Firstly, let me congratulate Mary McDonald of Glasgow, for winning her battle against Glasgow Housing Association who terrorised her with a court case over a £277 repair bill which was due to thugs regularly vandalising her tenement block.
In a quote from the Scotsman report you can read here: OAP wins legal fight after being charged for vandalism - "Sheriff Martin Jones QC brought cheers from her supporters as he found in her favour. He agreed GHA had let down Mrs McDonald - and that she should not have to stump up the cash."
I think Mrs McDonald should be entitled to some compensation from the GHA over their actions towards her. What a disgrace, to terrorise a pensioner with a court case, over something which was no fault of her own, and I hear the GHA lawyers really sunk their teeth into this case. The GHA must have felt they were in 'legal bully heaven', taking on an 86 year old lady who was the sole home owner in a tenement.
What was the real motive ? Take poor Mrs McDonald to court for years so they might be able to force the sale of her flat to pay the legal bills of a case which she might not win, and the GHA would end up with the property ?... It's been done before, you know ... oh yes .. a regular tactic is this.
Well Done Mary McDonald, and well done to all your supporters.
Now back to today's article on the lurid goings on at Holyrood by way of milking the expenses.
Some people have been asking me if the recent stream of news related to MSPs fiddling their expenses for mortgage payments & dodgy house purchase deals, might be linked to the forthcoming vote on the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill.
Well, one could say .. Yes .. to that one, but not just because of the LPLA Bill ... it seems that some are taking revenge for both the Executive & Parliament's interest in certain areas of legal & public life, shall we say ? However, what has come out so far, on the expenses fiddles, isn't anything which hasn't been known about for awhile ...
Since the LPLA Bill was announced earlier this year, the likes of the Law Society of Scotland, and it's regulatory allies, have been collating as much information on all msps as possible. Ah .. you say I rant on this one ? Not at all .. It seems that a request was put out to all solicitors, Solicitor Property Centres, & Estate Agents, for information on property transactions involving Scotlands politicians .. and also, their legal affairs .. to name but a few points of interest being taken in oor politicians.
How do I know this ? One of the memos was read out to me, as it passed through a legal firm I have a source with. I'm sure some MSPs now know what I am talking about - after all, they aren't stupid. I'm sure they worked out awhile ago, their property transaction details ended up, shall we say, less than confidential ? .. and fell into the hands of certain people who are going to be seriously curtailed in power by oncoming legislation ... motive enough, I say .. and a plot almost worthy of a movie, if it didn't have so many leaks. I wonder, for instance what JHR would do if I told him that certain lawyers were babbling his legal business all over town ?
On the subject of leaks, there arrived a plain brown envelope on my desk this week, containing information & photographs on none other than, David McLetchie. Ah .. my old friend McLetchie from Tods Murray Solicitors - the legal firm which was first assigned to defend crooked lawyer Andrew 'Fraudster' Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso .. thus giving me an interest in Mr McLetchie's career.
Obviously, someone wants to ruin Mr McLetchie's political career, and knowing how I feel about his legal firm's interference in the Penman case, along with McLetchie replacing the galant Mr Gallie on the Justice 1 "Regulation of the Legal Profession" inquiry in 2001, because Phil was going to ask some hard questions of the Law Society, they assume I will do the dirty deed and leak it. Oh well, why not leak it then.. but there is a time for everything, as they say.
Anyway, I see Nichol Stephen was,found guilty, of his mortgage expenses fiddle, so I will briefly cover that one today. Read my earlier article here : Scottish Parliament withholds documents as Deputy First Minister faces allegations of questionable mortgage arrangements.
Try making a false claim to the Benefits Agency .. and you may find yourself with a fine, or even jail .. but what happens when the Deputy First Minister fiddles his mortgage payments ? ... answer, not much, as you can see.
I don't think blaming the Bank for mistakenly sending papers to Mr Stephen's home instead of the Parliament will wash to the public on this one ... it certainly would be laughed out of court if introduced as evidence in a criminal case .. what is it they say .. ignorance of the law is no excuse ? but the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body certainly wont scold Stephen too much .. after all, he's one of their own .. and there are many more at the expenses fiddling.
A quote from the Scotsman article today :
In March 2003 Mr Stephen's office gave Holyrood's allowances office a document which showed that his was the only name on the mortgage papers. However, this was sent to Mr Stephen in error by his bank and the actual mortgage agreement - only given to the authorities on Thursday - showed that he and his wife held the mortgage jointly.
I understand that is a lie. Officials at the Parliament (and the newspaper which originally broke the story) had actually seen this document much earlier than last Thursday ... lie after lie after lie ... that's not much of a point scoring position for the office of Deputy First Minister, now, is it.
