VisitScotland boss doctored minutes over sacking claim

RICHARD Saville-Smith, who was sacked as PR manager for the Year of Homecoming, has lost his case for disability discrimination – but VisitScotland, his former employer, has been heavily criticised.

• Mr Saville-Smith says he is 'gutted' by the ruling. Picture: Neil Hanna

Mr Saville-Smith was dismissed after he suffered an episode of manic depression brought on by stress and over-work; however, VisitScotland claimed he was let go because of the standard of his work.

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While the employment tribunal accepted that this was the reasoning behind VisitScotland's decision and so a case of disability discrimination could not be found, members said the ruling "does not mean that the majority believed that (VisitScotland] had acted properly" or that its claims of poor performance "were true".

The judgment, published yesterday, found that VisitScotland had failed to follow proper procedures, provided "unsatisfactory" evidence, had doctored the minutes of meetings with Mr Saville-Smith and that he had been "badly treated".

While Mr Saville-Smith lost his case for discrimination on grounds of disability, the judgment was critical of the organisation's "deliberate decision to dismiss the claimant ostensibly on grounds of poor performance without any proper procedure whatsoever".

Mr Saville-Smith had claimed that it was a "bullying" style of management, too much work combined with a lack of resources, and senior staff who refused to listen to his warnings that led him to suffer a bipolar episode for the first time in 13 years in August 2008.

Mr Saville-Smith required psychiatric care after just seven weeks as the PR manager for Year of Homecoming. After being off ill for less than one month, he was prevented from returning to work, despite a clean bill of health from his doctors.

He was then kept in limbo for nine weeks before being invited in to discuss changes to his 18-month contract, at which point he was sacked on grounds of incompetence. He received his P45 on Christmas Eve.

According to the final judgment, the tribunal had described the "unsatisfactory nature of the evidence given by" VisitScotland. Fiona Reith, the HR manager of VisitScotland, according to the judgment, would "correct" minutes of meetings from handwritten notes to typewritten notes "so as to make clear what it was she meant to have said rather than what was actually said".

The report said of Paul Bush, the chief executive of Event Scotland which was organising the Homecoming: "The tribunal was dissatisfied with the manner in which certain of the evidence of the respondents' witnesses came out. The most clear example was Mr Bush."

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Yesterday Mr Saville-Smith said: "I am gutted. This is a completely bizarre conclusion and I am at a complete loss. There was no evidence produced – no complaints, disciplinary warnings, meetings, letters, nothing prior to my illness – there was zilch in my personnel file to suggest in any way I was going to be sacked prior to my illness."

He plans to appeal.

Last night, a VisitScotland spokesperson said: "VisitScotland has been vindicated by the employment tribunal's decision and we have been found not to have discriminated against Mr Saville-Smith."