Director of New Pyjamas suspended ahead of finance investigation

Elaine McGonigle (left) with Jack McConnell and George Foulkes at a New Pyjama event at the Parliament last November

By Cara Sulieman

THE director of a fundraising campaign has been suspended while the chairman has resigned amid concerns about how much money the initiative has raised.

Elaine McGonigle has been suspended from the New Pyjamas Campaign for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh ahead of crisis talks with NHS Lothian due to take place tomorrow (Wednesday).

Chairman Graeme Millar has also stepped down from his position.

NHS Lothian Chairman, Dr Charles Winstanley, said the health board called an emergency summit after expressing their “deep concern” when brought up to date on how much had been raised.

The Sick Kids Friends Foundation said they were beginning an “urgent review” of the fundraising campaign.

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Labour peer demands changes to First Ministers Questions

By Oliver Farrimond

A SENIOR Labour Peer has written to the Scottish Parliament to demand changes to First Minister Questions, describing the current format as a “tedious ritual”.

Lothians MSP George Foulkes complained that FMQ’s had become “less relevant” and “less interesting”, and called for Ministers’ long answers to be cut short.

In a letter to Holyrood’s Standards and Procedures Committee, he also suggested that FMQs be moved to later in the afternoon, and that spontaneous questions be given more time.

Lord Foulkes said: “A number of MSP’s, constituents and people in the media have said to me that First Minister’s Questions has become less relevant, less spontaneous and less interesting than in the past. Continue reading

MOD should slash top brass officers to fund frontline troops

By SHAUN MILNE

A former Government minister is calling on the MoD to axe its senior military commanders by at least half to free up millions of pounds for front-line troops and their families.

Written answers to a series of Parliamentary Questions in the House of Lords reveal that a salary pot of £6.762 million is shared between 47 military chiefs.

A further £2.656 million has been spent on official residences that go with the posts for 19 senior top brass.

As well as the salaries exceeding £100k each, further associated expenses for ‘entertaining’ is costing the taxpayer around £77,000 a year.

Now there are calls for Lieutenant Colonels, Admirals and Generals to fall on their swords to free up cash for frontline staff. Continue reading

Call for probe into school sex scandals

By Paul Thornton

MINISTERS are being urged to investigate a top fee paying school after a THIRD sex scandal hit the academy in a year.

A male teacher at Edinburgh’s St Mary’s Music School was this week struck-off following his conviction over a nine-month sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy.

The General Teaching Council Scotland have also recommended that Scottish Ministers ban Ashley Turnell, 36, from working with children.

Turnell was convicted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last December and given probation, community service as well as being slapped on the sex offenders register.

Now a Labour peer has written to Education Minister Mike Russell demanding an enquiry after it was revealed this was the third sexual conviction of a staff member or adult connected with the school in the past 14 months.

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Scottish peer Lord Foulkes blasts Chairman’s withdrawal call

GEORGE FOULKESby PAUL THORNTON

A split in the Government’s Intelligence and Security Committee has emerged– days after its chairman called for troops to be pulled from Afghanistan.

Labour MP for Pontypridd Dr Kim Howells said in an article for The Guardian newspaper earlier this week that “the vast majority” of British troops should now be pulled out of Afghanistan.

Dr Howells, who oversaw Afghanistan as a Foreign Office minister until last year, said the killing of five British troops by an Afghan police officer who they were training had strengthened the case for bringing British troops home early.

He said: “It is time to ask whether the fight against those who are intenton murdering British citizens might better be served by diverting into the work of the UK Border Agency and our police and intelligence services much of the additional finance and resources swallowed up by the costs of maintaining British forces in Afghanistan.”

Irresponsible

But shortly after Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a staunch defence of his Government’s policy on Afghanistan yesterday, a Lord’s debate on the issue was to reveal a split in the security committee.

Lord George Foulkes branded claims that British troops should be pulled out of Afghanistan as “plain wrong” and “doubly irresponsible”.

And he said comments were “ill informed, gratuitous and sensational”. Continue reading

Former Army chief Sir Richard Dannatt accused of being Tory stooge as Labour Peer goes on the attack

By Shaun Milne

THE FORMER head of the British Army has been branded a “Tory stooge” after it emerged he stands to become a junior minister should David Cameron’s party be swept to victory at the next General Election.

Labour reacted furiously to news that General Sir Richard Dannatt may be handed a Peerage to allow him to enter a Conservative administration as adviser on defence if they can seize Downing Street.

UNDER FIRE: General Sir Richard Dannatt

UNDER FIRE: General Sir Richard Dannatt

Mr Cameron, who is expected to unveil the appointment in Manchester tomorrow (thur), fuelled the speculation when he said: “He is a man of great talent and ability.

“He has been a great public servant and I think he has more to do.”

Such a move would be lauded by the Tory Party faithful – but fiercely rounded upon by angry Labour figures.

General Dannatt has recently pounded the current Government with claims soldiers on the front line are being forced to take on the Taliban in Afghanistan with “at least part of one arm” tied behind their backs.

Stretched

He said Prime Minister Gordon Brown has left troops exposed by refusing to allow 2000 extra soldiers into theatre on grounds of cost.

It follows a previous volley from the General in January where he said a lack of equipment had “seriously stretched our soldiers”. Continue reading

Ex-British Army chief enjoyed thousands of pounds worth or perks

George FoulkesBy Alexander Lawrie

THE retired head of the British Army enjoyed thousands of pounds worth of perks for his living quarters and transport funded by the British taxpayer in the year before he left office.

General Sir Francis Richard Dannatt, succeeded as Chief of Staff last month, cost the taxpayer £160,000 for accommodation and a chauffer-driven limo complete with £35,000 a year driver.

He also undertook 40 separate trips within the UK on military helicopters, at the very time when there were complaints a shortage of aircraft for the front-line troops in Afghanistan.

He undertook the journeys to attend various conferences, meetings and official ceremonies.

Details of the General’s costs to the public purse have been revealed in written answers to a series of parliamentary questions first tabled last month by the Labour Peer George Foulkes.

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