These were the words, shown in court, in a text of Ms H to a co-conspirator as they launched their infamous effort to destroy Alex Salmond. The plan was to make false sexual allegations against Salmond, which would ensure the conspirators lifelong anonymity as “victims” and thus protect them against any backlash should the plan fail. They were all very powerful women, so insuring themselves was paramount. The “plan” turns out to have the added advantage that the collapse of their efforts in court in no way diminished their ability to continue their anonymous campaign to destroy Salmond.
[UPDATE: James Doleman noted down a slightly different version of this quote in court. He has “I have a plan so that we can remain anonymous but see strong repercussions”. The meaning is effectively identical, but online trolls are trying to seize on the difference as evidence of subterfuge on my part.]
The Nameless 9 have been able to issue joint statement after joint statement seeking to cast doubt upon the verdict and even to deploy the jury’s verdict as merely another instrument of their own oppression, a further example of their own martyrdom. There have been no shortage of mainsteam media journalists and of Scottish Government funded institutions, most notably Rape Crisis Scotland, willing to amplify that “Salmond is guilty really” message. It reaches its apogee in an article from Dani Garavelli.
The establishment has united in relief behind Garavelli’s article, claiming it proves that Salmond is unfit for political office. The most fascinating thing is to see unionists and Sturgeon supporters join together in lockstep in their applause. Mhairi Hunter, Kirsty Strickland, Gerry Hassan and Bella Caledonia unite in retweeting with cries of admiration alongside Paul Hutcheon, Severin Carrell, Alex Massie and Kenny Farquharson of Scotland’s laughably biased corporate media, and everybody who is anybody at the BBC.
It is particularly telling that senior SNP figures are all retweeting rapturously an article that states explicitly that Sturgeon prioritises feminism over Independence, and has no intention of moving for Independence soon, and contrasts this with the views of Alex Salmond. It is also interesting that SNP figures are retweeting an article that casually labels Independence supporters “cybernats” and indulges in lazy anti-Scots caricatures of Salmond’s supporters and the way that they speak. I realise Garavelli is herself Scots; with a serious infection of cringe.
When I published my article on the trial setting out all the facts the mainstream media has withheld, I challenged any establishment hack to publish a critique of it and show where my facts were untrue. Of course they could not even attempt to do that. What they did instead was to publish a large photo of my home in the Daily Record with an article inciting against me, endangering the safety of my wife and children.
However once the Establishment decided to rally round Ms Garavelli’s article as the “intellectual” response to the Salmond verdict, I decided it would be hypocritical of me not to subject it to the detailed critique I had challenged them to make to my own article. It is not easy to challenge the facts in Garavelli’s article, because there are virtually none. It is an exercise in emoting. It does reproduce some prosecution accusations, and simply ignores the defence evidence as though it did not exist.
One result of the exercise is that I am absolutely convinced that nobody with an elementary education can claim in good faith that they find Ms Garavelli’s arguments convincing. If I believed that any significant number of people in public life genuinely believed that Ms Garavelli is right, I would quit for ever. I would never write again, on the grounds that logic and reason have been abandoned in favour of tribal fetish that worships maxims like “the woman must always be believed”.
I am doing this because actual truth, actual fact matters. If we allow people like Garavelli and her influential backers to subordinate truth to slogan and emotion, we are back in the Middle Ages.
No. Those who are lauding Ms Garavelli are doing so because they wish to destroy Alex Salmond and wish to destroy Scottish Independence, and to triumphantly proclaim the victory of their narrow brand of intolerance disguised as feminism.
The most interesting feature of the current political scene in Scotland is this conjunction of fourth wave feminism in the SNP inner circle with the desire to put off indefinitely any real attempt at Independence. On that point at least, Garavelli’s article and I are in absolute agreement. To which it is worth adding, that you would have to be living with no internet not to have noticed the lockstep of unionists with the Sturgeon fourth wave feminist inner circle in their efforts to destroy Alex Salmond.
So let us start to analyse Garavelli’s article. Please do at least go to the original on Tortoise for a minute. You can get the sense of her article better there before seeing my critique, and I want to be fair. Plus I do not wish to deprive them of traffic. From my initial reading, if you are a Blairite you will feel right at home on Tortoise.
Garavelli’s article in blue.
It is 3.09pm, Monday, March 23, 2020. The year of the Coronavirus, Edinburgh. The Royal Mile – the stretch of road that runs between Holyrood Palace and the Castle – is eerily quiet. Gone are the workers with their carry-out coffees. Gone, the tour groups who gaze up at the cathedral, dedicated to St Giles, the patron saint of lepers.
St Giles is patron saint of Edinburgh. He is more generally referred to as patron saint of the disabled. His full official patronages are “cripples, beggars, lepers and Edinburgh”. Dani has of course selected “leper” and then “Alex Salmond” follows in the next sentence. Subtle, eh?
The trial of Alex Salmond was about power and sex, about the future of the political party he took from the margins to centre stage, and about Scotland’s status as a nation.
The small patch of pavement in front of the city’s High Court, however, is thronged with reporters and photographers, joined by a bunch of cybernats who shout out “on yerself, Alex,” as the former First Minister, former leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), former champion of the campaign for Scottish independence thanks a jury of eight women and five men for acquitting him of 13 charges of sexual assault from nine complainants.
The term “bunch of cybernats” is a pejorative with no justification. I know a few of the small number of people referred to and they are friends of Alex and not particularly active online. Why this use of the derogatory term “cybernats”? This is simply an attempt with no basis to dismiss the right to an opinion of those who supported Alex Salmond. Note also that in contrast to Ms Garavelli’s fine English prose, the “cybernats” are the rough uncouth other, who speak Scots: “on yerself”. Ms Garavelli could not possibly look further down her nose.
To those who have witnessed him in his pomp, Salmond cuts a diminished figure. The familiar dark overcoat, tartan scarf and saltire-dotted tie are still present and correct, but the triumphalist bluster and Tigger bounce have vanished.
“Triumphalist bluster”. Again, a highly derogatory description of Salmond with no attempt to establish it in fact. Indeed it is a quality that she says was not currently on display. So why make this insulting description?
And yet, he hints at their return. “There is certain evidence I would have liked to have seen led in this trial, but for a variety of reasons, this was not possible,” he says. “Those facts will see the light.” Everyone outside the court understands what this means. It’s a threat. It’s a promise. He is saying: “This is not over. Not by a long shot.”
Alex Salmond was prevented from leading in court evidence that the accusers with others conspired against him to bring false allegations. This debar was established both at two public pre-trial hearings and on two occasions during the trial when the judge intervened to prevent defence witnesses from giving evidence.
That evidence however will be central to the judicial review hearing of the Scottish Government’s handling of the case against him. It will also be available to the parliamentary inquiry at Holyrood into the same thing. It may also be used in any civil litigation Alex Salmond may bring.
To describe Alex Salmond’s plain statement that “those facts will see the light” as a threat is ludicrous. He could not prevent them from seeing the light in the judicial review and the parliamentary inquiry even if he wished to do so. To describe this as a threat is in no sense factual and is just a blatant display of the extraordinary bias with which Ms Garavelli views events.
In another part of the country, Woman K – former civil servant and one of the complainants – is working from home when Salmond’s voice suddenly cuts into her kitchen. Instinctively, she covers her ears. “I couldn’t move, I couldn’t hear him gloating. It was a visceral reaction,” she says.
Note the complete absence of the kind of pejorative framing of Salmond – cybernats, lepers, triumphalism – when it comes to Woman K, who is immediately established as a homely person in her kitchen. Unlike Salmond’s uncouth supporters, she speaks perfect English, not Scots. Note that unlike Salmond, Garavelli does not try to judge or negatively categorise her words, but merely accepts her description of Salmond “gloating”.
