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Inverness-based publisher Sandstone Press responds to allegations linked to Nicola Sturgeon's book Women Hold Up Half the Sky

By Ian Duncan

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Robert Davidson of Sandstone Press. Picture: Gary Anthony
Robert Davidson of Sandstone Press. Picture: Gary Anthony

An Inverness-based publisher has responded following allegations over the weekend which were linked to Nicola Sturgeon's book describing them as both "disappointing" and "misleading".

It was reported that police were investigating fraud allegations over £295,000 of taxpayers’ money given to Sandstone Press which published the volume of the First Minister’s speeches.

According to the Daily Record's website officers from the financial crimes unit were probing claims rules were broken when Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) awarded grants and loans to the publisher.

The report added that Sandstone, which is run by Robert Davidson, was given £120,000 in the year leading up to the publication of Women Hold Up Half the Sky: Selected Speeches of Nicola Sturgeon.

It stated that Keith Charters, managing director of book firm Strident Publishing, wrote to Ms Sturgeon raising concerns over Sandstone.

It also revealed that his subsequent police complaint, which was now the subject of an investigation, involved allegations of wrongdoing directed at both the publisher and HIE.

The report also stated that, as well as the £120,000 of grants given last year, police were probing £175,000 of loans agreed with the company in 2019 which are all understood to have been drawn down.

However, speaking today, a spokeswoman from Sandstone said: "We’ve been disappointed to see misleading information about Sandstone Press and Women Hold Up Half the Sky in the press and online.

"As reported by the Sunday Mail yesterday morning, Sandstone Press has not been contacted by Police Scotland.

"As we have previously stated on our website, collections of speeches in the public domain have a long publishing history – from The Penguin Book of Modern Speeches, to collections by individuals such as Tony Benn and Barack Obama.

"In this selection of her speeches, Nicola Sturgeon considers such diverse matters as gender and other equalities, the climate crisis, education, and human rights.

"Women Hold Up Half The Sky is published and financed independently of any public body. Sandstone Press has received no funding for this book.

"Similar to many Scottish businesses Sandstone Press has received support from HIE. This is in relation to business resilience and not any project or publication."

A spokesman for HIE said: “We have not been contacted by Police Scotland in relation to any issues concerning Sandstone Press.

“An application to commence judicial review proceedings has been made to the Court of Session and HIE intends to defend this robustly."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman declined to comment on the police investigation. She added: “Given there is a police complaint, it wouldn’t be appropriate for the Scottish Government to comment.”

A Police Scotland spokesman said: "Information has been passed to police which is currently being assessed."

The book includes a collection of the First Minister’s speeches given between November 2014 and February 2020 and was edited by Mr Davidson.

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