By Alasdair Galloway, the antidote to George Galloway
This paper is a follow up to WTF, expressing considerable bewilderment about events surrounding the investigation by the Scottish Parliament of the conduct of Alex Salmond, while still First Minister. Of course, Salmond was found not guilty (or in one case, “not proven”). The focus, now that the possibility of hanging the independence cause on the tree of his guilt (though implications of “aye, but he’s still a bad yin – got away wi’ it, didn’t he?”), has now shifted to the First Minister who was involved in (or organized) a conspiracy against Salmond, including the claim that the current First Minister lied to Parliament, and if so would have to resign. If they can’t get Alex, then maybe they can get rid of Nicola.
That last, somewhat flippant sentence, does not reflect the fact that the two named – Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon – have done more than most individuals to give us a decent chance of getting independence over the line. Salmond’s book, “The Dream Shall Never Die” owes something to the fact that forty or fifty years ago, if it had not been for a relatively small number of especially determined individuals the dream could have died. But while the dream may have been kept alive at that time – something that should not lightly be forgotten – it was Alex and Nicola who got us closest to actually making it a reality rather than a dream. Can you imagine the joy among the Unionist camp since the two of them turned on each other? When it was possible that Salmond could have been found guilty, how happy they must have been. The disappointment of Kirsty Wark was palpable!
Tus reader brobb wrote in his blog piece “Further thoughts on the SNP leadership” that “I know he was found innocent of all charges against him, I’m old enough to be ambivalent about what constitutes sexual harassment – I think the timing following Harvey Weinstein and the Me Too movement forced the more zealous into pursuing the case unwisely here.”
“Unwisely”? Is “unwisely” really the right word? I know what brobb means about being “ambivalent about what constitutes sexual harassment” – I’m of the same generation. But let’s remember three things about the ‘unwisdom’ of the “Me Too” zealots
- There were 14 charges, and while he was found not guilty of any of them, which does not rule out that the things alleged did not happen, but only that what happened did not offend criminal law (though in one case there is the most serious doubt about whether the claims could even possibly be true, yet there has been no move for a charge of perjury against this lady), On the other hand, it does not rule out the possibility that the jury (nine women and six men by the way) never believed a single word. Perhaps we need to remember too, that Weinstein, in contrast to Alex Salmond, has been tried and has been found guilty and is being punished for his crimes. When we mention Weinstein we need to remember that the allegations against him were proven to be criminal. Mere assertion was never – should never – be enough.
- What did the present First Minister know of all this? For instance, if the current Parliamentary investigation had involved a currently serving Minister, the First Minister would be expected to have oversight of this. Did she really not know just as much about the investigation into the conduct, over several years, of her predecessor as First Minister, whom she herself has described as her “mentor”? Indeed, Scottish politics being such a small village, and Nicola being so close to Alex for a good many years, would we not have expected her, if not to know, then to hear whispers at the time? In this regard, it is the Edinburgh Airport allegations I find most difficult to believe, as while the Civil Service might close ranks to protect their then First Minister, an airport??? Really??? During the 2014 referendum debate the media would have published anything negative about Alex Salmond, particularly if there was evidence. But we never got a whiff of this. Why not? Is the Scottish media so incompetent? Or do they just prefer to make things up because it’s easier than going out and finding out?
- Moreover, the procedure used against Salmond was “so” defective that not only was it laughed out of Court when Salmond’s judicial review was held, but the Scottish Government’s own QCs said if they were required to defend it, they would abandon the case altogether. Nicola Sturgeon has an LLB from the University of Glasgow and was a practicing solicitor. In the intervening twenty years or so, are we supposed to believe that she has forgotten SO much.
Sorry, I don’t think “unwise” covers it. A synonym for “unwise” is “ill-advised”, and perhaps this gets us closer, if we remove the “ill”, and let it read “advised”.
There is after all considerable evidence around to implicate her senior Civil Servant, Leslie Evans, as well as Judith MacKinnon (Head of People Advice, whatever that is, but most importantly the investigating officer in the case against Salmond, and who had also coached at least two of the women on the claims of abuse they were making). Despite the disaster of the Court of Session Judicial Review and Salmond’s acquittal, both are still in a job on higher wages and extended contracts. It is as if nothing had happened! Wings on Friday published an interview with Gordon Dangerfield (https://wingsoverscotland.com/chasing-waterfalls/) in which Dangerfield argues “Who is Leslie Evans’ boss? Leslie Evans’ boss is Nicola Sturgeon.” In my view, this is overly simplistic. It is unarguable that Evans is responsible to Nicola Sturgeon, just as one would expect between a Minister (First Minister) and Department Principal (Evans). However, Evans’ employment is with the UK Civil Service, making it arguable that her “boss” is actually the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service, who is currently Simon Case, but for most of the time these events were ongoing was Mark Sedwill. Sturgeon may have selected Evans, but she did so from a list of three names given to her by Sedwill. It is, moreover, arguable that, following the “going native” of Peter Housden (Evans’ predecessor) the Westminster senior Civil Service would be anxious to appoint someone “sound”. Lastly, it is easy to imagine the furore there could be if Sturgeon had chosen to try to push Evans out.
