Unexplained Wealth Orders (Donald Trump)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd February 2021.

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Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a Scottish Green Party debate on motion S5M-24030, in the name of Patrick Harvie, on unexplained wealth orders, Donald Trump.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

This is a story that goes back a long way. In previous chapters, we saw two successive First Ministers—Jack McConnell and Alex Salmond—actively courting the business interest of Donald Trump, despite already knowing what kind of character he was. We saw the Scottish planning system being overturned for him. We also saw the highest level of environmental protection that any land in Scotland is able to have being overturned; in the end, that protection proved worthless against an environmentally destructive development.

Even before Trump’s candidacy or presidency, he was known around the world to be an untrustworthy, dishonest, racist conspiracy theorist. This was never someone that we should have wanted to associate Scotland’s good name with. Now he is a disgraced former President who left office only after attempting to overturn a democratic election and inciting a violent mob at the Capitol—a mob that was composed of the people he had radicalised: the conspiracists, the white supremacists, the religious extremists, and the grifters of a Republican Party that enabled him. Some people were shocked, whereas others thought that behaviour entirely predictable and in character.

Now that it is all over, maybe some people think that Trump should just go back to being the global joke that he was before he became a global threat. However, people who abuse political office need to be held accountable, not only as a matter of direct justice, but as a clear signal to those who come after them that they will not get away with such abuse. That is why the definition of “a politically exposed person” in the legislation that provides for unexplained wealth orders makes it clear that the status continues after the person has left office. The mechanism is no less relevant to Trump now that he is out of power.

The reasons for the concerns about his financial conduct are long standing and they have been detailed in many places, including reports published by Avaaz and given to the Scottish Government. The purchases in Scotland were part of a very long spending spree, with his spokespeople claiming that he had vast sums of money sitting around and available for investment even though, at the same time, he was apparently being turned down for credit.

The Avaaz report says:

“investigations by the US Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel, the US Congress, and others have unearthed a wealth of evidence tying Mr Trump to alleged ?nancial misconduct, including opening questions about Mr Trump’s ?nancial dealings in Scotland”.

We all know that a number of Trump’s former associates have been investigated and that some have been prosecuted and convicted, including for crimes of dishonesty and financial misconduct.

I have neither the time nor the need right now to go through every single detail of the concerns and questions that surround Trump’s business dealings. That is not what this debate has to be about. We all know what the investigations have shown. The point of this debate and the issue that we bring to the chamber is that it is for Scottish ministers to take action.

I totally understand the principle of independent prosecutors acting without control or guidance in individual cases. When it comes to individual criminal prosecutions, it would be completely wrong for ministers to decide who should be prosecuted and who should not. However, what we are talking about is not a prosecution, but merely going to court and asking for information to be provided.

As the legal opinion that was published recently by Avaaz makes clear, this is a matter of political responsibility for the Government. It says that, as a matter of law, it is simply not possible for the Scottish ministers, including the First Minister, to insulate themselves from the responsibility—legal and political—and accountability for decisions concerning unexplained wealth orders in Scotland. Even if the immediate departmental responsibility for the operation of seeking UWOs has been allocated to the Lord Advocate, that can be only for the purposes of administrative convenience or efficiency. It does not and cannot change the legal responsibilities of the Scottish ministers.

There are reasonable questions to ask a court to put to the Trump Organization. If it can provide reasonable answers to the reasonable questions, it will have no problem. However, the Scottish Government and Scottish ministers have a responsibility to ask those questions, and they cannot maintain the position that they have no ability to act. They do, and so does this Parliament.

I ask that all members back this necessary and relatively modest step towards accountability.

I move,

That the Parliament calls on the Scottish Ministers to use their powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to seek the grant of an Unexplained Wealth Order in respect of Donald Trump’s property transactions in Scotland.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Before I go into the detail of the motion and our amendment, let me make it clear that, frankly, I find former President Donald Trump to be a deplorable individual. I do not say that lightly, but as a person of colour and a Muslim, I am exactly the type of person who would be the target of his racist and divisive policies if I lived in America. Members will find no defence of Donald Trump from me or, indeed, this Government.

