The Herald got more than it bargained for at its annual Scottish Politician of the Year Awards dinner last Friday when a major political story emerged in the aftermath of the event.
The awards, the biggest joint bash of the year for Scotland’s close-knit political and media village, hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
A mystery fire at the event’s venue, the Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh, on the night of the awards (11 November) led to Scottish Labour peer and MSP, Lord Watson being charged by police with “culpable and reckless fire-raising” and being suspended by his party. His conviction could result in a fine or even a prison sentence.
Lord Watson, 55, who sits in Holyrood as Mike Watson, MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, was one of around 400 guests at the dinner, which is renowned for its lavish hospitality.
Police have submitted a report to the procurator-fiscal who will decide if a prosecution will be made.
The incident took place shortly after 2am when curtains in a public room went up in flames. The fire was quickly extinguished by staff and the events were recorded on the hotel’s CCTV cameras.
The Herald devoted much of page one and page three of its Saturday edition to the story and included several stills of the CCTV footage.
Lord Watson has emphatically rejected suggestions that he was involved in a fire-raising incident.
“I categorically deny any wrongdoing,” he said.
A Labour spokesman said: “Mike Watson has been suspended from the Labour Party pending the outcome of the current legal process.”
By Hamish Mackay