Murdo Fraser is leading calls for a public inquiry into the Crown Office after the Lord Advocate admitted to malicious prosecution of the administrators of Rangers Football Club.
Former Rangers administrators David Whitehouse and Paul Clark, of corporate restructuring firm Duff and Phelps, were prosecuted on suspicion of fraud following Craig Whyte’s takeover in 2011.
In a statement to the press, Mr Fraser said, “a full public inquiry is absolutely vital to ensure the public see exactly what went wrong and why”.
The Scottish Conservatives shadow finance secretary then asked Finance Secretary Kate Forbes what impact the inquiry would have on the Crown Office budget.
Various former administrators and directors from Rangers FC are claiming compensation that could rise to £100 million, according to reports.
Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark have reportedly been awarded their share of compensation, worth £21m.
A further £3m was awarded to Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark in legal expenses.
In parliament on Tuesday, Mr Fraser asked Ms Forbes where the money is coming from.
The Crown Office’s entire budget in 2019-20 was £120m.
In response, Ms Forbes said, “Arrangements have been made so that the settlements of these cases will not affect the operational effectiveness of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).”
‘This case is an absolute scandal’
Mr Fraser added that the administrators were “treated like terrorists”. He later compared the saga to one that could occur in Russia.
In an article in The Sunday Post, Mr Whitehouse said that he spent six days in a jail cell without a bed, on a concrete floor.
This is what we might see in Putin’s Russia”
Murdo Fraser MSP
Mr Fraser said, “This case is an absolute scandal. Innocent individuals were treated like terrorists.
“They were arrested, held in police custody, risked imprisonment and financial ruin. They committed no crimes and there was no evidence of any significance against them.
“This is what we might see in Putin’s Russia, not in 21st Century Scotland,” he added.
Mr Fraser went on to ask: “Does the Scottish Government now accept that the only way to get the answers here is to have a full, independent, judge-led public inquiry?
Ms Forbes confirmed in her response that the Lord Advocate will make a statement in parliament in due course.
She said: “The Lord Advocate intends to make a statement to the Scottish Parliament at the earliest opportunity”.
Lord Advocate James Wolffe took over the role from Frankie Mulholland in 2016, after Mr Mulholland had dropped the case.
Despite there being a lack of evidence against Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark, Mr Wolffe continued to fight the case until 2020.
‘Those responsible should be held to account’
Mr Whitehouse says that he expects answers from Mr Mulholland as to why the investigation was launched in the first place.
While Mr Wolffe has apologised to both administrators, Mr Whitehouse claims the Crown Office did not own up to any of its mistakes and was attempting to pay them off.
The former administrator now wants those in the wrong to be held accountable for their actions.
He said: “I believe that those responsible should be held to account.
“I struggle with the concept that you can wilfully, intentionally and maliciously prosecute people with no evidential basis and not cross the boundary into criminality.”
Charles Green, former chief executive of Rangers, and Imran Ahmed, a former director, are also seeking damages. The pair are seeking £20m each, after receiving apologies from the Crown Office.
David Grier, another administrator for Duff and Phelps, is also suing the Crown Office and Police Scotland for £9m and £5m, respectively.