I was far from the only Scottish Quaker, or “Friend” as we call ourselves, to have been stunned last Wednesday night when investigative journalism by Jim Waterson of Buzzfeed revealed that the Quaker-originated Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) had helped to pay the legal costs of Alistair Carmichael MP in fighting off his own constituents over the “Frenchgate” scandal.

As I examined the background in response to people asking – “What’s up with the Quakers?” – I have been drawn to the sorry conclusion that the Carmichael scandal is the small issue. The bigger issue, for Friends at least, is that it appears as if what we thought was one of “our” charitable trusts has undergone agency capture – to serve as a honey pot for the Liberal Democrats party. I stress that what I write here is a private view-in-progress, and while I have consulted with other Friends, it does not express any corporate position. The JRRT and the Liberal Democrats can reply through the comments section of this article if I have inadvertently misrepresented them in any way.

The trigger to the seeming Quaker link with Carmichael had been the publication that day of the House of Commons’ register of members’ financial interests. Carmichael disclosed that he had received £34,000 from the JRRT in January this year “to help meet my legal costs.” Later, it emerged that he received a further £16,000 when the scale of those costs became known, bringing the total now to £50,000.

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