Victory for freedom of information

By Cara Sulieman

SCOTTISH ministers have backed down in their bid to stop the country’s information commissioner from accessing their files.

Lawyers for the government were due to appear in court to challenge the powers of Kevin Dunion.

They wanted to stop him from accessing their files, which in an important part of his job.

But they abandoned the case at the last minute and Mr Dunion has dropped his request for the information.

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Court clerk jailed over £130,000 expenses and blank cheques fraud

By Michael MacLeod

A DISGRACED ex-court clerk who swindled £130,000 by faking expenses and writing blank cheques has been jailed for 24 months.

Conman Graeme Wilson‘s massive scam on his own employers at Edinburgh Sheriff Court saw him pocket £52,000 by forging signatures on 200 false juror expense forms.

When bosses moved him to a different department, he launched a new scheme to pocket himself £78,000 in fake fees for reports on other criminals by using the names of imaginary doctors.

Wilson used the cash to fund a lavish lifestyle and lived a “double-life”, telling workmates he topped-up his income by playing semi-professional rugby.

The brass-necked former sheriff clerk was finally caught when he audaciously tried to carry on conning the court – three months after leaving the service.

Last night (Thursday) the 29 year-old began two years behind bars, alongside the very criminals he used to see every day in his job.
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Council bosses massive election jackpot is “nonsense”

By Andrea McCallum

SCOTLAND’S highest paid council staff will share a £200,000 jackpot – for announcing the results of the General Election.

The extra cash will be added to their salaries as a one-off payment for their polling day duties.

And that will mean a bonus of about £10,000 for some of the chief executives of local authorities.

On polling day the chief executives become returning officers to oversee fair voting and accurate counting.

Glasgow City Council chief executive George Black – who earns £158,000 – will get almost £10,000 for declaring the results of seven constituencies. Continue reading

Fake invoices Clerk branded “classic conman”

By Michael MacLeod

A SHERIFF Clerk is facing jail for conning the Scottish Court Service out of £130,000.

Graeme Wilson faked signatures on hundreds of jury members’ expenses forms and wrote himself blank cheques under the names of imaginary doctors billing the court.

The 29 year-old was branded “the classic conman” by a Sheriff yesterday (Tuesday) after hearing of his “breathtaking” breach of trust.

He lied to workmates that he earned extra cash through semi-professional rugby and property development.

But his scam was snared when colleagues at Edinburgh Sheriff Court became suspicious of his lavish lifestyle.
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Shamed MP Jim Devine fights to save political career

Jim Devine MP

By Oliver Farrimond

BELEAGUERED Livingston MP Jim Devine was last night desperately fighting to salvage what is left of his battered political reputation after a day of legal wrangling.

The Labour MP – who is currently being investigated over an alleged expenses fraud –appeared before an employment tribunal in Edinburgh yesterday to challenge a decision in August to award a claim of unfair dismissal to a former employee of his constituency office.

His former front-office manager, 45-year-old Marion Kinley, claimed that she was unfairly dismissed and her employment contract breached while working for the Westminster MP for Livingston and West Lothian between June 2006 and October 2008.

It comes at the same time as Devine faces a criminal investigation over abuse of parliamentary expenses, after he was found to have claimed more than £2,000 for electrical work, performed by a company with a false address and an invalid VAT number.

He is one of three Labour MPs to be probed over various expenses claims.

Yesterday’s appeal came after employment judge Ian McFatridge upheld Miss Kinley’s complaint, after dismissing Mr Devine’s response on a technicality because it had not been presented to the hearing in the correct way. Continue reading

Monday 12th October Newspaper Round-Up

Demands for Salmond to repay hotel bills

Bridge memorial - SalmondBy Michael MacLeod

FIRST Minister Alex Salmond is under pressure to repay over £1000 after he stayed in London hotels while also renting a flat in the city.

The Scottish Government leader’s hotel bills were revealed in a parliamentary question tabled by Jeremy Purvis of the Lib Dems.

He has written to Salmond for an explanation, but a spokesperson for the SNP leader said the hotels were used “for many business meetings, as well as for accommodation.”

But opposition MSPs are angry that Salmond didn’t just use the flat in London’s plush Dolphin Square area, for which he was charging £14,000 per year to the House of Commons.

Newly released figures show that after becoming First Minister in May 2007, Salmond billed the Scottish purse £1,094 for staying in London hotels on government business while his own flat lay empty. Continue reading

Scots BBC presenter in live on-air row with Labour peer over salary

By Oliver Farrimond

SCOTS BBC presenter Carrie Gracie came under fire live on-air yesterday in a heated exchange with Labour peer Lord Foulkes.

The Bahrain-born Scots journalist became embroiled in an expenses row of her own after Lord Foulkes demanded she divulge her £92,000-a-year salary during a live interview on BBC News 24 about the MPs expenses scandal.

After interrupting the peer to ask if he thought MPs should pay back their expense claims, Lord Foulkes fired back: “You never focus on the hard work MPs do in their constituencies – they’re paid £64,000.

“How much are you paid out of the license fee for being on television, harassing members of Parliament and other people?”

Shocked at the £92,000 figure, he then went on to slam other highly paid journalists, including John Humphries and Jeremy Paxman for “sneering at and undermining democracy”. Continue reading

JK Rowling offers support for Prime Minister Gordon Brown

By Michael MacLeod

BELEAGURED PM Gordon Brown conjured up some unexpected support yesterday – from Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

The Prime Minister is under increasing pressure after leaks about cabinet members’ expenses appeared as if by magic yesterday.

MAGIC: JK Rowling backs Gordon Brown

MAGIC: JK Rowling backs Gordon Brown

But like a Quidditch pro on a flying broomstick, spellbound Rowling swooped to his defence, heaping praise on her fellow Scot.

A day after David Cameron demanded Brown call an election, the megabucks writer said she would vote for Brown if the Tory leader’s fantasy became reality.

She said: “The 58-year-old Brown is frequently dubbed “dour”.

Loyal

“I know him as affable, funny and gregarious, a great listener, a kind and loyal friend.

“These are strange and turbulent times, but issues of fairness, equality and protection of the poor have never been more important.

“I still want Gordon Brown in charge.”

The Harry Potter author – who donated £1 million to the Labour Party last September – is a lone voice of support amid a storm of criticism of Brown’s leadership. Continue reading

Scottish Courts witness bill tops £100,000 a year

 4-sheriff-court4

by CARA SULIEMAN

SCOTLAND’S courts service is paying out around £100,000 a year bringing witnesses to court from outside Scotland.

In the last five years, £448,166.53 was spent on bringing witnesses to Scotland from the rest of the UK and overseas.

Last year was the highest with a whopping £105,621.34 paid out by the Crown.

But a new law going through Parliament could soon mean that thousands of pounds can be saved for the taxpayer by allowing people outwith Scotland to give evidence through video link.

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