And the Whiskas Award for Most Shameless Fat Cat Goes To…
IT’s the Covid-friendly awards bash you’ve been waiting for all year — yes, the Granties are back.
These are accolades not so much for the brightest and best but the dullest and worst.
This year proved fertile ground for a bumper crop of nominees from all corners of public life.
They range from fat cats to bungling bureaucrats — a celebration of public sector incompetence in all of its forms.
Naturally, government ministers are also on the list, recognised for their stunning ineptitude, greed, or plain hypocrisy.
As always, the judges faced difficult decisions and really all of our nominees deserved a Grantie — but in each category there can be only one winner.
With such a crowded field, the threshold for success was even higher in 2021, so our commiserations to those who missed out on a nod, or a gong.
The only certainty is that 2022 will provide another opportunity to abuse the public purse, or show contempt for ordinary voters — so all is not lost for this year’s losers.
But now it’s time to unveil the lucky winners, so take your seats please and fill your glasses with something fortifying. Drum-roll please…
THE BILL ODDIE AWARD FOR AMATEUR ORNITHOLOGY
THE Oddie goes to Peter Murrell, the First Minister’s husband and SNP chief executive, who appeared before Holyrood’s Salmond committee earlier this year.
During an online cross-examination, he was accused of a distinctly shifty performance when he was questioned about whether he had given a false statement to MSPs — one of whom asked if Mr Murrell had someone in the room, off-camera, helping him with answers.
Mr Murrell insisted he was alone and was being distracted by a pair of magpies, adding: ‘Do you want me to move the camera to prove it? Is that a conspiracy you’re suggesting? There’s a magpie, in fact there’s two magpies.’
Meanwhile, the party is at the centre of a police probe into the whereabouts of £600,000 of donations.
Strangely, since his cameo at Holyrood at February, there have only been one or two sightings of the lesser-spotted Mr Murrell in the wild.
THE WHISKAS AWARD FOR MOST SHAMELESS FAT CAT
THE Whiskas is awarded to Tim Hair, who has cost taxpayers £1.3 million as boss of Ferguson Marine.
As head of the nationalised shipyard, he insists his fees of more than £2,500 a day represent ‘value for money’.
The grandly-titled ‘turnaround director’ is in charge of completing construction of two long-delayed CalMac ferries.
Unsportingly, the Tories said his salary was ‘extortionate’ — while Mr Hair said he couldn’t comment on whether it was a ‘scandal’.
THE GEORGE A ROMERO ‘ZOMBIE MINISTER’ AWARD
THIS award is reserved for the ministers whose careers hang by a thread.
Humza Yousaf is the 2021 winner for a series of gaffes, including saying that he would seek to ‘delegitimise’ the rule of UK law — while serving as Justice Secretary.
His boss Nicola Sturgeon then made the courageous decision to move him to the health brief — currently the most important job in government.
Footage of an injured Mr Yousaf toppling from his knee-scooter en route to the Holyrood debating chamber went viral, and proved a fitting visual metaphor for his car-crash stewardship of the ailing NHS.
THE TRUMP AWARD FOR SOCIAL MEDIA PROFICIENCY
NAMED in honour of the former President and Twitter exile Donald Trump, this year’s award goes to SNP MSP James Dornan.
In July, he tweeted that he hoped Catholic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg would ‘rot in hell’ in a row over immigration, and accused him and his ‘cronies’ of being responsible for the ‘deaths of thousands’.
The MSP was also criticised after falsely accusing Edinburgh’s publicly-owned bus company, Lothian Buses, of anti-Catholic discrimination after being forced to cancel services on St Patrick’s Day due to escalating anti-social behaviour. He later apologised privately.
THE HARRY HOUDINI AWARD FOR POLITICAL ESCAPOLOGY
THERE can be only one winner — the First Minister herself, for emerging from the Salmondgate row with her job, against all the odds.
Her appearance before a parliamentary committee was a masterclass in obfuscation.
The MSPs on the committee later concluded that she had misled parliament but Miss Sturgeon survived a no confidence vote after another report cleared her of breaching the ministerial code.
Houdini would have been proud — though the scandal might have cost the SNP its majority at the Scottish election in May.
FREELOADER OF THE YEAR
APPLAUSE please for shamed MSP Derek Mackay, who resigned from government in 2020 after he sent inappropriate messages to a teenage boy.
The disgraced former SNP Finance Secretary claimed nearly £10,000 in expenses in his last year at Holyrood — despite never turning up at parliament.
Mr Mackay, who was once tipped as a future First Minister, was never seen at Holyrood again but refused to give up his seat, with his political career only ending when parliament was dissolved earlier this year and the SNP selected a new candidate.
It meant he continued to be paid his £64,470 salary — not a bad windfall for the man who once held the nation’s purse-strings before his spectacular fall from grace.
THE HG WELLS AWARD FOR MOST INVISIBLE MINISTER
SOME members of Miss Sturgeon’s top team are relatively unknown — and a few them are deliberately kept out of the limelight.
Others appear to prefer a lower profile — and among them is Keith Brown, who took over from Mr Yousaf as Justice Secretary back in May.
It was a busy year, with any number of soft-touch justice scandals and the court system in disarray over Covid-related backlogs.
Meanwhile, the Rangers fraud scandal has seen the public purse pay the price of prosecutorial incompetence.
Mr Brown has had almost nothing of consequence to say since his appointment — but surely he can’t hide under his desk for much longer?
THE BRAVEHEART AWARD FOR SERVICES TO SCOTTISH TOURISM
SNP councillor Rhiannon Spear narrowly missed out on the Trump — but she has clinched the Braveheart.
It’s bestowed upon those who strive to showcase the best of Scotland.
She temporarily deleted her Twitter account after being accused of using ‘abhorrent language’ in a tweet about the Eurovision results.
The Glasgow councillor wrote: ‘It’s ok Europe we hate the United Kingdom too. Love, Scotland.’
Runner-up is SNP MP Douglas Chapman, who posted an image on social media which urged English tourists to wear a mask. It read: ‘Scotland isn’t England.’
THE RICHARD NIXON AWARD FOR TRANSPARENCY
LAST year the winners were the entire top brass of the Scottish Government — and indeed the SNP .
This year the Nixon is awarded to the civil servants, or legal experts, who used their red pens to such devastating effect on the Hamilton report.
It cleared Miss Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code during Salmondgate — but the Mail later revealed more than 1,100 words had been redacted.
Irish former prosecutor James Hamilton, the report’s author, prefaced it with his misgivings about the missing material.
The Scottish Government redaction team are jointly awarded the Nixon for their services to the truth.
- This column appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail on December 14, 2021.
- Follow me on Twitter: @GrahamGGrant