Under Labour's devolution legislation Scottish ministers had the right to nominate suitable people for gongs under the antiquated UK honours system.
Of course Blair wouldn't let anyone in Edinburgh, even his own lackies, send prospective recipients directly to the Queen of Scots. Instead they had to be forwarded from Edinburgh to the cabinet office in London, to be scrutinised by the brains of the UK government before THEY referred them the Palace.
Oh well, I guess they thought we were too stupid, too wee and too poor to manage that on our own. It seems to be what they think of Scotland. (Maybe because their greatest point of contact with Scotland is their MPs.)
Anyway, that is the procedure that was adhered to until 2007 when the SNP formed their first administration.
The new first minister decided that he wanted to take no part in making decisions about honours. Whether that was because he might be against the honours system himself (no SNP person has ever taken a seat in the House of Lords) or whether it was because he could see what a political minefield honours can be, I have no idea.
He simply ruled that from then on in, no minister would have any part in drawing up of a list of possibles for honours. It would be done by senior civil servants who would, without ministerial oversight, send the list to the UK government in London.
Early this year SNP donor Brian Soutar was nominated for a knighthood in the birthday honours list. Shortly afterwards he donated a pound for every pound raised by the SNP (amounting to £500,000) to the party's election fund and so, I suppose, it was not unreasonable, given all the bent politicians we have read about over the last 2 years, that one and one might make eleven and that criticism be levelled at Mr Salmond.
The first minister reminded parliament that he and his ministers had had no involvement with the honours list, and the senior civil servant involved echoed that statement.
But that was not good enough for Jim Sheridan, an staunchly unionist Labour MP and supporter of disgraced ex-speaker Michael fill-your-boots Martin. Maybe because in Westminster there is more corruption than you can shake a stick at, and possibly because he was just very angry at the SNP getting half a million pounds, he made an official complaint that Mr Salmond had 'misled' (lied) over the affair.
An official investigation, costing tens of thousands of taxpayer pounds was launched, conducted by Peter Fraser PC, QC, and found that Mr Sheridan's allegations were "wrong" and "ill-founded" (politically motivated?)
Fraser's report ended "There appears to me to have been no breach of the ministerial code by Alex Salmond as first minister and he should be fully exonerated of any breach".
I'm pleased with the result which I had always expected. Salmond is far too wily a politician to be caught out doing something as stupid as selling honours. That's a game for mugs...
It's just a pity it had to cost the taxpayers had to stump up for it.
Pics: "Sir" Brian; Oor Eck, and Sheridan