Nicola Sturgeon – the case for the prosecution: Part 1 of 2 by Alasdair Galloway

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is seen during a session where she delivered an update on the Covid-19 pandemic to Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) inside the chamber of the Scottish Parliament
Credit AFP

By Alasdair Galloway:

It seems probable that the First Minister will appear before the Holyrood Inquiry some time, maybe, into her government’s handling of the procedure with regard to Alex Salmond. At FMQs this week she called for us all to wait till we hear what she has to say then and not prejudge the issue. I am going to try to accommodate her in this reasonable request , but at the same time to point to some of the questions I hope she will be asked, whenever she appears, and to give some background why they seem important to me to be asked.

My first question concerns why or how, someone with an LLB from the University of Glasgow and experience as a solicitor allowed THAT procedure to be used in respect of Alex Salmond. Or indeed anyone at all! I could leave it at pointing out that the whole thing was laughed out of the Court of Session. Indeed, the Scottish Government conceded Salmond’s case. More than this though, the concession was only at the insistence of the government’s own QC who threated to withdraw if they didn’t withdraw. Why would a senior QC do this?

Well, first of all Salmond was never told about the inquiry until it was almost over, meaning he was not allowed to put his side of the story (stories) to the inquiry. Nor, Salmond claims, was he allowed access to his Ministerial diary (from the time he was First Minister) or other Ministerial papers. But even worse, the inquiry was led by a Civil Servant who had encouraged, assisted and supported at least two of the women who made the allegations against Salmond. These are all fundamental breaches of Natural Justice. The person being accused must be told of what it is alleged they have done in order that they can reply to the charges. They must have access to the evidence they require, and no one may be a judge in his own cause: “nemo debet esse judex in propria causa. …” no matter how small. These are all fundamental failings, which I would expect a first-year student to be aware of and appreciate, never mind a graduate who went on practice and in due course became First Minister of her country. Nor does it speak well of the legal advice she took – assuming she took it.

So my first question would be “how was this allowed to happen in such an incompetent manner?”

Secondly, a procedure against a former employee always appears odd. What can the employer do? If there is criminality, then all they can do is report the former employee to the Police – for instance if there has been theft. I believe no other government in the world has the kind of procedure that Scotland has. Given this, added to all of the above, what did the Head of the UK Civil Service make of Lesley Evans’ involvement in an utterly incompetent shambles like this? It is often said that Evans’ boss is Nicola Sturgeon, but this is only partly true. Evans is an employee of the UK Civil Service, and as such another hierarchical superior is the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service, formerly Mark Sedwill and now Simon Case. Indeed, if Sturgeon was so unhappy with Evans, she could not just sack her. She would have to report Evans to Sedwill/ Case to discuss them removing her (though I suspect, if the relationship had broken down to this degree, they probably would. To some extent this is what happened with John Elvidge, Salmond’s first Permanent Secretary prior to the appointment of Peter Housden).

Moreover, the door in Number 10 Downing Street reads “First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service”. One might assume that the Civil Service would be anxious to do things properly – but then that was perhaps the Civil Service of “Yes Minister”. Is the UK Civil Service now the Civil Service of “The Thick of It”?

So, my second question would be, how did the UK Civil Service react to this? Did they issue any warnings? Any indications of “disquiet?” Yes, Civil Servants have a duty to follow the instructions of their political masters, but was their involvement appropriate in this case?

Thirdly, as a committed Feminist, one might expect that the First Minister would want to see process unwind against Mr Salmond. Particularly given Harvey Weinstein that she would want to see the accusations made against Salmond investigated. But surely, investigated properly? It is very difficult, without referring to hypothetical conspiracies to be sure of this, but two things at least seem clear. First, that in a criminal trial in front of a jury of 15 of his peers (9 of them being women), Alex Salmond was charged with 14 cases of varying severity of sexual assault. However, we also know that he was found Not Guilty of 13 of them and Not Proven in 1. This does not mean nothing happened – it means no more than if something did happen it did not cross the bar of criminality. It is accepted in Employment Law that it is not reasonable to expect an employer’s investigation to be as forensic as “beyond reasonable doubt”, but Salmond’s case was investigated by the Police to investigate and secure evidence over a number of months and at no little cost. One might have thought there was sufficient evidence to make conviction seems a reasonable expectation, yet, 14 charges later, all rejected by the High Court, the case is in tatters, suggesting a rather flaky investigation by the Police as well

