Sturgeon’s Closet

Sheriff Olga Pasportnikov

All of us have something in our past we would rather not talk about, the ‘skeleton in the closet’. We keep it in the recesses of our memory, or if larger than life, as well hidden as possible. It can be something we stole when young, cruelty to an animal, as an adult, damaging someone’s car and driving away before identified, or a long affair that had you lead a double life. For a politician, especially one that runs on conviction rather than rational decisions, a blot in character can be fatal to a promising career.

The information related below is old news. It has done the gossip rounds among the well-informed, and is very well known to solicitors who knew of Nicola Sturgeon’s short, undistinguished time working for the conveyancing firm of Bell & Craig Solicitors. In comparison to the scurrilous tales about her private life, it is redolent only of a person either untutored by, or unwilling to take advice from, senior colleagues.

Those who worked closely with Ms Sturgeon as a politician invariably keep their counsel, but the general view we can rely on is of a person of limited skill but determined character. How that combination is perceived usually cuts public opinion down the middle – those who feel she is doing a wonderful job for Scotland and declare her solicitor days of no importance, versus those who feel her solicitor days a portent of things to come, failing spectacularly to protect Scotland from the worst of England’s colonial invasions, and leading an SNP she has effectively neutered.

Whatever the view of the reader, the events related here ought to be open on record, and not hidden furtively or become Chinese whispers on social media.

The Record

The story surrounds Nicola Sturgeon’s short-stay time as a solicitor when she fell foul of due diligence. A Law Society judicial probe found she was guilty of committing three counts of professional misconduct – in short: failure to provide legal service protections for a domestic violence victim. In detail: failing to raise interdict, misleading client about legal aid application, and failing to consider her client’s financial circumstances properly.

Before discussing this at length, the reader should keep in mind both Ms Sturgeon’s experience as a solicitor and that of Ms Olga Pasportnikov, the case solicitor who conducted the probe. Neither could be described as experienced practioners at that stage of their career.

Falling down

The issue in question relates to Ms Sturgeon’s failure to provide adequate legal services when she worked for Bell & Craig Solicitors – George Craig was a dedicated SNP member – but only came to light after Ms Sturgeon left the law firm suddenly. The client was forced to find another solicitor who discovered legal aid forms had not been sent to the Scottish Legal Aid Board – despite assurances from Ms Sturgeon application had been submitted.

In a five-page report, dated December 1998, Ms Pasportnikov said: “The complaint in this case has been identified as professional misconduct by breach of code of conduct and conduct unbecoming a solicitor.” It is alleged that over a 14 month period, despite the woman being followed, threatened and physically attacked, it was claimed Ms Sturgeon did not seek a court order against her violent partner.

The client wrote to the Law Society in November 1997, saying: “I sincerely hope that you look into this case as I certainly would not wish Ms Sturgeon to ill advise further matrimonial cases which she is clearly not capable of dealing with. I feel as if I have been trailed through over a year of ill advice and wasted time.” The following month, the client’s outstanding fees totalling £542 were waived by Bell & Craig as a “goodwill gesture”.

Ms Sturgeon was eventually cleared by the Law Society in April 1999, although the “client no longer has the decision letter”. [New York Times.] A Law Society spokeswoman said: “There was a complaint which was investigated but it was not upheld.”

On the defence side of Ms Sturgeon’s apparent inertia or oversight, the stumble could be construed as a lack of proper tuition; on the minus side, a solicitor covering her errors. At the very least, it is sloppy conduct and shabby treatment of a client. As already stated, the client was a victim of domestic violence, a heap of irony when associated with a politician who has made her reputation on the back of championing equality for women.

Readers have to be very careful here; at this chronilogical distance we cannot assume Ms Pasportnikov was a reliable and thorough investigator. Nevertheless, the situation gets murky when Ms Pasportnovik somehow forgot the matter when at a later date she was promoted to Sheriff by Ms Sturgeon by then First Minister.

The Law Society of Scotland concluded there should be no action taken against Ms Sturgeon. She left the legal profession – ‘stood down’ is the term – for a career in SNP politics.

The woman with the unlikely surname

Announcements in the legal profession’s press, and Scottish Government news postings, show “the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Olga Pasportnikov is appointed by the Queen following a report to the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, 31 July 2015”. So who is Pasportnuvik?

