Saturday, 30 January 2021

Sturgeon is surrounded at Điện Biên Phủ

 

I talked to someone who lives in England the other day who wanted to know about the latest developments in Scottish politics. I mentioned the scandal surrounding the Alex Salmond Inquiry and the possibility that Nicola Sturgeon was involved in a conspiracy against Mr Salmond. This was the first time my friend had heard anything about it.  

Sturgeon remains popular in Scotland also because of ignorance. Her domestic record is not questioned. If you dislike Tories, Boris Johnson and Brexit and think independence solves all problems then you may have already made up your mind to dismiss all complaints about Scottish Government performance and all revelations about Sturgeon.



But this is where the story becomes interesting because the revelations are primarily coming from independence supporters. Somehow these people have been able to see through Sturgeon even though they still want independence.

Craig Murray’s My Sworn Evidence on the Sturgeon Affair is compelling precisely because he is an independence supporter. There is little doubt that at least in the short term the loss of Nicola Sturgeon would be a set back for independence supporters. There is no one obvious to take over and little chance of the SNP getting someone as talented in the future. Some independence supporters might prefer a more fundamentalist leader, willing to do whatever is necessary to win, but it isn’t accidental that Pro UK people have been reading Mr Murray’s revelations with such interest. We correctly see the removal of Sturgeon as the best way of damaging both the SNP and the chances of independence.

A witness who is willing to act contrary to his own political interest is prima facie both principled and believable. But Mr Murray is still more credible, because his evidence is part of his trial for contempt of court. It is hardly likely that he would add to his legal difficulties by making statements that the court could prove to be untrue.  Mr Murray must be very confident in his testimony or else it would be irrational for him to provide this evidence. The psychology of the situation suggests he must be a reliable witness or else reckless or else insane. His reliability is the best explanation for the situation.


Stuart Campbell whose blog Wings over Scotland has for many years been campaigning for independence has also been contributing to the revelations about Sturgeon. The credibility of these sources is likewise enhanced by the fact that they must be damaging to the cause that Mr Campbell has apparently been fighting for all these years. I understand that there is a sort of civil war going on in the SNP/independence movement. But still it is hard to believe that an independence supporter would strive to damage Sturgeon if the revelations about her were all untrue. If Mr Campbell knew that the evidence against Sturgeon was lies, why would he publish them? We must assume therefore that he believes these revelations sincerely. This is a good reason for us to believe them too.

Gordon Dangerfield is a Scottish independence supporter, socialist and Solicitor Advocate. He argues persuasively that the evidence of Leslie Evans and Judith MacKinnon is contrary to the facts.

His argument is all the more persuasive because it comes from an independence supporter who must know that it damages the argument for independence. How could a Scottish Government that has been proved to be corrupt lead Scotland to anything let alone Scottish independence? What’s more, if the Scottish Government and the SNP are corrupt that is one very good reason not to have them in sole charge of Scotland by giving Scotland independence.  

Tommy Sheridan who was defended by Mr Dangerfield talks with him about the Scottish Government’s conspiracy against Alex Salmond. But Mr Sheridan must know that such a scandal coming to light would mean that neither the SNP nor the Scottish Government would have any credibility whatsoever for the foreseeable future. But if the Scottish Government and the SNP have their reputation destroyed, who else would bring about Scottish independence?

If Pro UK people were making the argument it might be dismissed as dirty tricks, but it is harder to dismiss long standing independence supporters. What motivation do they have to say and write what they do if it were untrue?

Robin McAlpine was the director of Common Weal a Pro independence think tank. He had to resign after publishing an article highly critical of Sturgeon. It is clear that he too believes that Sturgeon was involved in a conspiracy against Salmond.

The credibility of Mr McAlpine is enhanced by his acting against his own interest not merely in potentially damaging the chances of independence but also in losing his job.

Kenny MacAskill not only obtained embarrassing messages sent by Peter Murrell (Sturgeon’s husband) about Salmond but has now revealed a WhatsApp Group called Vietnam where SNP staffers and members of the Government exchanged messages about Mr Salmond. Mr MacAskill mentions a message where pressure was put on one of the alleged victims who was becoming reluctant to testify. Records of these conversations are now being sought.

Mr MacAskill’s revelations would suggest that he too believes that there was a conspiracy and that it was widespread. He has nothing to gain from his actions but risks the revenge of the Murrells. He must know that the cause of independence that he has long fought for will be damaged by what he has revealed, which makes him all the more trustworthy to an outsider.

At the battle of Điện Biên Phủ (1954) the French tried to cut of the supply lines of the Viet Minh but were themselves surrounded and cut off. The French supposed that the Vietnamese did not have anti-aircraft weapons, but they misjudged the weakness of their opponent. The French like Sturgeon were under siege. But her predicament is worse. She is besieged by former friends who have turned on her and are proving much more dangerous than she calculated precisely because the fact that they were on her side makes them all the more believable.

The revelations are coming thick and fast now, and we still have not heard from Alex Salmond. Sturgeon may be able to fend off one attack, but the siege cannot be broken because as she puts out one fire two burst into flame behind her.

It would be odd if at the height of her popularity, an unknowing Scottish public woke up one morning to find her already gone. The French public too were unprepared for defeat. The surprise as much as anything else brought down the French Government.

 

Thursday, 28 January 2021

How to wreck an illegal independence referendum

 

How should Pro UK people in Scotland respond to threats from the SNP to hold an independence referendum without permission or to use the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections as a proxy referendum on independence leading to a unilateral declaration of independence? The answer as always is to do what your opponent least wants.

I have been disappointed in Douglas Ross since he became Scottish Conservative leader, but his recent statement that Pro UK parties should boycott an unofficial referendum is correct. I am and will always be a Conservative. I support Boris Johnson and if Mr Ross begins to stand up to Scottish nationalism in this sort of way, I will support him. This is what Pro UK people have been waiting for.



I will always remember how after Remain lost the 2016 referendum, we suddenly discovered that the referendum was merely advisory and could be ignored by Westminster. Nothing at all had been said about this during the campaign. But we later learned that the decision to leave the EU was ultimately up to Westminster. In that case it rather makes referendums pointless. They become just large and expensive opinion polls. But if the result of a legally organised referendum can be ignored how much more can that of an illegal referendum?

There is only one way for Scotland to become legally independent. It is not by means of a referendum. Even if Yes had won the referendum in 2014, Scotland would have remained part of the United Kingdom until a vote in Westminster that repealed the Act of Union 1707. We now know that Westminster could have treated a Yes win as merely advisory. So too now and more so if that win were in an illegal referendum. The advice could be ignored.

Let’s imagine the SNP wins a majority at Holyrood and afterwards asks for permission to hold a second referendum and Boris Johnson refuses. If the SNP tried to organise a referendum anyway this would be contrary to the Scotland Act which makes constitutional matters reserved. It would be contrary too to the mandate from the referendum vote in 1997 that set up a devolved Scottish Parliament. It would therefore be undemocratic.