Woman K is one of two women whose complaints about Salmond prompted the original Scottish government inquiry back in early 2018, just months after the Harvey Weinstein story broke. Ever since those allegations were leaked to the Daily Record newspaper, she has been unable to stop herself trawling Twitter and Facebook to read the insults written about her and the other women. “I can’t not look for stuff. I am always there, constantly refreshing. It’s an act of self-harm,” she says.
The effort to link Salmond to Weinstein is a constant tactic of those who wish us to judge the case without any consideration of the actual evidence. Woman K may be in emotional distress about the trial if she is telling the truth about events, or possibly even greater emotional distress if she is not telling the truth. Ms Garavelli is using the alleged emotional state to arouse sympathy; it is not evidence.
This tweet, on an anonymous account, is typical. “Whore A. #Liar. Whore B. #Liar. Whore C. #Liar,” it says. “Dettol and steel wool time at the SNP,” reads another. Some online warriors have come close to breaching the women’s anonymity.
The problem with claimed tweets from anonymous accounts is that there is, by definition, no means of telling who sent them, nor why. This is an attempt to link with the meme of Salmond’s friends branded as “cybernats” at the start of the article. In fact this is not evidence at all. The anonymous tweet could very well be sent by somebody as determined as Ms Garavelli to denigrate support for the jury’s verdict. Again, zero evidential value.
Since the verdict, I have spoken to five of the nine women, all of whom were offered extra security to keep them safe. They are devastated to find themselves cast as orchestrators of a grand plot to bring down the greatest Scottish politician of his generation.
Here is an attempt to dismiss the central claim of the defence, by ridicule. Dani does not mention any facts. One fact shown in court is that five of the nine were members of the WhatsApp group concerting the allegations. That fact makes the ridicule by Gavarelli entirely inappropriate.
We can note here for the first time that she spoke to five of the accusers, but spoke to zero of the defence witnesses who refuted them. This piece fails the very first rule on fairness of Journalism 101.
“It is so hard to see people take the jury’s finding and then say that means we were all conspiring or lying,” Woman K says. “Throughout this whole thing, we’ve not been able to have a voice and now there is no way any of us can counter the terrible things that are being said about us.”
Here we come to the key flaw in Ms Garavelli’s approach. She takes it as read the women were not lying – and she makes no effort at all to look at what they alleged, and why the jury did not believe them. There were two eye witnesses, in addition to Alex Salmond, who contradicted Woman K’s allegation.
The allegation from Woman K was that, after a dinner at Stirling castle, Alex Salmond grabbed her buttock while they were having their photo taken together. The circumstance was that everybody at the dinner had their photo taken with Alex Salmond one by one, by a professional photographer, on the rampart of Stirling Castle with the Lion Rampant flying behind them.
Two witnesses, Alexander Anderson and Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh, had both been in the same small group as Woman K on the ramparts with Alex Salmond. Both had also had their photos taken, and both testified they had watched Woman K have her photo taken with Alex Salmond from just a few feet away. Neither had seen anything happen as Woman K described. They did not see Alex Salmond grab her buttock, they did not see any strange reaction or sense of discomfort in Woman K nor any change in her attitude or behaviour. In other words, Woman K’s account was not only denied by Alex Salmond, it was refuted by two close eye witnesses.
The extraordinary thing is, that Garavelli knows all of that. She sat through the evidence of Alexander Anderson and Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh. But she hides it. She blanks it out. She keeps it secret from her readers. She censors out all facts which do not fit her narrative. Because Ms Garavelli wrote this article with the sole purpose of presenting a sympathetic account of the discredited accusers while omitting all trace of the defence evidence. Garavelli’s only intent was to defame and destroy the reputation of Alex Salmond and try to insinuate by cold, deliberate and repeated omission and misrepresentation that the verdict of the jury was a mistake.
We should also address her claim that the “women do not have a voice”. That is yet another utterly unjustified claim to victimhood. All of the women are in powerful positions. They each had their voice heard loudly and clearly in court. The jury knew what that voice was worth.
Since then, the nine powerful women who concerted to make false allegations against Alex Salmond have continued to have the loudest voice in Scotland. They issued a joint statement through Rape Crisis Scotland, which appeared on the front page of every newspaper in Scotland and was all over the BBC. How is that “having no voice”? This article is a further example of their continuing media campaign to destroy Alex Salmond, despite having lost in both the High Court and the Court of Session. Unlike the innocent Mr Salmond, Woman K who lied about being groped during a photoshoot, can conduct her campaign from behind a screen of state protected anonymity.
Woman F – the other original complainant, who never actively sought criminal charges – says the social media backlash is compounding her distress.
“It’s difficult not to see the verdict as a reflection on yourself,” she says. “One of the reasons I didn’t want to go [to the police] was the idea of going through an adversarial court process with the First Minister, and then having a jury say they didn’t believe you. I found that prospect unbearable.
“Obviously they are taking a decision based on the evidence as they see it and interpret it, and that’s their role and their right, but it’s difficult to see that as anything other than a stamp of failure.”
Woman F is in a different category. An incident undoubtedly happened. She was working late on the ministerial box with Alex Salmond in Bute House and a few drinks led to a cuddle on the bed, which Alex Salmond acknowledged at the time and acknowledged at the trial, ought not to have happened and was inappropriate.
She did indeed raise the issue at the time, and received a formal apology from Alex Salmond and an offer to transfer to another job at the same level. She accepted his apology and chose to continue working with him and did so happily for a substantial period. Ms Garavelli is accurate that Woman F had never wanted to go to the police. She was badgered into it once the decision was taken to eliminate Salmond, as Woman F’s story was the little grain of fact around which they sought to create their pearl.
The interesting point is that Woman F’s original complaint said nothing about Salmond attempting to grope under her underwear. Those details were added later in a series of increasingly salacious statements once the police and the Leslie Evans process started sexing up (literally) the allegation. Under pressure, I believe Woman F became confused herself as to the truth of events.
Defence Counsel in summing up used the memorable phrase that Woman F’s account had “grown arms and legs” over the years. That is undoubtedly true from successive statements, and I think that is why the jury found it did not amount to sexual assault. I do not accuse Woman F of lying or scheming.
Their experience is, up to a point, inevitable. All trials are a battle of competing narratives, and this one was no different. Prosecuting, the Advocate Depute, Alex Prentice, QC – a low-key, but forensic operator – presented the complainers as committed professionals reduced to sexual playthings by a man drunk on his own untouchability.
Defending, Gordon Jackson, QC, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, and his junior Shelagh McCall, presented them as schemers: women who had either made things up, or over-reacted. A majority of the jury believed Jackson’s version. Salmond is innocent; ergo – in some eyes – the women must be guilty.
But trials, particularly sexual offence trials, are complicated affairs, with high stakes and, often, muddy waters. There tend not to be eyewitnesses, and yet the jury must be convinced beyond reasonable doubt, and so convictions are difficult to secure.
This is false equivalence. Garavelli attempts to muddy the facts of this case firstly by portraying the difficulty as that of “he said, she said” decision by the jury. But that was not the case here. In most of the accusations, the accusers were shown to be lying by other independent witnesses – whose accounts Garavelli dishonestly and systematically omits.
In this trial the stakes were higher, and the waters muddier, than most. On the verdict hung not only the fate of the man who took the SNP from the fringes to the mainstream, and the country to the brink of independence, but that of his protege-turned-adversary, Nicola Sturgeon, along with the Scottish independence movement as a whole.
If that wasn’t enough weight to bear – unfolding alongside the Weinstein case in the US – it was seen as a referendum on the #MeToo movement; a litmus test for contemporary attitudes on sexual offending in the workplace. Had #MeToo challenged public misconceptions on sex and power? Was it being used to empower women; or to victimise men?
This is Garavelli’s second mention of the entirely irrelevant Weinstein – a blatant attempt to sully Salmond by association. The repeated references to #Metoo are only of any value in clarifying Garavelli’s own mindset and explaining the incredible levels of biased selection of fact in her article.
