By a Newsnet reporter
Labour MSP Johann Lamont has been urged to clarify whether she agrees with a Labour MP who described donations from a Conservative supporting businessman, who has given £500,000 to the Better Together campaign, as “dirty money”.
In a letter to the Scottish Labour leader, SNP MP Angus Robertson has demanded she give her views on comments made by Labour MP John Mann after she claimed to be unaware of them in an interview.

Responding to questions posed by Radio Scotland presenter David Miller who asked if she agreed with a decision by the anti-independence campaign Better Together to keep a £500,000 donation from businessman Ian Taylor, the Scottish Labour leader replied: “I am quite happy to say to you that the money should not be returned.”

However asked to comment on quotes given to a national newspaper by fellow MP John Mann who recently demanded the Conservative party return a similar donation it had received from the same businessman – labelling it “dirty money” – Ms Lamont claimed not to be aware of Mr Mann’s comments.

Now in a letter to the Scottish Labour leader, SNP MP Angus Robertson who has been pressing the Better Together campaign to return the cash, has asked Ms Lamont to clarify whether she agrees with Mr Mann and other Labour figures who have expressed disquiet over the donation.

In his letter Mr Robertson writes: “On Friday morning, you said that you didn’t know whether a Labour MP described Mr Taylor’s donations to the Tories as ‘dirty money’, while later on in another interview you described the donation as ‘appropriate’.

“In fact, to quote the Daily Telegraph of 26 September 2012: ‘Vitol was accused of “immoral” trade and “backing corrupt regimes” by John Mann MP, a Labour member of the Treasury Select Committee, who demanded that the Tory party hand back the “dirty money” it had received from Mr Taylor.’

“Now that you are aware of this, do you agree with Mr Mann that the Tories should hand back their donations from Mr Taylor? And if you do agree with your Labour colleague, how can you possibly regard Mr Taylor’s donation to the No campaign as ‘appropriate’? “

Mr Robertson also highlighted recent legal threats against news outlets by Mr Taylor and Vitol that led to one website being taken offline:

He added: “In addition, do you agree with Mr Taylor’s threats to take legal action against media outlets that have reported disturbing facts about Vitol – such as them giving $1 million to Serbian warlord Arkan?”

In his letter, Mr Robertson pointed to comments from one of Ms Lamont’s own MSPs, Elaine Smith who said suspicious donations should be handed back.

“Your own Holyrood colleague, Labour MSP Elaine Smith, said that while she had not studied details of the donation, it should be ‘closely looked at’.  She said: ‘I think if there’s anything suspicious in any way at all about donations then of course they should be handed back.’

“This goes to the very heart of the credibility of the No campaign – the people of Scotland want a fair referendum, and are therefore entitled to some clear and consistent answers from you on this matter.”

The row over the donation has been rumbling on for almost two weeks after controversial business dealings by a company headed by Ian Taylor were highlighted after the businessman was revealed to be the biggest backer of the anti-independence campaign Better Together.

Days after Better Together revealed Mr Taylor as their biggest donor, details emerged relating to his company Vitol, which opponents claimed brought the acceptance of the donation into question.

It emerged that the company had paid $1 million to a former war criminal in order to secure an oil deal.  In another episode Vitol was revealed to have been fined $17.5 million after pleading guilty in the USA to charges of grand larceny relating to allegations of sanctions busting and payments to officials in former dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Better Together has refused to hand back the money given to it by the Vitol Chief Executive with Labour MP Alistair Darling, who heads the No campaign, saying he was “pleased” to have the support of the Conservative party backer.

However former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish has expressed his own concerns over the donation saying: “Labour has to be clear about whether this is the type of finance we want in the campaign…We need absolute transparency.  We have to be very careful about what kind of money should be used.  The unionist campaign has got to respond to legitimate questions and the criticism that’s been put forward.”


2013-04-21 10:07

To quote Ian Taylor in the Sunday Herald 7th April –…/…

“We are a big company with lots of employees. It would be reckless of us to risk their livelihoods by gambling big stakes on what the future might hold. It is our duty to act responsibly”.

Now it strikes me that’s a very odd thing to say having just gambled £500,000.00 on a NO vote.

Does this mean Mr Taylor doesn’t consider £500,000.00 to be a big stake, or perhaps something more sinister, that it somehow isn’t a gamble?

What tangled webs we weave eh?
2013-04-21 10:14

I agree it’s very odd to say “we” if you consider it to be a personal and political donation, on the other hand if you consider it to be “lobbying” on behalf of your firm it is not strange but logical.
2013-04-21 10:36

“prospect of becoming foreigners in our own land” – Darling’s “overnight foreigner” gambit has clearly been adopted by Mr Taylor in this instance. Now this is a company that evidently operates across international borders in conducting its business. It is also in the business of risk assessment, as it must make informed judgements on future oil prices. So strange indeed that it can’t see a profit to be made during the independence process.
2013-04-21 12:45

Quoting Breeks:

Does this mean Mr Taylor doesn’t consider £500,000.00 to be a big stake, or perhaps something more sinister, that it somehow isn’t a gamble?

I suspect the former. Vitol have a turnover of over $300 billion. Half a million is a fleabite.