However, we rightly have a separation of the political and law enforcement. Just because I do not like someone, or because something might be to my political advantage, that does not mean that I should exercise any power that allows me to instigate an investigation into individuals or law enforcement processes against them. If I would not do such a thing to somebody whom I like, I must apply that equally to those whom I do not like—and Donald Trump is at the top of that list. That would be an abuse of power and would fundamentally undermine our entire justice system.

I turn to the detail of the motion and the amendment in my name. The amendment calls on Parliament to recognise that there are calls for an investigation, or for a UWO to be sought, regarding the finances of Donald Trump. I have had emails from Avaaz, which has led a campaign, and the First Minister has had those emails, too—I expect members across the chamber have had them. We recognise that there are calls for such an investigation. However, my amendment to the Green motion makes it clear that it is for the civil recovery unit to independently undertake the investigatory role that is associated with civil recovery in Scotland on behalf of the Scottish ministers, and that that process must not be subject to any form of political interference.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I entirely recognise that the Scottish Government is entitled to delegate certain decisions to the civil recovery unit or the Lord Advocate, but that does not absolve the Scottish Cabinet and ministers of responsibility for making the necessary political judgment. UWOs are specifically about politically exposed persons. Does the cabinet secretary not recognise that there is a political judgment to be made, and that the Cabinet needs to make it?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

No, Patrick Harvie is incorrect. He is asking the Cabinet to make a political decision on instigating an investigation into an individual. I have sat in many Cabinet meetings, and the Cabinet should never discuss instigating an investigation into an individual. That would not be correct, so I disagree with Mr Harvie. I will go into more detail about why I disagree, although I suspect that I associate myself with Mr Harvie’s judgment of former President Donald Trump.

Decisions on applying for a UWO are an operational matter for the CRU. The CRU is responsible to the Lord Advocate, who exercises an oversight function under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 as one of the Scottish ministers. That arrangement was put in place not by this Administration but the previous Administration, in 2003.

Although Mr Harvie is right that the Scottish ministers could apply, I do not think that it would be right or proper for ministers—either individually or, to answer Mr Harvie’s question, collectively—other than the Lord Advocate, who is not a political minister, to become personally involved in the pursuit of a particular investigation into any individual.

A society that respects and seeks to uphold the rule of law should not aspire to a system of civil recovery under POCA that could be influenced by how well connected the person holding the assets was to a Government minister, or how disliked they were by a particular Government. That is the crucial point.

Mr Harvie has called on the Scottish ministers to use their powers under the 2002 act, but he does not recognise that the CRU undertakes its impartial investigatory role on behalf of the Scottish ministers and reports directly to the Lord Advocate, who is a non-political minister. Scotland is a nation that upholds the rule of law. No matter how much I, or we, as the Government, dislike any individual, to preserve the integrity of an investigation into the activities of any individual, there must be no political interference in the process of seeking an unexplained wealth order.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I cannot recall whether you moved your amendment, cabinet secretary.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I move amendment S5M-24030.1, to leave out from “calls” to end and insert:

“notes the calls on the Scottish Ministers to use powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to seek the granting of an Unexplained Wealth Order in respect of property transactions by Donald Trump in Scotland; recognises that the Civil Recovery Unit (CRU) undertakes this independent investigatory role on behalf of the Scottish Ministers and reports directly to the Lord Advocate; believes that, to preserve the rule of law, there must not be political interference in the enforcement of the law, and notes that the CRU does not confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation taking place.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You may have moved it twice, but so be it.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

With just four minutes to contribute to the debate, I shall be brief.

I remind members that I am a member of the legal profession, although I am an employment law specialist, not a criminal law specialist.

I listened to Mr Harvie setting out his case for why he believes that ministers should apply to the Court of Session for an unexplained wealth order in respect of Donald Trump’s property transactions in Scotland. I presume that Mr Harvie has satisfied himself that the court would be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that Donald Trump would not have been able to obtain the property with lawfully earned income and, furthermore, that the court would be satisfied that Donald Trump is suspected of involvement in serious crime or is a politically exposed person who is vulnerable to bribery and corruption. I understand that they are the prerequisites for the court to grant such an order.