Because actually this was not about #metoo or about Weinstein, however much Garavelli and her political allies want it to be. It was about whether Alex Salmond committed certain criminal acts. Which he did not. He is innocent.
As for the muddy waters, where to start? Salmond is innocent; but he does not come out of this unsullied. “I wish on my life the First Minister had been a better man and I wasn’t here today,” said Woman H, who claimed whilst giving evidence that he’d attempted to rape her.
Of all the witnesses, Woman H was the one most comprehensively shown to be a nasty and ill-motivated liar. Her comments on the character of Alex Salmond are just that. The jury did not believe Woman H. We will come to her later.
The attempted rape charge was dismissed along with all the others, but the broader sentiment was endorsed. Both Prentice and Jackson, prosecution and defence, quoted Woman H in their closing submissions. “I wish on my life the First Minister had been a better man and I wasn’t here today,” Jackson said. “It’s a good line. Maybe it was rehearsed. But it is true. Because if, in some ways, the former First Minister had been a better man, I wouldn’t be here, you wouldn’t be here. None of us would be here.”
Jackson was using the understood rhetorical device whereby you start off by appearing to concur with your opponents’ point and then you go on to demolish it. This is yet again an example of Garavelli’s extraordinary and quite deliberate distortion by omission in presenting the defence case, and in particular omitting in virtually its entirety the evidence of all the defence witnesses, seven of them female.
This was, in fact, the core of the defence case: that Salmond was a flawed, demanding, irascible leader, whose behaviour could be inappropriate, though never quite so inappropriate as to be criminal. Never that.
This is simply an untruth. The core of the defence case was, plain as a pikestaff, that the allegations were lies concocted in collusion as part of a conspiracy to destroy Alex Salmond politically. The defence was not “he felt her up but that is not illegal”. By failing to present the actual facts of the defence, – in which Garavelli is in lockstep with the entire rest of the state and corporate media – Garavelli is quite deliberately seeking to encompass the goal of Salmond’s political destruction through repeating the allegations, seeing the innocent verdict as merely a bump in that road.
It was an impression reinforced last weekend when footage emerged of the garrulous Jackson discussing his client loudly on the Edinburgh to Glasgow train at a time when the trial was still in progress. He referred to Salmond and the allegations, as “inappropriate, arsehole, stupid, but sexual?” He also risked being in contempt of court by mentioning two of the complainers by name, and said his strategy included trying to “put a smell” on the women.
Many had wondered at the wisdom of choosing Jackson as a defence lawyer for a high profile sexual assault case. He did secure the acquittals, but at what cost? His indiscretion has effectively “put a smell” on Salmond, and he has referred himself to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
Garavelli at least here correctly admits Jackson was saying Salmond’s behaviour was not sexual, unlike the Murdoch media’s false claim he called Alex a sex pest. The taping of Jackson is highly suspicious. That Jackson, a former Labour MP, is not Salmond’s greatest fan is unsurprising. And we do not know his motive in modulating his views to his particular interlocutor on the train. There is no “smoking gun” here, no indication of any wrong act by Salmond, despite the media excitement.
Much of the prosecution case centred on what happened in Bute House – the First Minister’s official residence in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. To those of us who sat through the two-week trial, the lay-out of the Georgian townhouse is now as familiar as our own homes. The basement where the civil servants had their offices. The first floor with its chandelier-lit drawing room, the site of many an IndyRef dinner. The second floor (part official/part private), with its adjoining sitting room and study. And the third floor with its private bedrooms – one of which was the scene of whatever happened with Woman F, on the night of 4 December, 2013. That something inappropriate took place has never been denied. Woman F received an apology from Salmond at the time and an assurance it would never happen again. Now she too – along with the other complainants – is being branded a liar on the internet.
I cannot find a great deal of evidence of Woman F being branded a liar on the internet. I would not call her such. There is no doubt that under pressure she embellished successive accounts of the incident. We have no idea what a jury thinks, but it seems highly probable they thought her first and less extreme account was the true one.
The image created of the former First Minister – an image undisputed by the defence – was of a man who could not bear to be alone. A man who worked all hours in both his public and private quarters and expected civil servants and government officials to work alongside him. A man who drank while he worked, and wanted others to drink too. A man for whom the boundaries between work and leisure, business and pleasure were hazy. Blurred lines, as they say.
This again is simply untrue. There was no evidence led he could not bear to be alone. The defence led a great deal of evidence that it was perfectly normal for the First Minister to be accompanied by Private Office staff at official functions in the evenings and to be working on the paperwork in the ministerial box with him at his home until after midnight. As a former senior civil servant myself, I can tell you for certain this is absolutely true; it is how every UK minister operates too.
There were other hints of murkiness too: allusions to machinations which, as Salmond said, could not be spelled out in court. “There is something going on here,” Jackson told the jury. “I can’t prove it, but I can smell it.”
Those of us who covered the preliminary hearings know what he was talking about: texts and emails the defence see as proof of a plot. One of them read: “We have lost the battle, but we will win the war.”
The lost battle referred to the judicial review – pursued by Salmond – which found the Scottish government’s investigation of the first two complaints had been unlawful; the war, to the criminal trial. Between the start of the judicial review and police charges being laid, eight more complainers had come forward.
The reason there were “hints of murkiness” is that the defence were barred by the court from entering the evidence of conspiracy. All they could get away with was the odd hint.
The text “We have lost the battle, but we will win the war” was from Leslie Evans, Head of the Scottish Civil Service. She sent it minutes after Scotland’s highest civil court, the Court of Session, had handed victory to Alex Salmond in a stunning ruling that the Scottish Government process of investigation into Alex Salmond was “illegitimate, unfair and tainted by apparent bias”. Something else Garavelli does not tell you.
The Scottish Government then put Police Scotland and the Crown Office up to bringing in the criminal prosecution. They have now lost that too. Salmond has been vindicated in the highest civil court in the land and in the highest criminal court in the land. But Garavelli is still out to destroy his reputation despite the verdict of both courts.
The next act in this drama – Salmond’s reckoning – will be played out in a post-coronavirus world. But the seeds are already sown. They have been scattered by those supporters who turned up at the court day after day to shout “Captain, my Captain” or to play ‘Freedom Come All Ye’ on the bagpipes.
Oh look. It is those plainly retarded, very ethnic and uncouth Salmond supporters again.
They have been scattered by the former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, MP Joanna Cherry and MSP Alex Neil, who called for resignations and fresh inquiries; and by the online warriors tweeting bile-laden tweets about women they will never know.
Actually I know some of them. Can’t speak for others. Scotland is a small country.
It is clear Salmond is on the warpath. The question is how far will he go? Is he willing to set fire to the house he built, just to watch his enemies burn?
All great dramas have a central theme. The theme for The Rise and Fall and Putative Rise of Alex Salmond is power. It runs through the unfolding events like an electric current. The lust for it, what you do with it when you acquire it, and what happens when you refuse let it go.
It was a shift in political power dynamics – from Salmond to Sturgeon post-IndyRef – that provided the local catalyst; a shift in gender power dynamics post-Weinstein, the global catalyst. It is no exaggeration to suggest that without the confluence of these two “moments”, the allegations at the centre of the court case might never have come to light.
Oh look. That’s three mentions of Weinstein now.
For the last 20 years, Salmond and Sturgeon have been the SNP’s towering figures, each to some degree responsible for the ascendancy of the other. Sturgeon – 16 years Salmond’s junior – was on the executive of the Young Scottish Nationalists and helped secure Salmond’s victory in the leadership election of 1990.
Of all the daft things Garavelli has written, this is perhaps the most risible. Anyone over the age of fifty is convulsed with laughter. The idea that 30 years ago Alex Salmond needed the support of the young Nicola Sturgeon to become SNP leader is just silly.