Tommy Sheridan is quoted in the Scotsman today saying "This is yet another example of MSPs using the rules to suit themselves and getting away with it. If Nicol Stephen had been a social security claimant wrongly getting benefit he would be in court or in jail by now but the parliament is lightly rapping his knuckles. "This is the final nail in the coffin of the expenses scheme; it should be suspended immediately and the profits handed back to the parliament."
Sheridan is probably saying what the public feel on this one ... time to suspend the milking scheme and hand back the money .. but let's have it all out in the open and see who has abused their expenses accounts at Holyrood.
As for Nichol Stephen .. a Fibdem .. well, he lied about his mortgage expenses milking to begin with .. yes, he lied. He denied it .. so, let's be having him out please ... no liars needed at the Scottish Executive or the Scottish Parliament .. but, come to think of it .. if we go by those terms .. the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament will be empty .. from the Speaker down to the clerks !
I think what we need to see now, is some leaks over the undeclared stuff, because there are a lot more fiddles going on in the background than has been publicised so far. Time for some more revelations then ?
Deputy first minister is guilty of breaking Holyrood expenses rules
PETER MACMAHON SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT EDITOR
NICOL Stephen, the deputy first minister, was yesterday found guilty of breaking Holyrood's expenses rules while he was claiming thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money to buy a flat in Edinburgh.
The mortgage on Mr Stephen's home in one of the Capital's most sought-after areas was held jointly with his wife, Caris Doig - a clear breach of Holyrood's regulations, parliamentary authorities ruled yesterday
Mr Stephen, who has risen to power on the back of a squeaky-clean image, yesterday admitted that he regretted the "error" but stressed that the investigation by Holyrood's governing body had found that neither he nor his wife had gained from the arrangement.
Last night the latest controversy over politicians' expenses led to a warning from the parliamentary authorities to MSPs to follow the rules and further calls for the allowance scheme to be scrapped.
Mr Stephen's joint mortgage was first revealed by a Sunday newspaper six days ago. At first, both the deputy first minister and the parliament denied that he had done anything wrong.
But members of the Scottish Parliament's Corporate Body, which manages Holyrood's budget, were given fresh details of the mortgage arrangements by Mr Stephen on Thursday.
They showed the names of both the minister and his wife on the agreement, contradicting an earlier document, lodged with the allowances office, which showed that he was the sole mortgage holder.
As MSP for Aberdeen South, Mr Stephen is entitled to claim for the interest on a mortgage for a second home in Edinburgh's exclusive Morningside.
A spokesman for the parliament said: "The SPCB found that the member had failed to follow the guidelines for the scheme by having a joint mortgage in place, post 2001.
"At this point, the guidance was clear that members were entitled to reimbursement of interest if the mortgage arrangement was in their name only."
The SPCB found that neither Mr Stephen nor his wife had gained from the "error", as the mortgage payment would have been the same if it was just in his name.
Mr Stephen, who has been claiming £9,000 a year allowances on the £190,000 home he bought with his wife in February 2002, said: "I fully acknowledge there has been a breach of the guidance.
"I very much regret this error. I sincerely believed the arrangements I had put in place were acceptable."
He said he had "acted promptly" to resolve the issues with the parliament and he had made the claim "in good faith and with no financial gain".
Mr Stephen said he had already taken steps to transfer the property and the mortgage into his name.
The parliament's spokesman added a warning to all MSPs last night. He said: "The SPCB concluded that this breach served as a reminder to all members to ensure they are alert to every detail of the allowances scheme and the handbook issued to them as guidance."
The allowance scheme has attracted heavy criticism with other ministers and MSPs under the spotlight for their claims.
Tommy Sheridan, the Solidarity MSP, said: "This is yet another example of MSPs using the rules to suit themselves and getting away with it. If Nicol Stephen had been a social security claimant wrongly getting benefit he would be in court or in jail by now but the parliament is lightly rapping his knuckles.
"This is the final nail in the coffin of the expenses scheme; it should be suspended immediately and the profits handed back to the parliament."
WHAT'S IN A NAME: KEY DETAIL OF MSPs' SCHEME
A REVISED members allowances scheme was agreed by the parliament in June 2001. It said that MSPs could claim the Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance (EMA) provided they were the only ones named on the mortgage of the property.
In March 2003 Mr Stephen's office gave Holyrood's allowances office a document which showed that his was the only name on the mortgage papers.
However, this was sent to Mr Stephen in error by his bank and the actual mortgage agreement - only given to the authorities on Thursday - showed that he and his wife held the mortgage jointly.
Before they pay out the EMA, officials require MSPs to show them their loan agreement or a loan offer along with a statement of the payments being made.
Some MSPs are still claiming allowances for mortgages entered into jointly with spouses before the rule change.
MSPs whose home is in one of 32 constituencies beyond easy reach of Holyrood can claim up to £10,900 a year in mortgage interest payments.