My regular reader will recall my disappointment at Tommy Sheridan’s defeat in the Scottish election. Tommy was a gift – a man who allowed much of this LJ to write itself. Occasionally posting updates on his antics gave me much material. It still does. I cast around for a new “Friend of this LJ” within the Parliament and thankfully alighted on Stewart Stevenson, Father Jack-a-like or Beaker (polling is still open). Stevenson struck me as being an accident waiting to happen. I’d first encountered him in person a train to Edinburgh where he read the confidential Shirley McKie report of the Justice committee in full view of me – allowing me to read various parts a couple of weeks before publication. I’d noted his favourite music was Beethoven’s 1812 Overture. And, god bless the man, he gave me a story that I tipped to The Guardian Diary on the minister for climate change listing as his interest private flying.
Better still, Stevenson then promptly caused the first expenses scandal of the new Parliament when it was revealed that he had sold his house in Linlithgow (which had no security over it) months after buying a house in Banff and then buying a new house in Linlithgow (very near his old house) with a loan and security and claiming the Edinburgh Allowance meaning the state is paying a proportion of the costs on his new Linlithgow home. During this debacle Stevenson said, he had done nothing wrong.
The other week I spotted a story on the excellent Ridiculous Politics blog. Posted on 29th August Ridiculous Politics pointed out something very interesting in the register of members interests. It indicated that the minister for climate change (with responsibility for renewable energy) owned £30,000 of shares in Scottish Power (or the new company which has taken over Scottish power). I waited for something to hit the newspapers. Nothing happened. Today, though, Beaker’s visage appeared plastered across the front page of The Scotsman next to the headline, “Minister forced to sell £30,000 of shares over “conflict of interest””. The full story suggests the Scotsman (with no mention of Ridiculous Politics) approached Stevenson asking him to reconcile his shareholding with the ministerial code of conduct. Apparently, the Nats indicated yesterday that there was no conflict of interest (of course not – after all how can owning shares in one of Scotland’ major energy providers influence you in the development of policy in renewable energy? And when last week Scottish power was given the go ahead to develop a windfarm in Dumfries and Galloway). However, Stevenson announced last night that the shares were to be sold.
“I know that there has been no conflict of interests, and I cannot see any likely conflict of interest in these shareholdings and general legislation. However, I am passionately committed to the climate-change legislation that I will be charged with bringing forward as a minister.
“Given that the ministerial code does speak about perception, I am disposing of all energy company shares to remove any scintilla of any possible conflict at any time in the future.”
Well, that makes it all right then. He did nothing wrong. Getting to be a bit of a mantra for Beaker isn’t it?
Now, if The Scotsman starts asking how Stevenson’s hobby of private flying can be reconciled with this self-proclaimed passionate commitment to legislation on climate change I’d like to know about it.