How should Pro UK people respond to an illegal and undemocratic referendum? We should ignore it. If all of the Pro UK parties in Scotland chose not to take part and advised their supporters not to vote, the result of the referendum would have no legitimacy at all.

An illegal referendum could not have the involvement of the Electoral Commission. The SNP would therefore have to set the question. But the precedent of the 2016 referendum shows that a Yes/No question is unfair to No. For this reason, it would be expected that the Electoral Commission would come up with a different question in a second independence referendum. If the SNP instead repeated the question from 2014, that in itself would make the result illegitimate.

The campaign would have no involvement from Pro UK parties or people. There would not be any organisation or person to take part in debates. There would be no official reports or statements from the UK Government putting the counter argument. The Scottish electorate would have no idea how the UK Government would respond to Scottish independence. There would only be SNP statements about how wonderful independence would be. There would be no counter arguments nor indeed any real knowledge tested by argument and counterargument.

In that case how could the Scottish electorate make an informed decision when they would only hear one side of the argument? This in itself would make the result of such a referendum illegitimate.

No one employed by the UK Government would be involved in organising the SNP’s illegal referendum. The UK Government could treat such involvement as grounds for dismissal. So, it is unclear who would count the ballot papers and fairly assess who had won.

A complete boycott by Pro UK parties and people would lead to the SNP winning more than ninety percent on a low turnout. But what would that prove? Nothing at all.

Even if the SNP were able to win half of the electorate including those who did not vote, they still would not be able to declare that the result had been legitimate, because the referendum would remain illegal and it would not have been carried out according to democratic norms with both sides taking part in the campaign and with arguments from all sides heard.

The BBC and other broadcasters could be made to treat any illegal referendum as worthy of only minimal coverage. Broadcasting (and ultimately its funding) is reserved to Westminster. So, there would be none of the usual coverage of the campaign or the result. It would be contrary to the duty of impartiality to cover only one side of the argument.

If Westminster can ignore even the result of a legitimate referendum organised according to the democratic norms and with a high turnout, how much more could it simply ignore a referendum with a low turnout where only one side took part. This would go nowhere for the SNP.

But the same argument obviously applies if the SNP went down the route of attempting to use the election to the Scottish Parliament as a vote for independence. In that case also it would be logical for Pro UK people and parties to boycott that election. I suspect selfish reasons might prevent Pro UK MSPs from taking this step. They would lose their jobs. But do they prefer to keep their job or their country?

If Scottish Parliamentary elections and the Scottish Parliament itself are to be used for Scotland to illegally hold a referendum or to illegally secede from the United Kingdom, then both the election and the Scottish Parliament would be outside democratic norms and would cease to have the legitimacy given to them by the vote in 1997.

Imagine if the SNP and other independence parties won all of the seats at Holyrood. Far from giving them absolute power, it would lead to them having no power at all. The response to such a parliament would be to repeal the Scotland Act and to end devolution in Scotland.

The SNP requires the consent and the cooperation of Pro UK people to achieve Scottish independence. Without it Scotland would lack the unity and common purpose necessary to achieve independence. Unless Pro UK people at least acquiesce and agree that the SNP has achieved its goal democratically, legally and fairly, there could be no successful independent Scotland, but rather a hopelessly divided failure stillborn because its only parent was Scottish nationalism.

I would have consented and cooperated if the SNP had won in 2014. I would have accepted the majority view, but I would withdraw my consent and would do all I could to thwart an attempt to achieve independence illegally, because once you start down the illegal undemocratic route tyranny follows soon after.

The correct response therefore to any illegality on the part of the SNP is to do what the SNP does not want us to do. Our failure to cooperate with SNP plans, by refusing to take part, by boycotting, by not voting and by ignoring, makes any unilateral attempt to achieve independence lack the legitimacy that independence supporters want and require. If you go down the illegal route, we won’t work with you and you will fail.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

It's not the Union that is in crisis

 

The United States has just had a mob enter the Capitol, a presidential election disputed by Donald Trump refusing to concede defeat and an electorate that cannot find common ground with each other. But no one has suggested that the Union is in crisis to the extent that it might cease to exist. In Britain no one has seriously questioned the result of any of the elections or referendums that have taken place in the last few years, there is no prospect in the immediate future of any referendum on breaking up the United Kingdom, yet we have banner headlines about the UK being in crisis. But it is not the UK that is in crisis it’s the SNP.

Something strange and unexpected happened in 2016. Although Remainers accepted that more people voted for Leave than Remain, a large number of them nevertheless sought to overthrow the vote politically. They questioned the legitimacy of the Leave campaign, arguing firstly that it was merely advisory and secondly that the Leave campaign made statements that were untrue.



In Scotland the SNP questioned the legitimacy of the result because Scottish voters voted to Remain while the whole of the UK voted to Leave. There was a concerted attempt by both Remainers in general and Scottish nationalists in particular to annul the result.

The SNP wanted not just Scotland to remain part of the EU, but for the whole of the UK too. They argued that because one part of the UK (Scotland) did not vote to leave then those parts that did vote to Leave, England and Wales, could not leave also. But imagine if the UK had given into the SNP, would this have meant that the SNP would have given up its desire to break up the UK? No of course not. After all the UK was a member state in 2014 and the SNP still wanted to break up Britain. So while the SNP thinks that Scotland ought to be able to annul the democratic wishes of England and Wales, by preventing the people there from being able to chose to leave the EU, it never thinks that anyone should be able to stop Scotland doing what it wants either with regard to the EU or with regard to independence. Whatever concessions are made to the SNP will never satisfy them. You cannot win.

Remainers both in politics and the media throughout the UK have seen the SNP as allies. They were a crucial part of the political attempt to reverse Brexit in Parliament and at the General Elections in 2017 and 2019. Labour, the Lib Dems and others were willing to work with the SNP in Parliament or as they hoped in a coalition to achieve a second referendum on Brexit, which they hoped would reverse the result. But this not only gave legitimacy to the idea that you can have a second referendum if you don’t like the result of the first one, but also to the idea that the SNP are one of us and that the central aim of the SNP  (independence) would be a legitimate response to Brexit.

It is this above all that has changed the media and the political class in general and made them soft on the SNP and sympathetic both to Scottish and Irish nationalism. Remainers have been proved wrong about nearly everything to do with Brexit. It hasn’t been the economic disaster predicted by the Remain campaign (a lie?). We have been able to achieve a trade deal with the EU that allows us to make deals with everyone else. Compared to Covid leaving the EU has been a doddle. But still Remainers remain desperate to be proved right. The cognitive dissonance of being proved wrong would be too much to bear.

