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Wednesday, September 29, 1999 Published at 08:04 GMT 09:04 UK


UK: Scotland

Minister denies wrongdoing

Jack McConnell is a former member of Beattie Media staff

Finance Minister Jack McConnell has broken his silence to deny any wrongdoing in the Scottish Parliament lobbying row.


BBC Scotland Chief Political Correspondent John Morrison reports
Mr McConnell, who had worked for the company at the centre of the controversy, said allegations in The Observer newspaper were completely false.

The Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee was due to receive transcripts of the conversation between two employees of Beattie Media and a newspaper reporter who posed as a potential client seeking to use the company to gain access to ministers.


[ image: Jack McConnell: Broke silence]
Jack McConnell: Broke silence
One of the Beattie officials was Kevin Reid, son of Scottish Secretary John Reid.

The PR company staff were secretly filmed allegedly telling the reporter they could influence Mr McConnell's diary - the minister is a former employee of Beattie Media.

But Mr McConnell said the allegations were completely untrue and he was glad to receive an apology from the company which made that clear.

He said the reputation of the parliament and the good name of Scotland were of key importance to him.

Mr McConnell said the standards committee was the right body to investigate the matter and he had immediately sought contact with its convener when the story emerged.

Speaking to BBC Scotland, he said: "My immediate reaction was to write a letter to Mike Rumbles to tell him what was being said about me was completely untrue and to ask him to deal with the matter through the standards committee.


Scottish Finance Minister Jack McConnell speaks to BBc Scotland
"I regard the reputation of the parliament and the good name of Scotland as vitally important and a top priority for me and everybody involved."

First Minister Donald Dewar has said he was convinced none of his ministers did anything wrong.

But on Tuesday Alex Salmond, Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), said the whole parliament should discuss the so-called "Lobbygate" affair as the first item order of business on Wednesday.

"The 'Lobbygate' allegations are extremely serious. The job of the Parliament is to investigate these allegations," said Mr Salmond.

The SNP called for the diaries of ministers to be made public in order to ensure there had been no wrongdoing and said the parliament should ban all lobbyists from its precincts.

BBC Scotland Chief Political Correspondent John Morrison said it was thought the standards committee would receive The Observer's transcripts on Wednesday but had decided not to consider them in-depth immediately.

One committee member said they had to consider the matter correctly and would not "dance to the tune of a newspaper".



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