In return, Salmond acted as Sturgeon’s mentor as she became an SNP candidate, a list MSP and finally, MSP for Govan – a seat she took from Gordon Jackson in 2007. Back then, Jackson was combining his legal work with his job as a Labour politician. The Scottish establishment is a very small world.
The Salmond/Sturgeon relationship suffered a blip in 2004. Salmond had resigned as leader four years earlier to be replaced by John Swinney (now Deputy First Minister) and when Swinney resigned, Sturgeon threw her hat in the ring. Salmond had insisted he had no interest in being leader again. But when he realised his protege wasn’t going to win, he changed his mind.
Sturgeon was not best pleased. But they hammered out a pact at the Champany Inn in Linlithgow – the birthplace of both Salmond and Mary Queen of Scots. They would stand on a joint ticket, it was agreed, with Sturgeon as Salmond’s deputy. Then, when the time came for him to go, she would be the anointed one.
Unlike Tony Blair, Salmond kept his part of the bargain. As the IndyRef campaign gathered momentum, Sturgeon’s public profile grew and grew so that when – on 19 September, 2014 – the result was declared and Salmond resigned, there was no question over who would succeed him.
This is all broadly true, which comes as something of a shock.
Sturgeon surfed into the role of First Minister on a tide of goodwill. She owned the SNP conference in Glasgow the following spring, striding onto the stage like a coral-suited Boudicca.
It wasn’t long, however, until two facts became glaringly apparent: 1) Sturgeon had a very different style and set of priorities from Salmond and 2) Salmond had no intention of letting her get on with the job unhindered.
Sturgeon was more cautious than Salmond, less clubbable and much more interested in women’s issues. Right from the start, she put gender equality near the top of her agenda. She was particularly vocal on all-women shortlists, quotas for public boards and the eradication of sexual harassment in the workplace.
This is true. She also thought gender balanced cabinets were very important indeed, until she decided that female majority cabinets were OK, it was only male majority cabinets that were bad.
After the Weinstein story broke in October 2017, and the ripples spread out to Westminster, Holyrood and beyond, she encouraged women to come forward with complaints and sought to improve the process by which that could be done.
Oh look. That is now four mentions of Weinstein.
What Nicola Sturgeon did was to initiate with Lesley Evans a process of retroactive complaint and actively to solicit complaints specifically against Alex Salmond. A process which the Court of Session was to declare “illegal, unfair and tainted by apparent bias”. Interestingly, the Scottish Government conceded the case and threw in the towel just as Liz Lloyd, Nicola Sturgeon’s Chief of Staff, and Mr Sommers, her Principal Private Secretary, would have had to come and give evidence under oath about Nicola’s involvement in all this. Another interesting fact Garavelli somehow does not tell you.
In the meantime, Salmond was becoming a problem. Early on she had to put him in his place after he appeared to suggest he would decide the strategy for the 2015 General Election. He fought and won the seat of Gordon in that election; then fought and lost it in the snap election of 2017.
He had already made it clear he believed Sturgeon’s softly, softly strategy was misguided and he blamed her “underwhelming” campaign for the loss of seat. Now, bereft of an official role, he turned into an embarrassment. In the summer of 2017, he staged a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, opening with the words: “I promised you we’d either have Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon, but I couldn’t make these wonderful women come….”; an off-colour comment Sturgeon generously described as a throwback to “the Benny Hill era”.
Worse still, he launched a chat show on Kremlin-backed channel RT (formerly Russia Today), a move that caused consternation amongst even his closest friends. “I think there was a moment where his own hype overtook him and he wasn’t as alert to reality as he might have been,” one told me. “He began to believe the referendum was lost because the BBC was conspiring against him, rather than because his case was weak and he didn’t have anything to say about the hardest issues.”
Garavelli claims to have found one of Alex Salmond’s “closest friends”, who believes that the arguments for Independence are weak, who does not believe that the BBC were significantly biased in the 2014 referendum campaign, and who believes it is axiomatic that it is illegitimate to appear on Russia Today. In fact, what Garavelli is telling us is that she found one of Alex Salmond’s friends who shares none of Alex Salmond’s beliefs and happens to share all of Dani Garavelli’s beliefs. As somebody once said, I think we might put a “smell” on Garivelli here.
It is here that the narrative begins to diverge. For those in the Sturgeon camp, it goes something like this. In November 2017, Mark McDonald was forced to resign as Minister for Childcare for sending “inappropriate” texts. This reinforced the Scottish government’s view that Holyrood was unlikely to be immune to allegations of historic offences. So it drew up a code of practice that allowed complaints to be brought not only against current ministers, but former ministers going back to the Scottish Parliament’s inception in 1999. It had no idea the first person to fall foul of this process would be the former First Minister.
Those in Salmond’s camp agree McDonald’s resignation was a turning point, but for different reasons. If McDonald had resigned his Holyrood seat, as well as his ministerial role, there would have been a by-election and an opportunity for Salmond to return to frontline politics. They contend the new process was designed precisely to prevent that happening.
Whatever the truth, Woman K, the civil servant who claimed he grabbed her bottom while they were having their photo taken at Stirling Castle, and Woman F, the civil servant he apologised to back in 2013, came forward.
Except the truth is not in dispute. The Court of Session found that the Scottish Government version was a lie and that Leslie Evans’ new system was “Unfair, illegitimate and tainted by apparent bias”.
A Scottish government inquiry was launched, the story leaked to the Daily Record tabloid newspaper and the allegations passed to the police. The weekend the Record story broke, Salmond held a press conference at the Champany Inn at which he described the investigation as “flawed and bereft of natural justice”.
The sexed-up allegations were passed to David Clegg of the Daily Record by Woman A, with whom Clegg had a personal history.
Woman K remembers that weekend well. “My partner happened to be away and, no word of a lie, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep or drink anything,” she says. “I just sat on Twitter and refreshed it and refreshed it, and every time I did there was something new and horrifying being said about me.”
In an apparent display of power, Salmond launched a crowd-funder to raise money to fund the judicial review. In January last year, the government finally conceded its process was flawed on the basis that the investigating officer had previously been in contact with one of the complainants.
That is an utterly tendentious statement of the multiple grounds on which the process was found to be flawed. Judith Mackinnon had actively encouraged, on behalf of Leslie Evans, both the complainants to lodge allegations against Alex Salmond, and then herself been appointed the investigating officer. The government caved to avoid Liz Lloyd and Leslie Evans having to give evidence of their role in the affair.
A jubilant Salmond called for the resignation of the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, who led the inquiry. But then, a fortnight later, another dramatic twist. The former First Minister was charged with a total of 14 offences against 10 women (one charge was later dropped). And so the stage was set for Scotland’s trial of the decade.
And what a coincidence that timing was, folks.
No-one arriving at the High Court in Edinburgh on Monday, 9 March, could have doubted the importance of what was about to unfold inside.
It was a few days BSD – Before Social Distancing – and the Royal Mile was very busy. A low winter sun was bouncing off the bronze toes of philosopher David Hume who sits outside. Tourists generally rub his right foot for luck, but today they were focused on the press pack jostling for the best position from which to catch Salmond and his entourage. He didn’t disappoint, smiling as he walked in, with his sister, Gail, and former constituency office worker, Isobel Zambonini.
Inside, the reporters were jittery. They knew the trial would be a legal minefield and that the demand for seats was likely to outstrip capacity.
At around 11am, the dramatis personae began to assemble. In the dock, flanked by security officers, was Salmond, his face now rictus as the 15 members of the jury filed in. Presiding over the case was Lady Dorrian, Scotland’s second most senior judge.
The others you have met already: Prentice – a quietly-spoken schoolmaster, who derives his power from the belt you suspect he has hidden beneath his advocate’s gown; Jackson – a Toby jug of a man, who has perfected the role of bumbling old fogey; and McCall, who is too senior to be a junior, and was presumably there to provide a female foil to Jackson’s performative blokey-ness.
