MacAskill Caught Up In Lobbying Scandal

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and the SNP are the latest politicians to be caught up in a lobbying scandal. While the specifics of this case will surprise many, the fact it is MacAskill who is involved will come as rather less of a surprise in political and legal circles. The following article from Scottish Law Reporter.

First Minister Alex Salmond ‘angry’ over revelations of Justice Minister’s brother & energy lobbyists links to Scottish Government. THE Scottish Government have gone on the attack over questions raised by opposition msps regarding the presence of ALLAN MACASKILL, a representative of Oil & Energy companies on a DEAL IN THE DESERT‘trade mission’ to the middle east by First Minister Alex Salmond after it became clear the Scottish Government covered up the fact Allan MacAskill is the brother of Kenny MacAskill, Scotland’s Justice Secretary. Mr MacAskill in his industry capacity represents the Spanish energy firm of REPSOL which has substantial oil operations in Libya, & Portugal’s energy giant EDPR. Kenny MacAskill, who is jokingly nicknamed by civil servants in his own department as “Justice Secretary for Life” released the man convicted of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988, Abdel Baset Al Megrahi, on ‘compassionate grounds’ in 2009, claiming Mr Megrahi had three months to live, and that his release was in no way linked to any oil or energy deals with Scotland & the Scottish Government, a claim now thought to be in doubt.

REPSOL have a long standing operation in Libya where its local unit is beefing up production of oil to around 200,000 barrels a day a sharp rise from 34,777 oil barrels per day in 2009. The company also operates in Scotland alongside EDPR who also appear to enjoy a relationship with the Scottish Government via press releases reprinted below.

Commercially sensitive documents handed to one of our reporters which current cannot be published for legal reasons appear to show Scottish Government officials have been told to assist companies who are poised to make even more purchases & takeovers in connection with Scotland’s energy market on top of purchases such as Repsol’s purchase of SeaEnergy Renewables Limited (Serl) which the Spanish oil giant Repsol bought just after the May 2011 election for around £40m in a deal which the First Minister couldn’t resist issuing a statement about which mentions both EDPR & REPSOL. Curiously the First Minister’s statement does not include any mention his Justice Secretary’s brother represented the firms.

An as yet unpublished minute of an internal discussion between civil servants at the Scottish Government reveals officials have complained they are “being turned into lobbyists for the energy sector”.

It has also come to light an oil services company based in Aberdeen which is thought to be on an energy firm’s shopping listhas been warned it may lose contracts and business backing from the Scottish Government if it resists an approach for a buyout which appears to be coming from one of the foreign based energy companies now lobbying the Scottish Government.

This is not the first time the Scottish Government have been forced to defend its links to MacAskill’s energy industry connected brother, who in 2009 was identified in an investigation by the Wall Street Journal newspaper to have been working for oil companies based in Libya.

At the time the First Minister completely denied Mr MacAskill’s brother worked with companies in Libya. Mr Salmond said“It’s total rubbish. Kenny MacAskill’s brother is the director of an offshore wind company in Scotland, it is ridiculous, absolute nonsense.”

Mr Salmond angrily denied claims there was a Scottish deal in the desert to free Megrahi, saying : “We made a decision in Scotland, Kenny MacAskill made a decision on judicial grounds alone. Whatever was happening elsewhere with Prisoner Transfer Agreements talks, we mad a decision based on judicial grounds to release Mr Megrahi on compassionate grounds because he was a dying man.That’s why we made our decision.”

However the Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that Allan MacAskill, a business development director, had worked with a number of energy firms with links to the African country. He told the publication he did not play a role in bids for Libyan business – and insisted he never discussed the Lockerbie bomber case with his brother.

The report by the Wall Street Journal revealed : Mr. MacAskill’s Scottish National Party has also been a major flag-waver for wind power, and earlier this year the party’s leader Alex Salmond opened new offices for SeaEnergy in Aberdeen where the Justice Secretary’s brother was employed, the company now bought up by Repsol. Among Allan MacAskill’s biggest projects at SeaEnergy was the Beatrice Wind Farm off the Scottish coast for his former company, oil firm Talisman Energy. Canada-based Talisman Energy has been looking the past few years to get a foothold in Libya, but has yet to establish a position. The company took part in a recent Libyan oil-licensing round but didn’t walk away with a contract to explore for hydrocarbons. Mr. MacAskill joined oil giant BP PLC in 1977. BP has admitted that it lobbied the U.K. over a controversial prisoner-transfer agreement between the U.K. and Libya. In 1998, after 20 years at BP, Mr. MacAskill joined Talisman Energy and last year moved on to SeaEnergy Renewables.

