Russell hissy-fit over Stow College director rumbles on

(Updated) On Saturday 10th November The Herald captured Argyll and Bute’s MSP, Education Secretary, Michael Russell, in a fit of the screaming ab dabs, reporting that he was imperiously demanding – in big bold front page headlines – that Kirk Ramsay, Chair of Stow College in Glasgow, resign.

The Minister had also summoned Mr Ramsay to the Scottish Parliament to account for himself.

What on earth had Mr Ramsay done?

He had clearly been a naughty boy and this was an immediate hanging matter.

Mr Ramsay had, in fact, recorded the discussion at an important meeting between Mr Russell and representatives of the college sector on reforms proposed by the minister which have not been well received.

Mr Ramsay had made the recording for his own benefit – instead of taking verbatim notes – and for the benefit of others who could not attend. Access to the detail of this discussion mattered if the issues were to be properly understood.

But the delinquent Mr Ramsay had not thought to ask Mr Russell’s permission – and this was the the source of the Ministers’ fury, although permission is not asked for the taking of verbatim notes, which can be as comprehensively accurate but do offer a degree of deniability because their accuracy cannot normally be proved.

Mr Ramsay’s integrity in his treatment of the recording is evidenced by the fact that there is no reference in the Herald Article – by Education Correspondent, Andy Denholm – to any matter in the recording or to anything that indicates any awareness of what was said. This indicates that The Herald had had no access to the recording.

There are two obvious issues.

Someone who becomes as furious as Mr Russell became, exploding lividly all over the media, must have a very good reason for being so disturbed at having proceedings recorded – which makes deniability a little difficult.

And someone in Mr Ramsay’s position must have felt a sharp need for fully detailed evidence of what was said.

This is not a healthy picture. It shows a Minister preferring to whisper in the shadows and a senior official feeling that the un-minuted word of a minister was a potential shape-changer.

Anyway, the enraged Minister chuntered on. Mr Ramsay’s conduct was not ‘consistent in any way with the protocol expected at such an event or of the standards I expect [Ed: clearly servile] of any college’.

Mr Ramsay told The Herald: ‘I am extremely disappointed that Mr Russell has used his position to seek to exert such control, influence and power, both privately and also so publicly.

‘I find his comments about me disturbing, given the foregoing. It is regrettable that he has chosen to seek my removal in such a fashion, particularly given the difficult period of change we are experiencing and the work we … are doing voluntarily. driven only by passion for the work of the college sector.’

It was nevertheless made known that Mr Ramsay had apologised.

That was Saturday.

Round Two

Apologise he may have done, but Mr Ramsay had also refused to resign.

The Minister then did a mega flounce. Angered that his dictat had not carried due weight and that Mr Ramsay was still standing, The Herald [and Mr Denholm] reported today that Mr Russell had consequently written to every single principal and chair of every single college in the country, trying to rouse support for his harrying to resignation of Mr Ramsay.

Round Three

Enter concern at Holyrood.

Scottish Labour’s Colleges Spokesperson, Neil Findlay has written to the convenor of the Parliament’s Education Committee to investigate the matter.

As his concerns, Mr Findlay first cites the extremely personal attack by the Minister on Mr Ramsay. He has obviously forgotten that Mr Russell has serious form by association in dirty tricks. His former close aide famously penned the smearfest blog, The Universality of Cheese, for which, after a dreadfully irresponsible episode, he had to resign.

Mr Findlay then raised anxieties about ‘the handling and the tone of the regionalisation process in general’.

The big issue is the one Findlay kept for last.

He says ‘It is vitally important… to make sure that this is  not one case of of a wider culture of bullying and intimidation within the further education sector’.

Mr Russell’s similar performance earlier this year – also in a bullying public pursuit, this time targeting for resignation Archie Robertson, the former group CEO of David MacBrayne – created such a synthetic but noisy fuss that Mr Robertson threw in the towel.

Perhaps Mr Russell has become emboldened by this ‘success’; and the consequent hubris is carrying him to dangerous levels of exposure?

UPDATE: 21.00, 13th November: Ramsay gone

It has just been announced that Kirk Ramsay has indeed now resigned as a result of the pressure the Minister brought to bear.