Should such an order be made, Mr Trump would be required to set out the nature and extent of his involvement with the particular property. He would require to explain how it was obtained, including how any costs incurred in obtaining it were met, and to set out other information in connection with the property that may be relevant. I presume that Mr Harvie feels either that Mr Trump cannot so satisfy the court or that he will fail to do so, such that there may be a presumption that the property is recoverable under any subsequent civil recovery action.

I believe that Mr Harvie’s case is that, although the Crown Office might instigate such an application to the Court of Session of its own volition, he believes that it has chosen not to, in which case, the Scottish ministers may do so. He argues, praying in aid a legal opinion by Aidan O’Neill QC, that the First Minister and her Government can apply to the Court of Session.

Mr Harvie may well be correct that, if there are serious concerns about how Donald Trump financed the purchase of his Scottish golf courses, it might be considered odd that no investigation has ever taken place—but has it not? I note that the Government’s amendment specifically says that the civil recovery unit undertakes an independent investigatory role as an enforcement authority for Scotland under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. I listened to the cabinet secretary talking about its independence. Crucially, the amendment says that the unit

“does not confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation taking place.”

Nevertheless, the question whether an unexplained wealth order should or should not be sought surely ought to be a matter for the Crown Office. It is independent, and I am sure that Mr Harvie would agree that the criminal justice system ought not to be, or be seen to be, subject to political pressure.

In essence, my worry is that, although the legal opinion may say that the Government could petition the Court of Session, that does not mean that it should. One cannot help but wonder whether to do so would risk compromising the integrity of any prosecution and judicial process, as well as the perception of the independence of the Crown Office.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I really do not have time.

Crown Office investigations must not, of course, be motivated by political pressure, and trying to influence the Crown Office would be inappropriate. I did not find Mr Harvie’s differentiation between political pressure and seeking information to be particularly persuasive. On the contrary, I found the cabinet secretary’s response to the earlier intervention to be well founded.

Although it is not for the Conservatives to answer on behalf of the Scottish ministers—the cabinet secretary has set out and will, no doubt, set out in closing the reasoning for choosing to use or not to use any powers that they have—it does not feel wise for the Parliament to seek to require the Crown Office to pursue what some might feel to be a politically motivated investigation, particularly in the context of the recent challenges over malicious prosecutions that we heard about in the chamber only yesterday.

I will conclude with a simple observation. We are in the middle of a pandemic that has taken a terrible toll on the people of Scotland. Parliament needs to be 100 per cent focused on our economic recovery and rebuilding Scotland from that pandemic. We should be working together—as I look forward to doing—in the national interest to manage the crisis and rebuild our country. For that reason and the other reasons that I have set out, I shall vote accordingly at decision time.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

I am pleased to open for Labour in this debate on a motion that

“calls on the Scottish Ministers to use their powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to seek the grant of an Unexplained Wealth Order in respect of Donald Trump’s property transactions in Scotland.”

Labour supports the motion and agree that there are valid questions to be answered about the acquisition and exploitation of Scottish property by former President of the United States Donald Trump.

The case for doing so has been set out by Patrick Harvie and by the campaign group Avaaz, which in 2019 published a full report on the need to launch an unexplained wealth order investigation into Donald Trump’s all-cash purchase of Turnberry golf course, as well as a legal analysis of why an unexplained wealth order is appropriate in this instance. Given the wealth of evidence in relation to financial misconduct by the former President—which I cannot go into now, because if I did, we would be here all day—I do not see why the Scottish Government is so hesitant to pursue that course of action.

The Government’s amendment says that it

“believes that, to preserve the rule of law, there must not be political interference in the enforcement of the law”.

However, the Criminal Finances Act 2017, which introduced unexplained wealth orders, clearly states:

“The Court of Session may, on an application made by the Scottish Ministers, make an unexplained wealth order in respect of any property if the court is satisfied that each of the requirements for the making of the order is fulfilled.”

