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Channel 4 News Alex Thomson questions role of three Scottish MSPs in tackling Rangers FC financial problems

By Hamish Mackay |

April 17, 2012 | 5 min read

Channel 4 News chief correspondent, Alex Thomson, who has been creating a stir among Scottish journalists with his reports and blogs on the financial affairs of Rangers FC, has questioned the role of three MSPs in his latest blog.

The Drum has already reported on Thomson’s claims that he had been physically threatened by a Scottish journalist in a hostile media atmosphere in Glasgow - saying that asking questions about Rangers FC “clearly angers some in the Glasgow media in a way I’ve never seen in 25 years of global reporting."

In his latest blog, Thomson says: “I devote the second part of these blogs to the actions of MSPs – three of them that I know of – in writing direct to the Rangers’ administrators Duff and Phelps, advising them how they should go about their job.

“It’s not clear whether Duff and Phelps appealed for help from Holyrood MSPs to do their job, or if they are in need of free advice. My understanding is that they did not ask. But advice they are getting and it is to do one thing in particular: “avoid liquidating RFC at all costs”.

“The three MSP letters which I have seen are publicly available. One is an email and two are on official stationary, but they are remarkably similar in tone, length and structure.

“For instance John Park [Labour], member for Mid-Scotland and Fife wrote on 10 April: “…I would urge you to consider bids that not only ensure the maximum return for creditors but that also seek to avoid liquidation so the impact on the club, it’s (sic) employees and the game more generally in Scotland is kept to a minimum.”

“On 7 April Joan McAlpine [SNP], MSP for South of Scotland wrote to Duff and Phelps saying: “I am…asking you to consider bids that propose a CVA and rule out any that put the club at risk of liquidation.”

“Murdo Fraser [Tory], MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife wrote much the same thing in early April. So there’s a sudden coincidence of timing and intent. Various voices have been raised from a number of quarters that MSPs should not be interfering in the work of the administrators under any circumstances. And particularly not on matters that might – on the face of it lie outside their constituency.

“A particular Rule for MSPs’ conduct was drawn to my attention: Rule 8.1.4 of the MSPs’ Code of Conduct states “An MSP must not deal with a matter relating to a constituency case or constituency issue out with the member’s constituency or region (as the case may be) unless by prior agreement.”

“Although it might look on the face of it that Govan and Ibrox are rather a long way from, say, Fife, Holyrood is in fact pretty relaxed about all this. The way things roll is that nobody is really completely sure if a rule has been broken or not unless a complaint is made and then upheld.

“For the record, the word from Edinburgh seems to be that expressing constituents’ concern over Rangers would be enough to make such letters perfectly valid, let alone having constituents who might work for Rangers as well.

“Mr Fraser told me he has a number of people who are either employees, former employees or shareholders and feels confident he’s well within the spirit and letter of the laws here. I’ve not checked, but doubtless the others feel the same.

“The wider question of course is why they feel that avoiding liquidation really is the best outcome for taxpayer and Rangers fans alike? Around that swirls a large and often profoundly technical debate. A debate not without its ironies and here’s one.

“Mr Fraser for instance, openly declares his interest as a Debenture holder at Rangers which is right and proper. Yet after the proposed rule changes from the Scottish Premier League announced this week, many non-Rangers fans are screaming blue-murder that liquidation and a new company emerging back in the Scottish Premier League is exactly the let-off the conspiracists perceive, to allow Rangers to survive in the top-flight whatever may happen.

“In short the very thing these MSPs beg not to happen is exactly what anti-Rangers fans perceive as the ultimate Ibrox get-out-of-jail card.

“Ultimately the best bet looks to be the one put forward by Murdo Fraser for some kind of sustainable, genuinely fan-based ownership structure to safeguard a large football club that actually pays for things, with money, its money and actually lives within its means.

“Wow – Micawber Economics finally reaches Ibrox!

“Fine idea – can football provide the fertile ground for it to take root after all the oligarchs, sheikhs and funny money? Hard to disagree with the principle, harder still to see the practice in top-flight football.”

Thomson’s latest blog has prompted another deluge of comments to Channel 4 News.

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