ELECTION NOTEBOOK: HOLYROOD PARLIAMENT DREAM FOR RAGS TO RICHES MILLIONAIRE

The magnificent Wards Estate at Gartocharn on Loch Lomondside.

Covering elections can be dull and boring most of the time. The quest for a colourful story which would have readers looking out their polling cards and itching to put their ballot papers to good use is far from easy, WRITES BILL HEANEY

This dullness surrounds many elections and is reflected in the turnout. At the last Scottish Parliament election, in 2016, the turnout in the Dumbarton Constituency was 61% and 33,698 ballot papers were counted, with 100 votes rejected

West Dunbartonshire has 100,000 people living in it, about 40 per cent of them too young to vote, even though the age limit has been reduced to 16.

It can’t be true that four out of ten of them don’t care enough about their future or their children’s future that they are too lazy to get off their backsides and go out to a polling booth to cast their vote.

In a previous Notebook here, I wrote that although seven people were standing for election in Dumbarton, which includes Helensburgh, Cardross, Vale of Leven and Lomond, that only two candidates had any chance of winning.

They were Jackie Baillie for Labour, who won last time by a narrow majority of 109 votes over the SNP, who will this time be represented by Toni Giugliano of whom First Minister Nicola Sturgeon thinks so much that although she agreed to visit the constituency, she didn’t want anyone to know about it.

Ms Sturgeon didn’t actually say she would not be seen dead with Toni, but that’s how it looked from where I am sitting.

Now that’s not a bad story in itself, but the best election story of this week concerns James Morrison, one of the Independent candidates.

Charles Dickens himself could not have written it.

My research revealed that Morrison was just a poor Dumbarton boy who was brought up in a council house in straitened circumstances, including free school dinners,  before becoming very rich indeed.

Rich enough to buy a Victorian mansion in Helensburgh before moving on to a 100-acre estate at Gartocharn on Loch Lomondside.

But it would be better I feel if I left it to the Daily Mail On-line who reported it at the time:

£300 million business tycoon gets Legal Aid to divorce wife after he fathered FIVE children with two other women

By JULIE ANNE BARNES and GRAHAM GRANT FOR MAILONLINE

Boom time: Mr Morrison, founder of i-mate, was worth £300 million.

The ex-wife of a Scottish business tycoon granted legal aid to fight a multi-million divorce battle last night spoke of her devastation at being left to survive on state benefits while he continues to enjoy a champagne lifestyle.

Diane Morrison said her callous former husband Jim, once ranked as one of Scotland’s richest men with a £300 million fortune, left her virtually penniless when their marriage ended.

Extraordinarily, Mr Morrison was able to qualify for legal aid to pay for his court battle with his wife.

Mrs Morrison, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and is wheelchair-bound, described her disgust at this situation, saying: ‘I am horrified that someone so wealthy could be offered legal aid. I am shocked that he got it and am shocked at the fact that he wasn’t even living in the country.

‘I have been left struggling financially. It seems unfair this is how the legal system works.

‘He could flaunt his wealth when it suited him.’

Mrs Morrison claimed her husband’s lawyers had even tried to have her own legal aid stopped.

She added: ‘He didn’t deserve legal aid and when I applied I believe his legal team tried to stop me getting free aid.’

Mrs Morrison also told of her shock when she discovered her husband had fathered a string of children with two other women.

She only learned the true extent of his deception after discovering emails and pictures confirming his extraordinary double life during their 21-year marriage.

As he built up a globally successful mobile phone firm, making him the 13th richest man in Scotland, Mr Morrison, 47, had five children with two different lovers while cheating on his wife.

During this time, Mr Morrison paid for his wife to have an abortion at a private Glasgow hospital.

Yet when his business fell apart, he told her he was leaving her – because he wanted to start a family.

This week, Mrs Morrison won £1.6 million from her former husband after a bitter court wrangle.

Speaking exclusively to the Scottish Daily Mail, Mrs Morrison said the settlement would leave her far from well off.

She added: ‘I’m not sure how much of the £1.6 million I will see. As part of the settlement the house I live in is valued at £500,000 and I will receive around £900 a month as a pension. That will come from a £200,000 pot.

‘He claims he is living off his pension but as far as I know he is still flying business class and lives in the U.S. I think a lot of the money is tied up in estates and trusts.

‘This has brought some closure and it is better than his initial offer to give me £5,000 a month. He did give me shares at one point but I imagine they are worthless now.

‘Jim always gave the impression he would take care of me. He did care for me. When I broke my collar bone he got me an electric wheelchair so it would be easier to get around.

