SNP selection under fire over second MP

THE controversy over the SNP’s candidate vetting procedures, sparked by the Michelle Thomson property scandal, escalated last night when questions were raised about the past conduct of a second Nationalist MP.

The SNP MPs. Michelle Thomson and Paul Monaghan both made their Westminster debut after the May election. Picture: Jon Savage

Opposition politicians urged the SNP to investigate the involvement of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Paul Monaghan in a home for the elderly, which faced allegations of ill-treatment of residents and sexual harassment of staff.

Monaghan and his parents used to run the Balmoral Lodge Eventide home, a residential home in the Highland village of Strathpeffer.

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Scotland on Sunday can reveal that social workers were moved into the home to look after the 21 residents following an investigation into ill-treatment of them and sexual harassment of staff in the mid-1990s.

Willie Rennie: questions about SNPs vetting procedures. Picture: Neil Hanna

A press report into the incident, published in June 1995, said action was taken after Monaghan and his parents were given an ultimatum to agree to the social workers coming in or the residents would be moved out.

The report quoted a statement from the then Highland Regional Council, which said: “At a private meeting of the registration panel, certain matters relating to the suitability of those running the home were discussed and the owners of Balmoral Lodge were notified of the decision to move to deregistration. They have 14 days to show reason why this should not happen.”

Another press report, published a year later, claimed the MP’s father, Bill, had his licence withdrawn and Monaghan had been “banned” from having “any day-to-day control” of the home.

Yesterday Monaghan denied this was the case, saying: “I was not banned from having control of the care home. In fact my registration continued until the care home was sold. At that point I gave up the care home registration.”

Despite Monaghan’s denial, opposition politicians last night insisted the SNP should investigate the MP’s role in the controversy and the way they select candidates.

Since his election in the SNP’s May landslide, Monaghan has perhaps been best known for his exposure as a “cybernat”, who has used Twitter to publish slurs on the Royal Family and launch smear campaigns against opponents.

Last night the Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said: “What the Michelle Thomson case has done is raise questions about the thoroughness of the SNP vetting process for parliamentary candidates and whether details of her business history were properly considered by them when she was approved as a candidate.

“[There are] similar questions in relation to the case of Dr Monaghan. Were these reported incidents made known to the SNP and were they aware of his history when he was approved as a candidate? These matters now need to be thoroughly investigated.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “These are very disturbing reports about another SNP MP, and it raises questions about the party’s vetting procedures. I would urge the SNP to establish an immediate review of not only Dr Monaghan’s individual case but their whole approach to candidate selection.”

Serious questions over the SNP’s vetting procedures for candidates emerged last week when a police investigation was launched into property deals involving Thomson, the Edinburgh West SNP MP.

Thomson withdrew from the SNP whip at Westminster when it became known that police had begun an inquiry into the solicitor Christopher Hales, who was struck off following a tribunal last year after he acted for Thomson’s property company in a series of deals in 2010/11, which raised questions over possible mortgage fraud.

Monaghan was also involved in a more recent controversy. In 2008 he resigned from his post as head of planning and development at Northern Constabulary before he was due to face a disciplinary hearing.

Monaghan was accused of circulating an unflattering email about the force’s then chief constable, Ian Latimer, suggesting he had lost the respect and support of his staff.

Computer experts were called in to trace the email’s origins and Monaghan was suspended from the job in July 2008 before quitting later that year.

Yesterday Monaghan said: “I was and still am disappointed at the way I was treated by Northern Constabulary. In the end, I simply resigned to take up alternative employment.”

The suggestion that Highland Regional Council “banned” Monaghan from running the Balmoral Lodge was made in reports of an industrial tribunal involving a member of staff, who won a compensation award of £3,000 for unfair dismissal. According to the reports, the former Balmoral lodge employee Lynda MacLean was paid off after informing council officials about the running of the home.

The tribunal awarded MacLean the cash after hearing that she suffered financial loss because she was unable to find another job.

Monaghan, however, took the case back to the Inverness tribunal in September 1996 asking for a review of the amount paid out in compensation. He claimed to have discovered that MacLean was offered jobs at other residential homes in the area, but she had turned them down.

The tribunal heard that the owners of two other retirement homes phoned Monaghan after they read of MacLean’s award and told him she had worked briefly for them after losing her job and could have worked longer if she had wanted.

In the end, the tribunal halved her £3,000 award saying she had lost its confidence. The tribunal chair Joan Aitken remarked: “She made no mention at the original hearing that she would be selective in her choice of employers.

“Given her experience in Balmoral Lodge, had she advanced such evidence, the tribunal might have viewed it sympathetically.”

Yesterday Monaghan said: “Ultimately the tribunal concluded that the complainer misled the tribunal by withholding information.”