But the 2019 election result, giving Boris Johnson a large majority not merely crushed the Remainer aim of a second referendum, it made the prospect of the UK ever returning to the EU (Rejoin) so politically unlikely that neither Labour nor the Lib Dems will campaign for it for the foreseeable future. It is this that is causing Remainers to lash out at the UK itself.

If in the next few years, the UK were to lose Northern Ireland and Scotland, this would prove the Remainers right about the damage caused by Brexit. This would enable them to tell the Brexiteers who universally support the unity of the UK, that their stupidity in voting for Brexit destroyed the thing they love most, the United Kingdom. It would be sweet revenge for the Remainers and would make up for the final collapse of their long rearguard to keep us in the EU.

But if the United Kingdom were to lose Scotland and Northern Ireland, does this mean that the former UK would apply to join? No. Of course not. Without Scotland and Northern Ireland which both voted to Remain, it would be even less likely that England and Wales would apply to join. So, the Remainer aim is not so much to get the UK as a whole nor even England and Wales to rejoin the EU, it is merely to take revenge on Britain for daring to leave the EU.

Just as it became clear that the EU was hostile to Britain for leaving, with talk of Northern Ireland being the price, so Remainers in the media now see it as their task to help the SNP and Sinn Féin to achieve their goals. But for British citizens to behave in this way is perverse at best, because no one hates Britain or the British more than the SNP and Sinn Féin.

Britain is not in crisis. That is simply a media invention. The majority of the population in Northern Ireland want to stay British. Ireland would somehow need to replace the one third of the Northern Irish budget that comes from Britain and deal with the economic consequences of breaking up Northern Ireland’s close integration into the British economy. Northern Ireland is the equivalent of East Germany, but this time it would be South that would have to pay. But East Germany did not have a large population that did not want to unify with the West. Nor did it have a history of terrorism with both sides liable to react violently if their wishes were thwarted by democracy. If Ireland wants to deal with the economic and military consequences of unification, let it come up with a coherent plan or else stop agitating and stirring up trouble.

Scotland too is closely integrated in the British economy. Free movement of goods and people in the UK’s internal market are much more important to Scotland than being in the EU, not least because vastly more Scots live and work in other parts of the UK than in Slovenia or Slovakia.

But anyway, Scotland has already had a referendum on independence. There is no prospect of another one unless those journalists writing about the Union in crisis somehow help to force one. No doubt this is what they want. The British Government can legitimately tell the SNP they will have to wait years if not decades, not least because we are going to have to deal with the economic fallout of Covid and won’t have time for Scottish grievances that anyway would not be lessened by independence. The SNP would still blame England after independence.  Just look at how Ireland continues to blame Britain for everything that has happened in the past thousand years. They even blame us for leaving the EU, which is none of their business.

It isn’t the Union that is in crisis, it is the SNP. If Remainer journalists were willing to do their job they would point out that Sturgeon has not been doing a good job on Covid nor indeed on healthcare in general, education and any other issue that the Scottish Parliament controls. If there is a measure on which Scotland is doing better than England, I would like to know what it is, because I can’t think of one. Yet still the media think she walks on water.

Not only do the SNP run Scotland poorly, they are now split into fundamentalist Salmondites and gradualist Sturgeonistas. Impatience at having to wait even six years for another go, has left the SNP tearing itself apart with Sturgeon accused of attempting to nobble Salmond and then corruptly trying to cover it up. If this was happening in England, it would be on the BBC every night. If Boris had done even a fraction of what Sturgeon may have done, the Remainer media would be going crazy. But because she is one of us, we have headlines about the Union being in crisis. It’s distraction at best, collusion at worst. Start reporting or find another job.

It’s not the Union that is in crisis. It’s the SNP.

 

 

 

Sunday, 24 January 2021

The SNP road map is neither a road nor a map

 

The SNP’s Michael Russell has just put forward a paper entitled “The road to a referendum that is beyond legal challenge”.

But has anything really changed?

The first point he makes is that

1 The Scottish Parliament has already passed two bills that lay the groundwork for a referendum on

independence The first was the Referendums (Scotland) Bill which became law on the 29th of January

2020. The Scottish Elections (Franchise & Representation) Bill was then passed in February and gained

Royal Assent on the 1st of April.



But it is worth pointing out that the Referendums (Scotland) Bill “would only allow for referendums on issues which the Scottish Parliament has responsibility for. These are known as a ‘devolved’ matters.” The Scottish Government can then organise a referendum on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, health and social services and other similar matters.

The franchise bill tells us only who would be allowed to vote about fish and agriculture, because these are the only issues that the Scottish Government is allowed to legislate referendums on. The first point therefore is completely irrelevant and merely a diversion and distraction from the issue of holding a referendum on independence.

Russell continues

 5. The SNP Scottish Government announced in the Programme for Government in September 2020 that a draft bill for an independence referendum, to give people in Scotland the right to choose their own future, would be published before the Holyrood election in May 2021 and would be enacted if an SNP Scottish Government is re-elected with a majority to do so (either as a result of gaining an overall majority or if it had such a majority as a result of support from another pro -independence party).

But such a bill would obviously be outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament because it would be about a reserved matter, the Constitution. The Scottish Government can no more publish a bill on an independence referendum than it can publish a bill on abolishing nuclear weapons or annexing the Faroe Islands. This is just another example of the Scottish Government attempting to act in areas outside its remit.

The Scottish people voted for a devolved Parliament in 1997 with certain limitations. These limitations are what makes it devolved. If they did not exist, we would have voted for independence in 1997. If that had been the offer, we would not have voted for the Scottish Parliament at all. Whenever the SNP goes beyond its remit, it is acting contrary to the referendum of 1997 and indeed removing the moral justification of that vote.

A legitimate response would be for the UK Government to repeal the Scotland Act which is the legal basis for the existence of the Scottish Parliament. This could be done quite easily because whatever is in the latest manifestation of the Scotland Act 2016 about the permanence of the Scottish Parliament cannot limit the actions of a subsequent Parliament at Westminster.

The SNP cannot logically have a manifesto commitment to something that is outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament. It cannot for instance have a commitment to join the European Union, because foreign relations are reserved. Such a manifesto commitment would be just as meaningless as a commitment to an independence referendum.

Russell continues

7. The SNP Scottish Government continues to maintain that a referendum must be beyond legal challenge to ensure legitimacy and acceptance at home and abroad. This is the surest way by far of becoming a independent country. It should be held after the pandemic, at a time to be decided by the democratically elected Scottish Parliament. The SNP believes that should be in the early part of the new term.

The key point about democracy however is that the Scottish Government only has the democratic right to do what is within its remit. It has no democratic right, even if it pretends that it does, to do something that is reserved. To attempt to do something that is not devolved would therefore be undemocratic.

