Alex Salmond's three-course defence.

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Should MSPs should use Parliament's restaurant to raise party funds? The answer's clear if it's for an average backbencher. 

Add access to your actual First Minister and his Deputy in Parliament as a fundraiser for the SNP's Westminster campaign in Glasgow Central and this story turns from a one-day wonder into a serious problem for the SNP.

So chef's hats off to the Herald for lifting the lid on this one. But let's hear the other side. The Herald today has a piece on the subject which, alongside the scoffing of the other parties, us included, contains the core of three dubious lines of argument the SNP are trying to use to exonerate their top table.

For starters, the rules say Parliamentary resources must not be misused. Because meals at Parliament's restaurant have to be paid for it's therefore not a Parliamentary resource, the SNP claim. Here's a clue. It's in Parliament, and if it wasn't there the place'd be awfully draughty. You can't get into it unless you're with an MSP or with staff working at Holyrood. It's subsidised by the taxpayer. Take that one back to the kitchen.

Next, the course of the main defence runs like this: the auction itself took place elsewhere, so the prize itself can't be "a significant political party purpose". Try that logic with a previous scandal and see if you can swallow it. "Sure, the questions were asked in the Commons, but it's fine because I received the money in the Harrods carpark."

Finally, a spokesman for the great puddin' o' the chieftain-race says it wasn't wrong because the lunch hadn't actually happened when they got caught. We planned to break the rules, the excuse goes, but fortunately the Herald and the Corporate Body have saved us from ourselves. Again, like taking cash for questions but being grilled about it before the questions could be tabled.

I'm sure Kevin Pringle's manual for situations like this says "use every effort to make it look like the guidelines are unclear", yet the truth is otherwise. The "campus", which is the whole Holyrood complex, can only be used for "events relating to a member's parliamentary duties". Despite the substantial public funding the First Minister has provided to Osama Saeed's organisation, it's clear that getting him elected to Westminster is not one of the ways Salmond serves his constituents.

That makes this a set of shameless and indefensible arguments. It's like a substandard Chinese meal, superficially tasty but leaving you hungry for answers in short order. But please let's not give it a "-gate" suffix. They're a dead horse in general, but Parliament's already had Piegate and Burgergate. We couldn't handle "blade of Scottish beef with roast onion mash and winter greens-gate".

It was always said that the Tories' weakness was sex, while Labour's was for money. Following the Westminster expenses Salmond claimed for food during a Holyrood election and the use of Ministerial limos to get to his favourite curry-house, it looks like the First Minister's particular weakness is dinner, with a side order of public money.


Rather than repeating Unionist smears, why not check up on Murphy and his 12-13 month food and petty cash grab or the Labour party manifesto of 2003 where they pledged to build GARL whilst in power. The media including the BBC throughout Scotland take the news from the Labour party press releases.

I'm just analysing Salmond's own responses here.

I'm not a Unionist, I'm not quoting any Unionists, I'm not part of the media, and I'm well aware of the failures of Labour in government.

"cynical Highlander"? more like "SNP-apologist Highlander".

When are these cybernats ever going to realise that the SNP CAN do wrong and HAVE done wrong in issues? Every time anyone slightly accuses anyone in the SNP of wrongdoing its ALWAYS a Unionist smear/conspiracy...

And to call yourself "cynical" is just a complete hypocrisy.


"When are these cybernats ever going to realise that the SNP CAN do wrong"

Nobody has said that we all make mistakes but when something is written in the media which retrospectively alters the rules then be very worried about democracy.

This lunch hasn't taken place and will now quite probably be shifted to another venue rather than support a publicly funded restaurant in Holyrood which is running at a loss of c£80,000+ per annum.

Also, I believe, the auction was restricted to SNP members only not corporate lobby groups to gain unfair advantange in the private sector.

James "I'm not a Unionist"

What I was trying to point out that this was and is a purley unionist ploy and by attaching yourself to this story one can only make assumptions as your reasons for highlighting it. I've been voting SNP for 4 decades, you get my second vote when applicable, and am completely frustrated at how the media have and are still lying to the general public in writing the news rather than reporting it.

ps When did any of the mainstream highlight Prestonpans tax payer funded marquee for the Labour party, lets have a level playing field as it will improve democracy.

Dear oh Mcdear oh dear - blame democracy, there's a conspiracy going on, it's definitely time to call for the nurse - my particular favourite in this affair is the claim that just because someone else has done it before, or that the actual event hasn't taken place yet, that it's no big deal. Straw, clutch, snap, crash, burn, etc.

It is always tempting to blame the media for hype, and it is sad that these kind of stories are what rock the socks of political journalists these days, but who can blame them for this one. Luckily it was just lunch and dinner though, if breakfast was included in this story the Herald, BBC and the Hootsman would have needed three senior journalists each to cover it.

The word that best describes this whole business is not 'scandal' or 'controversy' though - it's just plain STUPID!

The guest blog here puts the whole affair ina wider context:

While nationalists cant blame everything on the unionist media, this case is a smear job to try prop up a key Labour funder.

'I'm not a Unionist, I'm not quoting any Unionists, I'm not part of the media' doesnt really stand up.

If you think this blogpost was motivated by a preference for Mr Sarwar over Mr Saeed you must have missed the bit at the top of my blog where I explain I'm in the Greens.

James, I didnt miss that you are in the Greens.

I meant 'I'm not part of the media' doesnt stand up as you are blogging, and as part of the 'citizens journalism' or however you describe blogging, you choose your targets.

This looks bad and no doubt has a (deserved) cringe factor for SNP memmbers. Its tacky, but its also hugely irrelevant. The Greens relationship to the independence movement (detached) and to the SNP (hostile) is fascinating for all sorts of cultural reasons.

I'm all for political cut and thrust, but this ridiculous story only illustrates the desperation of the SNP government's opponents.

Newsnet has a good piece here:

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