Sunday, 5 April 2020

Alex Salmond and Conspiracy Theorists

One of Alex Salmond's biggest cheerleaders on social media is a chap called Craig Murray who seems to have taken a leaf out of his hero's book with a new crowdfunding initiative - in Craig's case to fund his blog.

But the Daily Record's Paul Hutcheon can spot a good story when he sees one and in the piece below Paul explains that while Craig has put out the 'begging bowl' to finance his seemingly endless conspiracy theories - the former UK diplomat bought a nine-bedroomed mansion just two years ago without the need for a mortgage.

Blogger who believes state tried to frame Alex Salmond asking for donations after buying £600k mansion

Craig Murray, a former UK diplomat, splashed out on the nine-bedroom pad in Edinburgh two years ago.

By Paul Hutcheon - Daily Record

A notorious blogger who is asking punters for donations bought a £600,000 gated mansion without needing a mortgage.

Craig Murray, who believes the state tried to frame Alex Salmond, splashed out on the nine-bedroom pad in Edinburgh two years ago.

However, the 61-year-old is now asking readers for £100 a month to keep his “conspiracy” blog going.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “There are people in the wackier reaches of the Nationalist movement who see the footsoldiers as folk who can fund their hare-brained conspiracy theories.

A house purchased by Craig Murray in Edinburgh two years ago (Image: Daily Record)

Murray has claimed “corrupt” institutions conspired against the former First Minister and insists the former First Minister's female accusers lied.

He also wrote about having “definite good source information” about MI5’s involvement in the Salmond allegations - a claim that led to him being mocked.

On his website, he flagged up a “change of policy” for his blog which involves seeking donations.

He explained: “I am no longer in a position to devote my time to it without income – the need to earn a living caused the blog to go dark for almost five months last year, and the last six weeks this journalism has stopped me doing anything else to pay the rent.”

Readers have the option of subscribing to his blog, with contributions of between £2 and £100 a month accepted.

However, despite Murray’s cash plea, official documents confirm he is asset rich.

Official documents show he bought a huge house in the south of Edinburgh in 2018. No mortgage is on the property, which was purchased for £607,500.

It was described online in 2018 as an “impressive 8/9 bedroom detached house”, which has been the subject of a “substantial extension”.

Alex Salmond was cleared at the High Court in Edinburgh (Image: PA)

Four of the bedrooms were listed as en-suite and the property also boasted a gym, “gated driveway” and an “integral double garage”.

After being contacted by this newspaper, Murray said he bought the “uninhabitable” property in Edinburgh after selling a home in England.

He said his blog is his only source of current income.

He added: “I have continually stressed that I do not want anybody to subscribe if it causes them the slightest financial difficulty.

"You do not have to subscribe - the site is free to read.”

We Need To Talk About Alex 7 (01/04/20)

Paul Hutcheon, the Daily Record's political editor, takes a well-deserved swipe at the absurd conspiracy theories being promoted by Alex Salmond's supporters.   

"If SNP politicians can find time to tweet about ducks and football, it should be possible to find a few seconds to comment on the biggest crisis facing the party in decades.'

I agree, I have to say, because in my experience SNP politicians tend to keep their heads down out on controversial or divisive issues, equal pay for example, instead of standing up and speaking their minds.

Just the other day Glasgow City Council announced  plans for yet another round of redundancies which was met with complete silence by Glasgow's constituency MSPs and MPs - all of whom represent the SNP in either the Holyrood and Westminster parliaments.


Alex Salmond trial witnesses deserve better from the SNP

Daily Record Political Editor Paul Hutcheon says the lack of public support for the female complainants by SNP parliamentarians is startling

By Paul Hutcheon - Daily Record

THE statement from the nine female complainants in the Alex Salmond trial was powerful and timely. 

After he was acquitted of sexual offences charges, Salmond made a series of comments outside the High Court that were widely reported in the media. 

No such platform was realistically available to the women, who had to endure endless post-trial coverage in what would have been the worst week of their lives.

Their collective statement addressed the troubling behaviour Salmond’s defence admitted to in court, but which did not lead to a conviction.

It also repeated the view there had been no credible way of complaining at the time about a “powerful figure” like Salmond.

The press release was a reminder of how the days after the trial were portrayed through the lens of Salmond, not the women.

Public debate was dominated by SNP politicians congratulating Salmond, calling for him to be readmitted to the party, and airing the claim he had been the victim of a political conspiracy.

I, like many others in my trade, reported on these comments. SNP divisions are a legitimate story.

However, during these turbulent days I also spoke to SNP figures who were gutted for the women.

They know how hard it is to put yourself through the vagaries of the criminal justice system. They realise the anguish involved in giving evidence in a courtroom.