The legal claim for the Scottish Government to seek an unexplained wealth order is quite clear, so it begs the question: why is the Scottish Government so hesitant to use the powers that are available to it? I find it quite amazing that those powers have never been used in Scotland. We have at our disposal a means to target politically exposed persons or those involved with serious crime to explain how certain property ownership came about. I do not think that it is unreasonable that an action that could be used in Scotland is more fully used, and certainly in relation to Trump, given the massive question mark over so much of his financial affairs. I do not buy what the cabinet secretary says. We will support the motion, and I hope that the Government will look at the issue again.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Let us be clear: the unexplained wealth order was specifically designed to bring transparency to the murkiest of dealings. All that today’s motion does is call on the Scottish ministers to use their power as set out in legislation. The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, as amended, allows for the Court of Session to make an order

“on an application made by the Scottish Ministers”.

The Scottish Government has claimed that that power rests entirely with the civil recovery unit, which reports directly to the Lord Advocate, and the cabinet secretary has relied on that argument again today.

However, the decision-making process was designed by ministers. The power to apply rests with the Scottish Government as a whole—that is what the legislation says. It is then the Court’s decision whether to grant an order. That is not just my interpretation; the Lord Advocate confirmed as much when I raised the matter with him last March. In a letter to me, he stated:

“Scottish Ministers are the enforcement authority for the purposes of civil recovery proceedings in Scotland. This function is fulfilled, on their behalf.”

Therefore, the Scottish Government’s contention, as set out again in its amendment, that an unexplained wealth order is a question for the CRU and the CRU alone, does not stack up.

Over the last year, many of my constituents have shared with me their deep concerns about the way in which the Trump retreats were purchased. Those concerns may be misplaced and they may not, but the Lord Advocate’s response was hardly reassuring. I was told to

“appreciate that the work of the CRU is necessarily of a sensitive nature” and that the unit responsible for unexplained wealth orders could therefore

“neither ... confirm nor deny the existence of an ongoing investigation”.

That response is even less transparent than Trump’s business dealings.

As the Avaaz report explains, the unexplained wealth order is a legislative tool that should “compel transparency” where there are questions to be answered. The motion does not try to pre-empt the findings of any such investigation. It simply asks the Scottish ministers to make use of a power that rests with them. It is not enough to stand idly by. If the Scottish Government is genuinely interested in preserving the rule of law, it must ensure that it is upheld without fear or favour—President or not. The Scottish Liberal Democrats will support the motion at decision time.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

Like other members, my main concern is Covid, the vaccination programme, and bringing the pandemic under control. However, even with the pandemic consuming the majority of our time and attention, I am sure that I am not the only one who has been gripped by the shocking situation and the boorach in the United States.

Before I address the motion, I remind members that I spent 14 years living in the United States, and that I am married to an American. I want to say how relieved I am that Donald Trump is no longer in a position of power, and that the disorder, division, and chaos that he created in the Government can now begin to be rectified and repaired. I send my heartfelt congratulations to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, and I hope for a brighter future for America. It is a wonderful country, full of many wonderful people, and I enjoyed my time there immensely.

In a failed attempt to overturn his defeat, Donald Trump fed the myth that the election was stolen, he told his supporters that they would need strength to take back their country, and then a mob stormed the US Capitol building. We should not forget that five citizens died and dozens more were injured on that day.

We need to be careful that we see no more Presidents who stoke the fires of racism and misogyny, and that Donald Trump is the last President to ridicule people who have disabilities.

To turn to the substance of the debate, I of course agree that Scotland is a law-abiding country that stands against corruption, tax evasion, money-laundering and other financial illegalities. In Martyn McLaughlin’s article in

The Scotsman yesterday, he wrote that, since Mr Trump incorporated his first company in Scotland 16 years ago, none of his companies has turned a profit, and publicly available accounts show that they have run up losses of £55 million and

“owe £157 million to US-based limited liability companies and trusts in Mr Trump’s name.”

