BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  UK: Scotland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 8 March, 2002, 20:02 GMT
Police call in Officegate row
Henry and Julie McLeish
Henry and Julie McLeish are fighting the allegations
Fife Police are being asked to investigate the council staff and the charity involved in the Officegate row.

Tricia Marwick, the Scottish National Party MSP for Fife, has written to the chief constable asking for an inquiry to be launched.

The latest twist in the saga came as Fife Council published the report of its internal investigation into why payments were made to the Third Age group after it was officially wound up.

The charity rented office space from the then First Minister Henry McLeish, who resigned in November amid controversy over his failure to declare income from sub-lets of his constituency office in Glenrothes.

Douglas Sinclair
Douglas Sinclair: "Failures and omissions"
He received payments while he was still claiming full Westminster expenses as an MP.

The report by the council's chief executive Douglas Sinclair said that a number of employees had taken "inappropriate action" when dealing with Third Age.

Copies of the document have been sent to Fife Police and Audit Scotland, the financial watchdog.

There had been "failures and omissions", the investigation found.

Mr McLeish's wife Julie, a senior social worker with the council, gave the go-ahead for payments to the charity even though it had ceased to exist, according to the report.

'Serious allegations'

Most of the employees implicated are members of the Labour Party. They now face disciplinary action.

Mrs Marwick previously asked Audit Scotland to investigate the contributions to Third Age.

The party said the council gave two 20,000 payments to the group in April 1998 and May 1999, despite the fact that its management committee had been disbanded.

Tricia Marwick MSP
Tricia Marwick: "People's right to know"
Speaking on Friday, Mrs Marwick said: "It is clear that the allegations contained in this report are extremely serious and I believe that a full investigation by Fife Police is the only way forward.

"Cheques were signed and cashed after the Third Age management committee had been wound up, documents have been shredded and Fife Council staff are alleged to have access the accounts of the charity.

"The people of Fife have a right to know what happened to the missing money and Fife Council's report has failed to answer this question.

"It is now time for the police to take over from the chief executive of Fife Council and get to the bottom of this whole affair."

Mrs McLeish has taken legal advice and her representatives are now "urgently reviewing" the results of the council's inquiry.

'No further comment'

In a statement, they said: "While we can see that there may be a need for our client or this firm to issue a statement in due course fully identifying the various inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the reports, we have advised Ms Fulton (Mrs McLeish) that no further comment should be made until our review has been completed."

Before the report was published, Mr McLeish hit out at the treatment he and his wife had received over the Officegate scandal.

"She is now being treated, in my view, very badly by the council and the report has outraged her and made her very angry indeed," he said.

"I'm not Catholic, I'm not Protestant, I didn't go to Glasgow University, and I'm not part of the Lanarkshire mafia."

Fife Council's standards committee accepted the report's main findings and recommendations at a private meeting on Friday.

These included:

  • There was no evidence that any money went astray

  • There were failures and omissions by council staff

  • The boundaries between politics, friendship and work were not maintained.

There will now be a review of the authority's financial procedures.

A register of interests will also be established for charity managers applying for grants.

Political correspondent Glenn Campbell reports
"The SNP wants a police investigation"
See also:

31 Jan 02 | Scotland
Auditor probes Officegate row
Links to more Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Scotland stories