- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2005

Tarnished tartan

A Scottish diplomat at the British Embassy, who promoted Scottish-American relations for nearly four years, is the victim of what one report called a bitter bureaucratic dispute, just as top Scottish officials are preparing to celebrate National Tartan Day in the District next week.

Susan Stewart, the first director of the embassy’s Scottish Affairs Office, yesterday said she is returning to Britain in the fall and denied a Scottish newspaper report that she was fired.

“I am leaving in October after a normal four-year tour. I have not been sacked,” she said in a phone interview from New York, where she is preparing for the first leg of the U.S. visit by members of the Scottish Parliament.

Miss Stewart declined to comment on a report in the newspaper, Scotland on Sunday, which was being widely circulated by e-mail by members of the Scottish-American community in Washington yesterday.

One diplomat said Miss Stewart is in a “difficult situation” but would not elaborate.

The report in one of Scotland’s most respected newspapers said Miss Stewart was caught up in a “bureaucratic turf war” and faulted First Minister Jack McConnell, Scotland’s top political leader, for failing to defend the diplomat, who had served as his spokeswoman when he was education minister.

The newspaper quoted sources who said some British government officials were “irritated” by her success in promoting Scotland in the United States.

Whether her departure comes as a normal diplomatic rotation or the result of a bureaucratic dispute, she will be missed by leading Americans of Scottish heritage who worked with her to promote Tartan Day.

The Senate in 1998 declared April 6 Tartan Day to recognize Scottish-American contributions to the development of the United States. The House recognized Tartan Day in a resolution adopted last month.

“We are very grateful for all of Susan’s tireless efforts to improve communications between the Scottish Executive [government] and grass-roots Scottish-American institutions such as ours,” said John Bellassai, president of the 500-member St. Andrew’s Society of Washington.

“She’s got a great sense of humor, is very bright and hard-working, not at all stuffy, and very, very politically savvy. Like most Americans who have met her, I grew to admire and appreciate both her substance and her style.”

British Embassy spokesman Steve Atkins said most diplomats serve a four-year tour and then are reassigned. He praised Miss Stewart and her “Scottish team” as a “vital part of the embassy.”

“That strong team effort and close working relationship is evidenced in the service we have had in promoting an innovative Scotland and the strength of its culture and economy,” he said.

The Scottish parliamentary delegation coming to the United States includes Finance Minister Tom McCabe, Tourism Minister Patricia Ferguson and George Reid, the presiding officer of the parliament.

Kabul to Baghdad

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan is trying to calm reporters who are badgering him with questions about rumors that he will be reassigned to Iraq.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is expected to replace John D. Negroponte as ambassador in Baghdad. However, he reminded reporters traveling to Kabul, the Afghan capital, with first lady Laura Bush that nothing is official yet.

“That announcement has not been made,” he said. “It will take a little while, assuming the president decided to nominate me, assuming the Senate confirms me.”

Mr. Khalilzad has been ambassador since November 2003, while Mr. Negroponte arrived in Baghdad in May. President Bush named Mr. Negroponte as the first director of national intelligence.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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