Companies House records for Trump’s golf course resorts showed that neither has paid a penny in UK corporation tax. The Avaaz campaigning report on his transactions in Scotland makes for really interesting reading, and I encourage everyone who can to read it. A couple of paragraphs are really important because they show that, when Balmedie and the Turnberry resort were being purchased, there was misconduct in Mr Trump’s inner circle. As a result of the inquiry, Mr Trump’s former campaign manager has pled guilty to money laundering, his former deputy campaign manager has pled guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States, and his personal lawyer has pled guilty to eight criminal counts, including campaign finance violations and tax fraud.

I am conscious of the time, but want to say that I support the Scottish Government’s amendment and I look forward to closing comments from members.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I am glad that you noticed the time, Ms Harper. You made a very interesting contribution, although I do not know whether you actually spoke to the amendment. However, I am taking a light touch this afternoon.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

I am pleased to hear that, Presiding Officer.

Like most members, I celebrated the results of the US presidential election and counted down the days to Joe Biden’s inauguration. When it was mooted that, rather than attend the inauguration, Donald Trump would fly into Prestwick en route to Turnberry in my South Scotland region to play golf, I urged the UK and Scottish Governments to nip such talk in the bud and make it clear that the travel restrictions would be enforced. The only place that people wanted to see Donald Trump travelling was out of the door of the White House.

Given the hatred that he generated, and the violence that he incited, I also said that I hoped that Scotland had seen the back of Donald Trump. He has been an absentee owner of Trump Turnberry since he bought it, and with the financial losses being made year-on-year, the Trump Organization has been as successful at running the resort as the founder was at being President.

In the summer, the Trump Organization showed its true colours when it used the pandemic to try to axe 80 workers at Turnberry, as well as worsen working conditions, despite receiving public funds during the Covid pandemic. I supported the campaign by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers—the RMT—to protect jobs and conditions amid fears that the company planned to casualise the workforce, and I lodged a motion on the matter. As an aside, that motion did not get support from the Greens. However, I support the Greens’ motion today.

In the discussions on the valid questions about the source of the funding for the cash spending spree that allowed Trump to purchase a string of houses and golf courses including Turnberry, we should not lose sight of the livelihoods of the workforce at the resort and its importance to the local economy. Turnberry is a fantastic hotel. It has a rich history and has great golf courses. Its importance to the economy is one of the reasons why I want to see the end of Trump’s ownership. The Trump brand is being diminished by the day and it would be a positive move if this fine venue could be freed from the discredited Trump name under a new owner who would give staff some long-term security and whose finances did not have so many questions hanging over them.

In the meantime, there are clearly grounds for carrying out further investigations into how the current owner acquired Turnberry, and a strong public interest in doing so. The Scottish Government has been keen to avoid responsibility for that decision and has insisted that applying for an unexplained wealth order is exclusively in the remit of the Crown Office. However, we have all seen the legal advice put forward by Avaaz that directly contradicts that position, claiming that, under the 2002 act, the Lord Advocate would be acting in his role as a minister of the Scottish Government when making that decision, not in his role as the head of the prosecution system.

It is also important to say that an unexplained wealth order is a civil power, not a criminal one. It does not necessarily make accusations of criminality. Rather, it is used to ensure that everything is in order. It is clear that, in this case, the threshold for applying for an unexplained wealth order also appears to have been more than met, in light of the alarming questions that are being raised by investigations in the US over Donald Trump.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

The member is in his last seconds.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

I was literally on my last sentence, but I am sure that the cabinet secretary will pick up on the point that he was going to make in his closing speech.

I believe that the Scottish Government has a case for applying for, and should get on with seeking, such an order.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

Emma Harper made an interesting point about Trump and his impact on America, which is now a deeply divided country—it is the divided states of America. There is a lesson there for politicians in our country. When politicians sow the seeds of division in the way that we have seen, they will get such an outcome.

