Labour’s Iain Gray has come under fire after appearing to make false claims during his weekly questions to First Minister Alex Salmond.

The leader of the Holyrood group of Labour MSPs had accused a government agency ‘Skills Development Scotland’ of planning to waste upwards of £2 million on what the Labour leader called a name change and marketing “mumbo jumbo”.

However it later emerged that the name change proposal had been rejected by agency directors two months ago and that most of the costs referred to by Mr Gray were in fact for routine advertising and promotion.

Iain Gray had accused the agency of planning to spend over £0.5 million on changing its name to 'Scotland the Works' and £1.68 million on marketing that same change.  He had also mocked the First Minister over his apparent lack of knowledge over the plans.

The Labour MSP said:
“The First Minister is as usual in the dark and I do intend to enlighten him

“They’ve come up with this daft scheme to spend £555,000 rebranding themselves.  Now their real job is supposed to be getting our young people into work and that could not be more important, so why are they wasting our money on this?”

A spokesman for Skills Development Scotland said:
"Mr Gray has got the wrong end of the stick.

"An internal proposal to use 'Scotland the Works' as a corporate brand was rejected by our directors on 30 March 2010,"

The spokesman added: 
"Our marketing budget of £1.68m pays for the information campaigns that inform employers and those looking for work of the opportunities that exist, ranging from literacy campaigns to modern apprenticeships.
 
"It is as a result of these information campaigns that we have been able to exceed the target for new modern apprentices and deliver more than 20,000 in the last financial year.
 
"Without campaigns to make people aware of these opportunities, this would have been impossible. It also includes support for an adult literacy campaign - the Big Plus - a project that we believe deserves a high priority."

Iain Gray had also claimed that the agency was planning to ask for a further £500,000 from the Scottish government in order to make up the £1.68 million.

However a government spokesman said: "It's got nothing to do with a brand migration plan."

"The request from Skills Development Scotland to ministers was for additional funding for a programme called The Big Plus, which is an adult literacy and numeracy programme,"

Labour claim to have documents from after 30th March, the date the agency spokesman says the decision not to re-brand was made, that support their claims.  Thus far though it is unclear whether Labour has produced these documents for verification.

A failure to do so will fuel suspicions that Gray has simply blundered and may well lead to accusations that he has unwittingly misled parliament.

The BBC’s Brian Taylor, writing on his blog, is claiming that Labour have now “published” documentary evidence to back up their accusations.

Mr Taylor writes that Labour “has published a document dated 27 April this year which appears to be a detailed plan by Skills Development Scotland to phase in the use of The Works in signage, letterheads and the like”.

However Skills Development Scotland have rebutted the latest Labour claim that they have ‘evidence’ of a planned rebranding, at the time of writing the rebuttal does not appear on Mr Taylors blog.

The senior BBC Scotland political editor had already praised Gray’s use of the re-brand claims at FMQ’s.  Immediately after the session Mr Taylor said of Mr Gray’s highlighting of the alleged rebranding: “That was a good one”.

Later, in his Thursday night analysis of the events on Radio Scotland, Taylor described the Scottish government as being ‘caught in the middle’ of this row.

Should Labour's evidence prove to be reliable then serious questions will need to be asked of the heads of Skills Development Scotland.  However, should the evidence prove to be unreliable and no name change was planned then Brian Taylor’s reputation will not have been enhanced by this episode and serious questions will have to be asked of both him and the Scottish Labour leadership.

Whatever the outcome, it is clear that serious claims of this nature, once raised in the Scottish Parliament, need to have their veracity checked before being published and broadcast by the Scottish media, especially the BBC, as though fact.

Update:
One national newspaper is now presenting Iain Gray’s accusation as one of an image change as opposed to a name change.  The Scotsman newspaper currently has an article headlined ‘Quango spends £500,000 of taxpayers' cash on new image’ for their Friday edition.

The Scotsman article claims that Skills Development Scotland was attacked for earmarking £555,000 in order to publicise itself through new signs, new letterheads and corporate advertising.  The article makes no specific mention of the name change accusation nor the £500,000 top-up accusation.

Quotes attributed to Iain Gray seem to suggest a subtle backtracking by the Labour leader who does not refer to a name change but rather a ‘branding exercise’.