‘He said he would retire at 50 but he had no time for children. Kids were scared of him.

‘But when I found out about everything, I was in disbelief. I thought “who is this man?”

‘I think I put him on a pedestal and I admired his achievements.

‘I think I just went into shock after it all happened. But my health did deteriorate. It has caused me a lot of worry.

‘I don’t think I would have a partner now. I’m happy to just have my family and friends around me.’

The couple had lived in a large Victorian mansion in Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, but moved to a bungalow in Bearsden, where Mrs Morrison now lives.

She has been forced to make amendments to her home including a metal ramp at the front door to allow her wheelchair access.

Mrs Morrison said: ‘Now I am on benefits – some days I just have a carer for two hours because that is all I can afford.

Now, I just go out on a Tuesday and Thursday because I can’t afford the help.

‘If he turned up at the door, I wouldn’t let him in.’

Mr Morrison, who married his wife in 1988, was a fantastically successful businessman.

But his firm collapsed and much of his fortune was ploughed into trust funds for his love children.

The disintegration of his business empire – and the end of the marriage – threatened to leave Mrs Morrison, a former nurse, facing a bleak financial future.

Now in the U.S., Mr Morrison has seen his wealth radically diminish – but he still has access to a £700,000 pension fund.

This week Court of Session judge Lady Clark awarded Mrs Morrison £1.6 million, which will be partly funded by raiding the trust fund Mr Morrison set up for his offspring.

Mrs Morrison, 46, met her husband in 1986 at a Hallowe’en party while he was studying at Glasgow College of Nautical Studies and she was a nurse at the city’s Western Infirmary.

The couple moved to Bermuda and on their return Mrs Morrison retrained as a healthcare worker, leaving her job in 2005 after her MS worsened.

Around this time Mr Morrison was a rising star in the telecommunications world, working for O2 and Cable & Wireless.

He started to make serious money after starting his own mobile phone firm, selling mobiles equipped with Windows software.

His company i-mate, had been an astounding global success and was once touted as a potential UK rival to BlackBerry.

But Mr Morrison described himself as ‘living in airports’ as he travelled to Dubai, the U.S. and other countries around the world.

The firm was then hammered by falling demand, production problems, a dwindling cash pile and a nearly worthless share price.

As the business collapsed at the end of 2009, Mr Morrison stunned his wife by asking for a separation, telling her he wanted to have children.

Mrs Morrison said: ‘I was in disbelief. He phoned every day no matter where he was in the world. He always knew exactly what I was doing.

‘I received a legal notice of separation in December 2009 but I didn’t tell my family until after Christmas.’

Mr Morrison offered his wife an agreement which guaranteed £5,000 to stay in her account at all times.

But after contacting a lawyer, Mrs Morrison was advised by a lawyer to start her own investigations into her husband’s affairs.

Her life began to unravel when she found pictures and emails on a laptop which she kept at home.

She said: ‘I have a little laptop on which I watch DVDs and I found all of the information on that. There were emails and pictures.

‘My brother opened the emails. Initially I was in disbelief – it is the dishonesty that has made me most angry. I’m so ashamed of him.’

It is understood Mr Morrison fathered the first of five children with two other women in 1998.

Yet only a short time before, Mrs Morrison had had an abortion.

The couple made the heart breaking decision to abort the child because of her health problems.

They had discussed starting a family but decided, following Mrs Morrison’s diagnosis of MS in 1998, to abandon the idea. Mrs Morrison said: ‘I never told anyone, I guess I was ashamed of what I did.

‘He drove up from Leeds and booked me into the Nuffield Hospital [a private hospital in Glasgow]. I always think of it.

‘If I had known about what he was doing I would have said goodbye – he always gave the impression he would take care of me.’

Yet she never suspected her husband was cheating on her.

Mrs Morrison said: ‘Once I stopped working, Jim and I travelled a lot.

‘We went to Australia, the U.S., Dubai and the Philippines.

‘The relationship was fine and I had no doubts.

‘Jim wasn’t in the country as much so I used to travel to see him and he would spend about four days between trips back home.’

In her judgment, Lady Clark said she believed Mr Morrison had ‘basically given away most of his money’ and was left with ‘limited resources’.

But Mrs Morrison said she ‘finds it difficult to believe the judge accepts he is penniless’. The court heard claims that Mr Morrison had other property he had not accounted for in the case and Mrs Morrison’s lawyers talked of difficulties in obtaining documentation and verifying various transactions.

But in her ruling Lady Clark said there was no evidence Mr Morrison had been trying to hide his assets to avoid having to hand over money to his ex-wife.

