Transparency, Democracy and Lobbying

Nicola 2Last week The Ferret – a brilliant new investigative journalism platform – revealed that, in January 2015, the First Minister of Scotland was the special guest for a five-star, three-course meal in Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel. In the words of CommonSpace’s Michael Gray, this exclusive event “brought together figures from across the Scottish establishment”, with the guest list including representatives of fracking company Cluff, land reform opponent the Duke of Buccleuch, and transport firm Abellio.

The story – The 50 Firms Invited to Wine and Dine with Nicola Sturgeon – should have received much more coverage and generated a good deal more discussion, especially as it coincided with parliamentary debate over new lobbying legislation which is, thus far, a long way from robust enough.

Billed as an ‘In Conversation’ dinner with Nicola Sturgeon, the event was organised by Charlotte Street Partners (CSP), a PR firm which exists to offer “trusted counsel” to wealthy individuals and organisations. Their website boasts of their ability to provide services such as crisis management, brand protection and – crucially in this case – “political relations.”

To be fair to CSP, they are entirely up-front about their intentions. On the matter of ‘Regulatory and Political’ services, their website offers the following information:

“Whether it is a major bid for a new franchise or a policy decision you need taken in your favour, we have experience and expertise to help you campaign. This takes clear strategic thought, clever articulation and the relentless pursuit of your interests in innovative ways. To win big arguments, you must carefully integrate the messages you deploy, using all of your channels. We’d like to help you do that.” (emphasis added)

This is not, then, an inconsequential event organised by a small-scale and ultimately benign organisation – this is a full-blown lobbying and PR company, which seeks to influence decision-making at the highest levels, putting dozens of potential clients in a room with the First Minister of Scotland. It is surely not difficult to see the problem here.

At the very least it is unacceptable that this information only came to light a year on and as a result of an FOI request, but the issue goes deeper than that: regardless of political affiliations, it should concern all supporters of government transparency and genuine democracy that such an event took place at all.

Some people were, as ever, quick to jump to the First Minister’s defence, with many arguing that it would be ridiculous for the leader of Scotland not to regularly meet with business leaders and major employers. This is, of course, entirely correct, but it also entirely misses the point. Of course the First Minister should be meeting with a wide range of groups and individuals – nobody is actually suggesting otherwise – but those meetings should be open and transparent, with full details available to the public, and should be conducted in an official capacity. It is not unreasonable to hold elected representatives to such standards.

Nor is it especially radical to argue that these sorts of ‘wine and dine’ events, especially when organised by companies with an obvious financial interest in being seen to be arranging special access to politicians, are inappropriate. What it really comes down to is this: in attending this dinner Nicola Sturgeon has not only effectively backed the CSP raison d’être, she has also tacitly endorsed the idea that, in 21st Century Scotland, it is perfectly acceptable for those with money to have privileged access to our nation’s top politicians. This is not just problematic, it is anti-democratic.

To those who will undoubtedly dismiss such criticisms as unnecessary smears, damaging for the cause of independence or – tediously -‘SNPBad’, I say this: it is, as always, unacceptable to expect the SNP to be exempt from entirely legitimate criticism. This is, let’s not forget, the sort of behaviour for which the Tories are rightly condemned, and the SNP don’t get a free pass just because they’re the largest pro-independence party in Scotland. It does not – and can not – work like that.

Having failed to achieve independence in 2014 it is now incumbent upon us to start building the sort of ‘New Scotland’ we all want to live in. We may not have the power to make all of the changes we desire, but we absolutely can set about developing a political culture which stands in diametric opposition to the poisonous purchase of power and privilege which characterises the UK status-quo. It is absolutely true that any successful independence campaign will be dependent upon a credible SNP carrying the centre-ground vote, but they must also show that they can help to deliver these sorts of fundamental changes for the people of Scotland.

I write this not as a partisan attack on the First Minister or her party, and I don’t doubt that Kezia Dugdale, Ruth Davidson or Willie Rennie would have accepted the invite had they been in the First Minster’s position (though they are welcome to correct me); however, having set out their stall as opponents of the “old Westminster system”, it is deeply disappointing to see the SNP take a ‘business as usual’ approach to the prevailing political culture within which we all operate.

