At the weekend we beheld the bizarre sight of two supposed investigative Scottish politics journalists sneering and trying to play down what appeared to be a genuinely major story about a live police inquiry into a possible £600,000 criminal fraud involving the party of government in Scotland.
Both of them work for the same rival outlet, so the most generous interpretation that could reasonably be put on their curious behaviour is that they were simply trying to focus attention instead on that outlet’s own big Sunday splash – also ostensibly a story of political fraud, albeit on a much smaller scale.
So let’s just clear that one up now to help them out.
The piece, filed by the paper’s trans-rights correspondent Hannah Rodger, was quite coincidentally an attack on Alba Party candidate Lynne Anderson, who until very recently was the SNP’s Equalities Convener and is a gender-critical feminist regularly denounced by the party’s transactivist wing for her defence of women’s rights.
(She was elected by members last year ahead of the revolting Fiona Robertson, but was quickly sidelined by the party leadership who snuck Robertson back onto the NEC through the back door.)
Rodger has undertaken a relentless campaign of smearing Alba since the new party launched just over a week ago, and indeed went so far as to include a helpful summary of previous attacks in the article about Anderson.
The allegations about Anderson weren’t actually specified in the piece, but appear in some way to centre on her position as a staff proxy for SNP MP Steven Bonnar, who we must admit is someone that we’d never heard of before now during the 16 months he’s been drawing a Westminster salary.
The piece accuses Lynne Anderson of doing these mysterious-but-definitely-bad things without Bonnar’s knowledge. But the only problem with that is that even if she had, it’d still be Bonnar’s responsibility, not hers.
The rules of IPSA – the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority – are very clear on the use of proxies to perform MPs’ admin tasks.
Let’s zoom in on that highlighted bit to save you clicking it:
In other words, the staff member can do all the donkey work, but in the end the MP is still required to actively approve all their actions. (The only way this could be bypassed would be if the MP gave the staffer their personal login and password, which for obvious reasons is completely against the rules.)
Rodgers’ story is a nothing, because no matter what Lynne Anderson may or may not have done – and she denies any wrongdoing whatsoever – it would still be Steven Bonnar who was solely responsible and accountable for it, because it’s his job to check and sign off on anything his staff do on his behalf. The focus on Anderson and Alba instead tellingly reveals Rodgers’ and the Herald’s agenda.
So if we were them, we’d probably try to avoid drawing any extra attention to it, even if we WERE embarrassed that we’d failed to pick up on a much bigger story that was broken on Wings on Friday and subsequently covered by almost all of the main papers at the weekend, including the Sunday Mail, the Sunday Times, the Mail On Sunday, the Sunday Express and the Scotsman.
(Of which, we note in passing, only the Sunday Times credited the source.)
But that would ironically require the sort of basic journalistic ability and integrity that Hannah Rodger, Tom Gordon and David Leask appear to badly lack.