Salmond pressed St Andrews head on research comments

Alex Salmond pressed the principal of the University of St Andrews to tone down her remarks about the impact of Scottish independence on research.

September 17, 2014

The Scottish First Minister telephoned Louise Richardson after she gave an interview with the Times in March, in which she warned that “if we were cut off from national research councils it would be catastrophic for this institution”.

According to the Daily Telegraph, a source said the conversation between Mr Salmond and Professor Richardson was “loud and heated”.

The paper has also obtained emails which show how Mr Salmond, a St Andrews graduate, asked Professor Richardson to “clarify” her comments about independence.

Salmond’s chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, contacted the principal’s office to suggest a statement that Professor Richardson release under her name.

That statement praised the Scottish Government for having “risen to the challenge” over tuition fees and expressed confidence that it could protect research funding after independence, while criticising the UK government, according to documents seen by the paper.

Professor Richardson sent an email to her press team saying: “I’m sorry but I’m afraid I cannot agree to this statement.”

The emails, obtained by the Daily Telegraph using the Freedom of Information Act, are the first documents to show that the Scottish First Minister has put pressure on high-profile individuals to influence what they say about the independence question, the newspaper says.

The correspondence showed the Scottish National Party had “abused its power” to intimidate senior figures to stay quiet about independence, a Scottish Labour spokesman claimed.

“The dogs in the street know that the SNP has used the power of the Scottish Government to bully and intimidate anyone who doesn’t agree with them,” he said.

“What has been happening secretly as the First Minister and his advisers bully and intimidate, we now see on the streets as the Yes campaign tries to bully Scotland into submission.”

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said the First Minister “hugely values Louise Richardson’s input on a whole range of issues, including as a member of his council of economic advisers, and the contact with the university in this case was part of that routine dialogue.”

He added: “Mr Aberdein was simply doing his job, and the discussions with counterparts at the university were cordial, as the email exchanges show.”

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

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Reader's comments (4)

Its only bad when its corporate interests that suppress views or demand press releases. I would be the first to condemn David Cameron or some bank, but its perfectly legitimate for a government aiming for social justice to do this. After all such governments embody the will and weal of the people to whom Universities are accountable. By definition, opposition such as seen here is clearly anti democratic.
The dust is settling on the referendum, and this story appeared late in the day, but it does confirm widespread rumours that the leaders of Scotland's universities were leant on to keep quiet about any reservations they might have held about the specific proposals for the sector in the Independence package. The earlier commentator seems to have persuaded him/herself that this suppression of open debate is properly "democratic", because the Universities are accountable to the people, and the government is the will of the people. Good grief.
Sorry I should have tagged it What I expressed is my sheer frustration that if Cameron or any of Eton crew had done anything ANYTHING even close to this the roof would have fallen in. It would be on 38 degree, union websites etc etc.
It removed the irony tags

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