I – perhaps naively – expected better from them, and I sincerely hope that Sturgeon and her colleagues will refuse to endorse such events in the future.

To that end I offer the following constructive criticism: be bold enough to break the link between affluence and access, and help build the ‘new kind of politics’ we all want to see in Scotland.

Comments (58)

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  1. June Stewart says:

    It might be suggested that the First Minister was on a fishing expedition of her own, in her role of Party leader and as such was merely doing some well intentioned market research. Or must the SNP always be cast with the Westminster pall of sinister and dark dealings ?

  2. Alan Findlay says:

    First class James

  3. Brian Powell says:

    You’re the darling of the Unionist for this, putting out nice tweets for you.

  4. Gordie says:

    Yes, not comfortable with lobbying myself. Might have some positive outcomes for the LR Issue never know. Do Bella Caledonia do any lobbying?

  5. Phil says:

    Government meeting influencers and the affluent should not be terminated, meeting across the economic and social board should be encouraged, as you say, and be seen as part of a meaningful and broadening democracy. Meaning, we should see it happening.

    The difference with Westminster Tories is their expectation to wield influence to the extent of taking charge of policy making, and hoping to do so well out of the limelight. It is difficult to forget ‘Selsdon Man’.

    And it would be crushingly disappointing if a Scottish Selsdon were to emerge.

    Thanks for bringing this further into the light. One now hopes that Uncle John with his newly displayed laser sharp anger will direct rays of democratic rectitude round the cabinet table to keep SNP_RightOn and as far away from SNPbaaad as possible.

  6. Annie says:

    Good article.

  7. muttley79 says:

    Of course the First Minister should be meeting with a wide range of groups and individuals – nobody is actually suggesting otherwise – but those meetings should be open and transparent, with full details available to the public, and should be conducted in an official capacity. It is not unreasonable to hold elected representatives to such standards.

    No, its is not unreasonable, and these kinds of meetings should be disclosed to the electorate in Scotland.

    Having failed to achieve independence in 2014 it is now incumbent upon us to start building the sort of ‘New Scotland’ we all want to live in.

    Absolutely correct.

  8. Clive Scott says:

    It is a good thing that the FM meets with all sections of society, yes even the power elites of the day. I would not be in the least surprised if the preconceived prejudices of some of the attendees would have been at least blunted if not overturned. Nicola has very considerable presence and powers of persuasion due in no small measure to her core integrity and unshakable belief in the cause. Remember, all that the elites know of Nicola and the SNP is the drivel they read in the trash MSM, see on the state propaganda channels, and hear endlessly recycled at their social gatherings. The forces ranged against the SNP and fellow travellers who support an independent Scotland are considerable. Know your enemies well, find their weaknesses, then defeat them.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      “the power elites of the day”

      They only own large parts of Scotland and its economy thanks to the historic lack of proper regulation in the UK. That is what they are afraid of – regulation of the kind they would face in other countries, hence the lobbying. What more does the FM need to know?

    2. Drew Campbell says:

      The “elites” you mention are not so naive as to believe their own propaganda apparatus; they will be well aware of Nicola Sturgeon’s abilities. No, the purpose of such meetings and in such circumstances is to soften her up, test her out – in short, see if she is someone they can “do business with”. It’s a wholly pragmatic move from their point of view, given the SNP look set to be the natural party of government in Scotland for the forseeable future.

      I have a lot of respect for Nicola Sturgeon but she is only human and a very pragmatic politician to boot. The lobbyist organisers will have ensured their guests at this event will have been well briefed on the best angles of approach to the FM, offering tempting possibilities of deals to make certain cherished projects happen and perhaps even dangling the prospect of future support – or less opposition – to independence if and when that second referendum comes. A clearer road to the big prize, if you like, and many other issues can be rationally sidelined, diluted or put off until the glorious day of full independence.

      These guys are not new; they’ve been operating since time immemorial, dropping a word in the right ear here, offering a quid pro quo there. Transparency is the one thing they truly fear – which is why this article is absolutely necessary. The SNP, especially in their current ascendancy, will be as susceptible to the blandishments of these elites just as every other party has been – after all, where else have supporters of independence to go?

