Tuesday 9 February 2021

A Scottish standoff


There is a circle in the middle of a graveyard with a small rock in the centre. Alex Salmond stands with a gun in the final gunfight, but this is not a duel, but rather a three-way fight. A third of the way round the circle stands Nicola Sturgeon and after that I stand. It has been a long journey to this point, but now the secret that we have all been trying to find sits under that rock at the centre, but to get there we have to go through each other.

Scottish politics has become truel or a duel with three participants. Salmond and Sturgeon began their search for the gold as allies, but each has betrayed the other. The treasure lies buried in a grave, but which one. No one has all of the information needed to find it. Salmond knew where the graveyard was, Sturgeon thought she knew the name of the grave. She thought the name was Alex Salmond, but when they dug in that grave, they found it to be empty. She wonders if the name on the grave instead was Nicola Sturgeon.

We face each other across the circle. Sturgeon and Salmond are still allies about independence. I want to stop them. But for the moment I am hoping that he can defeat her. If only he can reveal her secret, then neither of them would get the gold, because I would be there to claim it. But what if they should shoot the only opponent of independence in the circle rather than each other? And who do I shoot.

I have lost track of the convoluted tale of Salmond and Sturgeon on many occasions since I first heard about it. The problem is that I am an outsider. I don’t know any of the participants. The story is incestuous. Only the SNP is involved. But now it has become a fratricidal civil war with former friends and lovers turning on each other. Each side represented by a figure in the graveyard.

Peter Murrell’s evidence under oath appears to contradict his previous evidence under oath. There is a word for this beginning with P, but the police were long ago centralised in Scotland and anyway everyone in Scotland judges everything by their stance on independence. The SNP members of the Salmond Inquiry don’t ask any difficult questions to Mr Murrell. Only the Pro UK members really want to find out the truth. There are no Salmond supporters inside the Inquiry. But if an Inquiry can be influenced, then clearly so can a court case. So, what is the likelihood that anything bad will happen to Mr Murrell? Perhaps this is why he is not much bothered by what if anything might be under the rock.

The outsider looking on discovers that £76,000 was spent on five civil service witnesses so that they could forget what they saw or heard. How much was spent on Mr Murrell’s testimony or was he able to learn how to give contradictory answers for free?

Mr Salmond failed to appear before the Inquiry because the evidence he wished to submit, which was freely available to all who wanted to read it, could not be published by the Committee of Inquiry. So while Mr Murrell is allowed to give contradictory evidence and five civil servants are allowed the services of lawyers paid for from public money to say as little as possible, Mr Salmond is not allowed to tell the Inquiry what  he has already told the world and what the Inquiry has no doubt read along with everyone else. If this is the way truth is uncovered in an Inquiry in Scotland is it any wonder that Mr Salmond is resorting to a Mexican standoff?

Immediately after Mr Murrell’s evidence, we discover from the woman who Mr Murrell exchanged conspiratorial texts with Sue Ruddick, that Alex Salmond had physically assaulted her in 2008. Later Anne Harvey someone who has been active in the SNP since 1974 claimed that she was the only witness to the alleged event and that it amounted to Salmond brushing past Ruddick.

Was it pure chance that Ruddick chose that precise moment to reveal the 2008 assault? If I had been physically assaulted by a man in 2008, not that I can remember anything at all about 2008, I would have gone to the police rather earlier, perhaps while I still had the bruises. Waiting upwards of twelve years makes it rather tricky for the police to prove what happened one way or the other.

But this is our problem. The three-way gunfight is such that we no longer know who to believe, because each participant has their goal and each participant has witnesses, former friends, lovers, employees and everyone of them has a stake in the gunfight.

The career prospects of various civil servants in Scotland depend on Nicola Sturgeon remaining First Minister. Alex Salmond’s supporters including anti-Semitic MP Neile Hanvey encourages a crowd funded defamation case against fellow MP Kirsty Blackman. I look on and point my gun at both Sturgeon and Salmond, but I wonder which one to shoot because I want them both to lose.

But independence supporters are no longer interested in Pro UK people like me. Their support is so high that they already think it is safe to ignore Labour, the Lib Dems or the Conservatives.  The SNP is exclusively fighting each other, which is an odd position for a party that has yet to achieve its goal.

But as I point to one then the other, I discover finally when I try to shoot that I don’t have any bullets. Either one of Sturgeon or Salmond emptied my gun, just so that it would be a fair fight and anyway because they are concentrating only on shooting each other. In the end I remain an outsider. I don’t know what went on at a Glenrothes byelection in 2008. I was never in Bute House. Only Salmond and Sturgeon know what happened. It means my gun is empty.

We have reached the end. The music is playing as we go round and round the circle. The camera zooms in to the eyes of each of us. This can only end with one or more of us down in the dust. We may reach the moment when we reach for our guns now or in another minute, but it has gone beyond the point where anyone is backing down. The truth is under a rock. It crawled there when we allowed the SNP to be in charge.