by a Newsnet reporter
The honours nominations row intensified last night after it emerged that the Labour party were officially informed in 2009 that ministerial involvement in the process had been ended in 2007.
Official Holyrood documents show that the Scottish government were officially asked on 3rd March 2009 by Labour MSP George Foulkes what arrangements had changed since the SNP took office in 2007.
The answer from Finance Minister John Swinney made it clear that from 2007, when the SNP came to power, no Scottish Minister was involved in the nomination process and that the First Minister had specifically chosen not to approve any recommendations.
In the parliamentary response Mr Swinney’s said:
“Nominations are received from a variety of sources, including members of the public, outside organisations and Lord-Lieutenants.
“Prior to May 2007, Scottish ministers added their own nominations to those from other sources. Nominations from all sources are initially assessed by Scottish Government officials who assist the Permanent Secretary in preparing recommendations for the UK-wide selection committees to consider.
“Since May 2007, the First Minister has chosen not to exercise the right to approve the recommendations by the Permanent Secretary. The UK-wide selection committees submit their recommendations to HM The Queen through the Prime Minister.”
The publication of Mr Swinney’s answer to a Labour question confirms earlier statements from Scottish government officials who have already insisted that there was no ministerial involvement.
The row has centred on claims by Labour politicians, including Iain Gray and Cathie Jamieson, that SNP Ministers had sought a knighthood for Stagecoach tycoon Brian Souter, who is a party donor.
The allegations have formed headlines in the Scotsman, Herald and the Sunday Mail and are based on a statement from a Westminster Civil Servant who described this year’s nominations as having come from “the Scottish Government”; the actual body dealing with nominations is in fact an independent committee.
Yesterday the Scotsman newspaper claimed the First Minister was “under pressure”. In the article Iain Gray accused SNP Ministers of trying to “hoodwink” the public and claimed that Mr Salmond had played a role in the nomination. The outgoing Labour front man implied that the knighthood was a result of a £1 million donation Mr Souter gave to the SNP.
The revelation that his party were officially informed two years ago of the changes to the system will prove embarrassing for both Iain Gray and Cathie Jamieson, who herself has already acknowledged Labour’s own involvement with nominations pre-2007.
SNP MP Angus MacNeil demanded Labour either end the smears or provide evidence and said:
“Labour should put up or shut up.
“Labour ministers admit they made nominations for honours so they should tell us who they nominated before it’s revealed under Freedom of Information.
“Second, instead of sending out ridiculous smears, if Labour has evidence that Scottish Government Ministers sought a nomination for anyone since 2007 then they should put that evidence in the public domain. SNP Ministers do not and have not made nominations as Labour well know.
“Just as Labour try to throw stones over News International without offering full disclosure themselves they are playing hypocritical games instead of making positive contributions the future of Scotland.
“It’s time to get beyond childish and baseless allegations. The SNP is focussed on a bright and better future for Scotland and our Ministers are getting on with doing their jobs including a public question and answer session today engaging with real people and a cabinet meeting focussed on Scotland’s economic growth not playing silly political games.”
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