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Scottish Independence is Within our Grasp if We Heed the Lesson of Toom Tabard

There will never again be a route to Scottish Independence deemed legal by Westminster. 2014 will never be repeated. The UK will never willingly give up a third of its land, most of its fisheries, most of its mineral resources, its most marketable beef, soft fruit and whisky, most of its renewable energy potential, a vital part of its military including its primary nuclear base, its best universities in a number of key fields including life sciences, its ready pool of intellectual and professional talent. Johnson is for once honest when he says keeping the Union together is his top priority. It is the top priority of the entire British establishment.

David Cameron only agreed to the 2014 referendum because he thought the result would humiliate and kill off Scottish nationalism. Support for Independence was at 28% in the polls at the time he agreed. Westminster had the most enormous and horrible shock when support for Independence grew to 45% during the campaign as many people for the first time in their lives heard the real arguments. The Whitehall panic of the last week of the 2014 referendum campaign is not something the British Establishment ever intend to repeat.

There is a charmingly naive argument put forward by some that, if support for Independence can be grown to 60% in the opinion polls, Johnson and Westminster will have to “grant” a referendum. This is the opposite of the truth. If support for Independence is at 60%, the very last thing that the Tories will do is agree a referendum they will lose. Their resistance will be massively hardened. Remember, the Tories could have zero Tory MPs in Scotland and still have a majority of 73 in Westminster. There is no political damage for Johnson in unpopularity in Scotland. In England, his anti-Scots stance is very popular with their Cummings core support base of knuckle-dragging, ill-educated racists.

The “intellectual justification” for this stance was trailed by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on the Marr programme this morning. Irrespective of the wishes of the majority in Scotland, the UK has a duty to stop Scottish Independence, to prevent anarchic secessionist forces being unleashed across Europe; he named Italy, France and Spain.

Westminster will never agree another referendum, and the more we look like winning it, the less they will agree to it.

Nor is there a route to a “legal” referendum through the courts. If a court rules that a consultative referendum is legal under the current Scotland Act (which it might well be), then the Tories will simply pass new legislation at Westminster to make it illegal. They have already done this at Westminster to overturn Scottish parliament decisions, and the UK Supreme Court have already made clear that the Sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament cannot be challenged.

Scotland can become independent, but becoming independent is, without doubt, going to be illegal in terms of UK law – which is to say Westminster law. There will not be a route to Independence agreed with Westminster.

If you believe in Scottish Independence, you believe that the Scottish nation are a “people” within the meaning of the UN Charter, and thus have an inalienable right of self-determination. That means that Westminster has no right, by legislation or by any other means, to prevent the Scottish people from exercising their self-determination.

I am sorry, but this is the fact: If you believe Scotland should only move to Independence in a Westminster-approved process, you do not really believe in Scottish Independence at all.

Which brings us to Nicola Sturgeon. Her much-trumpeted speech on the way forward following Brexit was disgraceful in explicitly stating that any referendum must be held with Westminster agreement, and that any referendum held without Westminster agreement could be “illegal”. She used the words “illegal” and “wildcat” to denigrate the idea of Scotland acting without Westminster permission.

Even the most loyal to Sturgeon of all major Independence bloggers, like James Kelly and Paul Kavanagh, could not support Sturgeon on this point.

What Sturgeon said amounts to an explicit acknowledgement of UK sovereignty over the Scottish people as both legitimate and immutable. She is accepting that the Act of Union did permanently alienate the right of self-determination. Sturgeon should heed the tale of Toom Tabard as to what respect English rulers show to Scottish leaders who accept their authority. Her speech reinforced my view that she really is much too comfortable in her role of colonial governor.

And yet…

When Sturgeon started talking about calling a Constitutional Convention I first scoffed thinking she was merely fulfilling my prediction that her “plan” would be to start yet another talking shop. But then I was astonished when she outlined the potential membership – the elected representatives of Scotland sitting together, constituting MSPs, MPs, (former) MEPs and council leaders.

I have explained at length over the last two years my proposal for a route to Independence that would lead to recognition by the international community. Donald Tusk today confirmed all I have been saying about the enormous sympathy there will be in the EU towards welcoming Scotland back, now the UK has switched status to third country state. [I knew Donald Tusk reasonably well when I was First Secretary of the British Embassy in Warsaw in the 1990s and he was an out of office politician the same age as me. I should like to think I had an effect!]

But the heart of what I was proposing is this, as I put it in December 2018

The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.

Or as I put it again two weeks ago:

We should assemble all of Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s in a National Assembly and declare Independence on the 700th Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, thus emphasising the historical continuity of the Scottish state. The views and laws of London now being irrelevant, we should organise, as an Independent state, our referendum to confirm Independence, to be held in September 2020.

Please do read the articles linked if you have not already done so. They explain how Scotland can legitimately become an Independent nation without regard to UK domestic law.

Now, until Sturgeon’s speech, I had never seen anybody else but me put forward the proposal that the way forward is via an assembly of all MPs, MSPs and MEPs, giving the triple legitimacy of democratic election. Sturgeon has enhanced this by adding council leaders.

There is a huge difference between an assembly – or convention – of elected representatives, and an appointed one of the great and the good. This new assembly proposed by Sturgeon is very different indeed in that respect from the Convention of the same name that helped formulate devolution.

Now I do not think for one moment that Sturgeon has convened this Convention to declare Independence. But an assembly of Scotland’s MPs, MSPs, MEPs and council leaders will have a clear Independence majority numerically and a massive Independence majority intellectually. It will have an extremely strong claim to be a properly representative assembly whose members each have a democratic mandate. The French Revolution was of course similarly precipitated by constitutional innovation convening a National Assembly combining the different Estates, and that Assembly was swept along by fervour to take proto-revolutionary measures which went far beyond the initial positions of any of its members.