The prosecution case was straight-forward. The women could be divided into roughly two categories: Woman A, Woman C, Woman D and Woman K, who claimed to have been sexually assaulted in public, and Woman B, Woman F, Woman H and Woman J, who claimed to have been assaulted while working late at Bute House. Woman G fell into both categories. Woman E did not appear in court and the charge relating to her was dropped.
Four of the women – Woman B, Woman D, Woman F and Woman K – were civil servants. All the civil servants told the court they reported their experiences to colleagues or line managers at the time of the alleged incidents, which took place between 2010 and 2014.
This is true. But yet again Ms Garavelli ignores totally the evidence of the defence witnesses. You won’t find it below either. Karen Watt, line manager to Ms B and Ms D, categorically refuted the claims that they had complained to her at the time. It is simply appalling of Garavelli to state the accusations of the Nameless 9, but not mention the refutations.
What does Ms Garavelli have against Karen Watt? It is Karen Watt, not the Nameless 9, who is voiceless. You won’t find Karen Watt’s voice on the BBC or in the newspapers. Because a slogan-programmed moral vacuum like Dani Garavelli may have been in the courtroom when Karen Watt gave her evidence, but Garavelli did not hear her. Because Karen Watt does not fit the programme. Karen Watt is the Wrong Kind of Woman.
Ms Garavelli did not speak to Karen Watt. She is proud she spoke to five of the Nameless 9, but she found no time to speak to any of the seven women who were defence witnesses. Who unlike the Nameless 9 do not cower behind state-enforced anonymity, but stood brave and strong and gave their evidence in the open, risking the ridicule and contempt of liars like Garavelli for being the Wrong Kind of Women – or perhaps worse, risking that their voices really would not be heard, because people like Garavelli would decide that women who do not pile in behind the great #Weinstein #MeToo crusade do not deserve to exist. And that women who do pile in behind the great #Weinstein #MeToo crusade, even if that be by telling evil lies against some patriarchy figure, have greater moral worth and right to a hearing.
That must be what Garavelli believes. Or she could never have written this article.
Prentice set about establishing a course of conduct. As he questioned them one by one, he drew out the patterns: the alleged public assaults – from the repeated stroking of Woman D’s face to the running of hands down the curves of Woman A’s body – had a proprietorial quality. “I think the First Minister did it because he could,” Woman K told the court.
With the women who claimed to have been assaulted in Bute House, the links were even clearer. In each case, they had been working in the evening. Several were offered alcohol – Maotai, Limoncello or whisky – and there was often some pretext for the initial touching: the re-enactment of a scene from a Jack Vettriano Christmas card (Woman B), for example, or an impression of a zombie from a film (Woman J).
All of the women spoke of feeling demeaned. They explained, too, the conflict they felt over making a formal complaint or going to the police. Salmond was the most powerful man in the country. They loved their jobs, had worked hard to gain them, and believed they would lose them if they made a fuss.
“If I had complained it would have been swept under the carpet and I would have suffered in my career,” said Woman B. “I never saw anyone in a senior position in the Scottish government tackle the First Minister on his behaviour.”
The problem here is yet again Garavelli ignores all of the evidence that the incidents as described did not happen. Woman B had claimed that Salmond was grasping her wrists and seeking to kiss her (the Jack Vettriano reenactment) when Alex Bell walked in and witnessed it. Alex Bell – who it must be said detests Salmond, who very sensibly sacked him – gave evidence that they were apart when he walked in and he saw nothing wrong. Her line manager also contradicted her statement that she reported it at the time. Again Garavelli simply ignores the contrary evidence as though it did not exist. The jury did not ignore it.
The fact that the alleged incidents took place in the run-up to the Independence Referendum in 2014 added extra pressure, the women said. Not only was it their job to protect the First Minister’s reputation, but the whole democratic process was at stake. “Everything we did which was outward facing had potential ramifications which went beyond personal experience,” said Woman F, who talked of a “real loyalty” to Salmond.
Some online commentators have suggested there was no corroboration of the women’s testimony. This is untrue. One civil servant colleague told the court he had witnessed the First Minister reaching out to touch the hair and face of Woman D in a lift. He had instinctively brushed Salmond’s hand away, saying something like: “Behave yourself.”
Some online commentators may indeed have suggested that. I myself did report the incident of the attempted touch of the hair in a lift, in almost exactly the terms that Ms Garavelli reported it, because it is indeed what was said in court. You see, unlike Ms Garavelli, I took the novel approach of reporting both the prosecution and the defence evidence. Because I also reported, which Ms Garavelli does not, the evidence of Lorraine Kaye.
Lorraine Kaye is another of those Wrong Type of Women who Garavelli finds beneath her notice. Kaye gave evidence that she herself had pulled at Woman D’s hair because it was a standing joke in the office to straighten out Ms D’s remarkable ringlets, a joke Ms D enjoyed. Here again, we honest people have to take into account the evidence of Karen Watt.
Karen Watt said that the “civil servant colleague” Garavelli coyly refers to, Donald Cameron, told her about the incident of nearly touching the hair in the lift. She accordingly asked Woman D if she wished to make a complaint. Woman D had responded definitely not, she thought nothing of it. Which given it was the hair on her head in question and not her pubic hair, many of us might find a rational response. How we all came to be listening to this utter nonsense in the High Court of Edinburgh many years later is something you will have to ask our corrupt police and law officers.
The one clue is that Donald Cameron, the man who had tried to make a mountain out of this molehill, was the head of Leslie Evans private office. But even Cameron was forced to admit under cross-examination that there was no policy that Salmond should not work alone with women in Bute House. Which brings us to Garavelli’s next paragraph…
Three other civil servants testified that – after woman F and woman G’s experiences – staff rotas were changed so no woman would be alone in Bute House with the First Minister after 9pm (although others denied this was the case). Colleagues and relatives also testified to Women F and Women G’s state of mind immediately afterwards, describing them variously as “traumatised”, “pale” and “upset.”
I am slightly confused by this claim. The court saw evidence that Woman F went and did some more work down in the office at Bute House after the alleged attempted rape, and then filed her overtime claim before going home. Woman G had indeed been upset. She had joined the civil service from the SNP, using what seemed to me throughout the trial a rather dubious revolving door behind the two. She had then been upset to be seen at a function she viewed as blurring that line, possibly to the detriment of her career. Salmond testified it was because she was upset he had put his arm round her to comfort her (he had known her for years).
The staff rotas claim was demolished by Donald Cameron, Lorraine Kaye, Karen Watt and others who stated there never was any such policy. Kaye and Watt were the principal civil servants who were very frequently with Salmond at Bute house working late at night throughout this period. Neither had ever heard of any such policy and the fact of their actual working there belied its existence.
Salmond’s defence was pick and mix. Some of the encounters he admitted, but insisted they were consensual; others, he insisted, were complete fabrications.
Like many trials, much of the evidence was He said, She said. Or rather He said, She said, She said, She said.
A rehearsed bit of writing to reinforce the meme that this trial was Salmond’s word against a succession of women. “He said, She said, She said, She said.” Garavelli does this precisely to preserve this entirely false idea of the trial. This is why the mainstream media have universally ignored or massively under-reported the factual defence evidence. In fact, in the large majority of instances, it was evidence from a variety of defence witnesses, mainly female, against the uncorroborated word of the accuser.
Woman F – the civil servant to whom Salmond apologised – said she had to fight him off as he forced his hands under her clothing. He described the encounter as a “sleepy cuddle”.
Again and again the article returns to this one incident as it is the only one of any substance, the one on which the whole creaky structure was based. As stated, the bit about forcing his hands under her clothing was an addition years later. There was a cuddle, for which he apologised. The jury believed his account backed by the actual treatment of the incident at the time.