Russell admits as much

8. If the SNP takes office the Scottish Government will again request a Section 30 order from the UK Government believing and publicly contending that in such circumstances there could be no moral or democratic justification for denying that request. If the UK Government were to adopt such a position its position would be unsustainable both at home and abroad.

The only legal route is for the Scottish Government to ask permission from the UK Government to hold an independence referendum. This permission was granted by David Cameron’s Government, but it is not automatic, because the matter is reserved. It is not the Scottish Government’s business. If the UK Government refuses to grant a Section 30 order, the SNP could attempt to win a vote in Westminster. If it won such a vote by persuading enough MPs of the legitimacy of its wish, then a bill granting Scotland a second independence referendum would be published. This is the SNP’s only legal route given a refusal by the UK Government.

There is of course a perfect moral and democratic justification for refusing the SNP’s request for a second independence referendum even if the SNP gains a majority in the Scottish Parliament. The democratic justification is that the SNP is attempting to use a democratic majority over devolved issues to justify a majority over reserved matters that it does not have.

The moral justification is that Scotland was granted a referendum in 2014. The basis for that vote The Edinburgh Agreement was that the referendum would be decisive and both sides would accept the result. The issue therefore has been decided.

There was nothing in the Edinburgh Agreement about subsequent events such as the EU referendum changing the decisiveness. Nor did either campaign argue that the result could be overturned by subsequent events.

The SNP cannot logically claim that leaving the EU changed matters because if Scotland had voted Yes in 2014 Scotland would have left the EU. Only independent nation states can apply to join, which means after becoming independent Scotland would have had to apply from scratch. This means we would have spent at least some time outside the EU.

The UK Government would be supported internationally in denying a devolved Parliament the right to legislate on non-devolved matters, because this would be the equivalent of allowing a state in the USA to question American foreign policy or a part of Germany or France to declare war on each other. Internal secession is supported by very few members of the United Nations and none of the Security Council except Britain. Far from being unsustainable, the UK’s position would be sustained by nearly every other country in the world.

Would the UK’s refusal to allow a second independence referendum be unsustainable in the UK? Well this could be put to the test at a General Election. The Secession Party could be formed with the goal of achieving independence for whichever parts of the UK desired it. If it won a majority, then those parts would be allowed to secede.

Would it be unsustainable in Scotland for the UK Government to continue to refuse a referendum? There would be anger no doubt amongst independence supporters and journalists, but what could they practically do about it? They could revolt or attempt another route to independence. If they succeeded, then Scotland would become an independent country. But this would be the illegal route. Scotland might not be recognised by many other countries. It would be barred from joining the EU, which requires adherence to the rule of law as an entry condition, and there would be no transition period and no deal with the UK.

As soon as Scotland achieved independence illegally Treasury money would cease, the trade deal that the UK has negotiated with the EU and any others would not apply to Scotland, and it is likely a hard border would be created between England and Scotland. This route could succeed if the UK decided it wasn’t worth trying to hang onto Scotland, but it would amount to a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). Scotland could expect neither cooperation nor friendly relations between Scotland and the former UK. If you fancy that route good luck to you, but I suspect hundreds of thousands of Scots would boycott any such illegal attempt to separate and if separation were achieved, they would vote with their feet.

Russell continues

10. In these circumstances, in which there has been an unambiguously expressed democratic decision by the people of Scotland and their Parliament to have a legal referendum the choice of the U.K. government will be clear; to either (1) agree that the Scottish Parliament already has the power to legislate for a referendum or (2) in line with precedent, agree the section 30 order to put that question beyond any doubt; or (3) take legal action to dispute the legal basis of the referendum and seek to block the will of the Scottish people in the courts. Such a legal challenge would be vigorously opposed by an SNP Scottish Government.

 

The Scottish Government can only legally legislate on devolved matters. It can have no democratic mandate over reserved matters. A supposed electoral mandate over a reserved matter does not change this. So, (1) the UK Government can refuse to agree that the Scottish Parliament has a power that it logically does not. (2) There is no precedent for granting a Section 30 order because logically if you have to ask permission for something it follows that that permission may not be granted. (3) The UK Government would not have to take legal action against the Scottish Parliament rather if the Scottish Parliament attempted to legislate on a reserved matter by introducing a bill for a second referendum, the UK Government could simply refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of it. It could refuse therefore to allow the Electoral Commission to be involved and could advise Scots not to take part. The BBC and other broadcasters could be made to ignore the referendum and the result could be treated as of no significance. This would leave the SNP with the choice of going down the illegal route, declaring independence anyway or waiting for the chance to hold a legal referendum when given permission.

I am forced to conclude that Michael Russell’s road map is neither a road nor a map.  

 

 

 

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Sturgeon has made it harder for other women to get rape convictions


When I first learned about the allegations against Alex Salmond, my immediate response was that the case was problematic. How was it possible to know beyond a reasonable doubt what happened when the alleged criminal behaviour happened a number of years ago in private?

When someone is accused of theft, physical assault or murder, there could only be a conviction if there was a confession or objective evidence that a crime had taken place. If I claimed that my house had been broken into five years ago, I would have to demonstrate that there really had been a break in, and I would have to prove that this person had committed the crime. Perhaps I would have CC TV evidence, or perhaps I could show that the criminal had possession of the goods stolen. But even then, the police might reasonably ask why I waited so long to tell them. So too with a murder. There would have to be objective evidence that someone had been killed and objective evidence this person had committed the crime. I would not be convicted of murder when there was no objective evidence that someone had been killed and merely a witness statement and nothing else stating that I was a murderer.



Sometimes sexual assault cases have similar objective evidence. Medical evidence may demonstrate a sexual assault just as much as a physical assault. If violence is used by the criminal and DNA evidence is present, then it might be quite clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime took place. But there are many instances when the crime that is supposed to have happened taken place happened some time ago so that there is no medical evidence and where it took place in private. In these instances, there is merely contradictory witness testimony. A woman may say she was raped. A man may say either that he wasn’t there at all or that the sex was consensual. How are we to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what happened?

In Mr Salmond’s case however, there were initially ten witnesses to the alleged crimes, later reduced to nine. The Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke was convicted in 2020 because two women accused him of sexual assault in 2007 and 2016. In each case the assault took place in private, but the jury believed the women rather than Mr Elphicke. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Harvey Weinstein similarly was convicted because of the accusations of two women relating to events in 2006 and 2013. Again, the events took place in private. The jury believed the women rather than Mr Weinstein. But if two witnesses were enough to convict Elphicke and Weinstein why were nine not enough to convict Mr Salmond?

The problem with this type of crime is that it comes down to who the jury believes. But a witness may be very convincing even when he is not telling the truth. Alternatively, a defendant may be poor in the witness box even when he is innocent. One defendant may have an excellent lawyer who succeeds in getting him off though he is guilty. Another may have an incompetent lawyer who the jury does not trust even though he is innocent. A trial becomes a matter of performance rather than truth.

