Donations and resignations
First, the basics.
Wendy Alexander’s campaign team broke the law by accepting a donation from a Labour supporter based in the Channel Islands. Offshore donations are not permitted.
The cash was accepted because Charlie Gordon MSP, one of Team Alexander, had been told the money was paid by a UK registered company. That is allowed.
Mr Gordon had solicited the donation because he knew the donor, Paul Green. Mr Green has property interests in Glasgow. Mr Gordon was formerly the leader of Glasgow City Council.
Mr Gordon has apologised and resigned from his front bench post.
Ms Alexander - who wasn’t at the news briefing which disclosed the details - is said to be “very upset”.
That tells the story. But it doesn’t convey the atmosphere here at Holyrood. A frenzied atmosphere - partly generated by the media but mostly driven by Ms Alexander’s inability to close the issue down.
Firstly, the guddle and confusion. The story surfaced, albeit in a slightly different form, on Sunday.
On Reporting Scotland last night, we disclosed that there was renewed doubt.
The story was massively covered by the newspapers this morning. Wendy Alexander knew she was likely to be teased over the issue in exchanges with Alex Salmond today (she was).
And yet, remarkably, remarkably, it was not until 1300 today - after question time - that Ms Alexander learned, precisely, what was wrong with the donation.
Why the delay? Why was this not tied down earlier?
Secondly, the environment. This story does not exist in a vacuum. It broke as Labour at Westminster is facing a crisis over party funding. A crisis, pure and simple.
Prior to that, the donation itself followed the huge controversy over the “cash for honours” investigation. Did that not demand extra close scrutiny of donations to Team Alexander?
Is Charlie Gordon, alone, culpable? Should there not have been closer checks made? By Tom McCabe, the campaign manager? By Wendy Alexander herself?
Mr McCabe says the money will be returned. He says, without offering this as an excuse, that electoral law is now exceptionally complex.
He points out that the sum involved is relatively small. He stresses that the remainder of the £17,000 campaign fund was legitimately donated.
But he admits, in terms, that the law was broken. Politically, how does that play? Badly?