LONDON, England – Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the successful “Caribbean” candidate for the post of Commonwealth secretary general at last November’s heads of government meeting in Malta, appears to have evolved from an earlier soubriquet of “Baroness Shameless” to “Baroness Hypocrite” in an article published last week by Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.
Under the headline “Baroness Hypocrite: How the Blairite law chief with an illegal immigrant cleaner has cosy links to two vile despots that raise grave questions about her suitability to be new boss of the Commonwealth”, the Mail described how Scotland is linked to dictators in Kazakhstan and the Maldives.
“Previously, 60-year-old Baroness Scotland was best known for an unfortunate scandal which catapulted her on to the front pages in 2009, when she was serving as Gordon Brown’s attorney general, or chief legal officer. It revolved around the revelation that she employed an illegal immigrant from Tonga … as a cleaner, on a paltry wage of £6 [US$8.40] an hour,” the newspaper noted.
Scotland was prosecuted for breaking immigration laws that she had helped draft, and fined £5,000 (US$7,000), prompting a headline at the time: “Baroness Shameless”.
Although having lived in Britain since the age of two and enjoying British “dominant” nationality, Scotland was nominated as a so-called “Caribbean” candidate for the position of Commonwealth secretary general by Roosevelt Skerrit, the prime minister of Dominica, her country of birth, a move that provoked no little controversy within the Commonwealth Caribbean at the time.
Scotland is the first British citizen to be elected head of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. This means, as such, she does not qualify for diplomatic immunity in the UK (another first).
Neither does she qualify for diplomatic immunity anywhere else in the world even though, for example, she may be issued a diplomatic passport by her country of birth, Dominica, since such immunity only attaches to the country to which a diplomat is accredited.
As the new secretary general, Scotland will be paid a salary of £158,757 (US$222,000), plus pension and private health insurance. She will also enjoy the right to live in a four-storey grace-and-favour residence in London’s Mayfair, and travel in a chauffeur-driven luxury car.
She is said to have complained about having to pay UK income tax on her Commonwealth salary as a person resident and domiciled in the UK (another first). It is unclear what result she expected from her complaint except perhaps that she wanted her salary increased to compensate.
Another, so far unanswered question, concerns Scotland’s position as a sitting member of Britain’s Parliament concurrently with her holding the post of Commonwealth secretary general (yet another first).
Does she plan to resign (or has she already resigned) from her seat in the House of Lords or ask that it be suspended in some form or another? If the latter, will she henceforth be known as Baroness Scotland of Asthal (suspended)… perhaps prompting a new epithet: “Baroness Suspended”?
However, Scotland’s high-flying career has, in recent years, seen her build often lucrative relationships with two of the world’s ugliest dictatorships, the Mail reported.
One is the notorious government of Kazakhstan, whose repressive dictator, 75-year-old Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been accused of torturing and even killing political opponents, stifling press freedom, and profiteering from the country’s vast oil and gas reserves.
The other is the despotic regime of Abdulla Yameen, the dictator of the Maldives, whose associates seized power in a 2012 coup and have since prosecuted more than 1,700 opposition activists while imprisoning the leaders of three opposition parties.