2.7 SNH investigation results

The investigation took longer than expected. We were initially told that it would take 20 working days, but it eventually took more than 2 months to complete the investigation.

While it is not crucial to understanding this page, for those interested in the details of the SNH investigation results, it can be found here: SNH-investigation-results.pdf

It would make this page exceedingly long to comment on the whole of the investigation results. What follows here is a run-down of the investigation’s conclusions with our comments. For a full-length commentary on the SNH investigation results, see the additional information section: 3.1 Full review of SNH investigation results. To gain a more complete picture of what happened, we would advise reading this after completing chapter 2.

As for the SNH investigation’s conclusions, it is evident that Nick Fraser and Jonathan Larwood chose to support the narrative that would exonerate Colin MacFadyen:

Source: SNH investigation conclusions, 17 June, 2016

Strictly speaking, calling the resource “finite” is ambiguous as every fossil bed in existence is finite. There is little value in using a vague term like this. However, we believe they may mean to say that the fossil bed is small or almost depleted — a requirement for Colin MacFadyen’s narrative. However, as the NMS report, which is their sole source, made no mention of a small or almost depleted fossil bed, there is no basis to support this claim.

The “limited in extent” part of this sentence is more interesting. This is a repeat of Colin MacFadyen’s misrepresentation of the NMS report, which has been explained previously in chapter 2.4, part 3; instance 2. This shows that the investigation was rigged.

Source: SNH investigation conclusions, 17 June, 2016

This is strange. They pretend to be the authority on Birk Knowes by explaining to us how important the site is. However, we are the only party who, since Ritchie’s work in the early 1960s, did significant palaeontological work at the site. The most important aspect of Birk Knowes is the exceptional preservation of soft tissues, which includes, among things, fossilised musculature and other soft tissues. Who discovered this? This is our discovery.

It is a bit of an upside-down world that we are being tutored on the site’s scientific value, especially by individuals with no field work experience at the site, and who are pretending to be experts.

Source: SNH investigation conclusions, 17 June, 2016

Two points stand out:

1) Here they make the claim, which they never substantiate earlier in the results, that the fossil bed is at risk of being depleted. This is mentioned because, without a narrative where the fossil bed is at risk of being destroyed, Colin MacFadyen could never have justified keeping the site closed.

2) SNH mentions that the site is “vulnerable to… unregulated collecting“. However, they are saying this to the people whose warnings about illegal collecting at Birk Knowes were ignored by SNH, which allowed the site to be plundered for many years, and which caused the closure of Birk Knowes in the first place. A bit rich, isn’t it?

Source: SNH investigation conclusions, 17 June, 2016

Here SNH almost appears to be accomodating.

Source: SNH investigation conclusions, 17 June, 2016

But from this we can see that they are not giving in one bit.

The requirement for “palaeontological, sedimentological and stratigraphical expertises” is a repeat of what Lyndsey Kinnes wrote in her email which we suspect was ghostwritten by Colin MacFadyen.

Apart from it revealing that SNH still cannot specifically name the required palaeontological expertises necessary for multidisciplinary research, it indicates that SNH wants to maintain this requirement and that the investigation was therefore for nothing. This is unsurprising because rescinding the multidisciplinary requirement would mean that the fossil bed is not as small as Colin MacFadyen claimed, which would be an admission of guilt.

Source: SNH investigation conclusions, 17 June, 2016

This conclusion also supports Colin MacFadyen. By stating that sufficient material should remain accessible at Birk Knowes for future research, they are giving the impression that the fossil bed is small.

This is necessary to support Colin MacFadyen’s ‘site is almost depleted’ narrative.

Source: SNH investigation conclusions, 17 June, 2016

Here they repeat the multidisciplinary requirement, which reiterates that SNH is unwilling to change its stance.

In sum, the results of the investigation confirmed our suspicions that it would be rigged.

Nick Fraser and Jonathan Larwood either willingly chose to be dishonest about the NMS report, or their input was redacted by Colin MacFadyen when the conclusions were written. At any rate, the SNH investigation supports Colin MacFadyen’s fabrications and misrepresentation of the NMS report, thereby allowing him to escape being held accountable.

The SNH investigation furthermore ignored our offer that we travel to Scotland from The Netherlands to provide a tour of Birk Knowes for SNH and the “independent” geologists in order that there remains no misunderstanding about the scale of the fossil bed. That this offer was ignored was unsurprising because it would threaten Colin MacFadyen’s narrative.

