The opinion of an expert on such matters…
As Tasmina’s Indy Supporting friends in some media outlets have spun this story to a level where she is almost being portrayed as a victim, let me make clear what she did.
You will remember that Tasmina was elected in May 2015 to represent the SNP in the House of Commons. She served as the SNP’s Trade and Invesrtment Spokesman and as Deputy Shadow Leader of the House. She lost the seat to the Scottish Conservatives in June 2017. She is also a solicitor, and was a partner (in common language part-owner) of Hamilton Burns in Glasgow.
All solicitors will have at least one business account, into which fees are paid, out of which salaries, tax and utility bills will be paid. Most solicitors will handle client’s money from time to time, holding funds for a house purchase for example, before the transaction is settled. To protect the client, it obviously of the highest importance that such funds are kept ENTIRELY separate from the solicitor’s business account. For this reason such solicitors must have at least one client’s account, and also a separate ledger for each client. There are many professional rules to regulate compliance with this, every solicitor must ensure that at all times the sums at credit of the client’s account shall not be less than the total of client’s money held by the solicitor. A different rule PROHIBITS the drawing of money belonging to the client without his / her express authority. To avoid the possibilty of solicitors within the same firm trying to get round the rules by pointing the finger at each other, each firm must appoint a ‘cashroom partner’. Very few solicitors know all the rules line by line, every single solicitor knows this one – DON’T TOUCH THE CLIENT’S ACCOUNT’. Many good lawyers have lost their careers, by dipping into it on a temporary basis to alleviate a short-term crisis with every intention of paying it back ASAP.
At the relevant time Tasmina WAS the cash-room partner. The firm set up a Trust into which a particular client’s money was lodged – £145,000 of it according to media reports. When that account was inspected by the Law Society of Scotland £159 remained – from whcih we can calculate that £144,841 had been removed. Unsurprisingly Tasmina was – this week – found guilty of professional misconduct – defined as ‘conduct which would be regarded as serious and reprehensible by competent and responsible solicitors’. It was accepted that the money had been repaid and that the client had not lost financially. It was not stated whether the money was repaid from private capital, or from the Business Account of the firm. If it was paid from the Business Account of the firm, I suppose that might have had the effect of putting the firm into debt.
After Tasmina left the firm it was wound up with debts of £638,000 – including £388,000 owed to HMRC for VAT, PAYE and National Insurance and £11,000 to Glasgow City Council in Business Rates.
It gives me no pleasure to see any lawyer in trouble, but I cannot stand back and listen to Joanna Cherry MP and others demand an apology for Tasmina (Alex Salmond’s business partner) as if SHE was the victim in this affair. Given Joanna’s support for Tasmina, it has to be assumed that the SNP regard her as fit to represent the Scottish people in Edinburgh and London.