Then there is Peter Murrell (aka Mr Nicola Sturgeon) Chief Executive of the SNP whose story varies with every Holyrood appearance, and Sue Ruddick the Chief Operating Officer. Then there is the conduct of the Crown Office, which has refused to allow Craig Murray sight of documents they hold concerning messages between the above individuals on the grounds that they are “private communications”! Really, so if murder someone and then tell someone I know I did it by text message, that evidence could not be used against me, because it’s a “private communication”. Really? https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/01/let-nobody-ever-state-again-there-is-no-evidence-of-the-conspiracy-against-alex-salmond/ The Parliament’s Committee investigating these events has now instructed the Crown Office to release these papers to them. Of course it’s open to the Lord Advocate to challenge these orders in Court. We’ll see.
If you believe in the Union, of course you are going to use these things against independence. But if you believe in independence should this not provide a warning about the necessary qualities of that country, unless a “better, fairer Scotland” is no more than a slogan to be used by careerists to convince us dupes to believe them so they can be the elite in Scotland just as the other lot are in London. That needs checks and balances, and a serious, workable commitment to transparency, as well as a copper-bottomed commitment to the community that is Scotland and toward its betterment at all times.
And of course there are things that can be said for the current First Minister. John makes a strong case for this
- That Nicola has an “understandable commitment to women’s rights and to the rights of other groups such as the trans community”, and that this “may have been exploited by these forces to enable the attacks” https://talkingupscotlandtwo.com/2021/01/21/infected-but-still-strong-enough-to-cross-the-line-into-a-place-where-a-better-nation-can-be-formed/
- That “sometimes [she] is hoist by her own lofty principles” https://talkingupscotlandtwo.com/2021/01/22/further-thoughts-on-the-snp-leadership/
- That “her principled approach to governing for the whole country, not just yessers, has rightly earned her steady support and world wide acclaim” https://talkingupscotlandtwo.com/2021/01/22/further-thoughts-on-the-snp-leadership/
All true, and all reasons why there are those who would want to be rid of her.
Another reason, John puts forward is that “I DO BELIEVE that the Scottish Government has been infected, penetrated, by a few individuals, more loyal to the UK and probably placed there by forces such as MI5 and the Civil Service heads. That would be a normal thing for them to do, given their task of protecting the UK.” https://talkingupscotlandtwo.com/2021/01/21/infected-but-still-strong-enough-to-cross-the-line-into-a-place-where-a-better-nation-can-be-formed/
I recall a similar argument in an article in the late Ken Roy’s publication, “Scottish Review”, written by a retired Civil Servant (whose name escapes me) suggesting that anyone who thought – in 2013 btw – that the Scottish Civil Service did not have what he called “sleepers” was “naïve”. I don’t think it would be right to simply dismiss this, particularly as a career in the present Civil Service, may not only be in Edinburgh, but perhaps back in Whitehall, and we don’t want to do anything to offend them. Would one? Peter Housden’s experience in this regard is salutary. This was the Daily Mail’s view in 2011 (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2077513/Sir-Peter-Housden–Whitehall-s-Scottish-nationalist.html) “Sir Peter Housden – Whitehall’s own Scottish nationalist”. Then there’s the story told me by a long-time SNP member, that she had been told by an even longer-term SNP member that “of course there will be traitors and it won’t be the man selling the raffle tickets”.
But despite all this, I keep coming back in my mind to the fact that for about 15 years, Sturgeon shadowed Salmond. He was, by her own admission, her “mentor”. For much of this time, she was his nominated successor. There is an old saying “simmet and drawers” which might not be entirely appropriate here, but does indicate the apparent closeness of their political relationship. And yet, despite being a qualified lawyer, she committed to a procedure for his investigation – which it appears even the Cabinet Office was expressing discomfort” – which was jaw dropping in its ineptitude. Despite their previous closeness – remember when he resigned on 19th September 2014, she said “there were a few tears” – within three years it appears she turned on him using this flawed procedure. THIS, I just cannot understand because I simply cannot bring the two things together.
I am very struck too by the fact that the Unionist opposition seem fixated by what the First Minister knew when. The difference, as far as I can make out is 5 days, and I can’t see that stopping the woman on the top deck of the Easterhouse bus turning the page to find out what’s on the telly tonight. The issue surely is not when Nicola Sturgeon knew, but what she knew and why she acted as she did (or didn’t). This suggests to me that they are holding their fire on this till later on. After all they can make enough mischief with Covid (aided an abetted by a facility to mislead and tell lies), as well the fun to be had with dismantling the protections around the First Minister.
What to do? brobb expresses the hope that “the key figures here will find away to resolve this without destroying each other”. Perhaps the one-month delay in them giving evidence is an indication of this. In my view, it is indeed up to them, “the key figures to sort themselves out and stop allowing a rift (however genuine) to tear everything apart.”
Then again, “For all his achievements, he [Alex Salmond]was replaceable. She [Nicola Sturgeon] too is replaceable. We all are.” I agree with John in his contention that no one is irreplaceable and that the Yes movement is strong enough to withstand such an event (withstand yes, but without damage?). But I seems to me crucial that as Macbeth says in Scene VII “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly”.