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John Morrison, Chief Political Correspondent
"Once again the executive finds itself on the back foot over advisors"
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Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 19:03 GMT
Dewar's woe as spin doctor apologises

Dewar Donald Dewar's aides are back in the headlines

Scotland's opposition parties have accused First Minister Donald Dewar of presiding over "political meltdown" as controversy surrounding his chief aides continued to grow.

Mr Dewar, who sacked chief of staff John Rafferty in December, was forced to accept the resignation of leading adviser Philip Chalmers on Tuesday.

"I deeply regret my remarks. I regret that they have been printed
David Whitton
But any hopes of limiting the damage following the latest departure were thwarted when Mr Dewar's chief media advisor, David Whitton, was forced to issue an apology after alleging that Mr Rafferty had a role in Mr Chalmers' exit.

Mr Chalmers, who was mainly involved in advising the Scottish Executive on the presentation of policy, including the campaign against drink-driving, left his post under a cloud.

In a letter to Mr Dewar, he cited media attention over a personal matter for his decision.

David Whitton David Whitton: Told to apologise
He had twice recently been convicted of drink-related motoring offences after being stopped by police in Glasgow's red-light district.

But Mr Whitton was quoted in the Scottish Sun pinning the blame for his resignation squarely on the shoulders of Mr Raffety.

Mr Whitton said reports of impropriety by Mr Chalmers were: "Coming from our little friend who was sacked last month."

When Mr Rafferty threatened legal action after reading the remarks, Mr Whitton said the first minister had ordered him to issue an unreserved apology.

He said: "I dealt with a great deal of telephone calls yesterday and had many conversations with journalists, many of whom are in this room.

Speculated about source

"I acknowledge that in at least one of those conversations I speculated about the source of the story concerning Philip Chalmers. I should not have speculated in that way.

""The position is this. No-one on the Scottish Executive has any idea where the story came from.

"I deeply regret my remarks. I regret that they have been printed. I withdraw them unreserverdly."

Chalmers Philip Chalmers: Tendered resignation
As attention once again focused on government advisors, Scottish National Party business manager Mike Russell said: "Labour and the Scottish Executive are in a state of total meltdown with these astonishing developments.

"Donald Dewar has lost all control over events inside his own executive. John Rafferty was apparently out of control, and had to be sacked.

"Now his official spokesperson is obviously out of control - publicly warring with Mr Rafferty - and his spinning may have landed the Labour/Liberal administration in court.

"He has been forced to issue a grovelling apology, and his own position is now untenable."

Scottish Tory Leader David McLetchie said: "This latest exposure of failure at the heart of the Scottish Executive says it all about the state of this government.

"The so-called father of the nation cannot even run his own household, never mind the country.

"His whole administration lacks judgement and is badly out of touch with public opinion on a whole range of issues such as tuition fees, section 28 and the Health Service."

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See also:
25 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Second Dewar aide quits
07 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Rafferty refutes dossier 'threat'
13 Dec 99 |  Scotland
'No debate' on Rafferty sacking
05 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Minister dismisses 'spin doctor' row

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