JRRT: It's our money, we'll give it to corrupt LibDems if we want | Autonomy Scotland

JRRT: It’s our money, we’ll give it to corrupt LibDems if we want

So, like many people we have had the following communication from the JRRT after we complained about them awarding £50,000 to disgraced politician, Alistair Carmichael. Here is the letter with our thoughts in violet. 

Thank you for your email regarding the Trust’s grant to Alistair Carmichael MP. The Trust’s position is articulated on our website, along with some answers to common questions.

 The trust argument they link to is:


Thanks to the perversities of the UK’s electoral system the 50% of Scottish voters who supported unionist parties at the General Election are represented by only three MPs. Had nationalists succeeded in their case against Alistair Carmichael, they would have worsened further the current misrepresentation of Scottish voters’ views in Parliament. Worse still, the effect on case law would have been to subject many more legitimately elected Members of Parliament to the risk of personal bankruptcy in defending themselves in court against vexatious and highly political claims.
  • The first sentence we agree with and would love to see a more representative UK voting system.
  • The second line is untrue, as even if Carmichael had lost his seat he wouldn’t be automatically replaced by a Nationalist.
  • The third line is also untrue, as you can’t just take any politician to court for any reason. Carmichael was taken to court for good reasons. He cheated in order to win an election. The effect of the court case will mean that other politicians will think twice about lying in order to manipulate elections which is what an organisation like JRRT, who claim to support democracy, should want.
  • It is interesting the statement ends with the suggestion that the charges against Carmichael were “vexatious”. When Carmichael’s lawyer went to the judges to petition them to have the Orkney Four pay his legal fees the judge, Lady Paton, said that because there was no evidence that the constituents had brought a “vexatious” case to court, they wouldn’t have to pay Mr Carmichael’s bill. So JRRT are essentially calling the judge a liar. 

Doubtless you will note a decision in this area comes down partly to whether someone who has defended themselves successfully in court should nonetheless find themselves the subject of financial ruin.

Why would someone who is earning at least £74,000 a year face ruin by a legal bill of £150,000? A legal bill he didn’t need to have as he could have stood down and fought a bi-election. 

On balance, our Directors two thirds of whom are Lib Dems decided this would be a disproportionate consequence of the case. Considering these circumstances, they decided it was reasonable to provide some assistance to someone who, despite his serious and acknowledged errors of judgement, has undoubtedly done a lot of good for his constituency, for Scotland and for the United Kingdom.

Like helping the Tories bring in the bedroom tax, higher tuition fees, austerity designed to hit the poor hardest and NHS reforms that have set the grounds for its privatisation. Interestingly, when the Lib Dems were propping up the Tories, they were helping a government put through policies which most people didn’t vote for. So, Carmichael was facilitating the ‘perverse’ system that JRRT are so determined to change. 


While we recognise that you are unlikely to agree with the Trust’s decision, understatement of the year we are sure you will be aware that the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. is not a charity, and is therefore able to make grants for political and campaigning purposes, as it sees fit. For clarity, it may be helpful to know that the guidelines on our website are there to guide applicants. Directors are, however, free to make any grant they believe to be warranted.

They will do whatever the hell they want regardless of their published principles, and there is nothing you can do to stop them. Just because they tell people they don’t fund legal fees doesn’t mean anything. They do if it is one of their own.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. is also completely separate from the other organisations named after our founder, Joseph Rowntree, and has made clear throughout that they have not had any role in making this or any of our other grants. Our boards, priorities and governance are all totally separate.

 They are a law unto themselves. 


I apologise for this impersonal response but we received a large number of emails on this matter and I am not able to answer them all individually. The Trust has only a very small office team whose time is spent on assisting the many democratic reform, human rights and civil liberties organisations supported by the Trust. I am sorry but I am not able to enter into further correspondence on this issue.

Thank you again for writing.
Yours sincerely
Tina Walker
Trust Secretary

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