Scotland is hopeless for political sleaze but better at clyping
HERE IN SCOTLAND, we are always very keen to compare ourselves with other political and economic entities around the world - to check how we match up and so on.
So maybe we should take a look at one particular area - political sleaze - and see how we are doing. The answer seems to be that we are way down at the bottom of the global league table on this category. We don't seem to be able to fiddle anything properly, to take decent bribes, or to engage in vote rigging in any significant way.
This might not be the impression you get from reading the articles written by Scotland's finest journalists - particularly inquisitor-in-chief, Paul Hutcheon of the Sunday Herald. This scribbler already has a few scalps to his name including Henry McLeish and David McLetchie, and in recent weeks he has been gunning for Wendy Alexander.
But - in a world where President Vladimir Putin of Russia is reported to have amassed around $40 billion in personal wealth whilst in office - the Scottish sleaze stories are pretty small beer. Pathetic, really.
Just to remind you - Henry McLeish resigned after his 'muddle not a fiddle', where he sub-let an office which he had already charged as expenses to the parliamentary authorities without declaring it properly. David McLetchie resigned after admitting that a proportion of his taxi bills which he charged as expenses - should have been picked up by his party or his legal firm.
Wow, big stuff, huh?
Meanwhile in other European nations, Jacques Chirac of France has spent years dodging accusations that he had misappropriated public funds in paying political aides and had rigged the award of contracts.
Even closer to home was the case of the late Charles Haughey, the Irish Taoiseach. Several official investigations into his private life revealed that he had personally received millions of euros from a number of Irish businesses. In 2003 he agreed to pay €5m to the country's Revenue Commission to settle outstanding tax liabilities.
Meanwhile, Wendy Alexander is accused of wrongly accepting a donation of £950 from a Glasgow businessman. Yes, £950 - less than the cost of an annual Sky subscription. The problem lies in the fact that this Glasgow businessman actually resides in Jersey, which is apparently not part of the European Union. This makes the donation illegal and it has now been returned.
But the real story behind all this stuff is the amount of clyping that has been going on. According to my Chambers Scots Dictionary, 'to clype' is to be 'a tell-tale'. Now here is the category that Scots do really really well - world-class even. For it is noticeable that when Henry McLeish and David McLetchie were both in trouble, members of their own party were busy putting the boot in, supplying 'insider' information to the press to ensure that they didn't recover their momentum.
And somebody within the Scottish Labour Party has clearly been gunning for Wendy Alexander in recent weeks - leaking correspondence and making embarrassing revelations. You would have thought with all the other problems it is facing right now the Scottish Labour party would be trying to pull itself together - not pull itself apart.
But all this is really quite serious for if we convince ourselves that our politicians are crooked when they are obviously not it debases our whole political system.
So it's quite a good thing that we are absolutely hopeless when it comes to political sleaze. But don't worry - we're still world class at clyping .•