Sturgeon ‘110%’ behind under-fire Sturgeon

By Alex Stevenson

Alex Salmond has backed under-fire deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon “110%” after she wrote a character reference for a convicted benefit fraudster.

The Scottish National party’s MSP for Glasgow Govan’s intervention in the case of Abdul Rauf, who claimed £650 for rent after failing to register a £200,000 Edinbrugh property, has led to demands for her resignation from Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray.

Her character reference also appears to have spared Rauf jail. The sheriff in the case told Rauf that a custodial sentence had been at the “forefront” of his mind but that he had been swayed by comments said on his behalf, “including a letter from a member of the Scottish parliament”.

In first minister’s questions in Holyrood today Mr Salmond was attacked by Mr Gray for supporting Ms Sturgeon.

“The conflict is between the interests of the criminal and the victims of crime,” he said.

“Nicola Sturgeon spent yesterday standing up for a criminal. That is how bad her judgement is.”

Mr Salmond strenuously defended her record, calling her a “fantastic” deputy first minister who had simply sought to represent the interests of her constituents.

“The heart of this issue is whether they can rely on this constituency member of parliament to represent them, whether they like them or dislike them,” he said.

“It is the right of members of parliament to represent their constituents… that is the law and that is the obligation.

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie refused to back Mr Gray’s resignation demands but warned the “confidence of this parliament” was under threat.

“This letter of support for a convicted fraudster shows an astonishing lack of judgement from Nicola Sturgeon,” Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman Richard Baker said.

“The fact that the deputy first minister knew about Mr Rauf’s case since July 2008 compounds her mistake and she must resign.”

Rauf had previously been convicted of benefit fraud in 1996.