The SNP Scottish Government is facing two uncomfortable [to say the least] timelines in the delivery of lucrative public contracts to companies who donated cash to the party and to its political campaigns.
Reported revelations on these cases come on the heels of the equally ill-judged but relatively ‘cheap date’ [for both sides] of the free handout of £150,000 dispensed to the profitable DF Concerts by Culture secretary Fiona Hislop.
While both of these progressions to corporate enrichment began in the days of the flexible former First Minister, Alex Salmond, it could not be more disappointing that the timeline of the standout winning relationship has continued unbroken under the aegis of the current First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
As well as contracts, governmental promotional support – which is contrary to the code of conduct in question – has been a feature of such relationships in one case; and has seen the provision of monopoly provider in an NHS funding tranche awarded to the second.
On the corporate side, on the case of the major beneficiary, early and public business support for independence was another valuable weight thrown upon the scale which tipped generously to reward.
What remains extraordinary is how relatively little it takes to donate to the SNP in return for – obviously completely unconnected – massive amounts of public money in public contracts awarded. A total of at least £11M in public sector contracts and a government loan of nearly £1M came in apparent response to total SNP-related donations of £112,247 – with total return on investment for the donations in question being x 98 times in three years.
This shows an utter lack of respect for the worth of public money – by the government of the country.
A small country like Scotland, rapidly approaching the reality of being effectively a one party state, would have reason to be concerned about the progressive embedding of practices and relationships which reek of the pork barrel – were reason to be a feature of voters’ current political opinion.
The obvious lesson is that in a small country in the grip of a single and all-powerful party with a predictably relaxed attitude to impeachable conduct where there is no likelihood of successful impeachment, you support that party and are comfortably embraced; or reject it and find yourself on the outside in very scant company. Unfortunately, few have the character and the values to opt for the latter.
While this is no different from any country, it would have been inspirational had Scotland chosen to lead the way to a new politics. That would have been ‘progressive’.
A summary of the widely reported facts in the cases brought to public attention follows below.
Case 1: players, moves, chronology and balance sheet
This is the earlier and minor of the two reported relationships that have been very profitable for the businesses concerned.
- SNP Scottish Government
- Jamie Rae/Nugensis [IT]
Public contract sector
- NHS Scotland
- Alex Neil, then Cabinet Secretary for Health, met Jamie Rae, already a donor to Mr Neil’s SNP constituency banch [see below] and to the SNP’s 2011 General Election campaign see below] on 4th February 2013 and again on 11th September 2013; and later in August 2014. On each of these occasions Mr Rae was overtly lobbying for juvenile male vaccination against the HPV [Human papilloma virus] virus, a sexually transmitted disease. We do not yet know which business would have benefited from the contract for the supply of the vaccinations concerned – or what such a contract would have been worth.
- Alex Salmond, former First Minister, has been a very public supporter of Mr Rae’s, despite his criminal past which, thr0ugh a jail term, had been purged.
- Michael Matheson – then Public Health Minister now Justice Secretary, to whose Falkirk West SNP constituency Mr Rae gavae £1,500 in 2011.
It is worth noting that Alex Neil has always had a chilled attitude to public money. He creamed off the largest amount of public money in a controversial use of housing expenses allowances during the pre-SNP devolved administrations of Scotland. Like other MSPs of most parties, he bought a property in Edinburgh to live in when at the parliament, charging his mortgage payments to the accommodation allowance; and then selling the property later at substantial profit – which he kept himself.
Named businessmen involved:
- Jamie Rae: An SNP Councillor for Laurmont West in Falkirk at 27; jailed for both mortgage and benefits fraud in 1997; started a recycling company whose sale made him a multimillionaire; leading member of the indy group, Business for Scotland; became a non-exective director of an IT company, Nugensis and CEO of the Throat Cancer Foundation.
Quid pro quo?
- 2011: Outgoings – Jamie Rae donated £10,012 to the SNP’s General Election campaign.
- 2011: Outgoings – Jamie Rae donated £1,525 to Mr Neil’s SNP constituency branch of Airdrie and Shotts.
- 2011: Ougoings – Jamie Rae donated £1,500 to the then Public Health Minister, Michael Matheson’s SNP branch in Falkirk West
- April 2014: Incomings – Mr Neil announced a £2.2M fund for NHS Scotland Health Boards – which could ONLY be used to buy the Nugensis WardView App, with Mr Rae a director of Nugensis from three months before, in early 2014. WardView is now used in almost every NHS hospital in Scotland – covering 720 wards with 20,000 patients.There were and are rival Scottish systems to WardView – as with eWard from Livingston’s Savantech. [eWard has been used across NHS Forth Valley since 2006.] Savantech was not aware of any tendering process for this NHS funding scheme – unsurprisingly since is appears there was none. All contracts worth over £11.5k are supposed to go to tender.