The dynamic of a new constitutional body whose members feel they command legitimacy, should not be underestimated. The convening of this body will be a real constitutional innovation. We need to make sure, that like that French National Assembly, they can clearly hear a huge mob outside their windows, demanding radical and speedy change.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Westminster Cannot Block Scottish Independence

Boris Johnson’s facetious, point-scoring reply to the formal request from the Scottish government for agreement to a second Independence referendum is an act of extreme arrogance. An off-the-cuff campaign remark from a single politician has no weight in weighing the will of a nation, and I presume Johnson is not arguing that every political statement Nicola Sturgeon or Alex Salmond has ever made has the force of law.

The “once in a generation” remark has no more force than “die in a ditch”. It is not contained in any official document, and appears in neither the Edinburgh Agreement nor the Smith Commission report. For Johnson to base his refusal of a vital democratic step on such a flimsy pretext is extremely arrogant. It is born of colossal self-confidence. He is perfectly confident the highly centralised Westminster system will allow him simply to ride roughshod over Scotland.

Johnson is of course right. You may be surprised to hear that I agree with the analysis of McHarg and McCorkindale published today that a legal challenge arguing the Scottish Government’s right to hold a referendum is a waste of time, not least because if such legal challenge looked like succeeding the Tories would simply pass Westminster legislation outlawing the referendum explicitly. There is no doubt whatsoever that such legislation would be upheld by the UK Supreme Court under the doctrine of the Sovereignty of (Westminster) Parliament.

I also have no doubt that a futile and time-wasting court action is going to be a key part of the Scottish Government’s approach in response to Johnson, of pretending to do something about Independence a few more years.

McHarg and McCorkindale are quite right on UK Constitutional Law, which is where their expertise lies. They know very little about public international law and still less about international politics.

The truth is that UK Constitutional Law is as irrelevant to Scottish Independence as Soviet Constitutional Law was to the question of Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian Independence. The UK is disintegrating and not the smirk of Johnson, the frippery of the UK Supreme Court nor the witterings of lawyers can hold it together.

Independence is not a matter of domestic law. It is a matter of international law alone. Independence is the existence of a state in relation to other states. It is gained not by any internal process- internal process is utterly irrelevant, and in 95% of cases does not involve a referendum – but by recognition of other states, formalised through the General Assembly of the United Nations.

I touched on these points in my brief statement at the AUOB press conference after the march on Saturday.

In its judgement on Kosovo, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) specifically confirmed that the agreement of the state being seceded from was not necessary for Independence. That is the position in law, whatever any UK court may say. Indeed it was the UK government itself that put this argument most clearly to the ICJ in the Kosovo case.

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State’s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. It is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that a state has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of the original state and its political or legal authorities.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

So the key question is, could Scotland get recognition from other states for a Declaration of Independence? The attitude of the EU will be crucial and here Catalonia is obviously a key precedent. But it is one that has been totally misunderstood.

The vast majority of the politicians and functionaries of the EU institutions viewed the actions of the Francoist government of Spain in assaulting the people of Catalonia who were trying to vote, with extreme distaste. But they held their noses and supported Spain. Because over 20 years experience as a diplomat taught me that the EU functions as a club of member states, who will support each other in almost any circumstance. So Spain was supported.

But the UK is shortly going to stop being a member. It is Scotland, as a potential member with a long history of valued membership and a firm intention to join, which will have the natural support of the EU, the more so as there will be a strong desire to get Scotland’s fishing, energy and mineral resources back within the bloc. The disintegration of the UK will also be encouraged as a salutary lesson to any other states that consider leaving the EU. The political forces within the EU are very, very strongly behind recognition of Scottish Independence.

Once the EU decides to recognise Scotland (and crucially it is not a decision that needs unanimity in the EU vote, an extremely important and overlooked fact) the rest will be easy. The UK is detested in much of the developing world for its continued refusal to decolonise Diego Garcia, for the Iraq War, and for the whole history of colonialism.

So how should Scotland proceed? My advice would be to declare Independence at the earliest possible opportunity. We should recall all Scottish MPs from Westminster immediately. We should assemble all of Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s in a National Assembly and declare Independence on the 700th Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, thus emphasising the historical continuity of the Scottish state. The views and laws of London now being irrelevant, we should organise, as an Independent state, our referendum to confirm Independence, to be held in September 2020.

The key criterion which governments have traditionally used to recognise another state is control of the state’s internal territory. (They do not have to use that criterion, each state can recognise on whatever basis it wishes, but that is the usual one cited). This is where the Catalonian Declaration of Independence failed, the Catalan Government never managed to enforce it on its own ground.

There is going to be no process of Independence agreed with the British government. We have to take Independence, not beg for it. At some stage, there is always the danger that the British government may try to react by sending in the British Army to enforce Westminster’s will. If we believe we are an independent nation, we have to be prepared to defend ourselves as an independent state should the worst happen. Calling a confirmatory referendum as the first act of the Independent state would make it difficult for Johnson to justify sending in the British Army to try to prevent it, but we cannot rule it out. Hopefully that will not involve anyone getting killed, but we must be plain that Westminster will never voluntarily allow us to leave and may physically attack us if we try.

I appreciate this may all sound very unpleasant and confrontational.

We have two alternatives now – we stand up for ourselves and our inalienable right of self-determination in international law as defined in the UN Charter, or we grovel before Johnson’s smirk and try various “legal” and “constitutional” avenues in terms of the UK’s utterly irrelevant domestic legislation. Which will get us nowhere, slowly.

