Page last updated at 11:03 GMT, Saturday, 28 June 2008 12:03 UK

Q&A: Wendy Alexander donations row

Wendy Alexander

Wendy Alexander has quit as Scottish Labour leader amid the row over donations to her leadership campaign.

BBC Scotland political reporter Andrew Black answers the main questions surrounding the saga.


When did things start going wrong for Wendy Alexander?

Unfortunately for Ms Alexander, she was only a few months into her leadership when the donations row first exploded.

Her campaign team admitted last November that it broke the law after accepting 950 from a Jersey-based businessman Paul Green.

This flouted the rules because it is illegal for people who are not UK voters to donate to a UK political party.

The MSP who sought the donation, Charlie Gordon, quit as Labour's transport spokesman at Holyrood but decided to stay on as an MSP.

Why did Ms Alexander not quit at that stage?

Mr Gordon at first told the campaign team that the money had been donated legitimately through a Glasgow company, Combined Property Services, but it later emerged that Mr Green's name was on the cheque.

Ms Alexander rejected any suggestion of intentional wrongdoing and said she was confident of being exonerated. She acknowledged mistakes were made - but vowed to fight on to clear her name.

What did Paul Green have to say about all this?

He was not best pleased. He told BBC Scotland his donation was clearly a personal cheque and hit out at the Scottish Labour party for "gross mismanagement".

What happened in the end?

The Electoral Commission watchdog found there was not sufficient evidence to prove an offence over the 950.

But the commission's ruling that Ms Alexander did not take all reasonable steps to comply with the law, but found she had taken "significant" steps, was a kind of "not proven" verdict which her critics continued to use against her.

So was that it then?

No, her troubles were far from over. In a separate case, the Scottish Parliament's standards committee ruled Ms Alexander broke Holyrood rules for failing to register donations to her leadership campaign on her MSP register of interests.

Ms Alexander said she was initially told she need not register the cash, after seeking advice from the clerk to the standards committee.

But she was later told by the independent parliamentary standards commissioner, Dr Jim Dyer, this was not correct.

She then took action to update her register with details of 10 donors who each gave about 1,000 to her campaign and prosecutors later recommended the issue be dealt with by the standards committee.

Does that not mean Ms Alexander should have been in the clear then, if she was only acting on advice?

That was exactly her argument - but, in the end, the standards committee voted to recommend to parliament that she be suspended for one day. Although parliament still had to vote on this after the summer recess, it made her position as leader of Holyrood's largest opposition group untenable, because the recommendation would have been hanging over her until September.

Hang on a minute, when Jack McConnell quit the Scottish Labour leadership after the election, Wendy Alexander emerged as the only candidate. Why did she need a campaign fund in the first place?

This is an often-asked question. Ms Alexander spent time touring round Scotland, speaking to a wide range of party members to gauge the future direction of the party. This was, she said, one of the reasons a campaign fund was needed.

What happens now?

The party's deputy Cathy Jamieson will take over and a fresh leadership campaign will be staged.

The timetable for the leadership election process has yet to be agreed, but there are several stages involved which are likely to take several months.

Meanwhile, Ms Alexander has said she will continue as MSP for Paisley North.

Who are the likely contenders?

The runners and riders may include Ms Jamieson, Andy Kerr, Tom McCabe and Margaret Curran - who all served as ministers during Labour's eight years in power at Holyrood.

Where does this leave the Scottish Labour Party?

In a pickle. Not only does the party have to recover from last May's election defeat to the SNP, after having dominated the Scottish political scene for some 50 years, UK Labour leader and Prime Minister Gordon Brown seems under increasing pressure from the Conservatives.


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