Tuesday 23 February 2021

Only three people understand the Salmond business.


Only three people have ever really understood the Alex Salmond business—the Prince Consort, who is in hospital—a German professor, who has gone mad—and I, who have forgotten all about it.

It is for this reason that Nicola Sturgeon is able to get away with demanding that Alex Salmond provide evidence for his conspiracy claims. It is the equivalent of a policeman tampering with the evidence and then demanding that I prove myself innocent.

The attempt to get at the truth of what happened between Sturgeon and Salmond has been hindered at every step by someone. Witnesses at the Inquiry have been evasive. Testimony has been contradictory. There have been votes along independence supporting lines as to whether the Committee can see this bit of evidence or not. The Scottish Government promised to cooperate, but instead has hindered. Who can the someone directing the hindering be or are we to suppose that it just happens accidentally?

Salmond’s latest submission about which he is due to speak on Wednesday is a detailed legal document including words like “sisting” (pausing) that I did not know.

It would not be discussed in the pub even if the pubs were open. This is crucial because it will be public opinion that decides the outcome unless there emerges some information that makes it obvious to even the most uninformed viewer that Sturgeon has done something seriously wrong.

We begin in the Autumn of 2017 with Leslie Evans, Sturgeon’s Permanent Secretary briefing Sturgeon about a Sky news story about Salmond’s alleged misbehaviour at Edinburgh Airport. Immediately after this we find civil servants devising a procedure for investigating the behaviour of former ministers, which was unique in the UK.  Are we to suppose that this was purely coincidental, and that Sturgeon knew nothing about it? Suddenly we are investigating former minsters when no one else does. Why? Perhaps someone saw the chance to get rid of a rival.

This unusual procedure for investigating the conduct of former ministers was then used to find people who wanted to make complaints about former ministers. It succeeded. A draft of the policy was even shared with one of the complainants. The Investigating Officer Judith McKinnon and the complainants knew each other and had worked together although this was contrary to the procedure. This meant that there was bias in the investigation from the start.

Sturgeon claimed that she knew nothing about the allegations against Salmond until she was informed on April 2nd, 2018. But this requires us to believe that there was an investigation into Alex Salmond’s behaviour which began the previous Autumn and Sturgeon wasn’t told about it. Imagine if Sturgeon has still been best friends with Salmond in 2017. How would it have gone down if civil servants on their own initiative had started to investigate the former leader of the SNP?

It was probably the Scottish Government that leaked the whole story to the Daily Record in August 2018, but what is extraordinary is that this happened immediately after Mr Salmond’s legal team sought to prevent the Scottish Government from releasing a statement about the case. It is clear that the Scottish Government sought to publicise the case and then actively sought witnesses against Mr Salmond by sending emails to SNP supporters and former SNP employees asking them if they wished to raise concerns about Salmond.

That there was a witch hunt against Salmond is obvious. It is impossible to imagine that it could not have taken place without the consent and cooperation of Nicola Sturgeon. Everything we know about Sturgeon is that she is controlling and in charge.

We already know that the Scottish Government investigation into Salmond was tainted by bias as this was the finding of a court, but what we didn’t know then is the extent to which the Scottish Government would go to cover up the story.

There are arguments for and against allowing anonymity in certain cases. Women might be reluctant to testify if their identity was not protected is an argument in favour. An argument against is that anonymity might hinder the discovery of the truth. It is clear now that the Scottish Government has used the requirement to protect the anonymity of the witnesses as a cloak with which to hide its own actions.

The problem furthermore is that if there were a conspiracy against Mr Salmond, the identity of the conspirators is part of the evidence. If some of the women who testified against Mr Salmond were also part of a conspiracy, it might only be possible to know this if we knew about what relationship they had to Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government, what position they took on the division in the SNP between Salmond and Sturgeon supporters and whether or not they had any grudge or ill will towards Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for evidence is similar to her demanding that Salmond roll a pair of sixes when she has loaded the dice to make this impossible.

But the rejection of a jury of the testimony of nine witnesses suggests that the jury did not trust them collectively. One reason for this is that the jury might have suspected that there was a conspiracy and that it viewed the whole investigation of Salmond as tainted with bias.

It is not merely that Salmond must provide evidence. He has done so within the limits allowed. Sturgeon must also prove that she has nothing to hide. She must provide an explanation for why the Scottish Government has been so obstructive and why she used so much power to go after her former friend who was later acquitted. Why investigate someone who was innocent?

Even if Sturgeon is shown to have broken the Ministerial Code she will survive, because the pro-independence bias on the Committee would vote to exonerate her even if she were shown to be complicit in the Massacre of the Innocents.

There is little doubt that Sturgeon sought to get Salmond jailed, but the details will remain obscure until there is some action of hers that can be pointed to that everyone can grasp intuitively and which she cannot avoid or evade. We are not there yet. Only three people understand the Alex Salmond business.