The Resignation Of Kirk Ramsay
Mr. Ramsay has finally resigned from his post as chairman of Stow College. On 'Newsnight Scotland' last night, he explained that the device he had used to record a meeting he had attended with Mike Russell, Education Minister in the soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government', was known as a ‘smart pen’. He used it as he suffers from tinnitus, and suffers hearing difficulties when in large, acoustically challenging spaces. He was one of about one hundred people at the meeting. He indicated that he circulated the personal notes he had made with the assistance of the smart pen after having had some concerns about the subsequently circulated minutes. He said he was requested to meet Russell on what was indicated to be a ‘private matter’, that Russell was reluctant to shake his hand, and that Russell had three civil servants in attendance with him when he told Mr. Ramsay that he believed he should resign.
Stewart Maxwell, the nationalist chairman of Holyrood’s Education Committee, indicated his belief that the device is known as a ‘spy pen’. He indicated his belief that his committee’s function is fact-gathering – presumably he therefore accepts Mr. Ramsay’s version of how Russell demanded his resignation without the need for any evidence to be taken upon that.
While criticising Mr. Ramsay’s actions, Maxwell strayed as close to the boundary between free speech and slander as I have seen a mainstream politician go in some time. It was he who labelled Mr. Ramsay’s device as a ‘spy pen’, thus, to my mind, suggesting that Mr. Ramsay had only brought the device to that meeting for the purpose of recording Russell. Mr. Ramsay’s statement that he used this implement to help him overcome a disability which prevents him from hearing what is being said round about him just bounced off Maxwell. Although he had heard Mr. Ramsay speak, Maxwell took no account of his presumably verifiable disability at all.
Hearing Maxwell speak brought back to mind the very dark days of Margo MacDonald’s departure from the SNP, on account of the leaking by someone within the SNP that she was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. When that recollection is added to the way in which Mr. Ramsay’s perfectly reasonable explanation for having brought his aid into the original meeting with Russell was peremptorily brushed aside by Maxwell, as on message a nationalist as it’s possible to be, a very disturbing impression is created of a very negative attitude towards disability and the disabled being held by senior members of the Scottish National Party. It might make some of us disabled wonder just what future there might be for us, what place we might have and what role there might be for us, in an independent Scotland. Even although it was obvious that he had been heavily briefed, if Maxwell’s complete sidestepping of the issue of Mr. Ramsay’s disability is anything to go by there might not be much going for us at all.
But The Tartanissimo’s gone one better. He’s said that, "It's not illegal to take a recording device into a meeting - it is unethical, certainly." The man needed that device to do what he was there to do as well as he possibly could. If any employer made any observation about an employee like the one Salmond made about Mr. Ramsay, Trevor Phillips and his honchos would be kicking their door down screaming blue murder. Yet Salmond feels he can get away with it, and this case is a classic example of that over-confidence of his which all too often slides into arrogance and which makes one very wary of what a Scotland outwith the Union would be like, and fear for the attitude with which it would be governed. Protecting Mike Russell’s backside from the trouble he has got himself into by exerting inappropriate influence on Mr. Ramsay to resign is more important to Salmond and the rest of them than acknowledging that the disabled sometimes need aids to do their work. Are the disabled not to hold senior roles? Are we just to sit in bath chairs all day long, playing dominoes and watching ‘Countdown’? Is that what they think of us? Having heard Mr. Ramsay speak, one would imagine that his answer to the question ‘Does he take sugar?’ might be an abrupt one formed by years of experience in industry. He might even be the sort of disabled person who doesn’t even consider himself to be disabled; yet because he took an aid which helps him overcome his disability into a meeting , he’s been accused of bad faith on account of the consequences of having used it.
In my opinion Maxwell also accused Mr. Ramsay of hypocrisy, albeit indirectly and in an unpleasantly sly manner. He said that Mr. Ramsay had either rebuked or reprimanded a member of Stow College staff for having recorded a meeting with him. One reason why this might have been the case which immediately sprang to mind was that in the absence of any other information on that matter other than Maxwell’s apparent assertion that all recording of all meetings is unwarranted (in these trying times, it provides only the coldest of comfort to learn that Alex Salmond might not be planning to repeat the mistakes of Richard Nixon, perhaps preferring Tony Blair’s cosy, unminuted sofa style of government instead), Mr. Ramsay might have been right to record Russell while it might have been wrong of someone else to record Mr. Ramsay. Let’s hear all the facts, not just Scottish nationalist assertions.
The role of the civil service in all this has to be looked at. Were the three characters that turned up with Russell at his private meeting with Mr. Ramsay civil servants or special advisers? If they were civil servants, is it the role of the civil service to help a minister demand that a private individual take action which the minister has no power to compel them to? Is that what the civil service is for? Is this how Scotland’s governed? And if they were special advisers, who are they? Just who is either providing Mike Russell with obviously bad and politically inept advice, or just not telling him that a course of action he proposes is politically inept? Either way, if they were SPADS they would not seem to be advising with any great degree of competence.
Mr. Ramsay rounded off his contribution to ‘Newsnight Scotland’ by saying that he felt Mike Russell can’t take criticism, an observation of which he appears to be the living proof. If Russell cannot handle being criticised or even being questioned, he needs to either grow up or get out of public life. Mr. Ramsay said that he felt he had been subjected to summary justice, something he might expect in Syria in the 21st Century rather than Scotland in the 21st Century. Sadly, the attitudes to which he has been subjected are only too similar to those of Scotland in the 17rth Century that they merely affirm my deeply held suspicion that the soi-disant, ersatz ‘Scottish Government’ shares the authoritarian, oppressive mindset of the dunghill lairds and bare-arsed chieftains who drove the country into the ground. Wha’s like us? None you’d want to mention.