The article quotes Iain Gray as saying: "The one thing that SDS cannot deny is that they are wasting half a million pounds on a 'visual identity transition', which is a branding exercise in anyone's language.”

The article also quotes an SDS spokesman as saying: "The old organisation identities are being phased out – Careers Scotland, Learndirect Scotland and the skills arms of Scottish Enterprise and HIE – and we will ensure all our materials reflect our new name, Skills Development Scotland."

Is it possible that a Labour researcher has mistakenly taken these phasing out plans as proof that the ‘Scotland the Works’ proposal was actually going ahead?

Further update: 10:40
The Herald is claiming that the name change was to apply to the now defunct ‘Careers Scotland’ arm of SDS.  It also uses the Paul McKenna old story in its article.

The Daily Record is acknowledging that the name change proposal had been abandoned but confusingly actually uses the £555,000 earmarked for stock replacement and suggests that this was for a name change.  It also highlights the old story of Paul McKenna.

If the April 27th documents referred to by the Labour party have been passed to newspaper editors then it seems likely that if a full name change was indeed planned then the newspapers would have reported it.  The other interesting fact of this story is that BBC political editor Brian Taylor claims that Labour have actually "published" these documents.  However they do not seem to be in the public domain and one can only conclude that only a select few have been allowed to see them.

Given the confusing line now being pushed by the Scottish media, which is altogether different from the very clear allegations from Iain Gray, then it is now looking increasingly likely that Iain Gray’s claim that Skills Development Scotland had plans to change their name to Scotland the Works was untrue.  The lesser claim that SDS were planning to request an extra £500,000 from the Scottish government to promote this name change seems to have disappeared.

The contents of these documents will make for interesting reading indeed - if we ever get to see them.

Comments  

 
# mato21 2010-05-28 00:19
This might just be the straw that breaks the camels back. If I.Gray was as sure of his facts as presented at FMQs there would be no hint of backtracking and his friends in the press would be more than happy to print the said damming document if he had one
 
 
# Lian 2010-05-28 02:17
If he is the head of what he is being advised on and making decisions based on that.

This is a party dissolving from within.
 
 
# Tom Pullings 2010-05-28 06:36
Horrible photo of NuLiebore troughers living it high at our expense and giving zero value as usual. Is Magret, (stairheid rammy), Curran still claiming her two salaries or has she bowed to pressure and given up the smaller one?
 
 
# Astonished 2010-05-28 07:39
The BBC are obviously quite happy to "lie for labour".

It is a great pity that any complaint to the BBC regarding lying, or lack of any journalistic scrutiny of the labour party, is always treated with contempt.


Mr Taylor should apologise on air and it should be the lead item.


Mr Gray should resign.
 
 
# G.Macp 2010-05-28 09:25
Unfortunately, this style of attack on the SNP will continue until they(labour/media) are brought to heal!
The electorate see and hear this nonsense and believe it - damage done!
I just hope this is resolved as it is a machine that has little care for anything outside of trying to damage the SNP!!!
 
 
# mato21 2010-05-28 08:00
Tom You must have missed the the story lavishing praise on her for donating half to some womens group in Glasgow and half to feeding weans in Africa I think I've remembered correctly I do remember thinking it was the new Mother Theresa going by the headline of the story. Nice to see they found time to pay a visit to Edinburgh maybe they were there to apologise to A.Salmond for their behaviour in their previous life
 
 
# Mac 2010-05-28 08:46
Brian Taylor's reputation is now in tatters.

He ran with this completely bogus story on his blog without checking it out. He also skewed the reality of FMQs to one which favoured Iain Gray. He eventually put his neck on the line by saying that Iain Gray had papers to prove his case, again he did not investigate if that were true.

To date there has been no release of the papers that Iain Gray says backs up his story. Hence the papers have either been mistakely or delibrately misinterpreted, or they don't even exist.

In effect we could have the makings of a cover-up between the Labour party and BBC Scotland.

As Richard Nixon found to his cost it wasn't the crime that did for him it was the cover-up that became Watergate.

How does Taylorgate sound?
 
