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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK

UK: Scotland

Dewar and Reid 'rift' widening

Left to right: Dr John Reid, Donald Dewar and Tony Blair

There are signs of a widening rift between the Scottish Secretary Dr John Reid and First Minister Donald Dewar over newspaper allegations of improper access to ministers.

Donald Dewar has backed calls for a Scottish Parliament inquiry into newspaper reports that a lobbying company, Beattie Media, which employs the Secretary of State's son Kevin, was offering privileged access to Scottish Executive Ministers.

However, while Dr Reid, who heads the Scotland Office, has been vocal in his defence of his son, Dr Reid's counterpart in the Scottish Executive, Mr Dewar, defended his ministers who were named in the story.

The row has reignited speculation of a deep chasm between the two political leaders, with rumblings of discontent reported between the two arms of government throughout the summer.

While Dr Reid said his son has nothing to apologise for, Mr Dewar pointed out that ministers had been cleared of blame because Beattie Media has apologised.

[ image: Dr John Reid: Defence of his son]
Dr John Reid: Defence of his son
Mr Dewar said: "The situation has been clarified, of course, by the public and unreserved apology from the company.

"That has cleared the names of ministers who were put into the frame by the whole affair and I'm very relieved and pleased about that."

Mr Dewar said it is now up to the Scottish Parliament's Standards and Privileges Committee, which meets on Wednesday, to establish the ground rules for lobbying companies.

The first minister denied he had over-reacted to the story and added: "I'm not in the business of confrontation and I don't think there is confrontation.

"I don't think anyone is denying that this story is unimportant. It's not something that could have been ignored by any of us an isn't being ignored by any of us."

Senior ministers have said they are dismayed by Dr Reid's reaction and Mr Dewar and his executive have asked the standards committee in the Scottish Parliament to examine the affair and the role of lobbyists.

Donald Dewar: "It is quite clear this has to go before the privileges committee"
Dr Reid and Mr Dewar were pictured together smiling when they met the prime minister at Labour's annual conference on Sunday evening but the indications from Bournemouth were that relations were at an all time low.

The controversy had clearly overshadowed what was being hailed as a triumphant conference appearance by Mr Dewar - the first since the opening of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Dewar told the conference that Labour was building the "the sort of Scotland we have always wanted" through devolution and fulfilling its promises to the people of Scotland.

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