Secondly we know that there is evidence that in at least one case the allegations could not be true for the person in question was not present. Likewise, SNP Chief Operating Officer, Sue Ruddick claimed that Salmond assaulted her during the Glenrothes by-election. To quote Anne Harvey, the Principal Assistant to the Chief Whip, SNP Westminster Group, Ms Ruddick

“suggested an act of physical aggression by Mr Salmond. I know that to be wrong since I was the only witness to this supposed event.

She is referring to an incident in the Glenrothes by-election in which we campaigned together. We were ‘door-knocking’ and leafletting in a block of flats during a media event. Alex walked past Sue in the stairwell of a close. He brushed past her on the stairwell as he was heading to leave the close. I saw and heard nothing which caused me any alarm or concern. I was only yards away.

This is the incident she is referring to, but I can categorically confirm that there was no physical aggression on the part of Mr Salmond. Any contact at all between him and her that day was absolutely inadvertent and in no way deliberate or aggressive.” (https://yoursforscotlandcom.wordpress.com/2021/02/08/following-a-statement-by-sue-riddick-to-the-media-the-plot-continues-and-flops-again/)

This might be said to be an example of what Ann Fortier draws our attention to, “those who control the present can rewrite the past.” Certainly though, it does seem to be the case that the investigation into Salmond’s alleged wrong-doing, were less than adequate.

Even more interestingly, and perhaps tellingly, Ms Harvey refers specifically to a request by SNP HQ which she describes as “improper”, and “seeking to damage Mr Salmond”, which has led her to believe “for some time that there was what I described in writing on 28August 2018 as a ‘witch-hunt’ against [Alex Salmond]”.

So, my third question would be – following on from the first – whether the First Minister is satisfied with the work done to validate the evidence used against Alex Salmond?

Fourthly, and lastly, given the unfolding disaster of these events, why has she allowed it to go on for so long? When your own QC – the very person who should be going into Court to argue your case – threatens to withdraw rather than do this, is it not a sign that not only is something wrong, but very, very wrong? When the evidence is collapsing around your ears how much sense does it make to plough on? Is it even politic – let’s ignore morality for now – to use the force of law to persecute individuals such as Mark Hirst and Craig Murray for using social media to make statements which appear to contradict your own threadbare case? Perhaps Ms Sturgeon should remember that her own core policy – independence for Scotland – is not what the Westminster government wants to hear, but that Oriel Junqueras languishes in a Spanish jail for making this case for Catalonia. Acting against the government is a well-established political activity which, as long as it avoids criminality, is regarded as legitimate. Is it criminal to say in a video blog that the women making the allegations “would reap the whirlwind” as Mark Hirst did (and was not only found Not Guilty, but that he had no case to answer) or to issue via social media daily reports on Salmond’s trial as Craig Murray did? Apparently so, but then as Oriel Junqueras forgot – it’s the government that write the law. Is Scotland not better than to employ the legal system to silence its critics?

Thus my final question would be whether she considers the use of prosecution against her critics, and the use of law (and threats of prosecution) to manage the information made public, to have been proportionate?

However, as David Hooks (@politicsscot) tweeted “If the whole Nicola Sturgeon/Alex Salmond thing is a conspiracy to get him and a cover up, and I’m not saying it is, but if it is, it’s the most cack handed, badly planned, poorly executed, incompetent and amateur conspiracy and cover up conceived. What a bloody shambles.” (https://twitter.com/PoliticsScot/status/1359905488582963200)

18 thoughts on “Nicola Sturgeon – the case for the prosecution: Part 1 of 2 by Alasdair Galloway”

  1. ‘However, as David Hooks (@politicsscot) tweeted “If the whole Nicola Sturgeon/Alex Salmond thing is a conspiracy to get him and a cover up, and I’m not saying it is, but if it is, it’s the most cack handed, badly planned, poorly executed, incompetent and amateur conspiracy and cover up conceived. What a bloody shambles.” ‘

    BarrheadBoy has said something similar but it seems to have worked fine so far. The anonymity, ‘I have a plan’ is working so far. For whatever reason, Andy Wightman, the deciding vote, seems not even curious to find out what is behind the curtain, allowing possible criminals to use the law to hide their crimes. If a judge led enquiry is not the next step, then NS has at the very least allowed this to happen in her inner circle. I have doubts that even a judge will have the courage to challenge the corruption in the COPFS.
    The idea that Wightmans hides behind, that the committee mustn’t expose the identity of the alphabetis is ridiculous. The public and journalists attending the Salmond trial saw who they are and there is no doubt they can be shielded until their crimes are exposed.
    Women H is the one to watch!!

