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Labour calls for heads to roll over Sturgeon fraudster defence
Controversy comes a week after parliamentary lunches auction scandal
Steven Campbell-Harris
Wednesday, 17 February, 2010 | 09:00

The Scottish Labour Party has called on Deputy Minister Nicola Sturgeon to resign following her controversial decision to lobby for a convicted fraudster.

Sturgeon’s letter to a sheriff on behalf of Abdul Rauf sparked outrage from opposition MSPs after it emerged that he had been convicted for stealing £80,000 from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

Iain Gray, the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, accused Sturgeon of an "appalling lack of judgement". He said, ‘I spent yesterday standing up for the victims of knife crime. Nicola Sturgeon spent yesterday standing up for a criminal. That is how bad her judgement is.

"This is about the first minister’s judgement. Whose side is he on? Will he back her or will he sack her?"

The blow for the Scottish government came the week after First Minister Alex Salmond and his deputy were embroiled in controversy for auctioning lunches at Holyrood to raise funds for the SNP.

The pair face an official inquiry by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, Stuart Allan, for alleged misconduct after it emerged they had sold lunches for a total of £11,000 at a party fundraiser. The event was held to raise cash for Osama Saeed, the SNP’s Westminster candidate in the target seat of Glasgow Central.

The lunches, intended to be held at the members’ restaurant in parliament, appear to be a breach of parliamentary rules which state that the Holyrood ‘campus’ must not be used for ‘party political purposes'.

A spokesperson for parliament released a statement saying: "The policy on the use of parliamentary resources states that parliamentary resources are provided by the SPCB (Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body) to support members with their parliamentary duties.

"These resources, which include the members’ restaurant, must not be used for any other purpose."

A spokesperson for the SNP said both Mr Salmond and Mrs Sturgeon were writing to the parliamentary authorities to seek "clarification and guidance" about the rules and both lunches were cancelled awaiting new information.

Pending further developments the First Minister released details of three other lunches auctioned last year at SNP candidate adoption meetings for £1500. He insisted that full disclosure would guarantee that no parliamentary rules had been broken.

However, the Scottish Labour Party have gone on the offensive, filing complaints to the Standards Commissioner and getting senior figures such as Jack McConnell, the previous First Minister, to publicly condemn the auction.

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