 
# Mac 2010-05-28 11:03
Perhaps NameChangeGate is the more appropiate term.
 
 
# SEUMAS31 2010-05-28 08:49
Peterkin in today's hootsmon gives an almost verbatim report as published in the e.b.c teletext yesterday, however, mysteriously, the teletext report was changed later to give a more accurate account. I have written to Peterkin asking why, when he knew the real facts,did he continue to publish inaccuracies.
 
 
# Andrew 2010-05-28 08:53
More exclusive footage from yesterdays FMQ's

thedailyfirinn.wordpress.com
 
 
# takhisis1 2010-05-28 08:57
Today's Metro is also running with the pro labour only version of the story
 
 
# Clare 2010-05-28 09:08
I actually find the budgets these companies have astonishing. I think so much money is wasted full stop. I'm really not comfortable with the existence of so many of them. The budgets at their disposal are obscene and the wee requests for a bit of support aren't for the odd tenner either! I wish someone would look at the whole lot of them and get rid. They are costing us a fortune and I don't see any real jobs coming out of it.
 
 
# RTP 2010-05-28 10:18
Thank you once again Newsnet.If Gray can't produce the paper that our dear Brian says he has will Gray be reported for misleading Parliament??
 
 
# 1971Thistle 2010-05-28 10:30
Sorry to be the nihilist, but sadly it doesn't matter. Whatever he does, whatever he says, he will never be held to account for it. You have a completely compliant and complicit media.

Until that changes, nothing else will. See Stephen Purcell for a case study.
 
 
# ahumscottish2 2010-05-28 10:34
Hi all can anyone say that if said docunent is proven to be false and IG misled parliament and the BBBC have been found out covering or misrepresenting the story, that this can be used in the hearing in June about BBBC biased against the SNP to highlight one sided reporting
 
 
# Mac 2010-05-28 11:01
Has anyone seen this document?

It has been shown to a select number of journalists but it has not surfaced publicly.

If it were bang on the money it would have been plastered all over the papers, but it has not.

Waving bits of paper in the air is not a demonstration of truthfulness. Standing up in parliament to speak is, now, not a demonstration of truthfulness.

When jounalists step in to act as political minders for the Labour party you know something stinks in Scottish politics
 
 
# mato21 2010-05-28 10:40
Along with the accusation levelled at R.Cunningham re Balmoral footpaths
 
 
# Teri 2010-05-28 13:13
As far as I'm concerned, this is just part and parcel of Labour's smear campaign for the Holyrood Elections and many more smears like this are likely to come our way in the coming months. I feel sure that everything we've heard recently and will hear soon will turn up in election leaflets to smear the SNP. When are they SNP going to start defending themselves?
 
 
# RTP 2010-05-28 16:04
Off Topic but i see that Prescott has been made a Lord will he be "punching" against his weight
 
 
# Willie46 2010-05-29 08:55
I complained to the Parliament regarding Gray's conduct in the previous week.Here's the reply received.We have spoken with the clerks to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments (SPPA) Committee concerning the issue that you raise. They explained that this committee examined the question of the accuracy of contributions in parliamentary proceedings in 2009 and produced a report with its findings and recommendations . The committee is continuing to look at this issue and on 20 April 2010 agreed that a further report and guidance should be drafted on the matter. If you wish to view the SPPA Committee’s 2009 report on the accuracy of contributions in parliamentary proceedings, which sets out the relevant rules and practice, you can access it at the following link: scottish.parliament.uk/.../....

In terms of the action a member of the public can take if they believe that inaccurate information has been given in parliamentary proceedings, the clerks have confirmed that there are no set procedures for this in terms of the Code of Conduct for Members or the Standing Orders (which are the rules governing how the Parliament conducts its business). There is therefore currently no formal complaints mechanism you can use. However, you can of course raise your concerns direct with the MSP whose contribution you believe contained inaccuracies.
 
 
# SGB 2010-07-01 20:12
Can I just be first to say that Ian Gray must stay.
Any moves to oust him from within should be strenuously resisted.
 
 
# Vakov2000 2010-07-02 19:37
The real name change row is from Iain Grey to Elmer Fudd. Apparently he wants to change his name back to Iain Gray. This would be a McTravesty. Fudd by name Fudd by nature.
 

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