We must assume that witnesses do not always tell the truth, otherwise why would we have trials at all? There is no reason to assume that men or women are more or less likely to tell lies. The likelihood of a miscarriage of justice must be high when a case depends merely on what he said versus what she said. If I were a juror in such a case, I simply do not see how I could know beyond a reasonable doubt whether Mr Elphicke groped a woman in 2007 or whether Mr Weinstein assaulted a woman in 2006.

But if large numbers of women independently come forward stating that someone sexually assaulted them, there would come a point when other things being equal it would be reasonable to believe them. Why would nine or ten women independently lie if the defendant had done nothing? Assuming that the women were reasonably convincing in giving evidence, and assuming the defence did not have an explanation for why so many witnesses would independently seek to convict the defendant, I would be inclined to convict. If I didn’t believe ten witnesses, then such trials would be pointless.

But the events since Mr Salmond was acquitted suggest that the jury was right to acquit him. We have discovered that the Scottish Government forced the case to go to trial against the wishes of the witnesses and contrary to the advice of the police to refer such cases to support services. We have discovered that the Scottish Government has paid for witnesses in the Salmond Inquiry to be coached and that these witnesses may have met each other to compare notes. It has become clear that Nicola Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell have been less than cooperative with the Inquiry and that there may have been a political conspiracy against Salmond. If I had known these things as a jury member, I would have acquitted Mr Salmond even if there had been one hundred witnesses against him.

Whether or not there was a conspiracy against Mr Salmond remains to be seen. But anyone following the case must conclude that there might have been. I don’t know exactly what the conspiracy might involve, because I don’t know what if anything happened in Bute House. Perhaps nothing happened and the charges against Mr Salmond were made up. Perhaps Mr Salmond sometimes behaved badly towards women, but not in a criminal way, but this behaviour was exaggerated. It may be that somehow there was an attempt to discover witnesses and they were encouraged or pressurised to testify against Mr Salmond. I simply don’t know, because I wasn’t there, and I don’t know any of the people involved.

But what I do know is that if I were ever to be a jury member in a sexual assault case in Scotland I would be less likely to convict now than I would have been if the Salmond case had never happened.

Let’s say in such a case in the future there were ten women who were intelligent and convincing in giving their evidence about sexual assaults that took place some years previously. Well why shouldn’t I believe them? But I would reflect that there might have been a conspiracy against the defendant. Perhaps the women all knew each other. Perhaps their employer wished to take revenge against the defendant. Perhaps this employer paid a consultant to advise the witnesses on their testimony and perhaps the women compared notes to make sure they had a consistent story. Perhaps the employer promised to reward them with promotion if the defendant was convicted. Previously such devious behaviour on the part of an employer would never have occurred to me. But now I have the example of the Scottish Government.

Whatever else we discover about Nicola Sturgeon, we already know that the actions of her Government have damaged the reputation of Scottish justice and have made it harder to convict men who commit sexual assaults. If the testimony of nine witnesses can reasonably be rejected because a jury might suspect a conspiracy, then the testimony of two witnesses could reasonably be rejected too.  There might have been a conspiracy against Mr Weinstein and Mr Elphicke especially if they had lived in Scotland.

If Nicola Sturgeon conspired against Alex Salmond, she will have put into the minds of all future potential juries in Scotland that women may be very convincing witnesses about sexual assault, but they may be lying or exaggerating. If that is the case, then Sturgeon will have damaged the chances of women gaining a conviction in sexual assault cases for the sake of political expediency and to get rid of a political rival. Whether Sturgeon did anything illegal, if that were the case it would be necessary to judge her as morally contemptible.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

The SNP versus the SNP

 

The latest developments in the Alex Salmond Scandal remind me of the famous David Low cartoon Rendezvous from 1939. Just like then it is tempting to hope that both sides lose. Just like then it is impossible to trust what either side says.

On the one side we have Nicola Sturgeon, her husband Peter Murrell and probably still the majority of SNP MPs MSPs and supporters. This story still hasn’t really gone mainstream. These are the SNP gradualists. Hoping for an independence referendum but unwilling to actually do anything illegal or dubious to achieve independence. This side thinks that Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity is the SNP’s best asset.


On the other side, we have Alex Salmond, various SNP MPs and MSPs who ally with him plus some well-known bloggers such as Wings over Scotland, Craig Murray and Robin McAlpine. This is the fundamentalist side of Scottish nationalism, willing to do almost anything to achieve the goal.

I gave up reading Wings and Co. years ago. Much of what was written on the various Scottish nationalist websites struck me as mere propaganda. I remember Wings produced The Wee Blue Book, which supposedly made an economic case for Scottish independence. But no economist could have taken it seriously, although it was quite clever in providing arguments for the gullible.

So too the less moderate side of Scottish nationalism has produced various weird and wonderful conspiracy theories including secret oil fields hidden by the British Government. There have been suggestions that Yes did not really lose the referendum in 2014, that SNP voters should bring their own pen to polling stations to stop their votes being rubbed out and all sorts of other paranoia about Westminster, Unionists and English people in general.

For a long time, I simply dismissed these people as cranks. This is one reason why it is quite hard to take seriously some of the claims that are being published on these websites. In essence we are being told that there was a conspiracy against Alex Salmond to put him in jail and that subsequent to this there has been a massive cover-up going right to the top of the Scottish Government.

The problem is not so much with the claims as who is making them.

The latest revelation involves the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan. I don’t wish to say anything nasty about Craig Murray, but he is unlike any other former British Ambassador I have ever come across.

He was born and raised in England, went to university in Dundee, got involved in Liberal Democratic politics, but ended up being removed from his post in Uzbekistan for reasons that appear rather scandalous. Perhaps for this reason he turned on Britain by campaigning for Scottish independence in 2014.

I have always found Mr Murray to be rather peculiar and best ignored. I remember vaguely his objecting to not being able to get into the Alex Salmond trial. But somehow, he eventually was allowed in for a couple of days. The people who let him in might have regretted the decision, because he ended up being charged with contempt of court. “Prosecutors claim some of his comments breached strict legal guidelines about what could be reported during the trial.”

We are still waiting for the outcome of this case.

But Mr Murray was not finished with the Alex Salmond scandal. One of his recent articles provides documents which suggest that Peter Murrell committed perjury in his evidence to the Alex Salmond Inquiry and that the Lord Advocate is corrupt. This is to say the least quite brave when Mr Murray is due to stand trial on 27th January. I wish him well.

But what we have then is someone accused of contempt of court accusing someone else of perjury. It is for this reason that I am reminded of the cartoon.

It’s very difficult as an outsider looking into the weird and wonderful world of Scottish nationalism to know who to believe. A year or more ago if anyone had told me there was a conspiracy to put Alex Salmond in jail, I would have dismissed it in the same way as I dismissed the secret oil fields.

