I recently wrote on here about the on-air spat between James Traynor and Chick Young about the importance of asking precise questions.
In that much listened to tiff I came down on the side of the Daily Record man despite his abrasive ad hominem style on BBC Radio Scotland.
James Traynor was, I thought, correct to observe that had Chick Young brought him a story based on a nod of the head he would have sent him back to the Rangers Chairman for spoken clarification, but also to put a specific question to him. The term “go bust” was simply too ambiguous as it could mean Administration or Liquidation.
However similar questions can be put to Mr.Traynor over the same story.
How many times, for example, since last October has James Traynor had the opportunity to ask Martin Bain about the tax case?
I don’t know the answer to that.
However the following I do know.
When Rangers were called to the Tier One Tax Tribunal last October they were in possession of three important documents.
The first one is called a “Citation Notice” it is, in effect, the summons to attend the tax court.
On the Citation Notice there is the “Amount of Underpayment”. That is non-negotiable. A Citation Notice without that amount on it would be legally incompetent.
The Amount of Underpayment is the “Core Amount” it does not include interest accrued or possible penalties just the tax that should have been paid in the first place according to HMRC.
So as of last October Rangers senior personnel and their legal team have known how much the tax man thinks they are owed.
However since the tax story broke last year the spin has endured that “no one knows how much the tax bill really is.”
This is nonsense.
The amount on the Citation Notice served on Rangers is £24 million.
As well as the Citation Notice the club would have received two other important documents.
The “Skeleton Arguments” and the “Statement of Case” would leave the Rangers top men in no doubt about what HMRC was going to put to them in the Tribunal. The term “Disguised Remuneration” is how HMRC have characterised the Rangers use of the Employee Benefit Trusts. That is in the pre-Tribunal paperwork.
So there isn’t any doubt about the amount of tax underpayment in the minds of the top people at Rangers.
They also know what HMRC were going to allege in the Tier One Tribunal once it got under way.
The following information apropos the documentation of Tax Tribunals would be known to any journalist on a business or finance desk in any major title. So a sports journalist could have been assisted with these facts by a colleague quite simply. That is why newspapers employ different specialists on different desks.
Interestingly I have not read any of these facts in Mr.Traynor’s copy.
I can only conjecture that this is because he does not know because if he did know these facts he would share them with the public as that is his duty as a journalist.
So if Scotland’s major sports journalist is not aware of these facts it is because either:
(1) He has not asked Martin Bain these questions.
(2) He asked and Mr Bain refused to answer.
If it is (2) then he should be telling his readers that he put these important questions to Martin Bain and he refused to answer.
I put a series of tough questions to Martin Bain about the Rangers tax case back in May 2010.
He was courteous and helpful. Some questions he did refuse to answer and I noted a “no comment” to my question. The bottom line was I WAS asking appropriate questions of public interest.
If James Traynor came back to me from an interview with Martin Bain and had not pressed him on these specific questions apropos the tax case then I would send him back to do the job again.
I focus on Mr Traynor because, in my opinion, he has the best “news nose” of any sports journalist in Scotland.
Now when you consider these facts think of the questions that journalists in Scotland could have put to Mr Craig Whyte over the past few months…