Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nicola Sturgeon to face MSPs over fraudster letter

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon makes a statement in Holyrood about the letter she wrote on behalf of (not in support of) convicted benefits fraudster Abdul Rauf. I've already made my feelings clear on this. The dangers of allowing casework to be spun and twisted in the political arena could mean that people with genuine cases and genuine needs might be turned away because their marginal seat parliamentarian is too scared to do anything in case opponents try to gain political capital.

What I want to see from Nicola today is that she's taken on board some of the less hysterical concerns that have been expressed. If it had been me, I'd have written a similar letter, but I wouldn't have described an £80,000 benefit fraud as a mistake and I wouldn't have explicitly asked for a non custodial sentence in the conclusion of the letter. I'd have asked the court to take the points I'd raised into consideration when deciding its sentence instead. These are important points. I don't want to see her cowed, but I do want to see her serious. Alex Salmond may have made some good points in her defence at FMQs the other week, but the effect was lost in amidst all the usual bombastic bile. It's not big and it's not clever.

I guess it's too much to hope that Labour can actually conduct themselves in a dignified manner. They seem to care more about the prospect of a ministerial scalp than the actual facts. I want to hear less of the "is there nobody the SNP wouldn't defend?" type hyperbole and a bit more decorum. I'm not holding my breath.

I don't want to what's happened to Nicola to turn into a series of MSPs being dragged into Parliamentary show trials simply because they've tried to do the best for their constituents. That would completely demean the institution.

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