Ms Pasportnikov is a University of Dundee graduate, admitted as a solicitor in 1991. She worked with Russell & Aitken Solicitors. She does not seem to have had any significant specialism, such as a divorce or children’s lawyer. She worked mainly in private practice with before joining the Law Society of Scotland in 1998. “She has been with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service since 2003, and is currently also current convener of the Fife Young Carers Management Committee.”

She is the resident Sheriff for Elgin, in Morayshire, following her appointment in August 2015.

No human was hurt in the events depicted

No one appears to know why Ms Sturgeon got off Scott free, or why, when Ms Pasportnikov was recommended for promotion to Sheriff, she failed to mention to the Law Society her previous case study involved a reprimand of Ms Sturgeon.

In a reply from the Law Society not headed ‘Selective Memory’: “The Sheriff was one of a number of case managers working on the Law Society for Scotland’s Client Relations Team from 1998 – 2003. Her role was limited to that of gathering and categorising information as a first step in a much longer process. She did not produce any reports or make any findings. Covering a volume of work, she would not remember specific names in routine cases, including where a solicitor was cleared entirely.” Quite a plausible reply, after all, there are so many ‘Nicola Sturgeons’ in Scotland, confusion is to be expected.

Judicial Appointments Board

The Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland is an ‘independent’ advisory public body with the role of recommending individuals for appointment to judicial offices within the Board’s remit including judge of the Court of Session, chair of the Scottish Land Court, sheriff principal, sheriff, and summary sheriff. The First Minister has statutory responsibility for making recommendations to Her Majesty the Queen and is required by statute to consult the Lord President of the Court of Session before making her recommendation.

And that is the story. Personally, I think there is a whole mortuary of decomposing cadavers that stink to high Heaven to list, beyond Nicola Sturgeon’s unremarkable days as a solicitor.

Off the top of my head I can think of, presiding over the smearing of colleagues and private citizens; the assassination of Joanna Cherry and Alex Salmond’s reputation; the demeaning of other notable colleages for policy differences; withholding documents from courts and Parliamentary Inquiries; the betrayal of women’s rights; canvassing on half-truths fleshing out policy in unacceptable ways behind closed doors; the hi-jacking of the SNP NEC; the triumph of misogyny over human rights; chasing Brexit and not independence; failing to educate the electorate about self-governance; the disappearance of £600,000 of referendum ‘ring-fenced’ donations; following Boris Johnson’s lethal pandemic rules only to see multiple deaths in Scottish care homes (number as yet unaccounted); claiming kudos for achievements created under Alex Salmond’s tenure; collecting mandates as if Asda stamps, and so on and so forth.

No matter, for with each folly commited a large section of the public feel ever-stronger, better a strident if inept SNP First Minister than an English nationalist Tory on his way to an earldom and a furry collar. They ignore the reality, under the SNP we are subjected to an iniquitous far-right perverted Westminster administration worse than anything known outside Butcher Cumberland’s reign. At least he put Scots out of their pain and misery.

Registering Judge’s Interests

There is no ‘Register of Judges Requirements’ to which one can search for such important clashes of intererst. It appears Ms Sturgeon made no mention of her past record recorded by Ms Pasportnikov. A First Minister has “statutory responsibility for making recommendations to Her Majesty and is required by statute to consult the Lord President of the Court of Session before making recommendation”, implying, she is expected to lay out all detail.

Somehow, a case investigator’s colleagues failed to recommend sanctions on an errant solicitor or her firm. Although the solicitor promoting the case study officer we can categorise as positive discrimination, the original lack of minutes is slapdash. This raises the question of keeping detailed records.

There has been attempts to establish a Register for Judges interests, each endeavour obstructed by none other than … Nicola Sturgeon. The Herald newspaper reported: “Nicola Sturgeon has rejected calls for judges to declare details of their finances in a register of interest. The First Minister said the proposal, lodged by justice campaigner Peter Cherbi, was “not necessary” and claimed existing rules were “sufficient””. [9 May, 2015.]

