The Scotsman Exhibits
Each exhibit relates to the relevant point by Helen Liddell. “Exhibit Three” relates to “Complaint Three” and so on.
LETTER FROM S BROWN, DUNDEE, 21 September 2002
Pope: According to a newspaper, the Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell has a picture of the Pope in her office. When we hear so much about sectarianism, surely it is not appropriate for the most senior Scottish politician to have a religious symbol in her office. This office is public property and does not belong to her. S Brown, Dundee.
LETTER FROM EDDIE ORRIE, DALGETY BAY, FIFE, 25 September 2002
“S Brown complains about the Scotland Secretary, Helen Liddell, displaying a picture of the Pope in her office. She is referred to as Scotland’s most senior politician. Surely the whole point of eradicating sectarianism is to allow individuals to freely display such items as the choose? I also suspect most Scots would disagree with his reference to her pre-eminent status in Scottish politics, which suggests a unionist stance. One wonders if a picture of the Queen would have caused such offence.”
LIDDELL BRANDS SALMOND 'THE TOAST OF BAGHDAD'
By Hamish Macdonell, 30 September 2002
HELEN Liddell, the Scottish Secretary, yesterday provoked an angry row with the SNP when she labelled the party's former leader, Alex Salmond, "the toast of Baghdad" because of his stance on Iraq.
Mrs Liddell seized on the contents of a speech delivered by Mr Salmond to the SNP conference last week when he accused Tony Blair of blindly following the agenda set by Washington.
The Scottish Secretary linked Mr Salmond's remarks to the comments he made in 1999 when he warned NATO airstrikes in Kosovo would be "an act of unpardonable folly". Mrs Liddell said: "I think his remarks are ill-advised and they come at a most inappropriate time, and it has made him the toast of Baghdad as well as the toast of Belgrade."
But Mr Salmond hit back immediately, accusing the Scottish Secretary of a "spectacular piece of crassness".
He said: "The SNP have been opposing the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein for many years - at a time when British governments were selling him weapons of mass destruction, like the Iraqi supergun. Right now, on this issue, the SNP's argument of the primacy of the United Nations is supported by 80 per cent of the country. Helen Liddell isn't even backed by a majority of the Labour Party.
"These foolish and crass remarks make you wonder which parallel universe Mrs Liddell is now living in."
The bout of pre-election sparring between Mr Salmond and Mrs Liddell threatened to overshadow a speech she made to the Labour Party conference yesterday.
The attack on the SNP's stance on Iraq was part of a wider assault on the party by Mrs Liddell, which was being interpreted last night as a clear sign that she is to reprise her role as "Nat-basher in chief" ahead of next year's Holyrood elections.
Mrs Liddell berated the Nationalists for "endless constitutional navel -gazing" in their plans to govern Scotland.
She said the SNP leader, John Swinney, had exposed his party's "paucity of ambition" by dropping the "penny for Scotland" tax, on which the SNP campaigned at the 1999 Holyrood elections.
And she said: "The SNP's sums never did add up. But now they've dropped the 'penny for Scotland' pledge and still they claim they could boost our public services. How? Every day between now and 1 May, Scottish Labour will be challenging the SNP on this key issue: If you want to spend more and you're not going to put up taxes, what are you going to cut?"
LIDDELL AND THE JOB WITH AN EMPTY DESK
By Jason Beattie. The Scotsman, 16 October 2002
THE custom in recent years is for politicians to use the month of October to set the agenda for the forthcoming parliamentary season. Autobiographies are published, important speeches delivered and press conferences arranged as the heavyweights jostle for political position.
The apparent exception to this convention is the Scotland Office. In the past few days, the inhabitants of Dover House in London have marked the start of the new political calendar by visiting a barn and helping a postman in Dumfries and Galloway to deliver the mail. Some may see this as a scandalous underemployment of the talents of Helen Liddell, the Scottish Secretary, and her colleagues. Others would claim the Scotland Office is simply superfluous to requirements.