  9. Alf Baird says:

    “be bold enough to break the link between affluence and access”

    This particular meeting of the FM with a roomfull of Tory millionaires is a poor show, and no wonder she tried to keep it quiet. If the FM or anyone else believes these people add much value to the Scottish economy they need to take a closer look at the way offshore private equity funds, large estate owners, and the whisky majors and SWA work; these entities actually extract value and leave Scotland’s economy weaker as a result. Of great concern should be the recruitment of ‘retired’ senior civil servants into these business entities, such as Sir John Elvidge fronting the offshore private equity outfit which owns and exploits Edinburgh Airport.

    Also significant in a wider context is the fact the SNP has permitted the unionist-elite to continue to run Scotland’s myriad of public sector institutions, everything from the civil service, the universities, arts and culture bodies, public ‘trusts’ etc. The old boys club seems to be out of bounds as far as reforms are concerned, suggesting the SNP missed an opportunity to bring about a fairer society and make inroads into Scotland’s entrenched institutionalised inequalities. Elite Scotland lives on, courtesy of the SNP.

    1. Black Rab says:

      The SNP are essentially a capitalist party, which is a system that favours owners over working people. Meetings such as this only endorse my view that the SNP have no radical policies that would transform Scotland into a more egalitarian, democratic and socialist country.

      I didn’t vote the SNP into power only for them to have dialogue at five star dinners with shysters, dukes, carpetbaggers and the likes of charlotte street partners who are all wealthy tories wanting to carve themselves an even bigger slice of the Scottish pie. The SNP should be having dialogue over five star dinners with the working people who voted them into power.

      The SNP are a big disappointment if they think this is what people voted them into power for.

  10. jake says:

    An informative enough article lacking only detail about what Ms Sturgeon was wearing and what her outfit cost.

    1. K.A.Mylchreest says:

      Mebbie she had on a big pair o wellies and gave them all the good kicking they deserved 😉

  11. David Allan says:

    No doubt Nicola put everyone straight on the pursuit of a second referendum and discussed the currency options for a future Independent Scotland. Probably also touched on the Living wage issue and teased Buccleuch about how he came to own such a large chunk of Scotland. Likely also found out that Abelio had purchased 75 new trains from the new Hitachi Rail Europe plant in County Durham and maybe wondered just how Scotland failed to attract this inward investment.

    Alas we will never know, the SNP are content to only manage Scotland day to day, all ambition for our country is just gesture ,weekness and empty rhetoric.

    I’m finding it hard to see any real meaningful effort or achievement toward winning over those 55% who were not convinced.

    1. Black Rab says:

      SNP all nice and roasty toasty with the shysters who suck Scotland dry everyday of the week. I never trusted Salmond when he was buddying around with Murdoch. Now this. Not good.

  12. Douglas Scott says:

    He who casts the first stone…….
    What would have been gained if the FM has turned down the opportunity to meet with these people?
    Ok ..so it was done in secret , maybe not such a good idea
    Does anyone seriously think Wullie ,or Kezia or Ruth would have turned the opportunity down? Get real
    Nicola is no fool and would have taken it as a test of her character to show these people just how determined she is NOT to be influenced.
    At least let’s give her the benefit of the doubt
    It’s a big bad world . There is no use pretending these people don’t have influence
    Know thy enemy

    1. Alf Baird says:

      “Know thy enemy”

      Efter 300+ years, if ye dinnae ken thaim noo, ye’ll nivver ken thaim at a’.

    2. J Galt says:

      And keep them close – or at least where you can keep an eye on them.

  13. George Clark says:

    What an astoundingly naive article!

  14. June Stewart says:

    The greater good is Scotland’s fight for Indepence.
    Perhaps the nit picking could be suspended until after the May Elections or are these type of blogs intended to divide and conquer?
    We have waited 300 hundred years for this lets please leave the clan mentality for after we win our freedom from Westminster rule.

  15. Craig P says:

    James – it is hard to disagree with your article. Further, I would say that in a democracy government must take steps to ensure that all voices get a hearing.

    We can take it for granted that the rich and powerful will gain access to politicians, but the same can’t be said about the disenfranchised. Therefore government must go to them.

  16. C Rober says:

    About time more investigative works was done on the SNP , would like to hear more about this alt media journalism aka the ferret , got a link?