- Jamie Rae investment: £17,037.
- Scottish Government investment in Nugensis: £2.2M.
Not a bad return on investment – x 129 times in 3 years.
Scottish Government economy with the truth
When the Scottish Daily Mail asked about meetings between the then Health secretary, Alex Neil and Mr Rae, they were told that the two had met only once, in August 2014, after the April 2014 Nugensis monopoly on £2.2M funding for hospital ward monitoring software.
The newspaper established that M Neil had met Mr Rae twice, and on each of these occasions, before the lucrative embedding of Nugensis in this specific NHS funding programme. This has since been admitted by a Scottish Government spokesperson.
Case 2: players, moves, chronology and balance sheet
- SNP Scottish Government
- Alexander [Sandy] Adam /Springfield Properties
Public contract sector
- House building
- Alex Salmond: then First Minister had an official meeting with Springfield Properties in July 2013
- Derek Mackay: then Local Government Minister, had an official meeting with Mr Adam in June 2014
- Margaret Burgess: then Housing Minister, had an official meeting with M Adam in July 2014.
- Richard Lochhead -Rural Affairs Secretary, twice used Twitter to promote Springfield Properties, as [once] did SNP Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson MP, whose local election campaign in Moray in 2015 was endosed by Mr Adam.
- Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney: First Minister and Deputy First Minister, launched SNP business manifesto for 2015 General Election at Springfield Development at Glasgow Braehead, wearing Springfield branded kit.
Named businessmen involved:
- Alexander Adam, owner of Springfield Properties
Quid pro quo?
- May 2012: Political support – Mr Adam signed Springfield up to the ‘Yes Scotland’ declaration;
- May-June 2012: Outgoings – Mr Adam donated £25,000 to the ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign in indyref 1;
- September 2012: Incomings – Not long after Mr Adam’s £25,000 donation to ‘Yes Scotland’, Springfield was named as one of 12 housebuilders to benefit from a scheme where the Scottish Government guaranteed mortgages.
- February 2013: Incomings – Springfield was given a government [public money] loan of close to £926,000 as a priming contribution to an 80-unit development on land it owned in Edinburgh.
- December 2013: Outgoings – Mr Adam donated £13,210 to pro0indy Business for Scotland group;
- January 2015: Incomings – Springfield Properties was awarded three Scottish government contracts to provide affordable housing in Moray – with a total value of £8.8M.
- March 2015: Outgoings – Springfield Real Estate Management Limited donates £50,000 to SNP;
- April 2015: Political promotion: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney launch SNP general Election Manifesto for Business at Springfield’s Braehead development, wearing hard hats and hi-vis jackets with Springfield branding. While the event clearly did Springfield a favour, the branded kit has become too much of a generally uncomfortable feature of promotional events to be attributable to fully conscious promotion by government minsters, who ought, of course, to be more circumspect.
- April 2015: Outgoings – Springfield helps Moray Council to offer free housing to incoming teachers;
- April 2015: Political support – Rural Affairs Secretary and MSP for Moray, Richard Lochhead promotes Springfield’s generosity in helping to offer housing for teachers coming to Moray.
- May 2015: Political support – Mr Adam endorses Angus Robertson’s campaign as MP for Moray.
- June 2015: Outgoings – Springfield donated £2,000 to the office of SNP MP, Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh;
- June 2015: Outgoings – Springfield donated £5,000 to the office of SNP MP and former MD of Business for Scotland , Michelle Thomson;
- August 2015: Political support – Rural Affairs Secretary and MSP for Moray, Richard Lochhead again promotes Springfield’s generosity in helping to offer housing for teachers coming to Moray.
- Adam/Springfield investment: £95,210 hard cash plus benefits in kind though housing support for teachers coming to Moray
- Scottish Government investment: £8.8M in housing contract s for springfield; £926,000 government loan; plus commercial benefit from participation in 2012 government mortgage indemnity scheme.
Again, not a bad return on investment – in hard cash alone, x 92 times in three years.
Case 2: Links to recent Hyslop T-in the Park handout
Alexander Adam’s Springfield Properties is a modest company based in Elgin – in the Moray constituency of the SNPs titular Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson.
The moving force in the gifting by SNP Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop of a post-event handout of £150k of public cash to DF Concerts – a company £9M in the black – was one Jennifer Dempsie, a prospective Parliamentary Regional List candidate for the SNP – and girl friend of Angus Robertson MP.
This is all inexcusably cosy. But it is the direction of travel in the very old fashioned ‘new’ Scotland.