They are nauseated by the nature of Salmond’s defence and agree with former special adviser Alex Bell’s description of the former First Minister as a “creep”.

Yet, despite their private sympathy for the female witnesses, very few expressed public solidarity. The number of MSPs and MPs who have said anything is startlingly small.

In a lawyerly statement, Nicola Sturgeon restricted herself to saying the verdict "must be respected".

Dealing with the Coronavirus crisis is understandably the top priority, but it should not preclude commenting on other issues of vital public importance.

If SNP politicians can find time to tweet about ducks and football, it should be possible to find a few seconds to comment on the biggest crisis facing the party in decades.

Debunking the absurd notion of an internal SNP conspiracy against Salmond would be a noble place to start.

According to Salmond’s allies, some of the allegations were cooked up by SNP figures who were trying to thwart a political comeback.

This is baloney. In 2018 - when police started their investigation - Salmond was a former politician who had tarnished himself by fronting a show on the Putin-linked RT.

He was, to put it charitably, a spent political force. The chances of this damaged figure returning to Holyrood were nil.

It should also be noted that some of the complainants do not know each other’s identities. Not exactly a robust basis for a conspiracy.

If SNP politicians feel uneasy about the trial, now is the time to speak out.

Glasgow City Council - Colossal Misjudgement (28/03/20) 

So Glasgow City Council has decided to back away from a controversial and ill-judged proposal to call for a new round of voluntary redundancies to help pay for the cost of replacing its 'unfair for purpose' WPBR pay scheme.

Now the official committee report is in the name of Robert Anderson, the Head of Human Resources, but as the Council Leader Susan Aitken is fond of saying: elected councillors make decisions - officials only advise. 

In which case the Council's politicians need to accept responsibility for bringing forward such a madcap plan  which was, in my view, a colossal misjudgment at such a sensitive time.

I said in a previous post that I would share any public comments about the redundancy scheme from Glasgow's politicians, but having scanned the newspapers as far as I can see they've all been as quiet as church mice.

Strangely, I haven't read a word of criticism of the Council from Glasgow's MSPs and MPs - or from any of the Council's 85 elected councillors. 

See for yourself via the link below to the Evening Times.

Glasgow City Council job cuts on hold due to coronavirus as unions hit out

By Drew Sandelands - Evening Times

Glasgow City Chambers

PLANNED job cuts at Glasgow City Council have been put on hold due to the coronavirus – and unions say they shouldn't go ahead at all.

City chiefs were expected to agree to a voluntary redundancy scheme at a meeting on Thursday but the paper was pulled as the timetable for the roll-out is no longer achievable as a result of the pandemic.

The council says it needs to cut its workforce to reduce the wage bill as it tries to cope with tightening budgets and the ongoing costs of the equal pay settlement.

READ MORE: Council looks to cut jobs to cope with rising costs of equal pay bill equal pay bill

It is also trying to introduce a new pay and grading structure to address inequalities.

The scheme was set to launch with a "trawl for registrations of interest" to be received by the end of June this year.

A council spokesman said: "It is clear that, given current events, the anticipated timetable for the full implementation of a scheme would not be achievable.

"Officers will revise the paper and bring it to a future meeting of the City Administration Committee."

But unions have criticised the plans, hitting out at a council report by Carole Forrest, the authority's director of governance.

In a joint statement, Unison, GMB, Unite and the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said: "The trade unions are totally against cutting jobs - and thus council services - in order to deliver equality in our city.

"To lament as ‘unavoidable’ the need to pay low paid women properly as Ms Forrest does demonstrates a very skewed view of the world.

"In addition, to raise all this at a time when the workforce and their trade unions are trying to ensure vital services - many of which are delivered by these very women - shows a breathtaking level of crassness that has even surprised us. We will deal with this issue in due course but not today. "

The report stated the new pay and grading model couldn't be introduced without "significant costs". "That average earnings will increase appears unavoidable and this, it is suggested, is an inevitable consequence of the decision to settle equal pay.

"The total number of employees and hence the total pay bill is, however, subject to a degree of control."

The council spokesman said: "The paper categorically does not say what the union has suggested and it is really unfair on staff to pretend it does.

READ MORE: Glasgow City Council agrees final funding deal to cover equal pay settlement

"Carrying out a job evaluation exercise and implementing a new pay scheme always raises the prospect that an employer’s pay bill could fall, rise or stay the same – but to suggest that is about one group of staff is just wrong."

The council has to finance loan deals, which total hundreds of millions, from selling off key assets to City Property and then funding the deal through annual budgets to pay the settlements.

The first deal – for £285m – was struck with Legal and General earlier this year. A £166m, 30-year loan was then agreed with Canada Life Investments. The third loan, worth £195m, was agreed with Assured Guaranty.