Woman B said he seized her wrists and tried to kiss her while attempting to re-enact the Vettriano Christmas card. He said it was just high-jinks. “At the time it wasn’t regarded as it is being presented now,” he said.
Woman B also said Alex Bell entered during the incident, which Alex Bell said did not happen. And said she reported it to her line manager, which her line manager said did not happen. Alex did state he had indeed grabbed her wrists and suggested they re-enact the Vettriano painting, that she said “Don’t be daft” and he immediately let go. Context is everything here. It was Christmas. The Vettriano painting, which was in the room, showed a kiss under the mistletoe.
Woman G said he had put his arm around her and tried to kiss her. He said he was comforting her because she had been upset.
Woman A said he had touched her buttocks and her breasts. He said to have done so in a public space would have been “insane.” He said she was at the centre of the plot to bring him down.
Woman A is indeed at the centre of the plot, and right at the centre of Scottish government. She is going to feature a lot as documents kept from the court become public in new processes.
Her claims of assault in very public situations were outlandish. Including on the dance floor of a Christmas Party, when everyone was sat around the dance floor at tables eating; and in the Glasgow East by-election, where Salmond was constantly accompanied by minders. The jury dismissed them.
Woman H said Salmond assaulted her twice in Bute House. The first time, she said, he kissed her and put his hands under her clothes; the second, he restrained her, removed both their clothes and climbed on top of her naked and aroused.
Woman H said the first incident had taken place in May 2014. He said there was no date in May 2014 for which he didn’t have an alibi, and used a combination of a diary and a calendar in an attempt to prove it. She said the attempted rape took place on June 13 after an IndyRef dinner; he said she hadn’t been at that dinner.
Jackson also suggested she was seeking revenge for the former First Minister’s refusal to back her in a political project. Weirdly, Salmond admitted a consensual encounter with Woman H – a “footer”, a bit of “how’s your father,” as Jackson put it – on an occasion which did not appear on the indictment.
It is interesting that only now does Garavelli introduce Woman H, the weakest link in her chain. Yet Ms H was longer on the witness stand at the trial than anybody, including Alex Salmond. Woman H was the woman who texted that she had a plan to bring down Salmond and remain anonymous. And of all the accusers, Woman H was the one most categorically shown to be an absolute, inescapable liar. Garavelli gives you no detail of that at all.
Here is what Garavelli dishonestly hides from you.
Woman H claimed that Salmond attempted to rape her after a small dinner with Alex Salmond, an actor (the publication of whose name the court banned), and Ms Samantha Barber, a company director. Salmond gave evidence that the entire story was completely untrue and the woman had not even been there that evening. Samantha Barber gave evidence that she knows woman H well, had been a guest at her wedding reception, and that woman H had phoned and asked her to attend the dinner with the specific explanation she could not be there herself. Indeed, affirmed Ms Barber, woman H definitely was not there. She had given that firm evidence to the police.
Against that, there was a vague statement by the actor that he believed a fourth person had been present, but he described her hair colour as different to woman H, described her as wearing jeans when woman H said she was wearing a dress, and did not say the woman had her arm in a sling – which it was established woman H’s arm was at that time. One arm in a sling would be pretty debilitating in eating and the sort of detail about a fellow diner at a very small dinner party you would likely remember.
There was more. Woman H had claimed to have had communications on that night with Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh on the subject of attending an international football match with Alex Salmond the next day. Never has a claim been so utterly demolished in court. Tasmina testified thhat her father had died that very day and she was dashing down to London organising the funeral. Tasmina was in tears in the witness box. Garavelli is big on emotion. But she does not report this. Because it was the Wrong kind of Emotion from the Wrong Kind of Woman.
Given the very firm statement from Samantha Barber, her friend, that woman H was definitely not there, a number of lawyers and police officers with whom I have discussed this have all been perplexed that the charge was brought at all, with such a strong witness to rebut it, given that the police were relying on an extremely tentative identification from the actor (who did not appear in court to be cross-examined). The truth is, as the jury found, that woman H was not physically there when she said the incident took place. Woman H had lied. More importantly, the evidence available to the police and prosecutor fiscal showed that there was never any realistic prospect of conviction.
So why was the charge brought?
This ribald tone was the one Jackson used a lot. To watch him, to listen to him, you would think he had wandered into the courtroom from the 1950s. His defence veered in all directions. One minute Salmond was a touchy feely guy whose hugs and kisses were being misunderstood, the next the victim of some grand, yet intangible, plot.
Do you see what Garavelli has done here? She has written that Salmond’s defence to the allegations of Woman H was nothing but “Cor Blimey Squire, OK he copped a feel but ‘aven’t we all, know what I mean, nudge nudge, wink wink?”
Whereas Woman H was in real life comprehensively demolished by a whole succession of witnesses, mostly female, and shown not even to have been present on the occasion when she claimed attempted rape. If Jackson’s defence was as hopeless as Garavelli portrays, how on earth would it have succeeded? And never forget, the jury are two thirds female.
But it was Jackson’s trivialisation of some of the alleged offences that raised most eyebrows. It is one thing to insist the former First Minister is innocent of the offences with which he has been charged. It is another to treat some of those offences as inconsequential.
In defiance of what we know about power dynamics, Jackson equated the tactile way Salmond dealt with members of the public with the way he interacted with much younger female workers. And he peddled all the old tropes. If woman F had believed Salmond had intended to rape her she would surely have considered it important enough to report to the police. If woman H had been distressed after her ordeal, then what was she doing on Twitter?
There is a certain amount of justice in Garavelli’s claim here. There are of course plenty of examples of women continuing to appear to interact normally with their abuser after the most shocking abuse. More often in domestic than work situations. But she is playing on the Weinstein theme here. Not all men are the same. There may be a general way that powerful men act with junior female staff. But that does not mean that Salmond did, nor that he is Weinstein.
Garavelli wants to convict Salmond because in general men do that kind of thing. This is why she ignores witness after witness who said that in Salmond’s case, he did not.
Ms F did indeed complain, and received an apology.
The other eight did not complain at the time, as witnesses showed. Garavelli tries to have it both ways. You cannot both argue that there is “no smoke without fire” and claim that the fact that nine women now complain about Salmond means he must be bad, and at the same time claim that the fact that eight women all continued to work perfectly happily around Salmond, often for years after an alleged incident, and showed no sign of anything having happened in their tweets and emails at the time, is an irrelevance.
At times he seemed to regard the process as high jinks. He engaged in casual banter with a Glasgow councillor, as if they were old chums sharing a pint, not witness and QC facing each other across a courtroom.
At breaks and lunchtimes, he could be found laughing and gossiping with the (mostly male) reporters. In the afternoon the jury retired to consider its verdict, he grabbed hold of a well-known TV journalist and posed for a selfie.
Where are we going here? Jackson is blokey therefore evil? In what way does this relate to the evidence?
Jackson’s closing submission appeared to play to male fears about past behaviour. How did things that people thought nothing of later find themselves on a charge sheet, he wondered. “It’s scary, scary stuff.” A couple of jurors nodded along.
I had been thrown out. I have asked people in court, including employed jury watchers (they do exist, not just in The Good Wife). Nobody saw this “nodding”. The jury was 9-6 majority female. Garavelli’s attempt to portray Salmond’s acquittal as the result of evil male potential sexual predators on the jury is despicable. Personally, I looked hard at the jury for two days and found the jury impressively stone-faced and very careful to appear impartial and do their duty properly.
The fact the trial was unfolding alongside the sentencing of Weinstein was significant. At almost precisely the moment the film producer was being jailed for 23 years, Jackson was asking Woman A: “Do you call that groping?” Scotland’s #MeToo moment this was not.
The repeated Weinstein references reach their climax. I have lost count of the deluge of Weinsteins in this article. Weinstein was convicted. Salmond was not. Scotland failed, says Garavelli. The fact that Weinstein is a monster and Salmond is not never seems to cross her mind. Powerful men are all the same, aren’t they?
