30th September 1999.

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Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar Labour 12:27 pm, 30th September 1999

I fear that there is nothing that I can welcome in what Mr McLetchie said, and I genuinely regret that.

The conduct of the Standards Committee's business is for the members of that committee. I do not think that it is helpful for them to have people such as Mr McLetchie standing up in the chamber trying to dictate to them what they should or should not do.

I have already said to Mr McLetchie and to the chamber that the Administration will co-operate with the decisions of the Standards Committee. This is a matter for the members of that committee. It is not helpful to turn them into a battering ram with political connotations.

Mr McLetchie mentioned the statements that I made while in Bournemouth. At that stage, all I had was an abbreviated account from The Observer of what would be in the story and press speculation. I knew enough to talk to colleagues who were to be named to get their assurances. At that stage, given the pressure that I was under, it was proper that I said that I had had assurances and that I did not believe that the ministerial code had been breached. That was the most that I could have said at the time and I was careful in my phraseology of that statement.

I returned to Edinburgh yesterday at about 2 o'clock, which is when I saw the transcripts. It was clear at that stage that if I was to make a fuller and more detailed statement than the three or four lines that I issued when the story first broke, there would have to be some investigation. I therefore looked at the original correspondence and the invitation to the famous football match, which came from the Scottish Premier League and was signed by its chief executive, as well as at the history of the Lomond development invitations. I established that there was not a trace of outside influence from any media or public relations firm in those invitations. That allowed me to come forward today, at the earliest opportunity, with the agreement of the Presiding Officer. I could not have made this statement yesterday. That should be self-evident to anyone who is prepared to consider the circumstances fairly.

I accept entirely that the matter will alarm the public, but it is quite clear that ministers have acted properly. It is a matter for ethical debate—which I do not want to enter into at the moment—whether the two employees of Beattie Media acted properly, or whether, as the firm says, they were carried away by over-enthusiasm.

It is important to work hard to establish that proper safeguards are, if possible, in place. Mr McLetchie is concerned that mud sticks. I hope that in the days ahead he will remember that it helps not to throw mud, because it does stick.