Daily Record did not pay peer for exclusive

The Scottish Daily Record has revealed it did not pay disgraced Scottish peer Mike Watson for the exclusive story of why he started a late-night fire at The Herald's Politician of the Year awards.

The day after his release from eight months in prison — amid a red-top media scrum outside Saughton Prison, Edinburgh — the Daily Record splashed Watson's confession on pages one, four, five, six and seven.

In the paper, Watson said he wanted to make it clear that neither he nor anyone connected to him was receiving any money for the story.

He said: "I chose the Daily Record because it is the biggest-selling newspaper in Scotland and is read by more people."

Watson was jailed for 16 months after pleading guilty to wilful fire-raising at The Herald's annual Scottish political awards ceremony at the Prestonfield House Hotel in November 2004. He was released from jail early for good behaviour.

Watson, 57, is a former Scottish culture minister, Labour MSP and Glasgow Central MP.

When he was released from prison, the Daily Record had five reporters and a car laid on to whisk him away — but any hopes of preventing rival snappers from getting a picture were scuppered when Watson walked round to the far side of the car before he got in.

The Scottish Sun, which is in a bitter circulation battle with the Daily Record, cheekily sent along a decorated fire engine and two reporters dressed as firefighters.

It notched up a humorous front page out of the fire engine plus a picture inside of its "firefighters" waving Watson away from the prison. The tabloid claimed that Watson had hoped to walk out of prison unnoticed at 5.30am, but when he heard the Scottish Sun was waiting to offer him a lift home in a fire engine, he "cowered in his cell" for a further four hours, claimed the Sun.

Watson, who was expelled by the Labour Party and resigned from the Scottish parliament, plans to return to the House of Lords, where he is entitled to an attendance allowance of £192 a day, a London accommodation allowance of £128 a night, and travelling expenses.

By contrast, MPs are forced to quit if a court sentences them to 12 months or more for a crime.

Watson is believed to be planning to write a diary of his time behind bars — following the example of Jeffrey Archer, jailed in 2001 for perjury.

A spokesman for the Press Complaints Commission warned that any newspaper considering serialising Watson's prison diaries would be bound by the Code of Practice rules on payment to criminals.

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