In comparison with Jackson, Salmond came across as dignified. The consensus amongst the journalists beforehand was that it would be disastrous for him to testify; but we were wrong.
I found the smirking of journalists, forty of whom I was sitting behind while in the public gallery, appalling. The conversations I overheard between them in the queue and in the toilets revealed extreme bias. Most tellingly, when the defence witnesses were giving evidence, I am an eye witness to forty MSM journalists all folding their notebooks and stopping taking notes. As plainly Garavelli did.
Some of his charisma revived in front of an audience. He spoke and moved his hands like the accomplished politician he is, and had dates and facts at his fingertips.
When Prentice opened his cross-examination with the words: “Did you consider [woman B]’s feelings for one moment when you took hold of her hands and said let’s reenact the Christmas card?” repeating it four times, he seemed briefly rattled. But overall, he came over as meticulous and polished.
Asked if he regretted his behaviour, he said he wished he’d been more careful with people’s personal space, but “I’m of the opinion events are being reinterpreted and exaggerated out of any possible proportion.”
The jury took six hours to deliver its verdict which meant its deliberations spanned a weekend. By Monday, it had lost two of its 15 members. In Scottish courts, verdicts can be decided on a straight eight/seven majority. But when two jurors drop out like this the required ratio changes to eight out of 13.
When the time came, the foreman stood up and said Not Guilty to 12 of the 13 charges. The verdict on the charge involving Woman F – sexual assault with intent to rape – was found Not Proven, which is also an acquittal. None of the verdicts were unanimous. The foreman seemed content with the decisions he was conveying, but others were not. One young-ish juror with glasses sat with his head bowed.
Garavelli has no idea how that youngish juror voted. Here again is a blatant attempt to convey that this was a perverse verdict. Only old people and male sexual predators could have failed to see Salmond’s guilt, Garavelli insinuates. The young are with #Metoo, are with #Weinstein. The young could seen the guilt, she implies. Actually, when I first saw the jury I was very surprised by how young they were overall. Much younger that a representative sample of 15 of the population. Garavelli is incidentally in very grave contempt of court in clearly identifying an individual juror and how she thinks he voted. Garavelli of course will be protected by the Establishment from any consequences of this.
As Garavelli says, Not Proven is also an acquittal. But I do believe there is something very specific in the jury finding all of the other verdicts Not Guilty but the Miss F case Not Proven. I have said above, and I was convinced during the trial, Ms F is in a different category. I do not believe she was knowingly lying. All the others I believe to be brazen, barefaced and conspiring liars who tried to orchestrate a terrible miscarriage of justice. I believe that is why their cases resulted in Not Guilty, but Miss F in Not Proven.
The jury were distinguishing who was, and who was not, a perjurer.
Of course I cannot prove that. It is an interpretation. But if Ms Garavelli can speculate so wildly on what the jury thought – without in her case labeling it as speculation – then so might I, more honestly.
Woman F was gutted. “I suppose I had hoped and expected that my case would be one that would help give weight and establish that pattern for others because there was quite a lot of evidence around it and I ended up feeling crushed,” she told me later.
Again go for Woman F, Dani; whatever you do avoid the more brazen liars when trying to milk sympathy.
Outside, Salmond made his statement while Jackson looked on, wigless and swigging from a Coke bottle. “God help us all,” the former First Minister said in reference to Covid-19. Then he elbow-bumped with Jackson in celebration.
Dani is a skilled journalist. She gave an interview on Bella Caledonia where she explained at length that mere bloggers have not had the real training to learn the tricks of the trade. Every time she turns to Salmond and his supporters, the level of her language drops to reflect those common people’s gross and uncouth qualities: Jackson does not “drink”. He “swigs”
Throughout the trial, there were two women notable for their absence. The first was Moira, Salmond’s wife of 39 years. Sixteen years his senior, she has always shunned the limelight. She accompanied him to court on the second last day, prompting speculation she might testify, but the rumours came to nothing; and she wasn’t by his side as he walked free.
Why should she? There was no need for her to testify. The prosecution case had been comprehensively destroyed. Alex and Moira are happily together back at home ever since the trial. Garavelli’s petty insinuation of – what, exactly – about a lady who is around eighty years old is uncalled for.
The second woman was Nicola Sturgeon. She too was said to be on the witness list though never called. And yet, she was omni-present. Every time her name was mentioned, political journalists pricked up their ears. When Salmond’s former Chief of Staff Geoff Aberdein told the court he and one of the complainers had first met with her on 29 March, 2018 – four days earlier than the date she previously gave the Scottish Parliament – several of them almost spontaneously combusted.
This paragraph wins the all time prize for easy identification of one of the busted accusers: again, contempt of court by Garavelli. Again there is no chance anything will happen as the Establishment will protect her.
Sturgeon had been cited by the defence as an unwilling witness. She then asked to be excused as a result of the covid-19 crisis. The defence had agreed to this – they did not have to.
Sturgeon’s role in the botched internal process will be explored in a forthcoming parliamentary inquiry, while a standards panel will look into the meetings and phone calls she had with Salmond while the investigation was ongoing. If she is found to have breached the ministerial code then her position will be challenged.
Lied to parliament is also something of a problem.
For now, the coronavirus crisis is all that matters, but Salmond is not going anywhere, and there will come a time when these issues must be addressed.
What happens to Sturgeon has implications both for the nationalist project. While Salmond was a guerilla fighter – the perfect leader for an insurgency – Sturgeon is a stateswoman respected on the international stage. To those who dream of an independent Scotland within Europe, her resignation would be a disaster.
Really? I think Joanna Cherry might pick up that mantle and do rather better. So do a great many folk.
The SNP which once saw itself as a united force – an us-again-the-world kind of party – is divided as never before. The faultlines began to appear shortly after the IndyRef as its tight ranks were swelled by thousands of new members. Left vs right; veterans vs newbies.
For a while Sturgeon pacified her squabbling brood, supporting, mollifying, giving an occasional ticking off, but mostly just telling everyone what they needed to hear. When the Salmond allegations exploded into the public domain, however, there was little she could do to keep tempers in check.
By the time he launched his crowd-funder, two distinct camps had formed and #IstandwithSalmond and #IstandwithSturgeon hashtags were circulating on Twitter. These camps have become more entrenched with time, compounded by acrimonious debate around the Scottish government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which is part real, part proxy for the wider power struggle.
This SNP civil war stuff is a nonsense. The group that tried to bring down Salmond controls many levers of party power, but ultimately 99.9% of the membership are focused on Independence not on fourth wave feminism, and that cannot be held back.
The claim this is anything to do with the Gender Reform Act is a nonsense. There are different views on the GRA. I am a strong supporter of Alex Salmond and a sceptic about Sturgeon’s commitment to Independence, but I support the GRA. There is no such clear fault line. The vast majority of members just want Independence.
This power struggle is about to be played out in miniature as Angus Robertson (Team Nicola) and Joanna Cherry (Team Alex) battle it out to be selected as the party’s candidate for Edinburgh Central in next year’s Holyrood elections. This is destined to be a dirty fight. At the same time, the SNP is struggling with its domestic agenda. Thirteen years is a long time for any party to be in power and there is a growing frustration with its lack of fresh ideas.
There is no sense in which Joanna Cherry is a cypher for Alex Salmond, nor for anybody else. Her very strong feminism, of the sensible, grounded kind (which I 100% support) is also a factor here. Garavelli cannot pitch this as a split between Salmond and feminism, and then say Cherry is Team Alex. (I am not sure Angus Robertson is still going to be a candidate. Somebody told me the other day he might be held back by some family issues.)
All this is being played out against a backdrop of national turmoil: Brexit, for example, and now the coronavirus, which may have raised Sturgeon’s credibility, but also impacted on the prospects of a second referendum.