The proposal has resurfaced. Register of Judges Interests Petition PE 1458 Scottish Parliament Justice Committee 2 March 2021. It will be interesting to see which of Ms Sturgeon’s colleagues is sent to condemn more transparency in our judicial system and in our government promised by the SNP … once upon a time in a land, far, far away.

Post script

It has since come to light that this story was filed with a Scottish newspaper for publication in June 2018 – after several other newspapers refused to publish it. (Why, is a mystery.) It is alleged a ‘political editor’ at the same newspaper spiked the story. This could be down to the story being an old one, the facts blurred by time. Or it could be because the Scottish press are keen to sustain Ms Sturgeon as First Minister because they see her as least able to achieve Scotland’s liberty. They protect their life expectancy which is precarious in the extreme. Press owners are worried about the serious bleeding of profits they call ‘loss of jobs’.

The same union-friendly newspaper subsequently published a leaked document containing a litanty of falsehoods aimed at the former First Minister, the Right honorable Alex Salmond, MP, a man more than able to secure self-governance.

Conclusion

At this point an author of this piece might be expected to quote Hamlet, [Act I, scene iv (67)], Marcellus: ‘There is something rotten in the state of Denmark’, answered by Horatio speaking figurately “Heaven will direct it”, meaning, something as yet unknown is rotten. This author prefers to state the obvious, we know full well what is rotten in the state of Scotland, and Ms Sturgeon exhibits no extraordinary skill or imagination to stop things becoming worse.

Whatever the merits or faults of Nicola Sturgeon’s days as a solicitor and then First Minister, they amount to an obstinate personality suffering tunnel vision, who deals in platitudes, but by devious means succeeds in passing regressive, muddled laws ignored or condemned. However, to lose trust in Nicola Sturgeon is not to abandon Scotland’s ultimate ideal.

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15 Responses to Sturgeon’s Closet

  1. diabloandco says:

    I have no idea who said it but ,” When trust has gone ,like the soul to the body it never returns’ or words to that effect.

  2. So many skeletons, so little explanations in Scotland today.Repeating myself I STILL want to know about the over 600k “ring fenced” cash that has just gone,I know it has little to do with the above report, except inasmuch no explanations are offered worse, many are quite happy to let it lie, rather like again the above support.Lets all just wheesht seems to be the prevailing opinion today in Scotland, and that is simply not a good thing.

  3. We could also note her classic failure of due diligence in the case of Abdul Rauf during her pre-FM years as an MSP.

    There’s a consistent thread of”not bothering to check the details” in her career.

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/may/12/benefits-fraudster-jailed-stealing-80000

  4. duncanio says:

    Perhaps the upcoming trial of Leslie Evans, the criminal investigation into The Daily Record leak and police probe into the SNP accounts / ring-fenced referendum fund will put some more flesh on dem bones.

  5. jancowanrocketmailcom says:

    “Sturgeon’s Skeleton” should be printed in our great, independence-loving newspaper The National followed by the Record etc. Perhaps even WGD and Lesley Riddoch……….?

  6. Will any of these things actually happen? Or if they do will they not be knobbled?

  7. Grouse Beater says:

    Probably there will be attempts to defuse outcomes and knobble evidence.

  8. maceasy says:

    The takeaway from a lot of this stuff is what is also borne out by the last few years of SNP absolute rule: the utter mediocrity of Sturgeon and her gang when it comes to governance, ethics and good practice. The seed was there right from the beginning we now learn – slapdash, dishonest and incompetent. What has changed is her skill in disguising the gaping intellectual and ethical chasm with a grim kind of self-assertion in a cloud of buzz words and favourite slogans. It is quite sad how the SNP has been routed by her faction, hollowed out and become a shell company, promising this that and the other, while displaying incompetent maladministration at every level. And, of course, the only focus being on their passion for social engineering and punishing thought crime.

  9. alfbaird says:

    Thanks for this analysis.

    Postcolonial literature also helps inform us of the stage we appear to have entered, with Fanon’s ‘dominant national party’ reaching for is own selfish “accommodation with colonialism”. In this situation Cesaire refers to the ongoing “detestable abuses” and the fact that: “the old tyrants get on very well with the new ones, and that there has been established between them, to the detriment of the people, a circuit of mutual services and complicity”. In this regard, as Fanon further notes: “The (national) party helps the government to hold the people down…and becomes an implement of coercion.”