We can only hope that the two senior scalps he has now forced – Mr Robertson’s and Mr Ramsay’s – does not encourage the Minister to further choleric excess. What sort of a government is it that has pantomime dames roaring in the press,  demanding serial heads on a plate on the slightest pretext.

In our view, Mr Ramsay was very wrong to resign – and those at Stow College or within the colleges sector who may have persuaded him to do so were very wrong.

Bullies become confirmed bullies when no one stands up to them.

The prospect of an independent Scotland governed in a renewed culture of bullying and pulling rank is certainly not what we had in mind.

We citizens and voters have to realise that we are ourselves responsible for bullying behaviours and for rooted bullying cultures where we work and where we are governed. We let it happen. We need to support each other in resisting it. If we don’t, we will get much more of what we have already bought.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • 21st century Scotland ? You bring shame on us all Michael Russell MSP

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Islay for ever November 14, 2012 7:27 am Reply
  • I suggest that all bullies are forced to resign as the behavior is not democratic.
    The UK needs to work on dealing with bullies as it seems that the good reserved people who have the good of all at heart are often overcome by them.
    Perhaps observing the Quaker way of carrying out business and general meetings would give inspiration to FAIR behavior.
    The first time I went to one of their meetings I had come to conclusion about a particular topic, but following a discussion where silence prevails after each comment to allow deep consideration, I actually changed my mind.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    j m November 14, 2012 10:46 am Reply
  • When faced with the situation, Mr Russell had 3 possible options.

    1) Do nothing – so what? he was acting for the government and paid by taxpayers, he should expect everything to be recorded or minuted anyway. In the interests of transparency, he could even use this to his advantage to show how honest and clear his government are.

    2) Have a meeting with the ‘accused’ and resolve it like a professional. Make your expectations clear and endeavour to bring everyone on board that recording is not acceptable without permission. Might have hit the press, but would have been a small spat where it could easily have shown Mr Russel in the better light and as the bigger person.

    3) Fly off the handle. Publicly call for the ‘accused’s resignation whilst at the same time stating you have no power to do. Publicly refuse to apologise and refuse to resolve the issue for the greater good. Get yourself all over the press and looking like you have something to hide, and a bully into the bargain. The last two might not actually be true, but don’t worry, the public will think it.

    So congragulations to Mr Russell – he chose option 3 and now looks like a bit of an idiot (can also substitute bully/petulant child/shady character).

    We should have expected more from someone in his position.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Jamie Black November 14, 2012 11:53 am Reply
    • I may be wrong of course but i alweays feel Mike Russell is somewhat false in demeanour.

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      phill November 15, 2012 8:57 pm Reply
  • Watching Newsnight Scotland last night, I was amazed the Chair of the Education Committee (who it turned out was fighting the government’s corner, not Parliament’s as required by our representative democracy) got away with stating that a Smartpen is a Spy Pen. It is not. They are two different things. Spy Pens have secret cameras with hidden lenses so nobody will sucpect being filmed and recorded. Look up Smartpen on Youtube and you’ll find it’s something quite different – no filming capacity. not camouflaged to look like a ballpoint pen etc. The lackie lied.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    ipse dixit November 14, 2012 12:05 pm Reply
  • “‘Spy-pen’ Stow College chairman resigns after ‘personal attack’ by minister”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    kgv November 14, 2012 12:44 pm Reply
  • Surely what this hinges on is the ‘status’ of the meeting. Ministers (and others) will often hold meetings which are confidential or even under the Chatham House Rule.

    Doing this enables all participants to explore subjects of common interest and perhaps develop ideas without the ‘threat’ that there musings could be reported in some way.

    The Chatham House Rule is:
    “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

    If the meeting was billed as confidential or under such a rule as above, recording the meeting and then distributing that recording is clearly in breach of the rule.