    Seeing as how we have touched on landowners , I do have a story for them too , on SNP land reform/housing being a lie , and no doubt when published nails that lie to the wall and some of the SNPBAD apples.

    There is simply no justification for the FM to have “paid for” meetings , if anything it is corruption that this has happened , more so in that it needed a FOIR to find out. All meetings should be done by the book , to suggest sounding out the enemy is frankly a laugh.

    There is no surprise for me , in the “Ayrshrie Lass” FM lining her pocket , seeing as how the land use lie I know of is in North Ayrshire is highly suspect as well.

    North Ayrshire , where you have an SNP Mp whom is the wife of the MSP , where the SNP is in control of the council and the FM mother is the provost.

    Ayrshire where at least two papers are propaganda printers for the SNP , printing lies without challenge , including the affordable housing lie. Yet the SNP are pushing on with private owned housing enriching banks , land owners and builders , and have removed the RTB instead of improving it , and HAPPY it will take over 100 years at SNP rate of supply to remove the council waiting list.

    If their own politicians ignore the SNP policies and Hollyrood legislation , ignore the community on land reform , choosing to disempower them by adding land to the local development plan to prevent further rejections against executive housing , then this house of ” psuedo socialist faux land reformers” must be shown to be self serving financially first , careers politicians second , and separatists and working for the voter lastly…if at all.

    Whether you are pro union or separatist , it matters to both sides , for one to ask why they elected them , the other to prove their point in why they dont vote for them.

    Those that have blindly empowered the SNP as a poltical force have created their politicians increasing personal wealth , and that of those they have aided via LDP.

    As a long term home rule and indy supporter , formerly a life long SNP voter , I am now a full fat devo socialist unionist , one where I now know that independence is something that the SNP cannot and will not deliver , especially now that the Westminster new batch would only become unemployed in doing so.

    I am reasoned enough to know that the educated turkey wont vote for christmas , so dont expect a single SNP politician to be doing the very thing , the single solitary reasoning for their party’s existence to their full extent.

    Is there any difference between the promises of the SNP today and those of Labour during the Thatcher years , no , I am frankly surprised that they havent promised as much as Blair Brown did , to wave a magic wand over shipyards , mines and council housing , while behind the curtain carving the North sea up for the Benefit of Westminster. After all , this promise of local govt empowerment , local community empowerment , is it not the same as the promise of Hollyrood in 1997 , more politicians with a wage but yet no real power?

    If we dont police the politicians , and blindly vote , shown by the Labour years , there is no change for Scotland , well other than a token chocolate teapot Parly . Hoping that the SNP will be any different than Labour or Tory in feathering their nests is frankly madness.

    Brown , now works for banking , Darling now works for banking , Blair now works for banking and monarchial dictatorship governments with oil. So should Nicky not follow the same path? Looks like she is.

    Parcel of rogues an aw that.

  17. schrodingers cat says:

    If this is not “a partisan attack on the First Minister or her party” then why lie? The claim that information about this event “only came to light a year on and as a result of an FOI request” is a blatant falsehood. The Scottish Government has a policy of publishing details of all Ministerial engagements three months in arrears. It took me all of half a minute to locate the relevant document. If there was any FoI request then it was vexatious and a waste of public funds.

    1. C Rober says:

      So was the FM paid for the engagement?

      1. schrodingers cat says:

        I have no idea how appointments work, I doubt if Lochgelly High School pupils, pay to meet any msp,

        your query misses the point I made though, the article pedals an untruth that the FOI was the reason this information came to light. all appointments are published online.

        you could have asked who paid for and wasted public money for the useless FOI request?

        1. C Rober says:

          So you say you can see appointments easily in a post , so you mean FM legislative appointments , as FM , not personal which this would have been if done through a pr company. A paid gig.

          This is therefore a case of private lobbying , something that the SNP are supposedly against.

          Worth the digital ink I would say.