Mrs Morrison said: ‘I’m not wealthy. I have a life without him and a good family around me and good friends.

‘I was loving and loyal and trustworthy, I never doubted him.

‘I think it’s almost like a soap opera.’

The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB), which awarded public funds to both Mr Morrison and his wife, says it does not take into account capital at the centre of divorce disputes when assessing ‘financial eligibility’.

But the decision sparked widespread disbelief that at a time of scarce public funds, the quango had given awards to a man once worth £300 million who has a pension fund of £700,000 – and his wife who has just won a £1.6 million settlement.

Critics said warring couples in ‘big money’ divorce cases should never qualify for public funds.

Scots tycoon in bitter row over building plans for wedding venue at famous beauty spot

As most of you know, however, everything changes. The next story in the Sunday Mail this time said Jim Morrison “wants to develop the huge site near Loch Lomond which neighbours have dubbed ‘a theme park”.

The Wards Estate plans would see a swimming pool, accommodation, function suite, car parking and access roads built.

A controversial telecoms tycoon has become embroiled in a bitter row over plans to build a massive wedding complex in the middle of a famous beauty spot.

Jim Morrison and his wife Emily want to develop the upmarket facility on the 100-acre High Wards House wedding venue, Gartocharn, near loch lomond, where a planning dispute has broken out with neighbouring property owners.

The move includes the construction of a swimming pool, accommodation, function suite, car parking and access roads.

But 16 people, including several of the Morrisons’ neighbours, have objected – with one describing the development as a “theme park”.

Criticisms have also been lodged by charity groups Friends of Loch Lomond and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie has submitted separate objections on behalf of an unspecified number of constituents.

The objectors say the hotel development will be an eyesore and noisy wedding guests would spoil the peace and quiet associated with the area.

It has also been claimed building work could threaten wildlife, including hundreds of geese that flock there each year from Greenland and protected species such as owls, bats and red squirrels.

One prominent opponent of the plan is former owner of Wards Estate, financier Sir Raymond Johnstone, who now lives in Edinburgh.

He said: “I do not believe such an intrusive development in such a unique and fragile area should be allowed.”

Resident Sally MacDonnell said in her written complaint: “This is an area of outstanding natural beauty and would be ruined by what is, in effect, a small theme park.”

In 2006, Morrison, 55, was ranked Scotland’s 13th richest man but lost part of his fortune in a costly divorce with ex-wife Diane in 2010.

The former British Telecom executive created i-mate in 2001, which was at the cutting edge of the smartphone industry.

The firm was listed in the stock market and enjoyed booming sales in the Middle East and Far East.

At one time, Morrison’s majority shareholding was estimated at £300million.

His firm also launched a successful rival handset to the then-popular BlackBerry, dubbed the Macberry.

However, i-mate crashed in 2009 amid claims a board member was behind a £9million fraud that ended the company.

About the same time, Morrison separated from nurse Diane, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008.

She later discovered he had secretly fathered five children with two women, including Emily, during their 21-year marriage. Diane, of Bearsden, won a £1.6 million divorce pay out from Morrison in February 2011, having originally demanded £20 million.

She passed away a year later.

By then, Morrison had moved to Seattle, USA, to set up a waste disposal business.

Gartocharn residents have until the end of January to lodge objections to the application, which has been submitted in Morrison’s wife’s name.

Emily, 47, said: “The proposal is to move our existing wedding business into a purpose-built building.

“This will bring jobs into the area and increase tourism. We’re only planning to have a couple of weddings a month for about 80 people. All small stuff.

“We’ve done everything asked of us, including goose, otter and red squirrels surveys.

“James did have a colourful past, that is public knowledge.

“There’s a changed guy here. He’s a family man now and is working on a great new project to stop bank fraud.”

James Fraser, chairman of Friends of Loch Lomond, said: “This has been a long-running saga since 2016.

“We’re strongly objecting to this one.

“It’s a development too far. We’re concerned with the number of large buildings proposed in what’s a very sensitive scenic and nature conservation area.

“It’s also right next to the national nature reserve, where large numbers of birds like geese come to sit and res

“A wedding venue on this scale is just too much development in the wrong place.”

The Morrisons’ home is situated in the sprawling estate and includes a large house, a smaller cottage, a pond and woodland.

A Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park spokeswoman said: “A planning application is currently being considered for a proposed development on Wards Estate, Gartocharn. The application is in the assessment phase and no decision has yet been made.

“While the statutory deadline for representations is this month, we’ll continue to accept representations until the planning application is determined.

“As yet no date has been set for determination.”