To get back to the subject of today’s debate, the cabinet secretary is hiding behind the law. Commonly, he uses a lot of rhetoric about what he does not like but fails to take the action that is necessary, and that is what we see today. Avaaz has said that there are two critical questions to which Scottish ministers have the power and the justification to seek answers: how did Mr Trump raise enough up-front liquid assets to buy Turnberry, given what was known about his financial straits at the time; and was Scotland exploited as a money-laundering agent? Those are legitimate questions to which ministers should want to seek answers. I can understand why the Tories would not want to seek answers to such questions, but I cannot understand why SNP members continually team up with the Tories—as they will again tonight—to block the legitimate concerns that are being raised. Parliamentarians have raised legitimate questions, but Humza Yousaf is hiding behind some legal argument that says that everything is down to the Lord Advocate.

Basically, Avaaz says that the First Minister has designated the Lord Advocate as the relevant Scottish minister responsible for carrying out the unexplained wealth order portfolio. Because of the wording of section 396A of the 2002 act, any such appointment by the First Minister of the Lord Advocate can be made only in his capacity as one of the Scottish ministers. As such, any decision by him in his capacity as her designated minister with immediate responsibility in relation to the administration and operation of the unexplained wealth order regime remains, at all times, one that falls within the collective responsibility of Scottish ministers.

The point is that Scottish ministers have the power to put the order in place, and Mr Yousaf should come off the fence and stop hiding behind the Lord Advocate. This matter is the responsibility of Government, and I urge members to support the Greens’ motion.

Photo of Gordon Lindhurst Gordon Lindhurst Conservative

By now, unexplained wealth orders are a well-established part of Scotland’s ability to tackle criminal wealth and property retention but, as a legal process, their basis and investigation, should they be used, should be entirely independent of Government. In other words, they should be non-political.

No one, including politicians, should be above the law but, at the same time, the law should treat everyone equally, including politicians. The old statue of Justice holding up a set of scales blindfolded may be familiar to us, and the picture presented by the statue is a very real one: the law in action in the justice system should be fair and balanced in its application. It is understandable why the Scottish Government—quite rightly in my view—is hesitant about doing what is being asked of it in this case. The orders should not just be unavailable to be used as a political tool; they should be above suspicion of being used as a political tool.

The old legal adage nemo judex in sua causa—no man may be the judge in his own cause—reminds us that the principle goes far beyond the judge’s chair in the courtroom. Indeed, it reaches to the Crown Office and those who work there.

Certainty of law, another eternal principle of justice, means that individuals, whoever they be, should not be subject to criminal proceedings simply because of the views of those who happen to hold elected office at any given time—those who may, like a certain recently replaced President of a major North American country, be here today and gone tomorrow—the ballot box being where such issues should and have always been decided in a democracy.

The Crown Office has featured in the news lately; I am sure that no one who is listening to the debate has missed that. This Scottish Parliament should be focused on getting our own house in order here in Scotland. That focus has at times been sadly lacking from the current SNP Government, but even it recognises the difficulty with the motion as placed before the Parliament. The amendment in the name of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice notes the need for an absence of

“political interference in the enforcement of the law”.

I, for one, welcome that.

The Crown Office should be best placed to ascertain whether the criteria for the basis of an unexplained wealth order exist, and how and whether the matter should be investigated. That is where the matter should lie, whatever the powers available, not with politicians.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I will address some of the remarks that have been made in members’ speeches. It seems that we all have a universal dislike of former President, Donald Trump. As I said in my opening remarks, however, whether I dislike or like somebody is irrelevant. There should not be political interference in an investigatory process—whether it is criminal or civil—that could lead to subsequent law enforcement processes being enacted. There should not be and must not be political interference in that, regardless of how much I like or dislike an individual or how the Government views that individual.

I come now to some of the points that members made. Liam McArthur mentioned that the Scottish ministers can apply for a UWO. I am not disputing that point in law; I am saying that, although that power is conferred on the Scottish ministers—when the Scottish ministers are referenced in law, we often operate as one legal person—and although we have that power, we rightly do not use it. Instead, the CRU, the civil recovery unit, acts operationally independently, and the Lord Advocate, as the non-political minister in the Government, exercises an oversight function. That keeps the work of the CRU at arm’s length from any political interference, which is just the way it should be.