As we disagreed with the investigation results, we protested to Niall Corbet.

Summarised, we raised a multitude of points about the shortcomings of the SNH investigation and their interpretation of the NMS report. We also uttered our surprise that the investigation ignored SNH’s fabrication and misrepresentation of the NMS report’s conclusions, even though Niall Corbet had been made aware of it, he copied our email to the reviewers, and we had independently made the reviewers aware of it. In sum, we concluded that the investigation had not been impartial.

Niall Corbet replied to us. Below are some excerpts from his response, together with our comments:

This is interesting for three points:

1) Instead of responding to the issues raised by us, Niall Corbet argues that his investigation’s conclusions are correct by making an ‘appeal to the authority’ of the “highly qualified and experienced geologists“.

2) None of these geologists are highly qualified and experienced when it concerns Birk Knowes.

3) More importantly, it turned out that there was another, third reviewer. This reviewer was not independent of SNH. Who could this mystery reviewer be?

We suspected who it might be, but to be sure who it was we asked Niall Corbet:

Source: email to Niall Corbet, 21 June 2018

His short response revealed the name of this reviewer:

Source: email from Niall Corbet, 21 June 2018

Colin MacFadyen was the third reviewer. This is an interesting turn of events, because it meant that the investigation was not only judged by two of his friends/colleagues/associates, but the culprit himself also acted as a judge. In effect, he was able to write the verdict of his own trial.

On a side note, the fact that Niall Corbet shared this compromising information may indicate that he was unaware that MacFadyen had been rigging the investigation. Or he may be forgetful, because he wrote that he made us aware that MacFadyen was the third reviewer “on many occasions“, while in actual fact he did not mention this even once.

Source: email from Niall Corbet, 8 July, 2016

Here Niall Corbet tries to convince us that we got what we wanted from the investigation. This is nonsense, because the SNH investigation did not change the collecting policy.

Source: email from Niall Corbet, 8 July, 2016

Instead of responding to any of the criticisms we raised about his investigation, Niall Corbet simply says that “we will have to agree to differ on these issues”. We believe he said this because he was unable to fend off our criticisms. After all, if Niall Corbet is not able to defend his investigation, what does it say about the investigation?

Source: email from Niall Corbet, 8 July, 2016

This is not really true. While we could submit a multidisciplinary research proposal, would there be much point to it?

Consider the following:

  1. Colin MacFadyen would be judging the research proposal. SNH confirmed this to us. Does he have a good track record with being honest and impartial?
  2. SNH would rely on a volcanologist to judge our research proposal. This person cannot name the necessary specialisms for palaeontological research at Birk Knowes — not even when asked for it. Does it seem like MacFadyen is qualified to judge a research proposal?
  3. As an alternative, SNH could involve a third party to cast judgment on a research proposal. But, has SNH proven itself capable of sourcing an independent third party?
  4. In the unlikely event that a research proposal would be accepted, any excavation would still be subject to the terms and conditions imposed upon us by Colin MacFadyen. Considering the level of cooperation demonstrated thus far by Colin MacFadyen, does it seem likely that he would cooperate now?
  5. SNH tagged the resource as being at the verge of depletion. Does it seem likely that this won’t be used as an instrument to minimise the amount of work we could do at the site?
  6. By submitting a research proposal we would be playing along with Colin MacFadyen and accept what he has done. We would effectively be turning a blind eye on the creation of a bogus report, fabricating and misrepresenting conclusions, and rigging an investigation. Would it serve justice to allow a government representative to continue this behaviour?
  7. If SNH ever had a desire for us to continue work at Birk Knowes it is interesting that we are waiting 21 years to gain access to the site. Does SNH’s offer seem sincere in any way?
  8. The investigation by Niall Corbet changed nothing regarding SNH’s stance on the amount or extent of the fossil bed and the collecting policy at Birk Knowes. Does it look like SNH is in any way trying to be accomodating?
  9. Having gathered this much compromising materials, would it be a wise to play along with SNH/Colin MacFadyen’s charade now?

Unfortunately, the answer to each of the above questions is a resolute no, which means that there would be no point in submitting a research proposal.

As Niall Corbet either condoned what Colin MacFadyen had done, or was unaware of it, we had to look elsewhere for this matter to be resolved.

We therefore confronted the SNH CEO Ian Jardine with this. He had earlier launched the investigation, and we had the necessary evidence to show that it had been rigged.

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