Thursday 11 March 2021

The memory of a goldfish


Recollections may vary about conversations between unnamed members of the Royal family and Prince Harry and his wife, but they also may vary between Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon. Memory is frequently unreliable. Nicola Sturgeon would appear to have a rather poor memory. Her testimony to the Alex Salmond inquiry involved lots of occasions when she stated that she could not remember, or she was not told, or she wasn’t there. But it is becoming clear that Alex Salmond was singled out for rather different treatment to other SNP politicians involved in scandal.

I have listed rather a lot of scandals involving SNP politicians and party members. There is no need to add to this list at least not now. The point has been made. The SNP appears to attract or else create people peculiarly tempted towards dubious behaviour. This may be because the SNP is so powerful in Scotland. It may also be because the SNP is so secretive.

The first reaction to any scandal is to try to cover it up. When news about Derek Mackay sending inappropriate text messages to a teenage boy emerged the Scottish Government tried to stop the Sun publishing it. So too when an SNP worker complained about SNP chief whip Patrick Grady’s behaviour in 2016 it took until now for the details to be published by the Daily Record.

The Record tells us that “First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been informed.” It is not clear from the story when she was informed. Perhaps she was informed in 2016 or only now in 2021 when the story is published in the Record. But it would be odd to inform her about a story that all of us can read.

If Nicola Sturgeon has been informed about Patrick Grady, it is reasonable to assume that it is normal procedure to inform her that an MP or MSP is being investigated. But if that is the case why was she not informed about Alex Salmond when the investigation into his alleged behaviour began in the Autumn of 2017?

The Patrick Grady story also involves the allegation that when sometime later Ian Blackford found out about the allegation of sexual harassment a meeting was arranged where Mr Grady tearfully apologised and the complainer was asked to accept the apology. But how can we describe such a meeting? One way of describing it would be mediation. But this once more shows a difference between how Grady was treated and how Alex Salmond was treated. Mr Salmond too asked Nicola Sturgeon to mediate. He alleges that she initially agreed but later changed her mind. If the leader of the SNP in Westminster thought it appropriate to mediate, it is reasonable to assume that this was normal practice in the SNP. But why then was Alex Salmond’s request for mediation rejected by the leader of the SNP in Scotland?

The allegations against Mr Salmond were initially limited to Woman A and Woman B.

According to the BBC these women claimed that Alex Salmond:

Indecently assaulted Woman A on a number of occasions in Glasgow in June and July 2008 by kissing her on the mouth and touching her buttocks and breasts with his hands over her clothing.

Sexually assaulted Woman A in December 2010 or December 2011 in the Ego nightclub in Edinburgh by touching her arms and hips with his hands over her clothing.

Indecently assaulted Woman B in October or November 2010 at Bute House by repeatedly seizing her by the wrists and repeatedly pulling her towards him and attempting to kiss her.

The first charge of Woman A is serious, but the traditional response to such behaviour would be to slap the man rather than attempt to send him to jail. Many women will have met their future husbands in a way not too dissimilar to his drunkenly kissing her and trying to touch her breasts and buttocks. It cannot have always been the case that such a husband asked beforehand “May I kiss you and then touch your breasts and buttocks”. Rather such things just happen, and the man is either sent away with “Keep your hands to yourself” or things develop further. People make mistakes, misread signals. If every such mistake and misreading led to jail, we would have to build rather more jails in Scotland.

The second accusation by Woman A could be described as dancing. When a man dances a waltz, he touches a woman’s arms and hips.  The accusation by Woman B is a classic Hollywood love scene. When a man tries to pull a woman towards him by the wrists in order to kiss her, we have the first kiss of the movie. There is soaring music and the actress falls into his arms. Again, if every failed attempt to kiss a woman in a social situation led to jail, we would need more jails. Women don’t expect to be asked permission before every first kiss and few will have received them. It cannot be that in attempting to kiss a woman a man faces a dilemma. Either he succeeds and gets a girlfriend or a wife, or he fails and goes to jail. In that case no one would ever risk kissing anyone and the human race would have long ceased to exist.

The SNP staffer also accuses an unnamed woman SNP MP of drunkenly propositioning her. She allegedly grabbed his hand and asked him to come home with her. This may have been embarrassing, but is this too to be considered a crime? If every Scottish man and woman who drunkenly asks someone else to go home with them is to be sent to jail every time the request is denied, we are going to need still more jails.

Mr Grady is accused of putting his hand down another man’s neck and grabbing him by the hair. It is rather odd behaviour, but if someone can be accused of sexual assault for touching someone’s neck and hair, once more we are going to need even more jails in fact we would be as well to turn the whole of Scotland into a prison given that we soon will be prosecuted for what we say in private.

The SNP’s response to accusations against Mr Grady and the unnamed woman MP were to try to stop the stories getting out and to use mediation at least with Mr Grady. Salmond’s alleged behaviour may have been more serious but did not as his lawyer put it involve “war crimes”. But in Salmond’s case these allegations were enough to merit a full investigation and an attempt to find more complainers with more charges. Did the SNP seek out more witnesses to Derek Mackay’s behaviour or Patrick Grady’s or the woman MP’s? Did someone most probably in the Scottish Government leak details to the Daily Record about these people? Why then was there a leak about Alex Salmond?

Alex Salmond was treated differently from SNP politicians who had allegedly been involved in sexual harassment. In his case Nicola Sturgeon was not informed and his attempt to obtain mediation was refused. But she has been informed about Mr Grady and Ian Blackford tried to mediate the dispute. But why was Mr Salmond treated differently? Is there one rule for SNP politicians who Sturgeon likes and wants to support and one rule for Alex Salmond who she wanted to get rid of? We could ask except she has the memory of a goldfish.

Thanks to @Cartoonsbyjosh