Planning application was thrown out by seven votes to three

James Morrison’s name came back into the public domain in 2019 when he applied to turn into a wedding venue the main house at Wards Estate, Gartocharn, once owned by Raymond Johnstone, chairman of the well-known Glasgow-based investment management company.

That meant the community had another war on its hands between very wealthy people, millionaires and billionaires, over planning permission from the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority.

That is the same authority which recently gave permission to Sir Tom Hunter for a leadership centre and wedding venue on the loch shore at Ross Priory, the University staff club and golf course, in Gartocharn.

Conservative councillor Sally Page has taken Sir Tom and the Park Authority to task publicly over this expressing the view that while they express concern for the environment and climate change on the one hand they are pursuing this development which they maintain would have a negative impact on the Bonnie Banks.

So, while Cllr Page is against the impact of a wedding centre owned by the Hunter Foundation at Ross Priory, we can reveal that her husband, Peter Page, another millionaire, spoke out against the planning application for Wards Estate when it came before the Park Authority.

The application had to be determined by the Planning and Access Committee in accordance with the Park Authority’s Scheme of Delegation due to the formal objection from Kilmaronock Community Council and the number of representations received.

This was 48 in total, 45 from individuals and 3 from organisations, namely Friends of Loch Lomond, Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust and Greenland White Fronted Goose Study Group. 6 of these representations were made in support of the planning application. 2 neutral representations were received. 40 representations were received objecting to the planning application, including one from Jackie Baillie MSP.

Members asked questions of officers and discussion took place regarding the proposed application, points covered included the scale of the development, the Habitats Regulations in relation to the proposed development and the applicant’s business plan. Peter Page was one of the objectors as was Mrs Janet McDonald. The objectors won by seven votes to three.

Some people at the meeting must have wondered if they had wandered into the mythical village of Brigadoon when the next item on the agenda turned out to be plans for a visit to Cononish Gold and Silver Mine near Tyndrum.

James Morrison, the poor boy who had done well,  now wants to be a politician with a seat in the Scottish Parliament, has given the electorate an insight into his previously closely guarded identity.

He is circulating a leaflet which states: “I am standing for the first time in the Scottish Parliament Election 2021 as an Independent Candidate for Dumbarton and West Scotland having spent the majority of my life working internationally at the leading edge of the telecommunications and IT Industry.

I was born and raised in Dumbarton as one of four kids in a two-bedroom house. My dad worked for Burroughs and was Shop Steward, always fighting for better pay and conditions for his co-workers. My mum was a nurse in the maternity unit of the Vale of Leven Hospital. I struggled in school being unable to read properly, later diagnosed as Dyslexic and had the stigma of free school meals.

Some of you may already know me from press stories. I built a multi-million-pound business and then lost it. I understand only too well what many local businesses are battling with right now due to the impact of Covid on the economy.

I am married, with young and adult kids, and live in the Gartocharn area where I am involved in the local Community Council. Outside of a new interest in politics, I listen to e-books and enjoy walks with my wife and dogs.

Over the decades, I’ve seen a massive change in the area but not for the better. There is no real manufacturing and very few skilled jobs. There is no A&E or hospital mental health services in the Vale, which is life-threatening for local residents. Areas in Dumbarton are at the top of the poverty league classification.

Politicians are fighting with each other to score points, rather than serving people and real needs. Promises are made and not delivered. Support for local business, education, health, and employment is failing.

So why did I decide I could make a difference by standing as a Candidate? I feel that the Government is not listening to the community and is not paying attention to the voters. It is failing those affected by poverty. If I’m elected, I will be able to influence Government decisions so that people’s wishes are heard.”

And so what are his principal pitches:

HEALTH: A resident should not be more than 20 minutes away from an A&E unit and must be able to get a doctor’s appointment within 24 hours.

Artificial Intelligence is already working hard at saving lives. If we invest in healthcare technology then health in Scotland can be improved and lives saved using Artificial Intelligence to detect medical conditions, improve healthcare delivery and provide better pharmaceutical solutions. Waiting lists could be cut, and people treated faster. Every adult should have a full medical assessment every 5 years to fully utilise preventative care, and a fight on obesity must be our priority.

This would allow health budgets to be spent on care such as the re-instatement of the in-service mental health facility at the Vale. Mental health and poverty are linked and must be addressed.

Putting People First:  Where every child has the education they need or want without loading them with debt at the start of their adult life. 

Where every senior enjoys a dignified retirement. I never want to hear again that a pensioner died because they could not afford to switch on their heating or buy food.