    Like

    1. According to Libby Brooks in The Guardian the decision to publish Salmond evidence will probably be refused by Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body tomorrow which would mean the cover up is working according to ‘plan’, so far.
      https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/feb/17/alex-salmond-invited-again-to-give-evidence-to-holyrood-committee

      Some Indi bloggers think it will go along party lines in which case it would be the opposite.

      I had never thought that when some people whilst watching All The President’s Men were gunning for Tricky Dickie. All SNP voted for cover up, twice.

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  2. Did Ms Sturgeon instigate the proceedings against Mr Hirst and Mr Murray? That seems to be what you are saying in your 4th point

    Did Ms Sturgeon instigate the Police enquiries and subsequent trial? Again that seems to be what you are saying in your 4th point.

    Was Ms Sturgeon supposed to step in and stop the trial?

    As to the inquiry that proceeded it was that not conducted by the Civil Servants who do not appear to have understood nor followed the new procedures. Did the QC acting for the Government in the Judicial Review give his advice to abandon the defence of the Inquiry before the Judicial Review or during it?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are correct the inclusion of Mr Hirst & Murray is a nonsense, it is more likely the complainers would raise the matter with their lawyers.

      This case had to be passed to the police, despite what some claim about the complainers not wanting this. If a serious criminal offence happens in a workplace an employer not reporting it would be a failure, it could lead to repercussions later. Once the accusations are made then you need to live with the consequences. I hate to think what the media would have made of it if it had been hushed up, I suspect it would almost certainly have ended Nicola Sturgeons career.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. And what would the complainers have complained of in relation to Murray – that someone reported the trial? Or in Hirst’s case that “they would reap the whirlwind”? Really?It’s interesting you write “Once the accusations are made then you need to live with the consequences” – very close to what he said. No?
        Surely before you pass papers on to the Police, you investigate properly? We know that in at least one case there are witnesses that the lady in question was not even in the building. Of course, if true this raises questions about the Police investigation, as does the fact that 14 charges put by the Crown Office on the basis of their investigation ALL failed.

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    2. I dont think I said that she did personally. But the Lord Advocate is a member of her Cabinet and the Crown Office a Dept of her govt. In Hirst’s case the Sheriff’s first words were “is this all you have got?”. Murray’s “crime was to report on proceedings (when he could get in). I think the phrase is “breaking a butterfly on the wheel”.
      As for the rest, I think you need to bear in mind that the Civil Servants you refer to include her Permanent Secy. As for the Judicial Review – beforehand. He is reported to have threatened to withdraw rather than go into court and defend it.
      As for the criminal trial, for one thing she might not have allowed the papers to go to the Police – which some at least of the complainants would have preferred.
      I have to say that you seem to consider the FM to be pretty powerless – either that or responsible for little.

      Like

      1. Nothing like what Mr Hirst said, my reference is once you report a serious offence to your employer you then can’t stop it being handed onto the police, whether you want it or not. I’m not making any comment regarding the actual accusations, no matter how you try and misrepresent my comment.

        Mr Murray did more than just report the trial, his Yes Minister sketch was a little to obvious.

        Once a accusation of rape is made then I would expect this to be handed to the police, I can’t imagine any HR department has the expertise to manage this type of accusation, even more so if the accused is no longer in employment in the facility.

