Leaders: Thomson saga has more twists than a corkscrew

It looks like a classic case of buck-passing between the Law Society, Police Scotland, the Crown Office and the National Crime Agency

Michelle Thomson leaves her surgery in Muirhouse, Edinburgh yesterday. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Michelle Thomson leaves her surgery in Muirhouse, Edinburgh yesterday. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The complex strands of the Michelle Thomson case have just become further tangled.

Nearly two weeks after the controversy over the SNP MP erupted, the latest revelations make the situation even less clear than it should have been by now, and raise yet more questions.

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It has now emerged that concerns about the solicitor who was being investigated over property deals linked to Mrs Thomson were raised with the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) four years ago.

We have learned that the Law Society of Scotland submitted a suspicious activity report (SAR) on Christopher Hales.

That followed an inspection of his firm which led to him being suspended, prosecuted by a discipline tribunal and then struck off as a solicitor last year.

It is extraordinary that the society called a press conference eight days ago to clear up any confusion on this matter but failed to mention the Soca report at that time.

Labour have already criticised the Law Society’s handling of the Hales case as a “farce”, condemning last week’s press conference as “shambolic”.

We now need to know how Soca responded to the SAR and why no action appears to have been taken.

The society said yesterday it “considered it could not disclose the fact that an SAR had been submitted” until it became public that there was a police investigation.

Well, we knew that last week, and the response is far from adequate.

Meanwhile, the Lord Advocate was at Holyrood this week, answering a question about who knew what, and when.

But the worth of this contribution must now be called into question, since we now know Soca was aware of the case long before the dates which have been mentioned in the saga up until now.

That now poses another series of questions – was the Crown Office made aware, during so-called informal discussions with the Law Society, that a report had gone to Soca? If not, why not? And if the Crown Office was aware of the report, why did the Lord Advocate not mention this?

It appears that the chronology of this saga will have to be revised. There must also be the strong suspicion that further surprises or contradictions will emerge over the sequence of communications between the parties involved.

Scottish Labour public services spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said yesterday it will “look to the public like the buck is being passed back and forth between the Law Society of Scotland, Police Scotland, the Crown Office and now the National Crime Agency”.

Yes, it will look exactly like that – whether true or not.

The public can at least be reassured of one thing, that a police investigation is under way, and – at some stage – this should make the situation clearer.

At least the society has pledged to give the police “our full assistance”. It will need to.

But this latest development shakes, once more, our confidence in the processes and systems that should have ensured that matters such as the Christopher Hales case were dealt with promptly and appropriately.

As matters stand, the situation is an unacceptable mess.

United in support of Ebola nurse

The news that Pauline Cafferkey is in a serious condition will be desperately worrying for her friends, family and colleagues.

There was widespread relief and delight when the nurse was given the all clear in January after contracting the Ebola virus while volunteering in Sierra Leone.

Indeed, most of us will have thought that after this length of time since she became infected, the threat was over.

However, Ms Cafferkey is now being treated for an “unusual late complication” of her previous infection by the virus. It seems we still have much to learn about this unpredictable disease.

An expert provided some hope yesterday by saying that, as she had beaten the virus once, she could probably beat it again.

However, the latest turn of events underlines the dangers faced by those who volunteered to help in the Ebola crisis – and their remarkable bravery.

It is thought that Ms Cafferkey’s original infection happened because of a slight variation in the type of safety clothing required, depending on whether the person wears goggles or a visor during work where he or she is at risk.

Save the Children, for which she was working, has since identified that ensuring staff follow correct procedures, including use of protective clothing, is crucial – and that they are trained in the same equipment they will use in the field.

Our aid workers will have known the risk of infection was high even with full precautions but still they headed to Africa to help.

David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon have both sent their best wishes to Ms Cafferkey. Both made a point of wishing her a speedy recovery. Along with everyone in Scotland, we echo those sentiments.