3.3 Ross Johnston, SNH Senior Management’s response to accusations of staff misconduct

Ross Johnston, Head of Operations of SNH. ©SNH

Following the release of this website, we notified SNH about it. We received a response from Ross Johnston, who is SNH Head of Operations. We are uncertain what his job description means, but he does seem to be part of the senior management team, so he must be one of the ‘high ups’. The response he provided was in line with SNH’s previous posture: riddled with factual untruths and denial of wrongdoing even when presented with indisputable facts. Below we break down his response into sections and provide comments about it.




Ross Johnston states that allegations of misconduct by SNH staff are unsubstantiated by facts. This is a foolish thing to say. For example:

  1. An SNH staff member has falsified the conclusions of an important report. This can be substantiated by looking at his version and comparing it to the original report he claims to cite, as shown in chapter 2.4. This requires an elementary level of fact corroborating, although this is somehow beyond the capabilities of Mr Johnston?
  2. The SNH staff member who falsified this report took part in the SNH investigation about the falsified report. This represents a significant conflict of interest. That he took part in the investigation is supported by written proof from an SNH staff member and is therefore not something that is in any way disputable (see chapter 2.7).

These are only two cases of misconduct by SNH staff. There are many more examples to name, but Mr Johnston does not appear to be interested in facts and is on the typical ‘SNH denial tour’.

Two things can be said about this:

1. Considering that Ross Johnston calls our claims unsubstantiated, his understanding of the matter is not terribly great.

2. Ross Johnston seems to have misunderstood the purpose of our email entirely. We did not ask for another investigation. In fact, since we are accusing SNH of having rigged an investigation, this would be the last thing we would want. It is therefore lunacy that he makes this suggestion.

This is actually rather comical. What does Ross Johnston do when faced with indisputable facts about misconduct by SNH staff? Instead of taking appropriate action, he is effectively telling us that it is unacceptable that we bring this to his attention.

This is both hilarious and cringeworthy. For someone who claims to have knowledge about this matter he is really heading into the mist with this one. Let us explain:

  1. Contrary to what he claims, the organisation in question is not the Scottish Information Commissioner. The organisation he mentions deals with the Freedom of Information Act and has nothing to do with this matter. Instead, it was the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman where we brought our complaints about SNH to (see chapter 2.9). The ombudsman is the one who is supposed to investigate, among things, crooked government organisations. These two organisations are therefore very different and Ross Johnston’s error serves to show how uninformed he is.
  2. Secondly, the ombudsman never upheld the findings of SNH’s investigation. In fact, the ombudsman never even looked into the matter. They did not carry out an investigation into our complaint on the grounds that we are not residents of Britain. The ombudsman claimed that he was not permitted to investigate this matter. As there never was an investigation by the ombudsman in the first place, SNH’s findings were never upheld.

Ross Johnston is therefore being dishonest. As a senior management representative of Scottish Natural Heritage he should not be claiming that the findings of SNH’s investigation have been approved of by an independent government body when in fact it has not.

1. Again, we are not exactly waiting for a new investigation when SNH has a track record of allowing staff to investigate themselves.

2. Ross Johnston says that SNH cannot reasonably do more to help us. This is ironic because as far as help from SNH goes, they sabotaged our scientific research as much as possible. SNH’s actions towards us have therefore been anything but ‘helping’.

We email-bombed SNH staff about the misconduct of their colleagues. Ross Johnston finds this ‘unacceptable’. We beg to differ:

  1. SNH staff have every right to be informed about the misconduct of their colleagues and the senior management’s unwillingness to deal with it. Why should this information be withheld from them?
  2. SNH has been warned previously that if they continue to sweep staff misconduct under the rug, that we will take measures to publicise this affair.

Our website contains indisputable proof of SNH staff misconduct. To call that unfounded is to call into question SNH’s own documentation. In fact, since we are publicly accusing SNH staff of misconduct, if it is indeed unfounded, it would amount to libel. Libel is a criminal offence. Therefore, if Ross Johnston really feels that our accusations are unfounded, SNH could and should take us to court. However, we know for a fact that SNH will not make an attempt to prosecute us because they know they have misconducted themselves and that we have it all in writing. A court case about this affair would therefore prove an embarrassment for SNH. (Update June 2020: Despite what is written on this site, they are taking us to court.)

1. Our comments are hurtful? But it is SNH staff who have misconducted themselves, not us. Don’t shoot the messenger. However, we do agree that it might be hurtful that your misconduct is exposed…

2. Ross Johnston mentions that what we do hurts our cause. This is not exactly true. Nothing we do to SNH will hurt our cause as long as crooked SNH staff are involved in the management of fossil sites and abusing their position to block our work.

SNH has not once tried to find a mutually acceptable arrangement. It has only tried to bury the truth every step along the way. If what he is saying were true, this website would not exist.

The emerging pattern here is that Ross Johnston seems to have an aversion for the truth. Contrary to what he claims, SNH provided no factual answers to the 10 critical questions we had previously posed.

Bla bla bla.

Here SNH continues to act like it is the victim. However:

  1. We have not been aggressive. Although, this website may be perceived by SNH as such.
  2. We have not been abusive. We have merely pointed out that SNH is a crooked organisation. The only ones who have been abusive are those abusing their position of power, which is SNH.
  3. If SNH perceives that we have made the same complaint repeatedly, it is because SNH repeatedly ignores our questions. The questions we pose concerns the misconduct of SNH staff for which SNH has no reasonable explanation. SNH therefore ignores these questions. If SNH would actually answer these questions they would not need repeating.

Here Ross Johnston is abusing SNH’s “unacceptable behaviour” policy in order to try to avoid having to respond to our critical questions. This was to be expected from SNH because they are incapable of defending the misconduct of their staff.

What does this email from Ross Johnston tell us? Four things:

  1. SNH continues to be in denial about the misconduct of its staff. Even though they are in denial, they provide no evidence to dismiss the proof we present. Why do they not provide evidence to disprove what we say? (We know for a fact that it is not possible as evidence of SNH staff misconduct is quite overwhelming.)
  2. This email is further proof that the senior management is unwilling to deal with staff misconduct. While Ross Johnston is either not particularly bright or well-informed, we do believe that even he should understand that a person should never judge an investigation about himself.
  3. SNH is a government organisation that should be held to higher standards than this. We believe that this shows once again that SNH is managed by incompetent individuals.
  4. The fact that SNH denies wrongdoing without disproving the evidence we present shows that they are confident that there will be no consequences for their actions. This may be true because, so far, no Scottish government organisation has shown any willingness to look into this case.

To be continued…