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Sunday, October 3, 1999 Published at 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK

UK: Scotland

McConnell pledges to aid standards inquiry

Kevin Reid is alleged to have boasted of his contacts

Scottish Finance Minister Jack McConnell has said he will make his diaries available for public inspection in the wake of the 'Lobbygate' affair.

BBC Scotland's Kit Fraser reports
He has been caught up in the row over claims that the lobbying arm of Beattie Media offered improper access to ministers in the Scottish Executive.

Some newspaper reports have suggested Mr McConnell had two diaries, and that Beattie Media might be able to gain direct access to one of them.

But the finance minister has consistently denied having any contact with the firm he used to work for or having acted improperly at any time.

[ image: Jack McConnell has denied any wrongdoing]
Jack McConnell has denied any wrongdoing
However, on Sunday, the Observer, in the second instalment of its allegations about Beattie Media, reported that Kevin Reid, the son of Scottish Secretary Dr John Reid, revealed inside knowledge of Mr McConnell's budget.

No inference was drawn as to how Mr Reid obtained that information and it has subsequently emerged that the information may already have been in the public domain.

Speaking on BBC Scotland's Holyrood programme Mr McConnell rubbished the Observer report and said he was happy to co-operate with the Scottish Parliament's standard's committee investigation.

"My position is that any particular meeting of the standards committee that refers to me or involves me presenting information or answering questions should be in public," he said.

'Nothing to hide'

"I want my session to be in public, I will present any information that they want from my diaries or my files to the standards committee, I will co-operate fully.

"There is absolutely nothing in my office, either my ministerial office or my constituency office that I have any reason to hide from anybody

"The reputation of the parliament and the executive and of Scotland as a whole is at stake here and I want to make sure we clear this up."

A Scottish Executive spokesman on Sunday also dismissed any suggestion that Beattie Media had confidential knowledge of the first devolved budget.

'No access'

He accused the Observer of being "excited" by information that was already in the public domain.

Beattie Media also dismissed the report when a spokesman said the firm "has had no access whatsoever to confidential information from the Scottish Executive or any Government minister".

But Observer journalist Ben Laurance told the BBC: "Kevin Reid told us that the budget was going to be over two years, that was not public knowledge."

Mr Laurance said the executive's claim that the information was contained in the Liberal Democrat- Labour partnership agreement did not add up.

"We spoke to one of the senior Liberal Democrats who was involved in drafting that agreement and they said 'If you asked me does the partnership agreement set out a two year budget, I would have said that that's the first I have heard of it'."

'Ridiculous argument'

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond MSP accused Labour of being in chaos over the standards committee inquiry.

"They began last week by strongly supporting a public inquiry, and ended the week actively trying to discourage one - on the basis of the ridiculous argument that Donald Dewar had looked into the issue and that everything was OK!," he said.

"The Executive now appear to be beginning this week by returning to the more sensible position of a supporting an inquiry, and Jack McConnell's remarks are to be welcomed in that regard."

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