Furore over Sturgeon's letter misplaced

Why shouldn't an MSP, who is also a Cabinet minister, put a case on behalf of someone who has committed a criminal offence (your report, 11 February)? The publication of the letter sent by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on behalf of convicted fraudster Abdul Rauf begs two important questions.

The first is that people who have been convicted, or charged, with an offence are still entitled to representation from their elected representatives. The offences may be revolting and heinous. Our MPs, MSPs, councillors, even community councillors, are surely still obliged to listen and use their judgment to take up their constituents' case as best they can. Their first loyalty should be to all the registered voters, whatever their predicament. Even the attainment of high office should not get in the way of that basic principle.

The second point relates to the whole question of the value of custodial offences. This is a contentious issue engaging strong passions on both sides of the argument. Perhaps those who have been found guilty of defrauding the social security system should be sent to prison. But I can't accept that in no circumstances should there be a plea for mitigation.

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That is the judgment Nicola Sturgeon made to help Mr Rauf, fully recognising that the final decision must rest with the courts. The political furore is more due to the forthcoming general election rather than any dereliction of duty on her part.


Shiel Court


Watching First Minister's Questions on the subject of Nicola Sturgeon's letter on behalf of Abdul Rauf made me wonder if Billy Connolly was right to call it a "wee pretendy parliament". The utterances of Iain Gray, Annabel Goldie and Tavish Scott were almost asinine. Their collective joy and feigned gravitas in finding something meaty with which to beat the SNP over the head was a sight to behold, with Tavish Scott grinning from ear to ear at any defence by Alex Salmond.

Not for them, these First Ministers in waiting, was any thought given to the rights of the constituentsthey represent.

For Ms Sturgeon there could be no advantage in helping her constituent but she did her duty as a constituency MSP. It was not necessary for her to consider the rights and wrongs of the case; that is the court's job.

She did not condone the actions of her constituent but acted with impartiality when, as a government minister, she could easily have avoided the matter. Previously Gordon Brown spoke, as an MP, for a cannabis-growing constituent who faced court.


Kirkhouse Road


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