Unsurprisingly, the question again being asked at Westminster is: Do we need a secretary of state for Scotland? Or, to put it more bluntly: What is the point of Helen Liddell?
At present, the Scotland Office has three ministers of state: Mrs Liddell, who attends the Cabinet; Anne McGuire, a junior minister, and Lynda Clark, the advocate general.
Contrary to public perception, the majority of ministers, particularly junior ministers, work extremely hard, often enduring 14-hour days. But in the Scotland Office, there is a sense Mrs Liddell is struggling to find a worthwhile use of her time.
Privately, it has been said she is bored, but has decided to weather the storm in the hope that her talents will be properly recognised in the next Cabinet reshuffle.
Publicly, the Scotland Office says it is essential to have a Scottish champion at Westminster. "Those who talk down the position of the secretary of state for Scotland talk down Scotland," said a spokeswoman.
But in a post-devolution era, it is perhaps difficult to justify the expenditure of maintaining Whitehall departments for Wales and Scotland. The Scotland Office has not helped its cause by expanding, rather than contracting, since the passing of the Scotland Act in 1999.
Despite devolving swathes of the power previously wielded by Scottish secretaries of the past, the size of the Scotland Office payroll has almost doubled from 69 in 1999 to about 120. These included 48 policy analysts, two special advisers and 13 administrators.
"Scotland Office is committed to achieving efficiency and effectiveness in all areas of activity," said the department's 2002 annual report.
Mrs Liddell’s people insist the majority of her work is done behind the scenes, badgering fellow Cabinet members on Scotland's behalf and attending a plethora of Cabinet committees to fight for Scotland.
The Scotland Office spokesperson said: "The Scottish secretary brings Scotland to the decision-making table on important issues - the macro economy, social security and pensions, national minimum wage, national security, immigration, health and safety, energy regulation, employment, the constitution, foreign affairs and defence. Equally important is her role in liaising with the Executive." To an extent, this is true. Mrs Liddell sits on ten Cabinet committees . David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, sits on 16, John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, 14 and Robin Cook, the Leader of the House, 12. In addition to this timetable, Mrs Liddell and Mrs McGuire are required to attend the half-hour monthly session of Scottish questions when the House is sitting. The advocate general is grilled for five minutes at the end of each session.
Peter Wishart, of the SNP, says there is no evidence Mrs Liddell is Scotland's voice in the Cabinet: "Rather, she is the Cabinet's voice in Scotland. Where was Helen Liddell arguing the case for Scotland last week when it was announced the modernisation of the west coast main line had been further delayed? I think there has been a greater examination of the Scottish secretary's role as a result of devolution."
Furthermore, the level of Mrs Liddell's activity outside parliament also makes one wonder about the burden of her workload. According to the Scotland Office website, Mrs Liddell has given only 14 keynote speeches since March 2001.
Questions about her workload have dogged Mrs Liddell since her diary was leaked. The ministerial record for 28 January to 3 February this year allegedly showed Mrs Liddell did a three-day week during which she attended three lunches, two dinners and three receptions.
The current thinking in Westminster is the future of the Scotland Office may depend on the success of English devolution. Should areas such as the north -east vote in favour of regional assemblies, then it will become increasingly hard to justify not giving them an equal voice in Cabinet to Scotland and Wales.
Pressure is already growing among English MPs for a Department of Nations and Regions, incorporating the Scottish and Welsh offices and, depending on circumstances, the Northern Ireland office.
There is one person almost certain to put themselves forward as departmental head: Mrs Liddell.
TIME TO RECONSIDER THE SCOTTISH SECRETARY'S ROLE
The Scotsman, October 16, 2002. Leader, 566 words.
CONSIDER the following scenario. You are the senior manager of a department whose contribution to the company has been questioned. In such circumstances, the wisest course of action would surely be to stress at every available opportunity the important, nay essential, role you play within that organisation. The Scotland Office finds itself in a situation which is not dissimilar. Those on the ground are grumbling that it is failing to deliver on its core objectives - fighting for Scotland at the Cabinet table - while those in the higher echelons of Whitehall are wondering whether the expense of a separate department is entirely justifiable when a successful management buy-out has been achieved in Edinburgh.