  18. schrodingers cat says:

    we hardly needed this little gobbet of brazen dishonesty to recognise the entirely purpose of a pathetically contrived attempt to whip up a scandal that is reminiscent of the most malicious efforts of the British media. As is the tone of pompous self-righteousness which proceeds as if guilt of some grave offence had been conclusively proved, rather than casually assumed on the basis of nothing more than blind prejudice.
    Deal only in the known facts, and there is nothing at all untoward about senior politicians attending functions such as the one described. Whatever interests may have atended on this occasion, there will always be others where different, and often competing, interests are represented. Taking this one event in isolation is a deliberate attempt to offer a distorted impression. In the same month (January 2015) Nicola Sturgeon had no fewer than 60 official engagements. These included meetings with Lochgelly High School pupils, Dumfries & Galloway Council, Fair Funding for Our Kids parents group, and Young Ambassadors from the Holocaust Educational Trust as well as lunch with Professor Alex Kemp, University of Aberdeen; and attendance at the Entrepreneurial Spark Dinner.

  19. schrodingers cat says:

    Why aren’t the puritanical self-appointed arbiters of ministerial propriety not making a huge fuss about all of this access to the First Minister?
    Does James McEnaney really imagine he’s fooling anybody with his protestations of innocence and his pre-emptive deflection of reasoned criticism of these attempts to damage the First Minister’s reputation? Does he really suppose that we are not familiar enough with such tactics, as practised by the British parties in Scotland, to recognise a sleekit smear attempt when we see one?

    1. Valerie says:

      It’s such a pathetically transparent smear, it’s right out of the Unionist Press playbook.

      Good work on reporting the correct detail, that its all public record, not secret squirrel/ferret.

  20. john young says:

    These and all meetings should be open and above board,are they already down the road with those priviledge and power,I am stuck with having to vote SNP but do not trust them,NS will be a huge dis-appointment if this is the way she is going to lead,why not come out and tell us that vote for them exactly what the meetings are about,it minds me of “fat a–ed”Brown all dolled up addressing the “Mansion House” cartel of rogues oh! it was a fact finding mission who the fcuk are they kidding.

  21. Alf Baird says:

    This appears to have been a case of specific access given to the FM organised by a very high roller commercial elite paid for by an offshore private equity fund (whose sources of money are seldom transparent – i.e. we do not really know who paid for the dinner); it therefore reeks of the way Westminister does business and which we all know is wrong. It is not difficult to link such meetings with vested interests to the potential to influence subsequent legislation; for example the weakest possible land reform bill imaginable. To compare this particular event (which curiously had no stated purpose other than an unspecified ‘conversation’) with meeting schoolchidren, a parents group, or a local council is insulting.

    1. C Rober says:

      Nail on head.

      I have been a SNP man since high School , thats a few decades now , but with a very thick core of red clydeside socialism.Supported the miners , council workers and warned them on Scottish Labour while doing so.

      I am though now not of any political party.

      If anything I am anti elitist , and to see someone whom utters socialism as a party policy , colluding with the enemy itself , and paid for the privilege it is rank. If it is a lie I would hope though that bella redresses the accusation , if its a paid gig then roll with it being exposed.

      But then again when you see the SNP aiding landed gentry against it own rules for building on farmland , while having community empowerment in its manifesto and ignoring the community , offering unaffordable housing while subsidising developers as the future for housing , then i have little more respect to lose , every aspect of their legislation to me means profit for the elite these days….. and protecting it is their game , hardly socialist , even if it is more socialist than SLAB on paper promises.

      We have for me at least seen the heady highs of the Snp peak , it is I am afraid downhill from here.

      But what is the other option , wont be tory , SLAb havent changed , so its the birch or the belt.

  22. George Clark says:

    This is the way governments do business all over the world. It gives both business and political leaders the chance to exchange views frankly and in confidence, without the threat of them being misreported and twisted. This in turn leads to good legislation, rather than some uninformed and unworkable dog’s breakfast.

    For the author to cite a FoI request for something already in the public domain does him to credit whatsoever.

    1. Valerie says:

      In fact, quoting a FOI, makes it look like Google is not his friend.

  23. Anagach says:

    So the First Minister was a guest speaker at a formal dinner. The dinner is, as I understand it, listed officially and does not require a freedom of information request to find out about, its not a secret. So if there is a case – money changing hands, policies being changed then lets hear it ?

    1. Valerie says:

      I find it quite ironic that the author screams about democracy, and yet the First Minister of Scotland should only be speaking to some people that he should deem acceptable in his view.

      If the FM should not have a dialogue with major employers, and this event looks limited to do that, then who is deemed acceptable?

