Labour have already thrown in the towel in their latest attempt to smear Alex Salmond, former Deputy Presiding Officer and SNP MSP Alasdair Morgan has said, after the party attempted to rubbish the investigation which they themselves had asked for.
Just hours after Labour MEP Catherine Stihler wrote to the First Minister calling on him to “formally investigate whether the Ministerial Code has been broken and whether a clear abuse of power and position has taken place,” Alex Salmond announced at First Minister’s Questions that he had done exactly that.
However, Labour are now running away from this investigation, attacking the code and criticising the choice of independent investigator, suggesting that they have already privately accepted that the First Minister will be found to have committed no breach.
This comes after they refused to accept the findings of the last five complaints – each independently judged by unimpeachable public figures – under the Ministerial code.
Labour’s attacks coincide with an admission from a Labour strategist in the Sunday Herald that their tactic for trying to secure a ‘No’ vote in the referendum is to launch personal attacks on Alex Salmond.
Commenting, Alasdair Morgan said:
“Just days after the inquiry which they demanded was launched, Labour seem to have already thrown in the towel.
“Every time one of their complaints is investigated under the code, Labour refuse to accept the findings – this time they are not even waiting for the findings.
“This is an investigation they asked for, under a code they adopted in Government. Despite this they are attacking the Ministerial Code; the remit of the investigation and the choice of investigator.
“Far from being concerned with the issue, Labour are simply interested in attacking the First Minister. Indeed, their own strategist is quoted in a national newspaper boasting about it.
“It is a clear case of playing the man instead of the ball.
“The Ministerial Code itself is basically unchanged from their time in office, with one crucial exception: under the Labour Party, complaints against the First Minister were judged by the First Minister. Now they are independently judged by public figures of unimpeachable integrity.
“In this case, that cannot be any former Law Officer precisely because it relates to the law officers’ prerogative in terms of the existence and content of legal advice. That’s why Sir David Bell has been asked to lead the investigation.
“Crucially, Sir David’s inquiry will cover the entirety of Catherine Stihler’s complaint – no aspect will be omitted.
“What is increasingly obvious is Labour now realise how foolish they are set to look, as yet another investigation brought about by a Labour complaint will exonerate the First Minister. Of course, they had the chance to raise these issues at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, and their failure to identify any issue of substance has clearly caused them to privately realise that they are on a hiding to nothing.
“With Labour strategists openly admitting that their tactic for securing a No vote in the referendum is to personally attack the First Minister, it is clear that this attempt to undermine Sir David’s inquiry is part of that orchestrated campaign.
“Far from making their much-promised ‘positive case for the union’, Labour are once again being guided by their blind hatred of Alex Salmond and the SNP.
“The people of Scotland deserve better than this from the opposition. Governments should quite rightly be held to account – that’s why the First Minister was happy to refer himself for investigation over the Ministerial Code – but it is time Labour also took a long hard look at their own conduct.”
Catherine Stihler’s letter to the First Minister of October 24th states:
“I call on your services to now formally investigate whether the Ministerial Code has been broken and whether a clear abuse of power and position has taken place.”
The First Minister announced the terms of the inquiry at First Minister’s Questions on 25th October, and explained why Sir David Bell – and not one of the distinguished former Lord Advocates – should lead an inquiry that relates to issues surrounding the law officers’ prerogative:
“Yesterday, the member of the European Parliament, Catherine Stihler, wrote to me to ask me to formally investigate whether the ministerial code had been broken in relation to the existence and content of legal advice on Scotland’s continued membership of the European Union. I confirm to the chamber that today I have agreed to that request by referring the matter to the independent panel of advisers on the ministerial code.
“Because the matter touches on an area of the code that relates to the law officers’ prerogative in terms of the existence and content of legal advice, and our two members of the panel are both distinguished former Lord Advocates, on the advice of the permanent secretary I have invited Sir David Bell to join the independent panel of advisers. Sir David is vice chancellor of the University of Reading and a former permanent secretary of the United Kingdom Department for Education. He will lead the investigation into this matter.
“The findings of the independent advisers will be made public. I will accept them and I hope that all members of this chamber will do the same.”
According to the Sunday Herald, party insiders believe if they can discredit Salmond, they can discredit the independence campaign.
“Trust is an issue,” one Labour strategist told the paper. “People say, ‘Oh yes, Salmond’s a decent, big figure’ but they don’t really trust him. And in the independence debate, the message-carriers are important. So we’re pushing hard on that.”