Is it not time, they are questioning, to slim down this piece of government flab?
Faced with such criticism, the Secretary of State for Scotland might be expected do everything in her powers to demonstrate the essential usefulness of her role. But on the evidence available it would be difficult to argue that Helen Liddell, along with her colleagues, Anne McGuire and Lynda Clark, are using their time effectively or, for that matter, proving they are essential to the general well-being of Scotland. Visiting film sets, promoting the Royal Mail and opening small businesses - all activities undertaken recently by the three Scottish ministers - should not be derided, but equally it is hardly the type of employment which justifies Mrs Liddell claiming the same 124,979 salary as the Chancellor, Gordon Brown.
Some may argue that if a politician of Helen Liddell's stature cannot make a decent fist of the role of Scottish Secretary then it is a position which barely merits the stationery bill. Others will be more ruthless in their assessment, claiming it is the incumbent, not the position, which is at fault. Whatever Mrs Liddell's shortcomings, it should be acknowledged that she has been offered a poor hand. In the past, Scottish Secretaries could justify their position at the Cabinet table on the grounds they were there to oversee Scotland's different education and legal systems while ensuring the country received a fair share of Treasury funding. Such a role is nigh redundant now that there is a Scottish Chancellor bountifully handing out money to all parts of the UK and a Scottish Parliament responsible for the nation's public services.
Nor is it possible to argue effectively that the Scotland Office is an irreplaceable bridge between the two parliaments. The common practice is for traffic between Edinburgh and London to be conducted primarily at ministerial level, frequently bypassing the residents of Dover House.
For a government rightly criticised for presiding over a bloated state, the existence of the Scotland and Wales Offices increasingly seems to be an unnecessary luxury. This is not an argument for abolition, rather for a reformed Whitehall machinery which recognises the realities thrown up by devolution. It is important that Scotland retains a voice in government, not least because the time will come when the Chancellor may not be so generous. But it is not necessary for that position to be at Cabinet level. Scotland would not suffer if there were a Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, who represented the interest of the devolved nations and regions. It might even be of benefit.
Fraser Nelson’s Week in Politics, Nov 4th 2002
(The column dealt with four topics; this is the lead item relating to Ms Liddell)
THE TOURISM industry has been in disarray in both sides of the Border. The Scottish Tourist Board was declared inept by consultants and then punished with a ridiculous new name: visitScotland. The English Tourism Council is facing a starker fate: abolition.
A review of the tourism industry is about to be finalised by Tessa Jowell, Culture Secretary, and word is that her results could be out on Thursday. She is expected to sound the death knell for the ETC. So what will England do for a tourist authority? The idea is to "merge" the ETC with the British Tourist Authority and create a new entity. The result could see Scotland struggling harder than ever before to be represented at the British level.
The complex architecture of the tourism structure sees the BTA with offices in 27 countries, giving supposedly impartial advice as to which parts of Britain to visit. Scottish tourism chiefs have long feared this system does not serve them well, and that the BTA is dominated by staff who know little about Scotland. England, it is suspected, is by far the favourite of the four "partners" whose interests the BTA promotes. When it is formally merged with the ETC, it is feared that such favouritism will be institutionalised. Worse, Peter Lederer, chair of visitScotland, has not been consulted about the change. It is to be presented to him on Thursday as a fait accompli.
Normally, politicians have only a loose grasp of the tourist industry and are ill-equipped to tackle an impending government disaster. Not so John Thurso, the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP, who joined the Commons last year after a successful career in the leisure industry.
His many contacts in the trade have alerted him to the coming amalgamation - and he has written to Helen Liddell, the underemployed Secretary of State for Scotland, demanding she acts to protect Scotland.
Ms Liddell has been filling her diary with exotic trips in the name of promoting Scottish tourism and business - making her known in the Commons tearoom as Minister for Monarch of the Glen. If her efforts are sincere, she will be able to use her job for its original purpose: fighting Scotland's corner in the Cabinet. This means finding out what Scotland thinks about merging the ETC and the BTA - then starting a rearguard action before the deed is done.