One recent poll put support for Scottish independence at 52%, but Johnson has consistently said he will refuse Sturgeon a Section 30 order granting powers to hold a fresh vote, so things are at an impasse. Few in Scottish politics now believe there will be a second referendum before next year’s Holyrood elections and possibly not for quite some time after that.
And now this. Salmond’s acquittal is a grenade. When he lost his Westminster seat, he quoted from a Jacobite song, ‘Bonnie Dundee’. “You have not seen the last of my bonnets and me,” he said. But will he really stage a comeback?
Though his supporters would relish it, it is hard to see how he could shrug off the reputational damage the trial has done. More likely he will wield his power from the shadows, manipulating, undermining, bringing his influence to bear. And trying to destroy his former ally. There seems no doubt if he can bring Sturgeon down he will, and to hell with what that does to the cause.
I doubt he has to do anything. Knowingly lying to parliament is hard to survive. I am however picking up one interesting undercurrent. Sturgeon supporters and the Unionist establishment have united against Alex Salmond, because they both want to stop any move towards early Independence, as Garavelli quite rightly notes. The buzz at Holyrood is that the unionist parties may drop or hobble the parliamentary inquiry into the Salmond affair, in order to help Sturgeon survive and prevent any prospect of a renewed push for Independence. An interesting possibility worth watching closely.
What cultural message would it send out, though, if the chief casualty of this sorry affair turned out to be a progressive female leader?
I think it would send the message that she was elected by people who expected her to use the mandate for a new Independence Referendum, and she bowed her head to Westminster rather than do that. SNP members are focused on Independence, which Dan seems unable to grasp.
For all the political questions that are being asked in the aftermath of the trial, there are many gender-related ones which are not.
For example: why did special advisers, such as Geoff Aberdein – who knew of the concerns over Salmond’s behaviour – fail to act? Ditto those at the top of the Civil Service?
Actually Mr Aberdein testified that he did not know, other than of Woman F, where action was taken under civil service procedure (before her account became exaggerated).
What can be done to stop online bloggers and tweeters, with no understanding of the law, peddling inaccuracies about the trial, the verdict and the women who made the allegations?
I don’t know the answer to your question, but this sounds like a worrying call for censorship to me.
But then, what can be done to stop a “journalist” like Dani Garavelli writing lie after lie after lie about the case and ignoring totally all the evidence of defence witnesses, with the entire establishment, both unionist and Sturgeon supporting, lining up behind her to amplify her lies?
What lessons can be learned about the handling of sexual offences from a case in which the unwanted touching of women in the course of carrying out their professional duties has been down-played?
I can offer one suggestion. When you have clear evidence of a conspiracy to fit somebody up, instead of a corrupt Crown Office and Police, you have honest ones who prosecute the conspirators and not the person being fitted up?
What impact will hearing a Defence QC ask: “Do you call that groping?” have on other women uncertain about whether or not to come forward? And whither #MeToo – a movement built on female solidarity – in a world where communicating with other women can be presented as collusion?
There were very genuine questions here in a case which, whether Garavelli likes it or not, pushed at the boundaries of what has hitherto been accepted as “sexual assault”. Putting your hands on someones arms over their sleeves is not generally construed as sexual assault, but it was so charged here. The account by Witness J of having a hand put on her leg immediately above her knee during a very brief car ride is also genuinely interesting.
This trial does not give an answer, because the defence was that it did not happen, and that a fixed armrest containing an installed phone in the particular car would have prevented it, as testified by the driver and Alex Salmond. But is a hand on a clothed leg just above the knee actually sexual assault, when the recipient says, as in this case, they did not indicate disapproval? I am not asking that as a rhetorical question. I genuinely do not know where the law now stands. “Do you call that groping?” is not an illegitimate question.
When does collusion count as conspiracy? The difficulty here is that when people concert their actions, they cannot at the same time claim to be independent and corroborative. But I think if Ms Garavelli may show a little patience, it is going to become very plain indeed this was conspiracy as the debarred evidence comes out.
These are the issues preoccupying the complainants as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives amid a torrent of abuse.
“I worry that some of the commentary in the aftermath of the trial has been damaging, not only for the public discourse, but for our own safety and welfare,” says one.
Woman K wants her experience to be a catalyst for change. “I don’t want it to end like this – something good has to come of it,” she says. “We are privileged women in so many ways. We are all highly educated, we all know the ins and outs of government, the language of bureaucracy, and even we feel helpless and voiceless.
“If we can help make the system work better for women in the future then that, at least, would be something.”
Do you remember that two direct eyewitnesses who were watching said that Ms K’s allegation simply did not happen? Ms Garavelli seems not to have noticed. Again, the article relies on emotional solidarity for the nameless 9 and simply accepts their claim of victimhood, even though the jury did not.
The experience has been traumatic, but most of the women I have spoken to say they would do it again.
“Though it has been awful, at least I know I did what I could,” says one. Another agrees she felt a responsibility to her fellow complainers.
“I have been a feminist all my life,” she says. “I have talked about how women should speak out – so then, when it’s my turn, I couldn’t say: ‘Someone else needs to do that, not me.’ If things are going to change, I have to help change them.”
I have no doubt they would do it again. They have got away with it very well. They have damaged both Salmond and Independence – though they will come to see just how superficially – and are all able to keep churning out interviews and statements under the cloak of anonymity. I am quite sure some of the Nameless 9 actually believe that there actions were justified in a wider cause #metoo #Weinstein.
I can tell you what happens next. Dani Garavelli will tell us how dreadfully upset she was by my article. She will claim to have received anonymous threats from “cybernats”, using of course Scots phrases, and to have needed to ask the police for protection. The Integrity Initiative might even burn some “cybernat” identities to send her threats. She will hide or delete the twitter and other social media accounts because f “harassment”, if which there will be no useful proof.
Because Garavelli is part of a one trick pony club. Their one weapon is the claim of victimhood. Even though they are, by any standards, powerful and influential people and much more wealthy than most of us.
These establishment figures conspired to put an innocent man in jail for the rest of his life. To ruin a great reputation. To tear him and his loving wife apart. To damage the chances of Scottish Independence.
The establishment have lost in the highest civil court in the land and in the highest criminal court in the land. Their take is amazing. Now, as Kenny Farquharson of the Times has been tweeting out, anybody who accepts the decision of the High Court and of the Court of Session is a “zoomer”.
The establishment thing to do is now to deride those courts, to portray the jury as stupid, the judges as fossilised, the law as wrong. We are to decry thinking. Logic, reason, evidence, inconvenient defence witnesses are to be discarded.
Instead we are to feel pain. Not Alex Salmond’s pain, he is a man so his does not count. Nor his wife’s, nor the seven female witnesses for the defence. They are the “Wrong Kind of Women” so their pain does not count either. No, please cover your ears like Woman K in her kitchen. Cover your ears to logic and reason. Feel the pain of this woman, shown to have lied in court to try to destroy a man and his family. Feel the pain of Dani Garavelli, attacked for publishing her farrago of lies to the same end. Feel the pain of all women who have been mistreated through the centuries – as indeed I do not for one moment deny in general they have.
Because the truth of this individual case does not matter, you see. OK, in this individual case the evidence showed he was innocent and the jury went with that. But that does not have to stop you. You do not have to hear or see that evidence. You just have to feel the pain. Then you can crush and destroy this human being completely without remorse or concern for truth. Because he was only human anyway. He was a powerful man. That made him by definition evil, and the women in the right. Even if they lied.
In the final analysis, the question Garavelli’s article raises is whether the wider sweep of the feminist movement against historic injustice, justifies ignoring the actual facts and evidence, in a particular case of one powerful but innocent man.
I believe I know the answer.
With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible.
This article is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation, and I very much hope people will do so actively. Truth shall set us free.
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