Vitol are also involved in the North Sea and have a stake in fracking through Dart Energy. Probably worth a punt to keep us together?


2013-04-21 10:13

I suppose Ms Lamont thinks it’s quite all right for Better Together to accept “dirty money” such as Taylor’s dodgy donation, in order to finance their “dirty tricks and smears” campaign aimed at Yes Scotland.
2013-04-21 10:47

Breeks – I suppose if I was an oil businessman with plenty of cash (he has apparently already proved that he and his company are willing to invest in expedient risk)it would be worth a punt on the only side that would accept such a ‘donation’ for future business opportunities when the wider oil industry is currently expanding its investment around the Scottish coastlines? The ‘donor’ is a businessman not a political idealist nor strategist -Miss Lamont appears to be neither.
2013-04-21 10:59

Vitol may have paid $1M to Arkan, but the deal with the Tories can’t be as good as it’s only worth $0.75M.

BTW The doation of £500,000 to the Tories was made through the “unincorporated association” Focus on Scotland just before the 2011 Scottish elections. An unincorporated association is a loophole which allows political parties to accept large donations from individuals without having to register them. Similar donations were also made to Tory Minister Alan Duncan’s office. Alan Duncan was a director of Arawak Energy, a Vitol subsidiary, until 2011 and was involved in the Libyan oil scandal which attracted the attention of John Mann.…/…
2013-04-21 11:09

Something needs to be cleared up, I think we should be told how this “donation” was made ie the source and method of transfer, whether the payment was via the company funds or a personal donation on Ian Taylor’s personal account.

Better Together needs to be much more transparent.
2013-04-21 11:21

Why ask for “transparency” when what we actually mean is – honesty?
Of course this will be immediately cleared up now that we have the BT ‘Truth Team’?
2013-04-22 20:23

The New Labour construct known as the Ministry of Truth headed up by the Truth Fairy in chief.
Now that Labour have abandoned the politics of substance for that of vapour and propaganda,we can expect a tirade of nonsense from them over the next year.Entertaining no doubt but not to be taken seriously.

2013-04-21 11:42

Johann Lamont probably didn’t think she’d get such an early opportunity to demonstrate her commitment to the new quest for “truth and honesty”. So let’s hear her response to Angus Robertson’s request which I am sure most fair minded people agree is in the public interest. Over to you Johann?
2013-04-21 21:10

Murky stuff!
The guy Ian Taylor has clearly come onto the scene via Brian Wilson – ex MP, Blair and Brown apologist.
Brian is now a businessman – Tweed to Iraq to Nuclear. He is not known to sell grandmothers as far as I know.
Not too bad for a radical lefty ex-CND, ex-SNP.
Brian has a home or homes on Lewis and so does Darling. Wee Duggie Alexander must feel daft having heavily criticised the Tories for dealing and dining Taylor, to now find that his elders and betters of New Labour have been doing exactly the same.
Mandelson suggested that the Labour Party had to lose its issues about the uber-wealthy. So what’s another principle when you’ve discarded so many over the years?
2013-04-22 00:07

Angus Robertson should also ask Slab if they know the difference between a business investment and a political donation.
call me dave
2013-04-22 09:16

Heard ‘flipper’ Darling with GMS reporting on the latest scare story on the £ earlier. The BBC ‘Millar’ team decided that Haley, not David, would ask the questions.

Why did she not ask about the dodgy donation, it was an opportunity missed.

Darling seems to have an automatic response loop as he repeated his message almost verbatim on the three times he was asked a question, each time more hysterical than the last.

He’ll disappear in a puff of smoke one of these days and there is still over a year to go.

Roll on 2014.
2013-04-22 18:33

I listened too and it’s the first time I’ve found myself shouting at the radio in my car as Flipper never stopped for breath on three occasions. You could hear Stewart Hosie in the background as he had to listen to the drivel and how disciplined was he not to interrupt.
Well here’s some ancient wisdom for Flipper Darling;

“Whoever interrupts the conversation of others to make a display of his fund of knowledge, makes notorious his own stock of ignorance.” Sa’Di

2013-04-22 14:59

@ Call Me Dave: A puff of smoke? Its that why Darling’s eyebrows are black?
call me dave
2013-04-22 16:20

The squabble over the £

Prof Blanchflower (who he ? don’t know but the BBC asked him on) just demolished the better together latest scare story. Not only that but said the idea of Osborne coming up to Scotland to lecture us on the economy and the £ wont go down well as Scotland is doing great.
Thank you very much!

WOW! Good old BBC.
2013-04-22 17:58

Is this Prof DAVID Blanchflower who served on the BoE Monetary Policy Committee from June 2006 – March 2009?…/…

Read the link, if this is him he was ahead of the game before the 2008 crash, he’s on the money I reckon. 😀
call me dave
2013-04-22 18:10

Aye that’s him alright.. BUT obviously his opinion was a wee bit off message so they have now got a new prof from Glasgow uni to try and shore up the Darling argument.

Good old BBC Scotland radio News Drive.
HO! Ho!
Prof Blanchflower reduced to a 30 sec sound bite now and the Glasgow prof on for about 3 minutes and prompted for the right answers.
You cannot make it up-Unless your the BBC.

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