      The FM makes herself available to everybody that has an interest in this country. The party now has a sizeable Trade Union group. The party wants to resist Cameron’s erosion of Trade Union and workers rights, drive up pay, so if she wasn’t talking to employers, that would be a story.

      This is a smear.

  24. Robert Graham says:

    After the first few paragraphs , I had to check if this was the Daily mail or the Express I was reading , I really couldn’t be bothered with the rest of this drivel , I have questioned this sites ability in checking pieces published before , because an awful lot are straight from the unionist media mindset , the only service you have done is bringing together and identfing some of the snakes who masquerade as supporters of independence well done you mission accomplished .

  25. Dave Robb says:

    Robert Graham nails it!

  26. Ronnie Morrison says:

    In the absence of an effective opposition it is essential to keep an eye on the SNP – they are human like the rest of us and an instinctive rush to defend any criticism may be loyal but a bit naïve. The price of democracy is constant vigilance and the whole point of this article is the lack of transparency – how many of us read the published programme of engagements? Perhaps the journalist from The National might do so and help keep such matters in balanced perspective?

  27. Gordon says:

    I am no fan of the lobbying system. It distorts democracy and costs the country money. It has reached its peak in Washington where the gun-lobby in the form of the NRA has thwarted the democratic will of the people by getting Senators and others in its pocket, even in the presence of mass killings. I.e. lobbying is costing lives.
    But what exactly are you alleging happened at the Balmoral Hotel where this ‘5-star-three course meal’ took place with 50 members of the Scottish Establishment including Cluff, Abellio and the Duke of Buccleugh? Are you suggesting that the CSP offered the SNP cash for questions or cash for access? Are you alleging that they were all out to get Nicola drunk to get any boon from the Scottish Government that they could wangle? Or maybe she would be so grateful to get out for a decent trough-up that she would be putty in the hands of the lobbying company?
    I hardly think that an event like this would pass as a clandestine meeting, hidden from public view, but for a FOI request. There were 50 (nice round figure) Scottish worthies present in a large hotel in Edinburgh. It doesn’t sound as if anyone was trying to keep anything secret.
    It’s amazing how much mileage you can get out of a bit of gossip and a conspiracy theory.

  28. john young says:

    There would be no need for gossip and conspiracy theories if NS told the people the purpose of these meetings,so often we have watched Westminster have these cosy chats and we know where they led.Would she not be better booking somewhere to tell the people of Scotland what their aims are,meet Doctors/nurses/teachers/youth about the policies they have or hope to bring to the table,she should be looking to young people with initiatives/inovations,if past history we well know what comes of these wee cosy meetings,openess/honesty must be the key and why haven,t w heard of anything coming from this meeting.

    1. Valerie says:

      Must be your reading material, because the First Minister, and other Cabinet colleagues meet all these groups, and many more. One important group not in your list, for example, local government, are met on a regular basis, but also more specific groups, like education professionals.

      The point has been made several times, her diary is public record, the meetings are not secret, and because they are professional of no interest to the main media. They want dirt.

      Pity some Indy supporters seem intent on fabricating dirt.

  29. Dr Jim says:

    If you’re going to have a political agenda that’s fine but make it clear instead of using newspaper tactics, we’ve seen through that already
    The article should have read SNP Baad from the start then everyone can be clear instead of wasting their time reading all the way through
    This type of “Journalism” is what is costing newspapers sales

  30. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Preposterous rubbish. I no longer access Bella Caledonia

  31. thomaspotter2014 says:

    Shut up you lying unionist prick.

  32. Clydebuilt says:

    I was told about this article , so I came for a look. Attacking the SNP is the job of our mainstream Unionist media, the TV and radio stations, plus
    all the other means available to the Westminister Establishment.

    Until we gain our Independence it’s not politics as usual.

    IF you want Independence stop attacking the SNP.

  33. Alf Baird says:

    Any one of us could round up 50 mates and invite the FM to have dinner with us and a ‘conversation’ on something or other. Can’t we?

    Or is it because these folk are wealthy bankers, landowners, and the beneficiaries of successive monopoly easy-money utility privatisations which the rest of us plebs pay for?

