And the Whiskas Award for Most Shameless Fat Cat goes to…
By Graham Grant
THE single commodity that remains in plentiful supply in these uncertain political times is the ineptitude of many of our public servants.
There’s no doubt the ongoing drama over Brexit proves this point in spectacular fashion – but it’s by no means the only example of bureaucratic ham-fistedness.
Our annual Granties awards seek to recognise not just the chronic bumblers but also the fat cats, and their ever-present greed and idiocy.
Today we celebrate the pesky parasites and avaricious blunderers who populate the public sector.
So, drum-roll please for the Granties of 2018 – and the very best of luck to all of our nominees…
THE ARTHUR DALEY AWARD FOR MOST BRAZEN SALES PITCH
TV’s best-known second-hand car salesman would have had to doff his trilby to this year’s winner, the SNP’s Brexit Minister Mike Russell.
The MSP took to the airwaves last week to proclaim the Nationalists had scored a memorable legal victory at the Supreme Court in London.
Mr Russell maintained judges had ruledthat MSPs were ‘perfectly entitled’ to launch theContinuity Bill – a costly political stunt presented as a bid to prevent a Tory power-grab –‘at the time this Bill was passed’.
In fact, this was masterful spin – and the judges had declared that key parts of the legislation exceeded the powers of SNP ministers.
It was only a teeny-weeny bit unlawful, then – but otherwise this is an entirely reliable Bill, guv’nor, and it’ll get you from A to B, no bother. (Just don’t look under the bonnet…)
THE WHISKAS AWARD FOR MOST SHAMELESS FAT CAT
The judges’ early choice of winner was in fact anonymous – an unnamed ScotRail executive earning £286,000, despite presiding over a slump in performance.
The fat cat now earns more than Prime Minister Theresa May and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon combined, but his employer, unsportingly, won’t provide a name.
So step forward Ken MacQuarrie, former BBC Scotland controller and now a top Corporation apparatchik in London, one of those toying with scrapping TV licence fees for over-75s.
His salary has shot up by 30 per cent to £325,000 – and last year he claimed £30,000 in expenses,the largest claim of the BBC’s 99 highest-paid executives.
THE BERNIE MADOFF AWARD FOR CREATIVE ACCOUNTANCY
NHS Tayside is almost synonymous with financial mismanagement after using cash from a charity fund to pay for projects including a new IT system.
It emerged earlier this month that the board managed to give a former chief executive a payoff £32,000 bigger than she was entitled to.
Scotland’s Auditor General Caroline Gardner found ‘errors’ were made in the £90,000 severance package when Lesley McLay was forced to quit her role.
Assistant chief executive and ‘strategic director of workforce’ Dr Annie Ingram – who is still in the post – was unable to justify the decision, according to auditors.
Not the best strategy, then, as it turned out…
THE TRUMP AWARD FOR SOCIAL MEDIA PROFICIENCY
No doubt ‘The Donald’ would have applauded SNP MP Angus MacNeil,whoretweeted a call for a newspaper to be banned from government briefings.
Mr MacNeil backed a Twitter-user who opined that ‘it’s long overdue to fight fire with fire’, and that the paperin questionwas a ‘dying rag’.
The Western Isles MP also asserted that Scotland was a ‘colony’,and lamented that we were still yoked to the ‘arrogant incompetence’ of Westminster.
Perhaps his oddest tweet of the year came early, when Mr MacNeil disclosed that he had spent some of New Year’s Day snarling at an angry seal he encountered on a beach (‘the wee tyke bowed his head then and shut up’.)
THE MADAME FIFI AWARD FOR MOST FLEXIBLE PRINCIPLES
Nick Clegg was once nicknamed ‘Madame Fifi’ by this newspaper (after a character in a French short story) for one minute batting his eyelids at David Cameron-and the next hitching his skirt to Gordon Brown.
Our gong goes to Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens’ leader, who initially threatened to withholdhis party’s support for the Nationalists’ high-tax draft Budget.
Now it seems Mr Harvie, tired of playing hard to get, has watered down a key ‘red line’ in his negotiations with Finance Secretary Derek Mackay,after temporarily rowing back on a demand for council tax to be scrapped.
Yet again, we may well have Mr Harvie to thank for facilitating an SNP tax raid – despite the Green MSP never havingwon a constituency vote during his 15 years at Holyrood.
THE GEORGE A ROMERO ‘ZOMBIE MINISTER’ AWARD
Last year this award was shared between former Health Secretary Shona Robison and the then Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.
Both have since paid for the price for botching their briefs – so the next recipient of the Romero should be warned of its prophetic power…
This year’s winner is Mr Matheson once again: having presided over the virtual meltdown of Police Scotland, he is now applying his skills to the transport portfolio, to devastating effect…
THE PIG IN A POKE AWARD FOR BUSINESS EXCELLENCE
Nicola Sturgeon scooped the Fred Goodwin Award for Top Business Decision last year for snapping up Prestwick Airport.
The First Minister had claimed it would become a ‘viable enterprise’ when the Scottish Government bought it for £1 in 2013.
Now the money-pit airport – famous because of a 1960 visit by Elvis – has racked up more losses, and government loans have cost taxpayers more than £50million.
This year, Miss Sturgeon deserves to be honoured again for the continuing fiasco over a purchase that proves her business acumen is never likely to clear the runway.
She is more than deserving of another Grantie for her commercial nous back in 2013. As The King once sang, ‘fools rush in…’
THE TOLSTOY AWARD FOR LONGEST UNREAD PUBLICATION
Like Tolstoy’s lengthy classic War and Peace, it’s likely to be remembered as a publication few have ever read in full.
One expert told me he had no intention of wading through the SNP’s 354-page growth commission report about the economic policy of an independent Scotland – and he was one of the authors.
But the report was promptly slung in the remainder bin by Miss Sturgeon, after it was ridiculed by Unionists and even independence supporters – who felt it wasn’t radical enough…
THE DUNCE’S CAP AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION
John Swinney, Miss Sturgeon’s able consigliere, was considered a safe pair of hands when he was handed the schools reform brief.
After all, it was the First Minister’s overriding priority in office, even though she always insists she will ‘take no lessons’ – from pretty much anyone.
Now one in four primary school children is failing to achieve expected standards in reading and numeracy skills, and plans for P1 tests are unravelling.
Mr Swinney also gets the coveted dunce’s cap for failing to ditch the hated Named Person policy once and for all. See us after class, minister….
THE LAZARUS AWARD FOR BEST COMEBACK
This time last year, Phil Gormley, the winner of this award, was on ‘special leave’ from his job at the helm of disaster-prone Police Scotland.
Mr Gormley quit in February amid a slew of now-shelved bullying allegations, threatening to sue the Scottish Government for allegedly blocking his return to work.
Now Mr Gormley is chief inspector of policing south of the Border – proving that successful rehabilitation in the criminal justice world is indeed possible.
*This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on December 18, 2018.