But ever since the trial we have been faced with two apparently incompatible facts. 1 Alex Salmond was innocent. 2. Nine women testified that he had sexually assaulted them. How could both statements be true? How many women witnesses do you need in Scotland? It was necessary to conclude that there just was not enough evidence for a conviction. But nine witnesses telling a similar story about a pattern of behaviour would be compelling unless the jury didn’t trust all nine of them for a reason. One reason might be if the jury suspected a conspiracy against Mr Salmond.

Gradually as this year has passed, we have discovered various new revelations, which suggest that if the jury didn’t believe the witnesses against Mr Salmond, they were right not to do so. If Sturgeon and the Scottish Government have nothing to hide, why have they been so unhelpful to the Inquiry? Why has it been necessary to pay for coaching for the Inquiry witnesses and why have those witnesses allegedly colluded with each other? This behaviour casts doubt also on the trial witnesses.

Now we have a new revelation that suggests not only that Mr Murrell was not telling the truth to the Inquiry about documents which he claimed did not exist. The Lord Advocate appears to agree that they exist because he describes them as private communications. Something that does not exist cannot logically be private. Worse these documents that appear to exist appear also to show that there may well have been a high-level conspiracy against Mr Salmond.

It is an odd experience, but I have come to admire what Mr Murray, Mr McAlpine, Wings and others are trying to do. I don’t know what happened in Bute House between Mr Salmond and various women, but I am beginning to believe that there was a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. If at some point, we discover that this is true we will owe Mr Murray and the others a debt of gratitude. This goes beyond political difference. It is a matter of morality and justice.

But it is most peculiar that people I dismissed as cranks and conspiracy theorists should discover and expose a genuine conspiracy. Could there really be secret oil fields? Nothing would surprise me now, not even if Nicola Sturgeon announced at her next briefing that she was really called Nicholas and was in a same sex relationship with her husband who was really called Petra.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

An end to violence from the Left and the Right

 

If Joe Biden had lost the election last November, it is unlikely that we would have arrived reached inauguration day without any violence. Trump’s victory would have been declared fraudulent and that claim would have received a great deal of positive attention from the news media. If the Democrats had been unable to find any evidence for Trump’s victory being fraudulent, they would have tried to impeach him. This after all is what they did last time.

If disappointed Democrats believing that the election of Biden had been stolen from them had entered the Capitol as part of a Black Lives Matter protest, it would not have been described by the BBC as an insurrection, a coup or an act of terrorism. We know this because last year over 14,000 people were arrested in the United States following the death of George Floyd. At least twenty-five people were killed and $1-2 billion of damage was cause. But there was hardly a word of condemnation. The violence when it was reported at all was described as mostly peaceful and whatever happened was justified by the noble cause that the rioters were fighting for.


I think Donald Trump was wrong not to accept defeat. He should have set up an impartial body to investigate the election. He should have tried to calm the passions of his supporters. He should not have allowed large demonstrations to gather in his name, but rather should have said he would accept the result of an official inquiry into electoral irregularity. He should have cooperated with Joe Biden and done all he could to achieve a smooth transition of power.

But those media organisations and politicians who looked the other way as Black Lives Matter violence and vandalism spread all the way round the world last summer are also in part culpable for their failure to properly condemn the way demonstrators crowded together spreading Covid and rioted because of events that took place thousands of miles away and which had nothing whatsoever to do with them.

It is racist to care only about the death of a Black Man in Minnesota killed by a policeman, while you don’t give a damn about an Uighur killed by a Chinese policeman.

The media failed to acknowledge the extremist nature of Black Lives Matter.  A Far-Left organisation that wants to abolish the police was treated as moderate, justified and its taking the knee gesture became close to obligatory. But compare and contrast the treatment of months of Far-Left demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world with a few hundred Far-Right demonstrators who got into the Capitol.

Hundreds of thousands of Black Lives Matter demonstrators who took over parts of American cities were mostly peaceful and justified, while a few hundred Trump supporters who broke into the Capitol are described as if they were storming the Bastille. The idea that such people were capable of seizing power or reversing the election result is preposterous.

There is a double standard about the way the Left and the Right are reported. It is socially acceptable to be Far-Left even though Marxist ideologies killed far more in the 20th century than fascism and Nazism combined. So too demonstrations for Left-wing goals are justified by the media even if they give rise to violence against property and people.

Politicians are allowed to show that they approve of Black Lives Matter without taking any responsibility for any violence that results from such approval. No one condemns a Left-wing politician because such a demonstration led to a shop being burned, someone being injured or someone dying. But when a Right-wing mob acts in a thuggish, violent or racist fashion then anyone who even spoke out against the vandalism of statues is somehow guilty by association.

In a democracy there is no need for demonstrations at all. The way to make black people less likely to be shot or unjustly arrested is political. It is up to voters to make America safer for everyone, not demonstrators. Political policies about policing and initiatives to decrease violent crime are hindered by people rioting and tearing down statues.

Last year some of the more extreme Trump supporters saw demonstrators on the Left getting away with violence and vandalism.   Every time there was a court case and Black Lives Matter didn’t like the result demonstrators took the law into their own hands and were praised by the media for doing so. But this cycle of Left-wing violence eventually led to a reaction. If the Left can vandalise and take the law into its own hands why can’t the Right?

The only way to end this cycle of violence is for everyone to commit to democratic change by means of elections. Elections must be scrutinised impartially so that both sides and all voters accept the result. Riots and violence must be condemned no matter the cause, because we have seen that last year’s violence from the Left led to this year’s violence from the Right.

 

Monday, 18 January 2021

SNP mismanagement is killing Scots

 

My mother is nearly 88. She has yet to receive an invitation for a Covid vaccination. I hope it comes soon. The risk to her comes entirely from me. She has hardly left the house since March, but I have to go shopping. If I caught Covid on one of those shopping trips, it would be difficult to stop her catching it too. We live in the same house and I care for her. If an 88-year-old catches Covid, there is a good chance she would end up in hospital and a good chance that she would die.

 In Northern Ireland 6.23% of the population has been vaccinated.

In England 5.49% of the population has been vaccinated.

In Scotland 4.12 % of the population has been vaccinated.

In Wales 4.01 % of the population has been vaccinated.




 England is about to send out vaccine invitations to the over 70s. I am left to conclude that if my mother lived in England she would already have been vaccinated. If she catches Covid in the next few weeks and dies it will be because we live in Scotland under an SNP Government that prioritises independence over healthcare.

We are lucky however that we live in Britain. The United Kingdom has vaccinated more of its population that anyone else except Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. We are ahead of the United States and massively ahead of the EU. 