  34. arthur thomson says:

    Nicola Sturgeon should have got paid triple time for meeting with that bunch. I bet she was wishing she could come down with the flu and be unable to attend.

    The fact is that she and other SNP reps have to meet with the least desirable people – such as these – as part of their work. As the plumber said, ‘it might be shite to you but it’s my bread and butter’. I reckon that is how she would have viewed it.

    I don’t know Nicola Sturgeon personally, so I have to judge her on all the little bits of information that come from innumerable sources. I have to use my personal experience to assess whether she seems to be a person of worth who conducts herself to the highest ethical standards. From what I have observed to date she is the equal of the best public servants. That is not and will never be a closed view but this post hasn’t done anything to change my mind.

    Having made that point, there are people who post and comment here whose motives and goals I find myself increasingly questioning. I am certainly in favour of transparency in public matters and it is good that people are demanding it. It does not follow that I think it is acceptable to cast aspersions on someone’s integrity because they have met with people I don’t like – the more so when the actual claim of lack of transparency is apparently in doubt.

    I am not naive enough to put blind faith in anyone and that includes Nicola Sturgeon. I observe, listen and learn as much as I can about people and try to know them rather than ‘trust’ them. I adopt that approach also in relation to those who post and comment on Bella, about whom I have minimal information.

    On balance I am prepared to accept that the FM acted in good faith, did nothing to conceal her attendance at the ‘dinner’ and represented the best interests of the electorate.

    1. J Galt says:

      And that about sums it up!

  35. Derick fae Yell says:

    Thought I’d stumbled on to the Daily Record here. Article smearing SNP – check. Loads of SNP-bad comments btl – check. Comments critical of article being deleted – HOUSE!

  36. Alf Baird says:

    Also worth noting that “wealthy bankers, landowners, and the beneficiaries of successive monopoly easy-money utility privatisations” tend to be the people bankrolling political parties.

  37. Janet says:

    Subtext: don’t vote SNP, vote People’s Front of Judea / Judean People’s Front / RISE / whatever instead, since the SNP isn’t really a socialist party!

    Fact: the Yes tent has to get bigger and assuming that most Scots aren’t socialists, there is a need to reach out to folk of a non-leftist persuasion. Only a bigger Yes tent can deliver a prosperous indy-Scotland.

    And as for socialism? Seriously, are you pushing a society controlled by state bureaucracy, which in practice will mean Labour controlled committees with their placemen and backstabbing, providing everything from toothpaste to toilet paper?

    A social democrat wants business to prosper and for folk to have access to mortgages and housing but recognises the value of public services and social housing.

    Drop the socialist angle and get behind social democracy, pursued from the extreme centre, please!

    1. Alf Baird says:

      “Subtext: don’t vote SNP”:

      This is not the case. I expect most folks on here questioning the judgement of the FM will still be voting SNP for the constituency in May, though possibly not the list.

      “the Yes tent”:

      Worth remembering the SNP is not the same thing as the ‘yes tent’, with many in that tent quite entitled to raise questions about SNP governance if they wish, while others may prefer to be unquestioning adulators. All politicians of whichever party need to be held to account.

      As for “a society controlled by state bureaucracy”:

      Surely we are suffering from this problem now and have been for some time?

  38. Alan Findlay says:

    Pearls before swine, James (transparency is the basis of democracy).

  39. johnny come lately says:

    In a perfect world I would rather a person in an elected position did not soil themselves by being in close proximety to these individuals, but the system is as it is, and stands as it stands. Therefore the only option is to meet occasionaly with the chief shakers and movers. The SNP are fighting eneough fronts at the moment. Why antagonise these groups and open up a new front of resistence to independence.
    The SNP need to make new friends and allies in all circles if independence is to be achieved, hence the gathering for Scotlands corrupt media lackies. Sometimes this means supping with the devil.

  40. RabMac says:

    Can someone please explain what exactly was “secret” about this event? The fact that the SNP didn’t take out full-page ads in the MSM? Or should they mibbes have posted a card through every letter box in the country?

    It seems to me that there’s a lot of “mountains out of molehills” going on up there. Is there an election due or something?

  41. Lucy says:

    Yes she has to meet people from all fields and walks of life, including the so-called elite. BUT it must be transparent. I think that is the entire point.

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