Page last updated at 14:35 GMT, Sunday, 29 June 2008 15:35 UK

Standards watchdog defends role

Dr Jim Dyer
Dr Jim Dyer said he was 'entirely' independent of parliament

The man who decided Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander had broken the rules on registering donations has defended his independence.

Dr Jim Dyer, Holyrood's standards commissioner, said he was "frustrated" his full report had not been published.

He said he sought advice from senior lawyers before reaching a judgement.

Dr Dyer said he was "entirely" independent of MSPs on the standards committee and the Scottish Parliament clerks who gave Ms Alexander advice.

'Entirely separate'

The Scottish Labour leader resigned on Saturday after the Holyrood standards committee decided she should be suspended from parliament for one day for not declaring donations to her successful leadership campaign on her register of interests.

The committee made its decision after considering Dr Dyer's report.

Ms Alexander complained of the committee's "partisan" decision and said it was "politically motivated".

She also said she had acted on the advice of clerks to the standards committee who had said it was unnecessary to declare the gifts.

Mr Dyer told BBC Scotland's Politics Show said his role was "entirely separate" from that of the clerks.

Things which might be considered mitigating factors are not for me
Dr Jim Dyer

He said: "It was important for me, because my judgements are potentially open to challenge in the courts, to have very robust findings in this case.

"My lawyers advised seeking the advice of senior counsel who has expertise in public law.

"It is inevitable that from time to time, if I am independent, occasionally I may get advice which differs from advice given to the clerks."

However, Dr Dyer said responsibility for declaring donations lay with individual MSPs and not with the clerks.

He said he could not consider the fact that Ms Alexander sought advice as "mitigation".

"Things which might be considered mitigating factors are not for me," he said.

"I simply look if there was a breach. It is for the committee and the parliament to look at whether there were mitigating factors such as having already received advice."

The standards commissioner also expressed his frustration that the "full facts and analysis" in his report to the standards committee had not yet been published so that people could understand how he had reached his conclusions.

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