If Scotland had voted for independence in 2014, then either we would be reliant on the EU to supply the vaccine or if we had failed to join the EU we would be reliant on ourselves. But no small independent country in Europe is doing better than Britain including Switzerland. It is hard to believe that independence would turn Scotland either into Bahrain, the UAE or Israel. It is unlikely that Scotland would have done better than Ireland which has vaccinated only 1.6% of the population and we might be doing as badly as badly as Bulgaria which has managed only 0.3%.

We are doing better than nearly everyone else firstly because we left the EU. The EU managed the vaccine collectively and didn’t do it well. The British Government did better at ordering the various vaccines and also developed our own. We made these vaccines available before anyone else and the British vaccine is easier to deliver because it does not require ultra-low temperatures.

Being a part of Britain is therefore saving Scottish lives. This is not merely because the British Army is helping to organise and administer the vaccine, but because the British Government made the right choices which led to us buying effective vaccines and developing our own. The Scottish Government neither funded, nor ordered any vaccines. We are completely dependent on the supplies we are getting from Britain. The only thing the Scottish Government is responsible for is organising the rollout of the vaccine. Healthcare unfortunately is devolved. It is doing that job worse than England and Northern Ireland.

Scotland is getting a proportional share of the vaccine. There are supply difficulties for everyone. England and Northern Ireland may have advantages because they are rather more densely populated than Scotland. It may be harder to administer the vaccine to very remote places in the Highlands and Islands. But this also makes it less likely that we will catch the virus in the first place.

Scotland may have decided to vaccinate care homes first, which given the difficulty of bringing ultra-low temperature vaccines to such places might be slowing us down. But why didn’t we use the Oxford-AstraZeneca in care homes, which requires only an ordinary fridge and use the Pfizer vaccine elsewhere. I hate to think that Sturgeon doesn’t want to use the English vaccine. She cannot even bear to say the word Oxford.

Covid is the defining event of our time, but the SNP’s handling of it has been poor since the start. With our low population density Scotland should have done much better than England in terms of Covid cases and deaths.

Scotland has had 1,492,656 cases with 7,704 deaths.

But this is worse than any other European country with a population of 5 million

Denmark has had 189,000 cases and 1,775 deaths.

Slovakia has had 223,000 cases and 3,474 deaths.

Norway has had 58,651 cases and 517 deaths.

Finland has had 40,337 cases and 618 deaths.

 

If you compare like with like, then it becomes obvious that SNP Scotland has not merely done worse than anywhere else with a population of 5 million it has done more than ten times worse in terms of deaths than Norway and Finland.

Scotland has been kept going this year because the UK Treasury has funded us. We are receiving the vaccine only because the UK is supplying it. We have done no better than the UK as a whole with regard to Covid cases and deaths and on care home deaths, which ought to have been avoidable, we have done considerably worse. Despite having the advantage of low population density, we have done massively worse than any European country of a similar size. It is staggering to believe that so many Scots believe that Nicola Sturgeon has done a good job.

Everything that has gone well this year, such as furlough and the vaccine has been provided by the British Government. Everything that has gone badly such as our failure to deliver the vaccine as quickly as England and Northern Ireland and our decision to send people sick with Covid back into care homes has been due to decisions made by the SNP.

This year has demonstrated that Scotland has depended on the British Government for paying our wages and for the vaccine that will end the pandemic. But it is just now when she should be concentrating on delivering the vaccine that Sturgeon is distracted not merely by the Salmond Inquiry scandal, but by her starting another drive for independence. Focus on the day job Sturgeon or you will be responsible for still more unnecessary deaths. Already Scottish pensioners will be dying because of Scotland doing worse at rolling out the vaccine.

Scots who want independence should refuse their furlough money and refuse the vaccine, because if the SNP had won in 2014, we would have got neither.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Scottish independence would cause food shortages

 

It has always been my argument that Brexit made Scottish independence harder to achieve, because it would put a regulatory and possibly physical border between Scotland and England. But until now this has been a theoretical argument. But with reports of food shortages in Northern Ireland we now have evidence of just how important the UK’s internal market is not merely to Northern Ireland but to Scotland too.

At various points since 2016 the SNP argued that Scotland should be allowed to remain in the EU or sometimes the EU’s Single Market even if other parts of the UK left. But we can now see what would have happened if this had taken place.



The supply of goods and services to both Northern Ireland and Scotland come mainly from other parts of Britain. Even those products that come from the rest of the world are shipped first to English ports and then distributed onwards across the Irish Sea and the Scottish border. This is obvious when we go into a supermarket or any other shop. If you compare a French supermarket with a British supermarket you will find very different products.   Even the same international product will be distributed from France with French packaging to French supermarkets.

Scottish nationalists make a big deal about labelling food as Scottish, but Scotland is not remotely self-sufficient in food or much else. We depend on lorries driving from suppliers mainly in England and taking it to our shops. Without these ports and without these suppliers our shelves would be empty except for Scottish beef, whisky and skirlie.

These British dependent goods don’t have a little flag saying they were dependent on British manufacturers ports and supply lines. If they did, they would overwhelmingly outnumber the Scottish flags.

Who is at fault for shortages in Northern Ireland? It is fundamentally the fault of Ireland, because it was Ireland’s insistence on the Northern Irish backstop that put a regulatory border down the Irish sea. It is this and this alone that is causing the shortages and disrupting trade.

Ireland may blame Brexit for the shortages. But both Britain and Ireland chose to join the EEC, and no one would suggest that Ireland lacks the right to leave. The problem of Ireland and the UK being in different trading blocs could equally well have been solved by Ireland leaving too.

Whether Ireland likes it or not Northern Ireland is legally part of the UK and there is an international border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Britain chose in the 1920s to establish a common travel area between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State, but we didn’t have to. It would have been perfectly in our rights to build a barbed wire fence or dig a moat.

The problem of how to regulate trade between the UK and Ireland should have been solved where Irish goods and British goods cross an international border rather than within the UK. This would have prevented all trade disruption between Northern Ireland and the other parts of the UK. It was Ireland’s refusal to allow this that is causing shortages.

The problem is that while Ireland thinks of Northern Ireland as being within its sphere of influence and hopes one day that Northern Ireland will secede from the UK and join with it, Ireland has shown that it is unable to provide the goods and services that Northern Ireland lacks at present. Given that there is no regulatory border between Northern Ireland and Ireland why doesn’t Ireland immediately start shipping the products that Northern Ireland lacks? We have to assume either that it cannot or that the people of Northern Ireland would prefer to buy from Britain.

But if the people of Northern Ireland begin to realise that Ireland’s interference in the UK’s internal affairs by means of the Belfast Agreement is damaging both the Northern Irish economy and causing shortages, might this cause those people to cease to consent to the Belfast Agreement? It’s one thing to have a peace treaty that benefits everyone. It’s another to have a peace treaty that damages the Northern Irish economy and causes empty shelves. If that is the case, then the Northern Irish electorate needs to make this clear at the ballot box. It is the support for Irish Nationalism and Republicanism that keeps the shelves empty.