Mr. MacAskill is also thought to have used his brother’s energy expertise in 2005 for a book of essays the Scots politician edited called “Agenda for a New Scotland.” Allan MacAskill co-wrote one piece which called for government and commercial intervention to ensure the estimated 30 billion barrels of unproduced hydrocarbon is extracted from the North Sea and so secure thousands of jobs in the industry.

The Herald newspaper reports on Mr MacAskill’s trip with the First Minister:

Clarity call over MacAskill brother

The First Minister has been urged to “clear up any perception of favouritism” in light of a senior minister’s brother accompanying him on a trade mission to the Middle East. 

Energy industry representative Allan MacAskill, brother of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, was with Alex Salmond on a recent trip to Qatar and Abu Dhabi. Mr MacAskill attended the meetings on behalf of energy firms Repsol and EDPR. 

Labour has sent Mr Salmond a list of questions about Mr MacAskill’s attendance “to ensure there can be no accusation of favouritism or preferential treatment”. 

However, a spokesman for the First Minister called Labour’s letter “an outrageous slur”. The Scottish Government publicised Mr MacAskill’s attendance in a press release on October 31 but did not draw attention to his relationship with the Justice Secretary. 

In a letter to the First Minister, Labour business manager Paul Martin wrote: “Scottish ministers should champion exports and promote our economic interests abroad. But ministers must also exercise caution in this area, to ensure there can be no accusation of favouritism or preferential treatment. 

“Any consultant or lobbyist accompanying ministers on a trade mission who is involved in meetings with potential investors gains significant commercial advantage. In the unusual event that those consultants are family members of serving ministers, it is even more important to consider the wisdom of involving them in the trip. Allan MacAskill attended a number of meetings you held with potential investment partners in Abu Dhabi and Qatar. It is unclear whether Mr MacAskill would have been able to secure such access without the decision for him to accompany you. 

“You will be familiar with the recent case of Mr Adam Werritty, a friend of the Defence Secretary who attended meetings with Mr (Liam) Fox and other government ministers, which assisted his consultancy and lobbying interests. Given the close family relationship between Kenny and Allan MacAskill, I believe full disclosure is required in explaining exactly why Allan MacAskill was at these meetings, in order to clear up any perception of favouritism.” 

A spokesman for the First Minister said Mr MacAskill’s attendance was publicised by the Scottish Government, and added that all business participants met their own flight, hotel and other expenses.

Mr Salmond’s Press Release issued soon after the May election linking MacAskill’s brother’s energy firms to a deal congratulated (and helped along) by the Scottish Government is published below (note no mention of MacAskill’s brother being involved, or of just what kind of prodding from the Scottish Government greased the deal through – Ed) :

Renewable energy partnership

06/06/2011

Plans for a new partnership between two of Europe’s leading energy companies to develop up to 2.4 Gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind projects in Scottish waters was welcomed by First Minister Alex Salmond today.

Spain’s largest oil company, Repsol, and Portugal’s EDP Renováveis (EDPR) confirmed plans for a joint venture following the Spanish company’s purchase of SeaEnergy Renewables Ltd (SERL) – the offshore wind unit of Aberdeen-based SeaEnergy Plc – which was announced to the stock exchange this morning.

Repsol’s acquisition of SERL, which is subject to approval by SeaEnergy PLC shareholders, will represent the entry of another major European energy company into Scotland’s burgeoning offshore renewables sector. Under its agreement with EDPR, Repsol will hold a 33 per cent stake in Moray Offshore Wind Ltd and 51 per cent of Inch Cape Offshore Wind Ltd. Repsol will also now own a 25 per cent stake in the Beatrice offshore wind development, in which Scottish and Southern Energy Renewables holds the remainder.

The First Minister said: “Today’s announcement of a joint venture involving two of Europe’s major energy companies is a massive vote of confidence in Scotland’s offshore wind sector and in the significant opportunities that are available for leading utilities and developers. 

“Repsol’s purchase of SeaEnergy Renewables is also testament to the strength of Scottish companies who have helped position us as a global leader in offshore wind. SeaEnergy, which is now focusing on its existing assets, including its marine renewables services business and oil & gas interests, is an example of a company now reaping the rewards of decisive and early leadership in a developing industry sector. 

“With around a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind energy potential, Scotland is uniquely positioned to develop this exciting industry and major companies like Doosan, Gamesa and Mitsubishi have already announced plans to develop their offshore wind interests here. Working with our public sector partners and with industry, the Scottish Government remains determined to ensure the industry continues its rapid growth as we work towards our target of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of electricity demand from renewables by 2020.”

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One Comment

  1. According to Wikipedia -” In the 1980s he led the “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay” campaign” .

    Which is news for me, since the SNP ran the tepid Can Pay Won’t Pay and he and Sillars dropped it over hastily and left the non – payers in the crap when the council tax was introduced.

    Certainly, a claim to fame could be he brought back the sell of alcohol for Murrayfield games..

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