2.6 Impartiality of the investigation

Now that we knew that it was Colin MacFadyen who was effectively responsible for the unjust closure of Birk Knowes, it raised the question:

How could this affect the investigation?

From the start we were aware that Colin MacFadyen would be providing guidance to Niall Corbet during his investigation. This could prove problematic because Niall Corbet would need to write the conclusions of the investigation. As Colin MacFadyen had most probably been ghostwriting Lyndsey Kinnes’s earlier email to us, it seemed possible that he would be lending Niall Corbet a hand to formulate the conclusions. After all, geological matters and Birk Knowes are Colin MacFadyen’s cup of tea. This would allow him the opportunity to modify the conclusions in a way most suitable for himself.

So what outcome would Colin MacFadyen require?

If the investigation would rule that the fossil bed is indeed as large as we claimed, we would gain access to Birk Knowes. But, it would also mean that SNH had been incorrect about the scale of the fossil bed. As SNH geology advisor, Colin MacFadyen was responsible for Birk Knowes and the NMS report’s interpretation into policy, so he would have to answer for causing the unjust closure of the site.

We can therefore establish that our desire to carry out research at Birk Knowes was not compatible with Colin MacFadyen’s desire to get away with what he had done.

There was therefore a significant conflict of interest for the person who was probably advising Niall Corbet’s investigation.

But this was not the only concern; there was still the matter of the two geologists who would be reviewing the NMS report. According to Niall Corbet, they would be independent of SNH and therefore ensure the impartiality of the investigation.

However, as MacFadyen was guiding Niall Corbet during his investigation, we wondered how these ‘independent’ geologists were sourced.

So who were they, and could they be linked to Colin MacFadyen?

Some investigating revealed the following:

1) The first geologist, Nick Fraser (below), is the Keeper of Natural Sciences at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Nick Fraser, Keeper of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Scotland. ©PhilWilkinson

He is also a member of a small and exclusive group of mainly professionals interested in the geology and palaeontology of Scotland. This group is called PalAlba. A list of group members can be seen on their site (here).

Nick Fraser is on the members list, but so is Colin MacFadyen.

The site also has photographs of these two people posing together, one of which can be seen below:

Nick Fraser and Colin MacFadyen. ©PalAlba

As Nick Fraser and Colin MacFadyen know each other from PalAlba, we believe that they are either friends or associates of each other.

2) The other geologist is Jonathan Larwood (below). He is the Senior Specialist of Palaeontology/Geology at Natural England.

Jonathan Larwood of Natural England. ©worldheritageuk.org

Natural England is the English equivalent of Scottish Natural Heritage. As such, Jonathan Larwood is effectively Colin MacFadyen’s English colleague and counterpart. They should know each other quite well, as Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage are associated with each other through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (link).

Jonathan Larwood and Colin MacFadyen in Earth Heritage. Issue 25, 2005-2006. ©earthheritage.org.uk

But Larwood and MacFadyen do not only know each other through the JNCC. Further evidence can be found in the magazine Earth Heritage where MacFadyen is an editor and frequent contributor. Larwood also regularly writes for the magazine. The subjects they write about are similar in nature and frequently include the topic of fossil site management. They have also been featured together on the same page (see above). This magazine is also sponsored by Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England.

The above evidence does not necessarily prove that Larwood and MacFadyen are friends, but they should know each other well.

It was therefore evident that both independent reviewers had been sourced from Colin MacFadyen’s list of friends/colleagues/associates.

This meant that the situation was now as follows:

This was turning into a FIFA investigation. MacFadyen had ensured the strategic placement of two of his friends/colleagues/associates as “independent” reviewers to investigate a matter of which he was the cause.

It is remarkable that the SNH investigator Niall Corbet allowed for this to happen, and that Fraser and Larwood let themselves be used like this. Before we found out what MacFadyen had done we had already expressed our doubts to Niall Corbet concerning the close association of Nick Fraser with Colin MacFadyen. However, he claimed that this was acceptable because there was a second independent reviewer. This was not really true though.

The “independent” geologists were now in a position to exonerate MacFadyen for the fact that he had not properly overseen the NMS report’s creation, and for misrepresenting and fabricating its conclusions which ensured the continued closure of Birk Knowes. To do this they would not only need to support MacFadyen’s story, but they would also need to turn a blind eye on the NMS report’s data supporting a large resource.

At this point one may wonder, why even let the investigation proceed? The investigation had all the signs of being rigged. However, we were not about to ask Niall Corbet to put a stop to it, and we had good reasons to let the investigation proceed:

  1. If we would let the investigation cease, MacFadyen’s actions would no longer be under a magnifying glass.
  2. Strictly speaking, this was not yet a rigged investigation. For the purpose of evidence gathering, we required rigged conclusions for it to be a rigged investigation.
  3. If the investigation were to be rigged, it is something that could be readily proven. As MacFadyen’s version does not appear in the NMS report, it would simply be a matter of comparing their conclusions with the NMS report.
  4. SNH is a government agency. Surely, SNH would not go so far as to rig an investigation?
  5. If Fraser and Larwood were to be dishonest about the NMS report to save MacFadyen, they would likely share accountability. One of the geologists is no less than the Keeper (department head) of Natural Sciences of the National Museums of Scotland. Surely, Fraser and Larwood would not let themselves be used like this by MacFadyen?
  6. In the event that the investigation would rule in our favour, we would be able to resume research at Birk Knowes.

Because of the above, it was effectively a win-win situation for us. We would either gain access to Birk Knowes or we would have even more compromising materials on SNH.

It should be noted at this point that we were not really interested in embarrassing SNH. If this was our goal then we would have went public about Chapter 1 long ago. Our desire was only to gain access to Birk Knowes.

To increase the likelihood of gaining access we explained the content of the NMS report to the SNH investigator Niall Corbet. We told him that the NMS report does not directly mention the amount of fossil bed at Birk Knowes, but that data contained within could be used to support our view of a sizable resource. He told us that he would forward this information to Fraser and Larwood. This was good to know, because it was now in writing that that they had been made aware of it.

However, we wished to make doubly sure of this. There could always arise a situation where Fraser and Larwood, under scrunity of having helped to rig the investigation, would play dumb about the NMS report and claim that they never recieved our forwarded email. Therefore, in a letter that Niall Corbet allowed us to send to the two geologists containing some papers we had written, we included a note explaining the facts about the NMS report, as seen below:

Source: Letter to Nick Fraser and Jonathan Larwood, 12 May 2016

Now there would be no excuse for Fraser and Larwood to ‘accidentally overlook’ this. If the investigation would be rigged, it would be difficult to deny responsibility. This should have given them some incentive to be honest about the NMS report.

It should be noted at this point that we had also offered to travel to Scotland to provide Niall Corbet and the two geologists a tour of Birk Knowes so that there could be no doubt about the large size of the fossil beds. They never responded to this.

So now there were two options for Nick Fraser and Jonathan Larwood to choose from:

Option A: Be honest about the NMS report and bring Colin MacFadyen in disrepute.

Option B: Be dishonest about the NMS report and save Colin MacFadyen.

What would it be?

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