The secession argument in Northern Ireland and Scotland are the same. The argument is that leaving the UK would make both Scottish and Northern Irish people worse off and that our British internal market is more important than our trade with the EU, including Ireland. But it is just this that has been demonstrated in Northern Ireland. If a regulatory border down the Irish Sea damages Northern Ireland though it has not left the UK, how much more would it damage Scotland if secession was achieved?

If even Ireland cannot immediately make up for supply shortages in Northern Ireland and if Britain struggles to supply goods across the Irish Sea when there is no international border, then it is reasonable to assume that food shortages would be worse in Scotland if there were an international border between Scotland and England, because the former UK would have no obligation to supply Scotland at all and could indeed charge Scottish lorries a fee for using former UK roads, ports and distribution centres.

But if trade between the former UK and Scotland were disrupted who would make up the shortfall? The EU in the form of Ireland cannot supply Northern Irish supermarkets. The EU in the form of France, Germany or anyone would do no better with Scotland. The conclusion follows then that Scottish independence would cause food shortages.

 

Friday, 15 January 2021

And nothing but the truth

 

If it turns out to be true that the Scottish Government paid £55,000 pounds to coach civil servants before they gave testimony to the Salmond Inquiry and if it also turns out to be true that these same civil servants met each other prior to testifying, then it will be impossible to avoid the conclusion that the whole system of Government in Scotland has a problem.

I have no sources. If there is a deep throat telling journalists secrets, he is not telling them to me. I don’t therefore know any more than anyone else in Scotland about what has really been happening for these past few years. But it looks from the steady drip of information coming to the papers that there is someone who knows a lot and that someone is willing to tell.



There may be a rather surprising Bob Wingsward helping to attack a leader he must once have loved for the sake of a leader he loves better. The attacks coming from members of the independence movement are quite astonishing. Is it their disappointment that Sturgeon has not delivered a second referendum or rather their despair that she never will that is behind this? I like to think however that they too are genuinely shocked at what has happened to Sturgeon’s Scotland.

But it wasn’t of course Sturgeon who build the present Scotland. It was Alex Salmond. From the moment Salmond became First Minister Scotland changed.

There has always in Britain been a distinction between the civil service and the Government. The former would advise and help, but it would never become the Government. It was this that changed in Scotland especially when the SNP gained a majority and began to push for the independence referendum in 2014.

It gradually became clear that anyone in public life who depended on the Scottish Government in any way had to be careful not to disagree. The Scottish Government White Paper “Scotland’s Future” was written by civil servants, but it read as if it was written by independence supporters, because it was.

This was something quite new in British political life. No one could suggest that the civil service in London since the European Referendum has been filled exclusively with Brexiteers let alone Tories. Quite the reverse.

But in Scotland in order to reach the top of the civil service, the police, various public bodies, universities etc, it became necessary to at the very least not disagree publicly with the SNP.

This process has accelerated since the referendum in 2014. Not merely does Sturgeon identify Scotland with the Scottish Government and the SNP, it has become obvious that criticism of both Sturgeon and SNP policies will have a detrimental affect on someone’s career.

Suddenly we find that an American academic follows the SNP line. Why? It is unlikely such a person would even have heard of the SNP prior to coming to Scotland. On the other hand, another academic expert on viruses is frozen out because he is known to oppose the SNP.

Scotland has become centralised and with the centralisation dissent has become harder still. It has meant that there have been few insiders willing to go public with what they know about the inner workings of the Scottish establishment.

If the Scottish Government wants something there is a phone call or a meeting and a promise is made of something good that might happen and an implied threat of something bad that might happen and it is usually enough to get the required opinion to be said.

It is this context that is behind the stories of civil servant witnesses being coached and working together to get their stories straight. Such behaviour is unimaginable in London, because if a civil servant felt pressured to do this, he would leak it to the Guardian. But in Scotland who can you leak such a story to and feel safe? The story might reach the paper, but you’d still have to face the wrath of the SNP on Monday morning. If you were lucky you would be sent to Unst to count fish in the sea and be grateful you weren’t swimming with them.

If civil servants have been coached to be good witnesses and if they have shared notes, we are left with the intriguing possibility that this happened during the Salmond trial too. Were these witnesses coached and did they share notes? Were consultants paid to help them testify. If you are willing to tamper with witnesses for the Salmond Inquiry, why not the Salmond trial?

We are left to wonder why these witnesses came forward in the first place with their testimony about what Salmond allegedly did all those years earlier. Did it just happen spontaneously? But an organisation that is careful to make witnesses say the right thing and indeed journalists and academics, might not leave there being witnesses to mere spontaneity. Promises might be made, with the alternative suggested.

The problem goes to the heart of the independence movement. It is not accidental that the complete identification of the civil service with the Scottish Government occurred during the SNP’s power. It hasn’t happened in London, nor did it happen before the SNP in Edinburgh. It happened because for Scottish nationalists independence is a goal that transcends everything else.

The fervour of the disappointment of losing in 2014 has distorted the characters and warped the morality of some leading independence supporters. We were so close; couldn’t we bend a rule so that we might win next time. We mustn’t have too many scruples when the goal is so worth it. So, a reward was promised a threat made, but once you go down that path it becomes easier to go a little further.

Something rotten has been happening in Scotland worse I believe than the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon. It is getting very close to Sturgeon now.

Some independence supporters must realise that what they are doing to bring Sturgeon down will have a negative consequence for the prospects of independence. Without Sturgeon, the SNP could not mount a successful independence campaign at least in the short term.

But independence supporters even those who see Sturgeon for what she has become, must also take responsibility for why she became it. The failure to accept defeat and the excessive disappointment and determination to reverse that defeat as quickly as possible is the cause of the corruption that has taken over the Scottish Government and the SNP. It is this that led to the Sturgeon personality cult that meant she began to believe that she could do no wrong, and which I suspect led her to take one more step than was sensible, which looks now so close to bringing her down.

Politics in Scotland since 2014 has become not merely divided but excessive. It is this that perhaps has led to a conspiracy at the heart of Scottish Government to send a man to jail for a crime he did not commit.

To have the civil service and Government and perhaps police working together to convict you is a fearsome position to be in. It’s the sort of thing that used to happened in Eastern Europe.

There must be an independent public inquiry into the Scottish Civil Service. That inquiry must be formed from people from outside Scotland it must have the power change the Scottish Civil Service utterly.  

We don’t yet know quite what the motivation is for witnesses colluding with each other and being coached, but it fits in with the secretive workings of Sturgeon and the SNP Government. It fits in with how the SNP used to be a party of unity with no one dissenting and everyone singing from the same hymn sheet. But there are discordant voices now and right at the centre of the first circle is Sturgeon fighting a battle on multiple fronts, desperate to hide something because otherwise witnesses would merely need to be told to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.