The time has come for Scottish Independence. With a referendum denied by no fault of ours, we must seize the moment and take the Independence for which they will not let us vote.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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been

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Jonathan Sacoolas Is Not, and Has Never Been, a Diplomat

UPDATE: Since I published this article the mainstream media, including at least Sky News and the Guardian, have started to report that Sacoolas does not have diplomatic immunity. This is a massive reversal in the MSM line, though to date none have published that he works for NSA or explained the NSA/GCHQ relationship. The MSM are all quoting the lawyer Mark Stephens, rather than this blog, as the source of the information. I would gently note that I can so far find no evidence of Stephens pointing out Sacoolas is not on the Diplomatic List until some hours after I broke the story, and that when he gave radio interviews yesterday Stephens was unaware of the fact.

Ultimately however it does not matter that I am not credited; what matters is my lead has in practice been followed and there is now a much stronger point of pressure available to get justice for Harry Dunn.
END OF UPDATE

There is no Jonathan Sacoolas on the official Diplomatic list. Neither Sacoolas nor his wife has any right to claim diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention.

Article 31 of the Vienna Convention states that:

A diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state

Article 37 extends this privilege to family members living in his household. A “diplomatic agent” is defined in article 2(d).

The “members of the diplomatic staff” are the members of the staff of the mission having diplomatic rank;

Jonathan Sacoolas does not hold, and has never held, a diplomatic rank. He has never been a member of staff of a diplomatic mission. (All those with diplomatic rank appear in the diplomatic list, see above link. That list also includes some attaches who do not have diplomatic rank (depending on the type of attache), but there is nobody with diplomatic rank not in the list).

Jonathan Sacoolas does not have, and has never had, any entitlement to diplomatic immunity in international law. Sacoolas works as an NSA technical officer at the communications interceptions post at “RAF Croughton”. His role is support to the interception of communications from British citizens. As I explained in Murder in Samarkand, the NSA and GCHQ share all intelligence reports, but each faces legal constraints on mass spying on its own citizens. So the NSA has staff here fronting the spying on British citizens, while GCHQ has staff in the US fronting the spying on US citizens, and the polite fiction is that the results are transmitted back over the Atlantic to the US or UK respectively, before being “shared” with the partner intelligence agency.

None of which has anything to do with diplomacy, and Sacoolas must be the subject of a DSMA notice given that all mainstream media are referring to him constantly as a “diplomat”, when they all know that is not true. The irony is of course that if Sacoolas actually was a real diplomat, the US would very probably have waived the diplomatic immunity of his wife, as the issues around his presence and function would be much less sensitive.

The UK has no Vienna Convention obligation to acknowledge the “immunity” of Sacoolas’ wife, contrary to all reporting to date. What does apparently exist between the UK and US is a secret, bilateral agreement to treat GCHQ and NSA staff as if they had diplomatic immunity. That is not at all the same thing as Vienna Convention protection under international law. I cannot conceive the grief of Harry Dunn’s parents, but I do hope that they are not deceived by the pretence at intervention in this case by Johnson and Raab.

I am not at all convinced, as a matter of law, that the government has the power to grant, by bilateral treaty or otherwise, immunity from criminal prosecution to foreign nationals, plainly outside the provisions of the Vienna Convention. This should be tested by the courts.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Really a Right Wing Coup

Just because it is not written in a single document does not mean the UK does not have a constitution. But it does mean it has a particularly bad one.

If like me you were awake until 2am watching the remarkable scenes in Parliament last night, as opposition MPs stayed and protested in the Commons as Speaker Bercow, having himself entered a formal protest, led the Tories to the dissolution ceremony in the Lords, you were probably struck by the ridiculous flummery of it all. The three Queen’s Commissioners sat before the golden throne in silly hats, which the gentlemen doffed formally and very slowly three times, while the lady did not, and the Speaker and Commons staff bobbed low each time in response like a row of overdressed ducks.

This ludicrous pantomime is intended to reinforce the majesty of the monarch in the minds of the plebs, and indeed as an example of monarchical power it is effective. The prorogation, which Bercow objected to as an “executive fiat”, is just that and had it been made in the name of Boris Johnson, it is extremely probable that Bercow, with the strong support of the majority of the Commons, would have resisted the prorogation and carried on sitting. But because it is done in the name of Elizabeth Saxe Coburg Gotha, the most outrageous and undemocratic acts are suffered out of a misplaced sense of personal loyalty to the 93 year old monarch.

While Rees Mogg and his racist Brexiteer stormtroopers from the Commons turned up eagerly to grovel, it was very notable that only a dozen Tory peers bothered to show – something else totally unprecedented about this prorogation. Last week I was again up till 2am watching parliament and the much touted (esp on Guido Fawkes) Tory filibuster to stop the anti no deal Act. On a series of ridiculous procedural motions, on which counted votes were insisted despite obvious massive defeat by acclamation, the Government vote fell from in the low 100s until eventually they were being defeated every time by margins of approximately 250 to 60, and they gave up the filibuster in embarrassment. There was a remarkable contrast between the breathless excitement with which the mainstream media trailed the filibuster, as the BBC here, and the brief and sordid reality. Johnson’s repeated defeats in the Commons have rather overshadowed the utter contempt in which he is held in the Lords.

The monarchy is not a neutral player in all this. By the monarchy I mean not only the Queen, but the professional courtiers who surround her, each paid by the taxpayer. It is almost twenty years since I last held a conversation with the Queen, and I just do not know how sharp her faculties remain at 93, but I have not heard she is not still making her own decisions.

Boris Johnson should not be Prime Minister. It is not the constitutional duty of the monarch to appoint as Prime Minister the leader of the Conservative Party, and not even the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons, but a person who can command a majority in the House of Commons. For example, in 2010 Gordon Brown tried to put together a “rainbow coalition” to get a Commons majority and be reappointed Prime Minister. Had he succeeded in putting together such a coalition with a majority, the Queen would have had to appoint him even though David Cameron’s party had more seats than Labour. This was universally accepted as the constitutional position. It did not happen in the end as the Lib Dems preferred the Tories.

