The ‘x’ file – the truth is out there


    Tomorrow will see another instalment of First Ministers Questions, the weekly interrogation of the First Minister carried out on our behalf by opposition party leaders and sundry backbenchers….

    Tomorrow will see another instalment of First Ministers Questions, the weekly interrogation of the First Minister carried out on our behalf by opposition party leaders and sundry backbenchers.

    Most of us are familiar with the drill.  Iain Gray gets to ask four questions with Annabelle Goldie and Tavish Scott getting two apiece – then the floor is opened up to the chorus line, so to speak.

    It’s a mixture of questions and speeches with claim and counter claim jousting with figures and statistics as the protagonists seek to ensure that their point makes the headlines that evening and beyond.

    Last week it was the rhetoric and claims of Labour leader Iain Gray that brought the immediate plaudits.  Putting the First Minister on the spot with the revelation that a government agency – Skills Development Scotland – was planning to spend £555,000 changing its name to ‘Scotland – the Works’.

    Taunting and mocking Alex Salmond, usually a master of his brief, Iain Gray lapped up the rare moment of success.  It wasn’t the most earth shattering revelation and it wouldn’t cause much by way of political harm, but the timing of such a plan, given the dire state of the UK economy, was embarrassing for the First Minister.

    Immediately after the session BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor was clear in his appraisal; according to Mr Taylor Iain Gray had performed well; “That was a good one wasn’t it, that was a good one?” he said of Gray’s line of attack.

    It was all set to be a prominent story on that evening’s news and the following days newspapers until something unexpected happened.  Within hours, the agency at the centre of the allegations had issued a statement stating that the claims were untrue, that the name change proposal had been ditched two months earlier.

    By then though the story was off and running, had been mentioned on some bulletins and featured prominently on Brian Taylor’s own blog.  Mr Taylor hastily added updates to the blog, the first made mention of the denial statement whilst the second and final update gave the distinct impression that the Labour claims were true – they had published a document as proof, said the BBC Scotland political editor.

    That was it from Mr Taylor’s blog, there has been no mention of the subsequent statements issued by Skills Development Scotland explaining that the aforementioned document was prepared on the 27th April for a senior management meeting at which the earlier 30th March decision, not to go ahead with any name change, was underlined.

    For those who may have missed the claims made by the Labour leader in the Holyrood chamber we have prepared a short video containing the actual footage, his claims are followed at the end by an abridged version of the post session analysis that deals specifically with those allegations.


    As you can see, Iain Gray’s allegations were very clear – £555,000 on a name change and a further £1.6 million marketing it.  But was the agency at that moment really planning to change it’s name from Skills Development Scotland to ‘Scotland – The Works’?

    Taking the agency statements at face value then the answer is no, it was a proposal that had long since been ditched.  Certainly by the time Iain Gray stood up in the chamber the proposal was no longer live.  Scottish Labour of course say they have a document that proves their leader’s claim, but despite Brian Taylor reporting it had been published, this ‘x’ file is proving impossible to locate.

    For those who may wonder why this news site is concerned with a matter that the Scottish media seem to have dismissed, we simply remind them that these allegations were made in the Scottish parliament.  If a senior politician decides to stand up in the chamber and level accusations at public bodies whilst at the same time seeking to use them for political gain and to mock his opponent, then we have to be sure they are valid.

    The First Minister himself has on more than one occasion faced baseless accusations that he  ‘misled’ parliament.  The accusations, without fail, then featured prominently in the press and broadcast media, sometimes for months (remember Trump?).

    There are very real doubts over the validity of the claims made by Mr Gray.  If, as it appears, critical scrutiny of statements made in the chamber are to be one way only then the chamber itself loses integrity.

    Finally, there are those who would suggest that the BBC’s Brian Taylor has damaged his reputation by appearing to blithely accept Iain Gray’s original claims at face value without bothering to check their accuracy.  This can be remedied to an extent by simply publishing, on his blog, the documents he claims Labour have already published – or at least provide a link to downloadable PDF’s.

    It may not clear up this issue one way or the other but it will allow the general public to formulate their own opinion on the truth of the matter, whilst in possession of as many of the facts as possible.

    The truth is out there …. let’s see it.{jcomments on}