Independent report clears FM in lottery complaint

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The First Minister did not breach the Scottish Ministerial Code by welcoming personal guests to Bute House, an independent report into a complaint made by Labour MSP Paul Martin has concluded.

Mr Martin alleged that the use of Bute House, the First Minister’s official residence, to host a private meeting between the First Minister and lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir in September 2011 had been a breach of paragraph 7 of the Code.

The Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC – an independent adviser to the Scottish Government on the Ministerial Code – has found there was no breach of the code during this meeting and there was no prima facie evidence which might have formed the basis of a stateable complaint under the Code.

In her report, Dame Elish refers to paragraph 7.2 of the code, which explicitly permits the use of Bute House by ministers to host personal or party events, provided that no cost falls on the public purse – finding that no public resources had been used in this case.

Dame Elish Angiolini’s report says:

“Bute House is the designated official residence of the First Minister.  The visit to Bute House was of a personal/party nature.  Any such visit is expressly permitted by the Scottish Ministerial Code provided no resources are used from the public purse.  The tea and biscuits were provided from the First Minister’s private resources stored in his apartment at Bute House.

“As paragraph 7.2 gives explicit permission to host personal or party events at Bute House, provided such events are not resourced from the public purse, the nature and substance of any discussions which took place are not relevant to the Code. The First Minister has nonetheless indicated that there was no discussion about money or donations and confirmed that the visit took place in private with only the First Minister in attendance.”

The report concludes:

“There has been no breach of the Scottish Ministerial Code and no prima facie evidence forming the basis of a stateable complaint under the Code.”

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“I would like to thank Dame Elish for her typically balanced and clear report, the findings of which clearly demonstrate that there was no impropriety whatsoever at this private meeting in Bute House.

“I welcome the report and I am sure that Mr Martin will also be reassured by Dame Elish’s conclusions, which demonstrate that I acted entirely in accordance with the Scottish Ministerial Code.

“This will be the fifth complaint to be referred to the independent panel of advisers I introduced in 2008 to rule on these matters.  I am delighted that each complaint has been dismissed and the advisers concluded my ministers and I have acted entirely properly.

“I remain grateful to Dame Elish and to the Rt Hon Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC – as well as their predecessors, Lord Steel and the Rt Hon George Reid – for their diligence and thoroughness in carrying out reviews such as this.”

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