Nothing in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act alters the constitutional position that the Prime Minister must be able to command a majority in the House of Commons.

It was unconstitutional of Elizabeth Saxe Coburg Gotha to appoint Boris Johnson as Prime Minister when it was absolutely plain at the outset he had no majority in the House of Commons. This is not hindsight, I said so at the time. Now it has been proven that he has no majority in the House as he has been defeated six times out of six on major votes on the most important issues of the day. He has never won an important vote on anything as Prime Minister. Whether or not these are characterised as “confidence issues” is irrelevant. The man Johnson has never had a Commons majority. I can think of nothing more unconstitutional – and I think it can absolutely be characterised as a coup – than for the Queen to appoint a Prime Minister who has no majority support in the Commons, and then prorogue Parliament precisely because the executive has no majority. This is not even a government which has lost its majority – it has never had one and ought never to have been appointed.

Rather than prorogue Parliament, the Queen should have obliged Boris Johnson to resign and asked the Leader of the Opposition to see whether he could form an administration that could command a majority. That would be the constitutionally correct course of action. The monarch is not neutral in this and is acting unconstitutionally, abusing her power.

Let me put it this way. Does anybody seriously contend that Jeremy Corbyn would be appointed Prime Minister by the Queen in a situation where he had no parliamentary majority, and would remain in No. 10 despite losing 6 successive Commons votes and never winning one, and that the Queen would prorogue Parliament for him to get round the fact that he had no majority? Of course not. It is unthinkable. We are witnessing a right wing coup specifically in favour of Boris Johnson.

It is particularly worrying that so many people are happy to see dictatorship established so long as it expedites Brexit. This demonstrates the folly of introducing elements of direct democracy into a representative democracy. I am perfectly content for England and Wales to be outside the EU, though I regard extending that to being outside the customs union and single market as economic madness driven by xenophobia. I am sorry to say I do not maintain a romantic view of the electorate, having for a considerable while dwelled amongst a remarkable percentage of open racists in Ramsgate, a UKIP hotspot where Farage chose to stand. The idea that the crowd should directly wield unmediated power of executive action is almost as repugnant to me as the continued existence of the monarchy. As so often, I appreciate my views do not fit into a standard and easily labeled set of opinions and many of you may disagree. They are however my opinions and I present them with no insistence you agree, but in the hope that you will consider and discuss.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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IF YOU LIVE IN THE UK, PLEASE SIGN MY PETITION FOR OFFICIAL INTERNATIONAL OSCE OBSERVERS FOR THE NEXT SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM

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Petition for Official International Observers for Next Scottish Independence Referendum

Please sign the petition

This UK Government cannot be trusted to behave democratically. We have seen that in the prorogation of the Westminster Parliament and in tricks like not providing tellers to count votes against an amendment, causing it to pass. Ian Blackford, SNP leader at Westminster, described Boris Johnson as behaving “like a dictator, not a democrat”.

It is highly likely that the Scottish people will shortly be voting on whether to become an independent nation again. It is essential that process be scrutinised by formal international invigilation, to make sure the conduct of the referendum is fair.

Please sign the petition for international observers to the next Scottish Indyref. Only the UK government can request an OSCE observer mission (it must be a current member state that asks), therefore the petition must be addressed to Westminster, not to Holyrood.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, through its Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, is the organisation specifically charged with monitoring democratic processes in Europe, and in which the UK government is an active participant in monitoring other countries’ elections.

Not only will the OSCE send a large team to observe the conduct of the campaign and physical balloting and counting process, they will send an advance team of experts with international experience in monitoring media bias in campaign situations, with a particular emphasis on state media. These experts will produce a careful and scientific quantitative and qualitative analysis of the extent of media bias, and this analysis will be presented to all the member states of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe. The very presence of the international monitoring team will be a strong deterrent to bad media behaviour, and will boost public confidence in the process.

In the 2014 referendum there was massive anti-Independence bias through all the privately owned media and also, blatantly and demonstrably, within the BBC.

There was a crucial and highly significant breaking of the rules of the referendum when the Unionist parties combined to issue the (since spectacularly broken) promises of “The Vow” during the official purdah period of the last week. Suspicion was attached by many to some extraordinarily high postal vote turnouts in certain localities. All events of this kind would be subject to real time scrutiny were an OSCE observer mission present.

We are frequently told by the government that, when it comes to their programmes of mass surveillance of the population, “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear”. Those who wish to claim that it is axiomatic that both the media coverage and the physical process of an Independence referendum would be fair, have nothing to fear from OSCE scrutiny. It is an organisation of which the UK is a contributing member anyway, so there are no grounds to objection to its monitoring.

The OSCE handbook on the media monitoring they will undertake is well worth reading and gives a valuable insight into how thorough they are. They do not just measure crudely the amount of time given to each side. They assess the quality of coverage of each side, the inferences and body language of the presenters. They look at the legal, institutional and ownership framework in which journalists operate and the pressures on them to self-censor, as opposed to just considering whether there is formal state censorship.

It is essential that all sides in a future Independence referendum have trust in the fairness of the process. There is every reason to believe that British state institutions, including both the BBC and the Electoral Commission, need to be subjected to outside scrutiny.

Wherever you are in the UK, and whatever your stance on Scottish Independence, please sign and support this petition for strengthening confidence in the fairness of democratic process. The restoring of Scottish Independence and the break-up of the UK state is a major step; it is essential that the process involved in the decision is accepted by all as fair.

