Grahame gets rap over knuckles

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CHRISTINE Grahame, the SNP’s MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, has incurred the “strong disapproval” of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) over allegations that she misused parliamentary resources for her own party political and electoral ends.

The claims were made by her former aide Mark Hirst, who lives in Eckford and was sacked by Ms Grahame in September for gross misconduct.

The SPCB, having considered emails from Ms Grahame, 67, which were clandestinely gathered by her former employee, has concluded she breached the reimbursement of members’ expenses scheme and the code of conduct for MSPs.

A letter from Holyrood’s apolitical body, which reached a decision on the complaints on December 7, stated that the emails “relate to signficant party political activity which should not have been conducted using parliamentary resources”.

It went on: “On behalf of the SBTB, the Presiding Officer [Tricia Marwick MSP] has written to Ms Grahame conveying its strong disapproval that she has misused parliamentary resources in this way and asking her to ensure that no further misuse of resources occurs.”

The corporate body, which has the power to suspend MSPs, launched its investigations into material submitted by Mr Hirst on the referral of the Standards Commissioner who, on November 8 claimed the allegations fell outside his remit.

Meanwhile the Electoral Commission announced on November 15 that it would not be conducting a formal investigation, but had referred some of Mr Hirst’s claims to the Crown Office.

Responding to the censure from the SPCB, a statement from the SNP press office at Holyrood stated: “Ms Grahame is pleased that the SPCB has not referred Mr Hirst’s complaints for further action and that the SPCB considers the matter closed.”

The statement quoted a spokesperson for Ms Grahame thus: “Ms Grahame simply wishes to point out once again that Mr Hirst is a former employee who has admitted himself that he is ‘disgruntled’ and who secretly recorded his employer and was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct. She is pleased that his complaints have been repeatedly rejected.

“Mr Hirst has now indicated his intention to take his complaints to an employment tribunal and, as such, Ms Grahame has no further comment to make at this time.”

However, the Crown Office has confirmed it has received information from the Electoral Commission “in relation to a 67-year-old woman” and that this information remains “under consideration”.

Meanwhile, Mr Hirst, who became Ms Grahame’s parliamentary assistant in 2004, will maintain his claims at his tribunal that, while being paid by the corporate body, he was directed by the MSP to carry out her electioneering in the Borders during her successful campaign earlier this year.

He was suspended from his job on May 12 – a week after Ms Grahame, previously a South of Scotland list MSP, swept to victory in the redrawn Borders constituency.

Mr Hirst, a former shop steward at Viasystems in Selkirk, will be represented by the National Union of Journalists at his tribunal which is expected to take place early next year.

He told us: “I have additional evidence which shows staff were directed daily [by Ms Grahame] to do party political and election work. She crossed the line when she failed to record the value of staff deployed in her election return.”