        I had no idea who these women where but a couple of bloggers gave me the clues of how to build the jigsaw, it was then easy to narrow at least one of them down.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. JFNGW
        I am afraid it is what Mr Hirst said – I have that on several authorities. In any event when did comment become a focus for the authorities? One certainty is that the Sheriff threw the “case” out – indeed his view was there was no case
        Secondly if you are going to report an attempted rape, dont you think it should have been at the time? Not three or four years later? One thing that troubles me about this whole episode – everything else notwithstanding – is that it all happened immediately before/ during the referendum debate. At this time it was absolutely open season on Alex Salmond for the Scottish media. How many journos and editors would have given an arm, or other body parts, for even a whiff of one of these allegations (unproven in Court btw). Anne Harvey (whom I quote), I suspect is on to something – episodes not worth talking about have been historically revised to suit current political aims.
        As for passing on to the Police, they will want to see more than “so and so said this”, They would normally look for evidence to have been collected for a start. And no, I dont suppose an HR Dept would have that expertise – particularly four or five years later on. But they would expect the basics – you know like was the woman making the allegations actually where she said she was. There seems to be material doubt – one source admittedly is Ahmed Sheikh, but the other is a well know entrepreneur (female) [redacted]

        Last two points
        1. you “think” you know who it was. I agree with the right of a woman making a rape allegation to have her identity protected. Dont you think this should apply to a man as well, at least to the point where/if he is found guilty? The Scottish Government and Crown Office have used this human right almost as a weapon to close down debate
        2. which takes us neatly to Murray. If the best you can do is that he used humour, we are getting very close to some sort of Monty Python justification.

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  3. Alas, as the Chinese curse has it, we are doomed to live through “interesting times”!
    Just as things were going so well.
    For those of us, marching to freedom, this nonsense is the most dispiriting thing imaginable.
    How will it end? I fear the answer to that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Only the graveyard shall resolve this for once and all
    When all the female complainers identity is
    Finally released and probably upon request by a prominent Academic Historian or a Academic Professor of law
    Lady Dorrian,s amendment basically says reveal their identity at your peril
    All else OK

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    1. I’m not sure i follow your prose but i don’t see why any anonymity has to be breached to get to the bottom if it. As i understand it, everyone present at the AS trial, knows who the Betties are. I am pretty sure there have been other cases where the identity of the accused has been hidden from the public during a trial.
      Woman H will have to go to trial eventually. She was the one who sent the ‘I Have a Plan So That We Can Remain Anonymous But Have Maximum Effect’ message. She is the one who was proven not to be in the building when her accusation of rape was supposed to happen.
      Her husband is highly relevant. She also has a history of dodgy dealings as reported in the press. Then she turns up on BBC this week continuing her slur. She is almost certainly going to go jail when the truth is out. Hence the mad panic in SNP HQ.
      Craig Murray has revealed another of the Betties (and it was published on a foreign website also) and another Betty outed herself last week. I think it will be impossible to stop the flood when their names are drip fed onto Twitter. It is already happening.

      Like

  5. Civil servants promoted beyond their capabilities wasting public monies. Like there is no tomorrow. Unaccountable. Disgraceful. They should resign. Liars always get found out

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The whole process has been/is a farce. My view is that It has always had a strong smell of Whitehall interference about it: a great opportunity to defame Salmond and Sturgeon, discredit the SNP and derail the whole independence movement for years, perhaps decades. Just ask yourself who employs the civil servants? They may work for Scot Gov, but they are part of the UK civil service and seconded to Holyrood, so they represent a perfect vehicle for interference and mischief at the heart of the SNP.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed, there is too much of this which simply doesn’t add up unless you indulge in one or more of the conspiracy theories on either side, this a no win scenario for AS or NS.
      Both probably believe they have evidence of their honesty and proof of the other’s collusion, the British State has a long history of creating such stitch-ups, even the ructions within SNP itself may not be quite as they appear.
      I have no doubts all we think we know has been carefully orchestrated to appear that way to bring down AS and/or NS and SNP itself, and it is not simply UK civil servants involved.
      There is only one beneficiary of this, and it’s not Scots.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Absolutely Bob, the whole thing reeks of BritNat state interference, it probably began on day one if the SNP becoming the party of choice after devolution after ten whole wasted years of BritNat London HQ’d Labour, taking the absolute p**s out of the people of Scotland.
        The British state are experts at orchestrating all sorts of dirty tricks to get what they want. Scotland is not immune to this its been shown to be the case way back. Not an easy thing to deal with, no matter how clever or front footed you are.

        Liked by 2 people

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