Obviously an observer mission takes some time to organise and needs to be in place right from the start of any campaign period, or even before. Like all international organisations, the OSCE’s processes take some time to agree between members. Therefore it is essential to launch this petition now rather than wait until a referendum is called.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION

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The Scottish Parliament Does Have the Right to Withdraw from the Act of Union

The London Supreme Court last week not only confirmed that the Westminster Parliament could overrule at will any Scottish Government legislation, irrespective of the Scotland Act and the Sewell Convention, but it also ruled that Westminster had already successfully done so, by retrospectively passing provisions in the EU (Withdrawal) Act that overruled the Bill on the same subject, within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, that had already been passed by Holyrood.

Not content with that, the London Supreme Court confirmed that London ministers may, by secondary legislation, under the Scotland Act decree laws for Scotland that are not even passed through the Westminster parliament.

Which leaves Scotland in this extraordinary situation. English MPs or English ministers in their London Parliament can, at any time, impose any legislation they choose on Scotland, overriding Scotland’s parliament and Scotland’s representation in the London parliament. Yet, under the English Votes for English Laws rules of the London Parliament introduced by the Tories in 2015, Scottish MPs cannot vote at all on matters solely affecting England.

That is plainly a situation of colonial subservience.

I am firmly of the view that the Scottish government should now move to withdraw from the Treaty of Union. Scotland’s right to self determination is inalienable. It cannot be signed away forever or restricted by past decisions.

The Independence of a country is not a matter of domestic law it is a matter of international law. The right of the Scottish Parliament to declare Independence may not be restricted by UK domestic law or by purported limitations on the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The legal position is set out very clearly here:

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State‟s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. Of major relevance, it is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that the Scottish Government has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of London and completely irrespective of the London Supreme Court.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. 1 Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

As I have stressed, the SNP should now be making a massive effort to prepare other countries, especially in the EU and in the developing world, to recognise Scotland when the moment comes. There is no task more important. There is a worrying lack of activity in this area. It may currently not be possible to spend government money on sending out envoys for this task, but if personal envoys were endorsed by the First Minister they would get access and could easily be crowd funded by the Independence Movement. I am one of a number of former senior British diplomats who would happily undertake this work without pay. We should be lobbying not just the EU but every country in Africa, Asia and South America.

My preferred route to Independence is this. The Scottish Parliament should immediately legislate for a new Independence referendum. The London Government will attempt to block it. The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.

There will never be a better time than now for Scotland to become an Independent, normal, nation once again. It is no time for faint hearts or haverers; we must seize the moment.

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High Time for Scottish Independence!

There appears no avoiding a second Scottish Independence Referendum, unless either Nicola Sturgeon or Theresa May backs down to a humiliating degree. I have been studying in detail the Scottish government’s proposals for Scotland’s future relationship with the EU within the UK after Brexit. Their aim is for Scotland to remain in the European Economic Area as the rest of the UK leaves it (a key marker of hard Brexit). It is worth noting that if the UK went for continued single market membership (soft Brexit) almost all the Scottish government paper would fall.

Theresa May has now rejected these proposals out of hand. This is scarcely surprising, as the Scottish government’s proposals would have involved giving Scotland new powers which are normal attributes of a nation state. In particular, treaty making is a sovereign power – even in proper Federal systems, California or Ontario do not make trade agreements with foreign states as the Scottish government proposal specifically states that Scotland must be able to do (para 187). The paper lists powers currently held in Brussels which fall within devolved competence and should come back to Holyrood, and then others in the category of “citizens rights” which are currently reserved but the Scottish government wish to have devolved to Holyrood. Then there is a third list of powers which would be required by the Scottish parliament to enable Scotland to meet the obligations of remaining within the European Economic Area if the rest of the UK is not in it.

These new powers are, in addition to trade treaty making:

a) import and export control
b) immigration
c) competition, product standards and international property
d) company law and insolvency
e) social security, including to enable reciprocal arrangements with other states
f) professional regulation
g) energy regulation
h) financial services, communications, postal services and currently reserved areas of transport

Simply put, Scotland would need to be able to function as though it were a full sovereign state in every area covered by the European Economic Area agreements, so that there would be no difference to the other members than if they were dealing with another fully sovereign state.

Personally I do not believe the Sturgeon proposals are diplomatically achievable. The argument is made at para 136 that the pending Faroe Islands discussions with the EU on joining EFTA are a precedent for the EU reaching agreement with an entity which is not a sovereign state, with a state as its sponsor. But the difference is of course that the Faroes is an autonomous dependency of an EU member state – Denmark – not of a non EU member state. As in the “Greenland option”, there is no precedent for a territory being in either the EU, EEA or EFTA while the metropolitan is out. Treaties are between states, and while there are plenty of examples of treaties which exclude dependencies of varying status, I cannot think of a single one in the economic sphere which includes the minor and excludes the metropolitan. I do not think it could be done.

At para 123 the Scottish Government acknowledges that its proposals will require other EU states to be “flexible and innovative”. That is an understatement. What the Scottish government seeks to achieve is incredibly difficult, I would say impossible.