MP slates Liddell over 'Friends' initiative
By Fraser Nelson. The Scotsman: 30 October 2002
HELEN Liddell has set aside a pounds 260,000 budget for her own Friends of Scotland tourist initiative - despite hiring only two staff.
The Secretary of State for Scotland has travelled to China, Malaysia and Australia in a highly personalised attempt to seek people who would be willing to represent Scotland and act as emissaries for the project.
But its vast expense - and failure to produce more than 100 "friends" - has been denounced by the Scottish National Party as proof that Ms Liddell is wasting public money - and that her role has been made redundant by devolution.
Questions tabled by Angus Robertson, SNP MP for Moray, show that since its inception in July last year, Friends of Scotland has independently staged only eight events - half of them held in Ms Liddell's London office.
One Edinburgh event was described as a reception for "cultural attaches from diplomatic missions in London" and another as a "business lunch in Guangzhou, China."
The aim is to identify throughout the world who is interested in helping to promote Scotland - either its economy or its tourist industry.
Mr Robertson said he has been told that Ms Liddell travelled to Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand and staged expensive events without signing up one interested person.
"Friends of Scotland initiative is a good idea and it has great advisers, but it is being catastrophically executed," he said. "It's been going for a year now and it's managed just over 100 people. Scotland is not without friends, but clearly Helen Liddell is."
He said the information, published by the Scotland Office yesterday, shows that the Friends of Scotland website - which displays a large picture of Ms Liddell - has so far proved an expensive flop. It cost 67,000 but has attracted only 32 registrations of interest since it started in July. Of these, only 12 came from overseas.
Tourism Shakeup Fury
By Fraser Nelson, The Scotsman, 1 November 2002
THE TASK of advertising Scotland to overseas tourists is to be handed to VisitScotland's English rivals.
The British Tourist Authority is to be merged with the English Tourism Council - ending the BTA's status as an independent organisation which promotes all parts of the UK. The move was yesterday denounced as a "disaster for Scotland" by John Thurso, the Liberal Democrat MP, who said it will put the "foxes in charge of the hen coop".
The tourism shake-up, which will see a new organisation both promoting and competing with Scotland, was confirmed yesterday by Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary. She said it would save money by creating greater efficiency.
Tourism insiders said that the Scotland Office started to lobby Ms Jowell on Monday, when details of the proposed merger emerged in The Scotsman.
A series of safeguards are understood to have been inserted during the last few days, including a stipulation that the First Minister will agree specific performance targets for new body.
Mr Thurso, a former House of Lords member who worked in the leisure industry before becoming an MP last year, said Ms Jowell had created a hybrid. "The new organisation will be competing with Scotland in one end of the building, and serving Scotland in another room. It is not hard to see how this will end up. The foxes have been put in charge of the hen coup," he said.
Mike Watson, Scotland's tourism minister, sought to play down the move last night - saying that there is no evidence that the new system will see Scotland sidelined on the world stage.
"The British Tourist Authority has emphasised that Scotland as a destination will remain very high on its agenda," he said.
Fraser Nelson’s Week in Politics: Is This why Helen Liddell is exposing her job to ridicule?
The Scotsman, November 4, 2002
THE Scottish Secretary, Helen Liddell, will call on Scottish women to engage in the debate on the future of the European Union at the "Women and the Changing European Union" conference today ...
Thus runs the latest bizarre press release from the Scotland Office. Ms Liddell believes that women do not appreciate Brussels enough - and arrives in Glasgow today to set them straight. Together with the European Commission Representative Office in Scotland, she will "address ICM poll findings showing that women are less likely to see the UK's membership of the EU as 'a good thing'".