Where everyone has access to safe and secure accommodation, good medical care, debt-free education and a level of income that takes them out of poverty.

Where everyone has a job whether in the private sector, government or community volunteer.

Every one has fibre to their home or wireless connection of a minimum of 100MB per second by 2025.

Local residents have a very strong say in what happens locally. If more than 60% of local residents vote no then it is no.

I propose a Living Income for every adult of £18,000, and £5000 to each child’s school in addition to the funding that the school already receives.

There will be no unemployment benefit, no other income from the government, no child support, no tax credits, no pension or pension credits as everyone will receive the Living Income.

There will be further help for residents who incapacitated, disabled or terminally ill.

How does Scotland Pay for the Living Income?

We use a government financial strategy that is already being used here in the UK and the USA. Remember the UK Government used £500 Billion to bail out the banks during the financial crisis in 2008 and there’s still £27 Billion unpaid by the banks? The UK Government has also funded £57.7 Billion of furlough payments. The Scottish Government has received £1.9 billion additional funding during Covid to use as financial aid. Look at the USA which is funding a $4 trillion economic stimulus package. This time using an existing government financial strategy to pay for Living Income means that it will get paid back. Once the funds are circulating in the economy, it takes 6 cycles of the funds to be taxed back out of circulation. In about 2 years the system should be self-funding. If you add in the economic uplift, social well-being uplift, higher-skilled population, environmental improvement and community improvement, it is money well spent.

Support Business:  Growing the Economy by investing in manufacturing and offering incentives for business to buy locally. Provide equity-backed loans at low rates to fund growth and cash flow.

Corporate tax will be 0% for the amount of profit equal to the salary paid. 20% on the next 5 times salary paid. Then 30% ongoing.

All international payments for licences or royalties will be taxed at 50%

Buy Local Partner Internationally:  Vat will be scrapped and replaced by a 10% transaction fee.

There will be a 20% transaction fee on foreign currency purchases.

There will be a 20% fee rebait for goods exported.

Physical money will be removed from circulation by 2023.  All transactions will be digital.

Cryptocurrencies will be abolished.

Everyone Works:  Everyone receives a Living Income to take everyone above the poverty line.

The living income will be tax-free and all other tax allowances will be removed.

Every adult under the age of retirement will be expected to work, be in education or volunteer in the community.

Any parent with a child under school age can choose to stay home and care for their child, or go to work and use part of the Living Income for child care.

An adult caring for a vulnerable relative would be classed as in employment.

Any parent with a child at school would be expected to be in work for 20 hours, be in education for 20 hours or volunteer in the community for 20 hours per week outwith school holidays.

Tax on all income would be 

Up to £50,000 25%

£50,000 to £150,000 35%

£150,000 to £250,000 45%

Above £250,000 55%

2021 Scottish Parliament election: who are the Dumbarton constituency candidates and what will happen at polling stations?

Seven candidates will contest the Dumbarton constituency in next month’s Scottish Parliament election.

Listed in alphabetical order by surname, they are:

  • Jackie Baillie – Scottish Labour Party
  • Maurice Corry – Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
  • Andy Foxall – Scottish Liberal Democrats
  • Toni Giugliano – Scottish National Party (SNP)
  • James Morrison – Independent
  • Andrew Joseph Muir – Independent
  • Jonathan Rainey – Scottish Libertarian Party

Polling stations for the elections on Thursday May 6 are listed here.

Voters are expected to use hand sanitiser when they enter and leave the polling station and must wear a face covering at all times (unless exempt).

The public is also recommended to bring their own pen or pencil to mark their ballot papers, but clean pencils will also be available.

Physical distancing measures will be in place and there may be a one-way system in operation. You may have to queue to enter the polling place as there will be a limit to the number of voters allowed in the building at any one time.

Constituency and regional votes

Everyone in Scotland is represented by eight Members of the Scottish Parliament, or MSPs.

One is a constituency MSP and the other seven are regional MSPs – the Dumbarton constituency is in the West of Scotland region.

When you go to vote, you will receive two ballot papers. One is for you to choose your constituency MSP. The other is for you to choose a political party (or independent candidate) for your region.

At the last Scottish Parliament election, in 2016, the turnout in the Dumbarton constituency was 61% and 33,698 ballot papers were counted, with 100 votes rejected.

The results were:

Jackie Baillie -Scottish Labour Party: 13,522 ; Maurice Corry – Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party: 4,891;  Aileen Morton – Scottish Liberal Democrats: 1,131; Andrew Muir – Independent: 641 and Gail Robertson – Scottish National Party (SNP): 13,413

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