To give just one example of the difficulties that would arise, look at the practical shipment of goods, from the Scottish government proposal:

Imports from the European Single Market
153. Goods entering the UK from the European Single Market would be subject to the import regulations appropriate to either jurisdiction (Scotland or the remainder of the UK). The appropriate regulations would be determined by the point at which the goods are to be sold.
154. If the point of sale is Scotland, then there will be no tariff payable due to our EEA membership. If the goods are to be sold in the remainder of the UK they will be subject to whatever regulations apply and tariff is payable under the remainder of the UK’s arrangements with the single market and/or EFTA states. To the extent that any import from the single market is not covered by Scotland’s EEA membership then the relevant regulations and tariff under Scottish and/or rUK law (depending on the devolution settlement in place) will apply.
155. When a consignment contains goods bound for sale in both Scotland and the remainder of the UK, if there is no difference in the treatment of that good (for example, if it is tariff-free) between Scotland and the remainder of the UK, then no additional process is required. Where there is a difference, on entering the UK the point of sale for the relevant proportion of the goods will need to be declared and the relevant tariff paid and regulations followed. If the point of sale is in the remainder of the UK, then the UK-wide regulations and any UK tariff would apply.
Exports to the European Single Market
156. Goods and services could also continue to be exported from Scotland and the UK under different conditions when accessing the European Single Market. Goods and services produced in Scotland, and complying with all relevant EU regulations, would be exported freely to the European Single Market, whilst those from elsewhere in the UK would be required to comply with the terms of the UK’s new trading relationship with the EU.

Agreeing this with the UK government is going to be difficult enough, when it gives firms an obvious incentive to relocate to Scotland. There are all sorts of workarounds which companies will try, such as partial assembling or packaging in Scotland. We might find those Nissans have their wheels and wing mirrors put on here. But then not only have the arrangements to be agreed with the UK, all the other EEA members have to agree to set up and run a system to differentiate between Scottish (still overwhelmingly through English ports) and English exports, and ensure themselves no corporate cheating is involved.

CONCLUSION

I warned from the start that this exercise was not in the realms of practical possibility. If Nicola’s aim was to prove that Scotland is viewed with contempt by Westminster, and has no choice except hard Brexit or Independence, then that has now been resoundingly achieved and we can move quickly on to another referendum in 2017.

But I do not like this approach. Rather than a joyous uphill march to the fantastic possibilities of unlocking the potential to construct a new state for this wonderful nation, it paints Independence as a dire necessity because nothing else works and everything is going to pieces. Independence as a little lifeboat in freezing mountainous seas as the UK Titanic plummets beneath the waves.

My criticism of the last official referendum campaign was that it was exceptionally cautious. The motto seemed to be “Vote for Independence and Nothing will Change!”. You will keep the Queen, keep the Pound, keep NATO, nothing will be any different. That is hardly a rallying cry. This time the motto seems to be “Vote for Independence and We May Be Slightly Less Doomed”.

Frankly I have had enough of this havering. Impossible proposals for Scotland to remain first in the EU, and then a fallback to the EEA, as the UK exits. A “national conversation” as a blatant ploy to keep the SNP troops quiet and believing they are doing something. It is time to re-invoke the energy that burst through from the people in the last referendum campaign and moved us up from 32% to 46% support. The demand for a more egalitarian society that rejects neo-liberalism at home and neo-conservatism abroad. For an open, outward looking country, harnessing its extraordinary resources of renewable energy and an amazingly talented and educated population. A chance to ditch the baggage of the UK’s past and build on our dreams.

Let’s get back to that. Some of us never stopped campaigning for Independence. It is time for the SNP to make the leap of faith and come back into the fray of a full on Independence campaign. Enough of the EU related sophistry. Let’s free this country.

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Chagossians Have No Right of Self-Determination

“We do not agree the right of self-determination applies to the Chagossians”, says Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan, who later clarifies that they are not “a people”. If you can stand it, you can watch the urgent question in the Commons today which forced the government to defend the decision they had sneaked out via a written answer.

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/99da1ec6-4cd2-4f51-9d90-41463e0ed657

The debate starts at 10.34 – if you put the cursor to the bottom of the picture a slider appears. It is excruciating to watch. In an unusually full House of Commons (not a high bar) there is indignation and real anger on all sides, with even Tories describing the decision to continue the eviction of the Chagos islanders as “dishonourable”.

The government argues that the Chagossians are not “a people” distinct from the Mauritians, therefore they do not have a right of self-determination. This piece of sophistry is designed to answer the obvious question of why the Chagossians have less rights than the Falkland Islanders or Gibraltarians. The actual answer – that the Chagossians are not white – is not one the government wishes to give. It also begs the question, if the Chagossians are Mauritians, why are the islands not a part of Mauritius?

The government produced a paper on prospective resettlement, imposing arbitrary conditions on where and how the Chagossians could live designed to make life as difficult as possible. Those conditions included that there could be no civilian use of the airstrip – which I am glad to see Alex Salmond challenged in the Commons. Chagossians could work at the US airbase, but only on condition their partners and children would not be permitted to be with them. Fishing – their traditional activity – will be banned by the UK government’s marine reserve.

Given these conditions, Duncan kept reiterating, only 223 Chagossians actually wanted to return. And that was not a viable population (which will be news to many inhabited islands).

Support for the government was very thin. The most notable contribution was from the Rt Hon Sir Desmond Swayne MP, who oozing contempt for dusky foreigners intervened solely to state that it would be impossible to return the islanders because the government would be put to the expense of building a prison for them. (He really did say this, I am not making it up, you can see it on the link.)

It takes New Labour however to win the lying through your teeth prize, which the unctuous Chris Bryant duly did. He deplored the deportation of the islanders, ignoring the fact that he had served as a minister in the 13 year Blair/Brown governments which did nothing to right the wrong and indeed fought against the islanders as hard as the Tories. But Bryant wished it to be known that the Labour government’s introduction of the marine reserve had no connection at all to denying the islanders the right of return, as was frequently wrongly claimed. Having said that the lying little bastard sat down.

The most amusing moment was when Kate Hoey stated that she knew Alan Duncan personally and he was a decent chap whose heart was secretly not in this despicable decision. Duncan felt the need to deny this vehemently, knowing that being less than totally heartless, particularly in matters relating to Imperial treatment of foreigners, was career death in the May government. I must say, from Duncan’s demeanour I saw no sign he has ever been troubled by humanitarianism.