    If the meeting had no pre-agreed status then MR had no basis for complaint.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    BFOandC November 14, 2012 2:23 pm Reply
  • Further update on this:

    What would be very interesting would be to hear what the view is of the other ‘college leaders’ who were at the meeting. Did they understand it to be confidential in any way?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    BFOandC November 14, 2012 3:45 pm Reply
  • I must be missing something. Surely what appears to have been a formal meeting – discussing matters of sufficient importance to warrant the presence of the Education Minister – should have been minuted, and yet I’ve seen no mention of this. Is there a tradition of not minuting meetings where there’s wheeling & dealing going on, behaviour that could maybe lead to an atmosphere of disillusion and cynicism amongst the ‘general public’?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Robert Wakeham November 14, 2012 5:53 pm Reply
  • “Perhaps observing the Quaker way of carrying out business and general meetings would give inspiration to FAIR behavior.” please correct me if I am wrong and I am not into religion. Was Cadbury chocolate not founded by Quakers, I think they were banned from going to universities, and many people like doing business with them as they had a very strong ethic at not cheating people. Was very interested in your comment, when I listen to our “leaders” they mostly want to slag their opponents off. The smartpen, I did google it, and watched a clip of what it does. I can see why it would be very popular with academics and students.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    John Sinclair November 14, 2012 7:38 pm Reply
    • Don’t know about university, but quakers certainly ran British confectionary; Fry, Rowntree, Cadbury and Terry all have quaker origins.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      db November 14, 2012 11:57 pm Reply
  • This really does seem a strange affair. I haven’t seen or heard the reasons why Mr Ramsay felt the need to obtain & use a Spy Pen. Was this the only meeting in which he’d used the device? Was it because he was attending a meeting with a snake-oil salesman? Had Mr Ramsay had previous dealings with Mr Russell that had persuaded him that such measures were necessary to protect his own reputation? The outcome is clear though – watch your back when Mike Russell’s in town.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    keith stanger November 14, 2012 11:02 pm Reply
    • In Newsnight’s interview with Mr. Ramsay he stated that he suffered from tinnitus which often makes it difficult for him to hear everything that is said in a meeting, particularly one held in a large auditorium with 80+ delegates like the one in question.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      db November 14, 2012 11:48 pm Reply
      • Did all the people he circulated his recording to have tinnitus too?

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        Jake November 19, 2012 4:01 am Reply
  • Alex Salmond says sorry for using wrong college funding figures
    Whats good about a smartpen as far I can gather it both records written and spoken word and then when down loaded to a computer data is easily shared and retrieved, if a key word like figures was used, some interesting data could be retrieved. Very good for minute taking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    John Sinclair November 15, 2012 5:58 pm Reply
  • Either Mike Russell as Education Minister or a senior civil servant gave Alex Salmond the wrong college funding figures. Mike Russell should have checked the original figures before handing them over to Alex Salmond and he should either resign or be sacked.
    Mike Russell was very chirpy when interviewed on the BBC Scotland news at 1.30pm (Thursday) but he had a face like thunder when he was filmed leaving the chamber after Alex Salmond’s grovelling apology and this time had nothing to say.
    There is are a couple of well known sayings “it comes to those who waits” and “every dog has its day”
    Kirk Ramsay should be enjoying Mike Russell fall from grace.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Treble T November 16, 2012 12:30 am Reply
  • Strikes me that Mike Russell is a compulsive Hissy Fitter. not fit for purpose and certainly not suitable for the important post of Minister Of …Education .

    Surely, Resignation or Sacking is now the only sensible option?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    jim bean November 16, 2012 12:47 pm Reply
    • He doesnt suit the recently aquired ‘designer stuble’ either. Maybe the result of a few sleepless nights of late.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      phill November 17, 2012 6:35 pm Reply
  • “Kirk Ramsay should be enjoying Mike Russell fall from grace.”
    I do not think Kirk Ramsay will be enjoying this, he is hurting because he stood up for his sector and the establishment kicked him in the teeth. Colleges are a key to life long learning, not more important than universities, but it gives access for most people to be able to continually “up grade” their education. For our nation to prosper we need everyone to be able to continually access knowledge so they can not be fooled by our weak “leaders”. Look at how Westminster brought in tuition fees for universities. Try fooling a person with access to knowledge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    John Sinclair November 17, 2012 7:41 pm Reply
  • Call for debate on Scotland’s college sector funding – Is Scotland losing out – 24% cuts

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    John Sinclair November 19, 2012 12:13 pm Reply
  • The Education Secretary will today apologise to Parliament

    Published on Tuesday 20 November 2012 08:00

    EDUCATION secretary Michael Russell will apologise to MSPs today after he was accused of misleading the Scottish parliament over the funding of Scotland’s colleges.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    John Sinclair November 20, 2012 3:02 pm Reply

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