    In other words, fascism develops as “the dialectic result of the semi-colonial state” on its journey towards independence. For ‘semi-colonial’ we may regard as devolution.

  10. A very enlightening piece. Thank you.

    I suspected Nicola Sturgeon was merely overcompensating for unresolved or unacknowledged personal issues, but it’s the furtive manner of her appointment of this ‘Pasportnikov’ and role within COPFS, which has raised a red flag for me…

    ‘Lord Advocate Wolffe knows all of this as he’s one of a long line who have presided over it and also knows that in England & Wales it’s his equivalent appointment, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who from 2008 until 2013 played a key role in burying male victims of domestic abuse via criminal secret Family Courts. That ex-DPP today is none other than present Labour Party leader Keir Starmer who was himself succeeded by Alison Saunders, who in turn colluded with the reporting nexus of all UK domestic abuse ‘charities‘ – Women’s Aid – during her corrupt tenure until 2018 to erase the reported incidences of male victims of domestic violence being absorbed by and included within successive ‘Violence Against Women & Girls’ statistics reports…’

    ‘Manhattan’s Medusa: The Global State of Scotland’ (2021) by #GaslightingGilligan https://wp.me/p94Aj4-2kh

  11. Grousebeater, you might be interested in this piece. The most surreal aspect of it all is – I’m right.

    “One of the great secrets of the day is to know how to take possession of popular prejudices and passions, in such a way as to introduce a confusion of principles which makes impossible all understanding between those who speak the same language and have the same interests”. Machiavelli.

    #LGBTQ #BlackLivesMatter #TransRightsAreHumanRights #TimesUp #BelieveHer #CurfewForMen etc etc.

    ‘The #MeToo [LGBT & #GenderAgenda] Truth of Nr5 #RampantSexism’ (2020) https://wp.me/p94Aj4-1Y2

  12. My apologies Grousebeater, I want to be sure you’re seeing this. The narrative in today’s Herald headline below, whilst appearing to have little to do with where we find ourselves, is absolutely ideologically linked.

    ‘Trident safety fears: Clyde nuclear base ‘accident waiting to happen’ as fire crews are slashed’. The Sunday Herald, 23rd May 2021

    ‘Similar to the principle of “manufacturing consent” (Chomsky) for war, we were ALL privy to the gaslighting ‘inevitability narrative’ centred on an eventuality that once triggered, would be hindsight-bias perceived by the general population to always have been *as likely to occur, as not* – via a MSM-fronted psychological ‘softening-up’ of the masses.’ #GG *2019*

    ‘ToryAnalytica 2017: The Failed PlanA ‘Brexit-Exit’ & A Global-Revolution Roadmap to #BrexitCoup PlanB’ (2019) by #GaslightingGilligan https://wp.me/p94Aj4-1bj

  13. alurkr says:

    As ever, Peter Cherbi writing up the affairs that the legals don’t want you know.
    https://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2021/03/first-interests-judge-recommended-for_8.html

    excert:

    Earlier today, a legal expert assessed the material now in the public domain and deleted tweets from a former journalist which names a Scottish newspaper and a ‘spiked’ story on Ms Sturgeon.

    The legal expert said he hoped the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints would now scrutinise the information available and ask further questions of the First Minister.

    He said: “In view of suggestions on social media platforms – a former journalist held this information for a number of years, and approached several newspapers seemingly without success – people may reasonably expect questions to be asked of why this story has not come to light until now and the method of travel to the media.”

    He added: “Was there motive in withholding this story involving Scotland’s First Minister, either by a newspaper, a political party or a journalist? I am curious to find out. However, I am also curious as to why no one with the information offered the material in evidence to the long running Scottish Parliament investigation of issues involving Alex Salmond.”

    “Given the First Minister responded to questions on what appear to be references to the investigation of Ms Sturgeon and a newspaper deal – MSPs should ask rigorous questions of anyone involved in this matter given the situation we face where information now exists alleging the Sheriff complaint probe of Scotland’s First Minister was allegedly swapped for a story on harassment complaints and a Police investigation of Alex Salmond in the summer of 2018”

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