I was proud that no less than five SNP MPs intervened and many more bothered to turn up, while another Scottish MP. Alistair Carmichael made a very good and principled point on the absolute right of the islanders to live on their islands. It was the SNP who made the most obvious point of all, that it made no sense for the government to claim that a population which had sustained itself on the islands in the 1960’s quite happily could not do so again. Indeed modern technology will make it rather easier.

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Scottish Parliament Motion on UK Complicity in Torture

Bill Wilson MSP has put down the following motion in the Scottish Parliament:

Short Title: UK Government’s Admission of Complicity in Torture

S3M-03949 Bill Wilson (West of Scotland) (SNP): That the Parliament

considers the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s recent report on human rights in which the UK Government tacitly admits to using “intelligence possibly derived through torture”; further notes Craig Murray’s statement that the names of sources are omitted from intelligence reports so that it cannot be proven that torture was used in producing that intelligence; believes that the report therefore negates the UK Government’s supposed condemnation of torture and that when it uses evidence obtain from practices such as immersing victims in boiling water, as used in Uzbekistan, or taking them to the point of drowning , as extensively practised by the United States of America under the euphemism of waterboarding, then it is as guilty as the government or agency that carries out the torture, and is of the opinion that torture does not protect lives but simply ensures that the victim provides whatever “evidence” is required by the torturer and that the use of torture can only increase hatred and violence, not reduce it

His office have put out the following press release:

UK Government’s admission of complicity in torture highlighted in Scottish Parliament

Dr Bill Wilson, an SNP MSP for the West of Scotland, today lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament highlighting a recent human rights report by the Foreign and Commonwealth office that contains a tacit admission the UK Government uses evidence obtained through torture.

Dr Wilson commented: “The UK has a long and appalling record when it comes to human rights. The latest revelation is of a piece with its support for Indonesia’s genocidal Suharto regime, its treatment of the inhabitants of Diego Garcia, its earlier support for sanctions against Iraq and its later invasion of that country, and its support for Israel, despite the latter’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory and its brazen flouting of the human rights of Palestinians and various opponents of its brutal policies (not least the brave Jewish Israeli youngsters thrown into prison for refusing to serve in the Israeli Defence Force!).

“The UK Government’s weasel words cannot disguise its effective support for torture. As my motion makes clear, this undermines any pretence the UK might have to higher ethical ground. How can the UK effectively combat terrorism when it condones atrocities committed by its so-called friends and allies? The bitterness and hatred stoked by this hypocrisy is surely considerable.

“Furthermore, it’s nonsense to suggest that tortured people will say anything other than what they think their interrogators want to hear. If you are taken to the point of drowning and believe that the only way you can save yourself is to say that X, Y and Z are members of Al Qaeda, then you would likely do so, regardless of the truth.

“Perhaps the worst aspect of torture, however, is that those who have taken part in it are driven to justify what they have done. Of course they want to believe that the cruelty they have been guilty of produced useful information, and so they are likely to go to great lengths to deceive both themselves and others in this regard. Having justified it, then, they will persist in practising it.

“Torture is always wrong in my opinion, and the ‘ticking bomb’ argument a dangerous myth. The criminals complicit in torture, who can be found at the highest levels of the UK Government, must be held accountable. ”

My analysis of the FCO’s stunning admission to receiving intelligence from torture is found here:

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/03/fco_finally_adm.html

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Motion of Support For Torture Truth Formally Tabled in Scottish Parliament

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

MOTION

Date of Lodging: 18 March 2009

Short Title: University Rector’s Torture Evidence

S3M-03730 Bill Wilson (West of Scotland) (SNP): That the Parliament

supports the request by the rector of the University of Dundee, Craig Murray, to give evidence to the Westminster Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights on the subject of the UK Government’s policy on receiving intelligence obtained by torture abroad and considers that Mr Murray is offering first-hand eye-witness testimony with documentary proof of a secret and reprehensible policy of attempting to benefit from torture, endorsed and directed by UK ministers.

Bill Wilson MSP has also put out this press release:

University Rector Must Present Torture Evidence, says MSP

Dr Bill Wilson, SNP MSP for the West of Scotland, announced today that he had just lodged a motion calling for the Rector of the University of Dundee, Craig Murray, to be allowed to present evidence of the UK Government’s involvement in torture to Westminster’s Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Dr Wilson commented, “I have long admired Mr Murray’s principled stand against UK complicity in human rights abuses, a stand that lost him his job as British Ambassador to Uzbekistan. He has clear evidence of the fact that the UK Government is prepared on a regular basis to receive intelligence from torture.

“I agree with the suggestion by commentators on Mr Murray’s website that the fact that he is not being allowed to present his evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights strongly suggests that the purpose of this committee is not to uncover the truth but to bury it, to ‘prove’ that the government isn’t involved.”

Mr Murray commented on Dr Wilson’s Motion: “It is essential that people are told the truth about some of the terrible things that have been done in their name, if we are to avoid such outrages in future. There is a degree of integrity on this issue being shown in Holyrood that appears so far lacking in Westminster.”

I can make contact details for Bill Wilson available to anyone who wants them. I am very grateful for this support, which makes it still more difficult for the government to pretend that my evidence does not exist.

UPDATE

MSPs Robin Harper, Dr Christopher Harvie, Christina McKelvie, Stuart McMillan, Joe FitzPatrick, and Bill Kidd have now added their names to Dr Bill Wilson’s motion calling for my evidence to be heard.

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/Apps2/business/motions/Default.aspx?motionid=16106

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Craig Murray Defence Fund Launched

My Defence Fund has now reached over £75,000 from almost 5,000 donors. I am extremely grateful to each and every one. Work is now proceeding apace with the legal team. If charges are brought against any of the others who have been threatened by Police Scotland or the Crown Office over this case, including the journalist whose laptops and phones were seized by police, the funds will be made available to their defence also.