Shame on these women. But a few sisterly words of encouragement from Ms Liddell and - presto - their many reasons for being sceptical about the Euro project will disappear. Or, more likely, a stash of taxpayers' money will disappear as two under-employed institutions seek to justify their existence. The whole event is beyond parody. It does, however, raise a serious point. Why is Ms Liddell - a serious and articulate politician - wasting her time and our money with such nonsense? Well, she does want to lead the 'yes' campaign in Scotland during a referendum on the euro. But that does not explain why she has engaged in other futilities, such as formally informing Scotland that the clocks are changing.
An explanation is doing the round in Westminster: Ms Liddell is deliberately exposing the post to ridicule so no-one will complain when it is eventually axed. The Scotland Office, whose powers were gutted by devolution, is not long for this world and will probably be merged with the Welsh Office after next year's devolved elections. When Mr Blair decides to scrap it, there may well be a justifiable outcry from those who object to removing Scotland's historic voice in the Cabinet.
One way of squaring the Scottish press is to have everyone clamouring for abolition - saying that, as Ms Liddell's efforts have shown, there is no role for the job post-devolution. Word is that Ms Liddell herself is vying to replace Patricia Hewitt at the Department of Trade and Industry once the Holyrood election is won and her job abolished.
Used properly, the Scottish Secretary can be a powerful force in an increasingly Anglocentric Whitehall. An excellent example came last week, when VisitScotland's English rivals were given the job of promoting Scotland overseas. Ms Liddell's last-minute interventions protected Scotland's marketing budget and softened the blow. Once she realised the stitch-up was happening, she moved quickly.
These are the victories which Ms Liddell should be telling us about - not advising Scottish women to love the Euro project.
Letter from Bob MacDougall from Stirlingshire, 6 November
“I understand that Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell is attending a conference on the benefits of European membership to women. One wonders how many attendants will be the wives of farmers and fishermen whose livelihoods have been decimated mainly by European Union policies?”
Globespan launches new airline
By Alastair Dalton, Transport Correspondent, 8 November 2002
SCOTTISH tour operator Globespan yesterday launched a no-frills airline with five Mediterranean routes from Prestwick and Edinburgh next year.
The Edinburgh-based company's new Flyglobespan.com offshoot will operate daily flights between Prestwick and Palma from April, with three flights a week to Rome and Nice, and two to Malaga.
The schedule, which will continue until November, also includes two flights a week from Edinburgh to Malaga, Nice and Barcelona, and one to Palma. The move is expected to boost passengers by 60,000 at Prestwick, which grew by more than a fifth to 1.48 million passengers in the year to last month. Flyglobespan.com expects to carry 20,000 passengers from Edinburgh.
Tom Dalrymple, the managing director of Globespan, said he had delayed the start of flights by two months because of fears over a possible war against Iraq.
He said longer term plans could include an alliance of no-frills airlines on either side of the Atlantic for a low cost service to North America.
Flyglobespan.com, which will sell its tickets on-line, will operate two 142 -seat Boeing 737-300 aircraft. Inclusive one-way fares will start at GBP 49.
Dalrymple admitted the firm would make "substantial" savings in airport charges by operating from Prestwick rather than Glasgow.
However, he also praised the airport's transport links, which include a railway station, and said passengers would enjoy faster check-ins than elsewhere. Aircraft could also be turned around quickly because of the lack of congestion.
Dalrymple said the destinations were chosen as complementary to those of Ryanair, Prestwick's main airline.
He said: "We do not want to get into turf wars or price wars.
"Flyglobespan.com will offer direct, scheduled affordable air connections to popular sunspots not previously available from any Scottish airport."
He said Globespan had filled more than 80 per cent of seats on a trial scheduled service from Edinburgh to Nice this summer.
The firm, which was established 28 years ago, is Britain's largest Canadian tour operator, and also runs charter flights to Europe.
The announcement came as Prestwick confirmed that German airline Lowfare Jet plans to start a daily service to Hanover from 1 December.
Six tour operators will run summer charter flights from Prestwick next year, including to Spain, Las Vegas, Bulgaria and Turkey. Helen Liddell, the Scottish Secretary, who is campaigning for more direct air links, urged other airlines to follow Globespan's lead.
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