Liam McArthur seemed to cast some doubt on why the CRU and the Government neither confirm nor deny that an investigation is taking place. He seemed to say that there is no good reason for that, but there is. If the CRU were to confirm that an investigation was taking place or that it had applied for a UWO, which is an investigatory tool, the individual concerned could dissipate their assets and hide or conceal their wealth. Any member who says that an investigation is not going on is merely speculating, because the CRU neither confirms nor denies the existence of an investigation.

Some members are finger wagging at the Government and saying that it should go away and do something on the issue and that it is hiding, obfuscating or sitting on the fence, as Alex Rowley described it. What possible motive would the Scottish Government have, given our political stance, in not applying for an unexplained wealth order, other than to preserve the integrity of the justice system, which is the reason that I have given?

I will not speak about Alex Rowley’s contribution, which was immature and childish. In fact, it lacked any understanding of the most basic principle of the rule of law.

It is fundamental that any investigatory process that could lead to law enforcement action should not be at the whim of politicians; it must be free from political interference. I hope that we can all agree to the Government’s amendment to the motion.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I thank members for taking part in what was a deliberately short debate—partly because of the need to prioritise the Covid debate and partly because the issue needs a decision rather than a lengthy debate. It certainly was not intended to be about “finger wagging”, as the cabinet secretary, perhaps tongue in cheek, described it.

Mr Yousaf called Trump “deplorable”, but he maintains that it is not for ministers to act. I say that holding someone such as Trump accountable specifically for being what is defined in law as a “politically exposed person” is a legitimate political choice. Given that other authorities around the world are prepared to do that, we should play our part.

I think that the SNP regrets its previous errors in courting Trump, even though some of the individuals who were involved at the time remain in high office today. I hope that their predecessors in the Labour-Lib Dem coalition also regret courting Trump. The comments from Alex Rowley and Liam McArthur suggest that they do. Everybody knew what sort of person Trump was, but perhaps they did not see the scale of the threat that he posed or the damage that Scotland’s reputation might suffer from association with the toxic Trump brand.

Liam Kerr and the cabinet secretary repeatedly expressed concern about independent prosecution. I say, again, that the proposal is not for prosecution; it is simply about asking the courts to seek answers to reasonable questions. Colin Smyth made that point well.

It would not surprise me if some Conservatives reject the case for holding Trump to account, given that so many of their colleagues tried to normalise his politics or even praised him and his extremist movement. However, I welcome support from Labour and the Lib Dems.

I appeal to SNP members who recognise that Scotland made a serious error of judgment in inviting the toxic Trump brand into Scotland. Let us not just acknowledge the mistake but seek transparency, accountability and the information that we need to answer the serious concerns that have been raised.

Trump can no longer be dismissed as just an unpleasant, bullying developer or a celebrity conspiracy theorist with offensive views. He became, and remains, a political danger not only in the US but globally. He has used his platform to promote fascists in this country and still has links with far-right politicians here. The threat that he brought to the US Congress a few weeks ago is by no means limited to the US.

If suspicions of financial illegal practices had been swirling around a disgraced former President of a developing or undemocratic country in Africa or eastern Europe, I do not think that there is any doubt that we would have acted by now. The unexplained wealth order is the obvious mechanism through which to act.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I want to make sure that Mr Harvie is not insinuating that, if the former President was a person of colour, we would somehow treat him any differently, because I would take pretty great exception if that was the insinuation.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I think that a country that is less powerful than the US would be treated very differently. I do not lay that at the cabinet secretary‘s door, as he has said clearly that he will not make any decisions about the matter at all but will leave it to others to decide. I think that a country other than the US would have been treated differently.

Let us not refuse to do what I propose simply because it concerns a dodgy character who has held office in a different country. That makes it more, not less, of a priority. Let us assert clearly that Scotland is not the kind of country where anybody with money, no matter how they came by it, can rock up, buy a slice of our country, do what they like with it, trash our environment and keep their business dealings opaque. Let us say clearly that they will be held accountable.