Social democracy in action - FOI reveals controversial e-mail from top government aide

Des Browne, the Scottish and Defence Secretary, was under pressure this weekend to sack one of his top aides for describing Scotland as a “narrow, Presbyterian and racist” country. John McTernan, a special adviser to Browne and former Downing Street aide to Tony Blair, made the comments in a personal e-mail to a Labour politician.

The document was obtained by The Sunday Times under freedom of information legislation. McTernan, who was among those cleared of wrongdoing in the cash for honours affair, wrote to Karen Gillon, a Labour member of the Scottish parliament, before a visit to Sweden: “If you’ve not been to Sweden before, I think you’ll really like it – it’s the country Scotland would be if it wasn’t narrow, Presbyterian, racist etc. etc. Social democracy in action.”

Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, said last night that the remarks showed Labour's true “contempt” for the Scottish people, and questioned why McTernan should keep his publicly funded £99,000-a-year job.

The e-mail was written while McTernan was working as a policy adviser at the Scottish Arts Council in late 2002. Before that he worked as a special adviser to Henry McLeish, the former Labour first minister who was forced to stand down after a scandal involving his office expenses.

Labour aide brands Scotland as racist (Sunday Times, 20 January 2008)