by Colin Campbell
A FIERCE legal row has erupted over the publication of a book of Nicola Sturgeon’s speeches by a local publishing company.
What initially seemed just a strange choice of material to try and flog between hard covers now has either “Storm in a Teacup” or more likely “Makings of a Scandal” written all over it.
Either way, it is a matter of public interest, as everything connected to Sturgeon is these days. Has a more divisive woman ever been born in the streets or glens of Scotland?
According to the Telegraph on Monday (and also reported in other media outlets):
A pro-independence book publisher which released a collection of Nicola Sturgeon’s speeches is being assessed by police over the award of £295,000 of taxpayers’ cash. Sandstone Press, which is run by an SNP supporter and hailed the First Minister as a “significant world leader” when it released a collection of her speeches earlier this year, has been accused by a rival firm of falsifying documents.
Keith Charters, managing director of Strident Publishing, complained to police and said he had since been interviewed by detectives about his allegations. “We are content that the police are pursuing this matter vigorously,” he said. “I have given a couple of statements on their request and provided other items of evidence.”
Sandstone, which released the book of Ms Sturgeon’s speeches days after the Holyrood election in May and promoted it in the run-up to the vote, denies any wrongdoing.
It has received more than £400,000 in grants from Creative Scotland, the SNP Government’s arts quango, over the past 15 years. Mr Charters’ complaints relate to £120,000 of grants given last year and £175,000 of loans both provided by another public agency, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). He claims that the publisher made false statements about the number of people it employs in an effort to increase the likelihood that it would be approved for funding.
HIE is also alleged to have wrongly recorded the location of the firm, in a deliberate effort to boost its eligibility for financial support.
The publisher has insisted there is no link between the public funding it has received and its decision to release a tribute book to Ms Sturgeon, called Women Hold Up Half the Sky. The book was edited by Robert Davidson, the managing director of Sandstone Press, an independence supporter who has been to Ms Sturgeon’s official Bute House residence and posted gushing eulogies to her on social media.
Mr Charters has also launched a judicial review of how the funding given to Sandstone by HIE was allocated.
A spokesman for HIE said it had not been contacted by police about any matter related to Sandstone. “An application to commence judicial review proceedings has been made to the Court of Session and HIE intends to defend this robustly,” he added.
A spokeswoman for Sandstone Press also said it had not been contacted by police. “We’ve been disappointed to see misleading information about Sandstone Press and Women Hold Up Half the Sky in the press and online,” she added. “Women Hold Up Half The Sky is published and financed independently of any public body. Sandstone Press has received no funding for this book.”
So there we have it. More discord and allegations surrounding our First Minister.
All because of a book containing Sturgeon’s witterings, much of it claimed to be written by her team of speechwriters over the years.
Leaving aside the allegations and denials over the use of public money, Highlands and Islands Enterprise intends to take this to the Court of Session and “intends to defend this robustly”.
Their robust approach is duly noted. Maybe they feel they have no option. But how much is that going to cost? Legal matters of this nature don’t come cheap, as everyone knows. Sometimes costs run into the tens of thousands. Will that happen in this case? Who knows? And will we ever be told if does?
HIE’s mission statement says: “We are the economic and community development agency for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. We’ve been working with organisations and communities for over 50 years to ensure the region remains successful and competitive.”
Yes, that’s what they’re there for. But no matter how it’s come about, that’s a far cry from getting involved “robustly” in a Court of Session case involving a book containing the speeches of Nicola Sturgeon.
There are currently 18 reviews of “Women Hold Up Half The Sky”, the title of the Sturgeon masterpiece, on Amazon. Inevitably, they are split down the middle between no stars and five stars, obviously posted by those who can’t stand her and those who adore her.
I regularly prowl Waterstones in Inverness to see what’s new on the shelves but I’ve never even seen this book. Is it even on sale there?
Maybe it’s buried somewhere out of the way in case it’s defaced by someone who manically detests her.
But twenty quid or so for Sturgeon’s guff? I’d rather spend it on a romantic novel by Barbara Cartland, or the cooking recipes of Fanny Craddock.
So here we go again with Queen Nicola. More trouble all the way, at an unknown cost to the public purse. She’s capable of toxifying everything she touches.
And try as I might, I was unable to find out the information I really want to know. How many copies of her increasingly, soaringly expensive book have actually been sold?