Original Post (from 24 April, with further update below).

I know of four pro-Independence folk who were last week phoned or visited by Police Scotland and threatened with contempt of court proceedings over social media postings they had made weeks back on the Alex Salmond case. Then on Monday, a Scottish journalist I know had his home raided by five policemen, who confiscated (and still have) all his computers and phones. They said they were from the “Alex Salmond team” and investigating his postings on the Alex Salmond case. He has not to date been charged, and his lawyer is advising him at present to say nothing, so I am not revealing his name.

Then on Tuesday morning, a large Police van full of police pulled up onto the pavement right outside my front gate, actually while I was talking on the phone to a senior political figure about the raid on my friend. The police just sat in the van staring at my house. I contacted my lawyers who contacted the Crown Office. The police van pulled away and my lawyers contacted me back to say that the Crown Office had told them I would be charged, or officially “cited”, with Contempt of Court, but they agreed there was no need for a search of my home or to remove my devices, or for vans full of police.

On Thursday two plain clothes police arrived and handed me the indictment. Shortly thereafter, an email arrived from The Times newspaper, saying that the Crown Office had “confirmed” that I had been charged with contempt of court. In the case of my friend whose house was raided, he was contacted by the Daily Record just before the raid even happened!

I am charged with contempt of court and the hearing is on 7 July at the High Court in Edinburgh. The contempt charge falls in two categories:

i) Material published before the trial liable to prejudice a jury
ii) Material published which could assist “jigsaw identification” of the failed accusers.

Plainly neither of these is the true motive of the Crown Office. If they believed that material I published was likely to have prejudiced the jury, then they had an obvious public duty to take action BEFORE the trial – and the indictment shows conclusively they were monitoring my material long before the trial. To leave this action until after the trial which they claim the material was prejudicing, would be a serious act of negligence on their part. It is quite extraordinary to prosecute for it now and not before the trial.

As for identifying the failed conspirators, I have done less than the mainstream media. But plainly the Crown Office, or whoever is pushing them to this persecution, had no genuine interest in protecting the identities, otherwise why did they tip off the media that I was being charged, and thus guarantee further publicity? If protecting the identities was their motive, to tip off the media would obviously be counterproductive.

But what proves that the Crown Office is acting from base motives and not those stated is the one-sided nature of this. Only supporters of Alex Salmond – the Alex Salmond found innocent by the jury – are being pursued by this continuing Police Scotland operation.

There are literally thousands who put out “Salmond is guilty” “Salmond is a rapist” “Salmond is a pervert” posts on social media before and during the trial. Not one has had the police knock on the door. The Herald published absolutely deliberately, the day before the trial, a montage of Alex Salmond amongst photos of mass murderers. They have not been charged. Every newspaper published “jigsaw identification” information which I withheld. They have not been charged or investigated, despite the evidence brilliantly compiled and presented to the Police.

No, this is a blatant, one-sided political persecution. That much is entirely plain. I have therefore decided, in the interests of open justice, to publish the entire indictment against me (with a single sentence redacted where I think the prosecution were excessively indiscreet). Neither the indictment nor the covering letter is marked confidential or not for publication. It is, so far as I know, a public document.

The Crown have very deliberately not included the names of any of the failed conspirators in the indictment and instead refer to the women by their court allocated letters. That is a plain indication to me that this is a public document drafted specifically with publication in mind. Otherwise the document would have more naturally used the names and not the alphabet letters.

More fundamentally this indictment is the basis on which they are attempting to put me in prison – in fact the indictment specifies up to two years in jail and an unlimited fine as the punishment sought from the court. I think the public interest, and my own interest, in it being public is very substantial.

The state believes it has finally discovered a way to put me in prison without the inconvenient hurdle of a jury of my peers. Contempt of Court is just decided by a judge. It is extraordinary that you can go to jail for a substantial two years with no jury protection and no test of “beyond reasonable doubt”; and on the whim of a judge defending what he may view as the dignity of his own office. This really is the epitome of bad law. To use it against freedom of speech is disgusting.

So here is the full indictment against me:

redactedcaseagainstcraigmurray (1)

If the indictment contains anything they did not wish to be public, well, I didn’t force them to serve it on me. From my side, the proceedings against me will be entirely open. I will remind you that you may find all or part of the indictment initially convincing; but you are yet to see my point by point reply, which naturally I shall also publish in due course.

[UPDATE

Pending the outcome of the trial, and on legal advice, I have redacted from the indictment those sentences complained of as aiding identification of a witness, and have redacted same sentences from original blog posts. My position is firmly that they absolutely do not they do not contribute to likely identification of witnesses, and the mainstream media did that to a far greater degree than I.]

The purpose of this operation against free speech is a desperate attempt to keep the lid on the nature of the state conspiracy to fit up Alex Salmond. Once the parliamentary inquiry starts, a huge amount of evidence of conspiracy which the court did not allow the defence to introduce in evidence during the criminal trial, will be released. The persecution of myself is an attempt to intimidate independent figures into not publishing anything about it. The lickspittle media of course do not have to be intimidated. To this end, I am charged specifically with saying that the Alex Salmond case was a fit-up and a conspiracy in which the Crown Office was implicated. So I thought I would say it again now:

The Alex Salmond case was a fit-up and a conspiracy in which the Crown Office was implicated, foiled by the jury. If Scotland is the kind of country where you go to jail for saying that, let me get my toothbrush.

Before then, I am afraid we have to fund my defence and I shall be very grateful for donations to my defence fund. My initial target is £60,000. I shall post daily updates on total reached, but I shall be using my established funding channels and not involving a crowdfunding website. I do not intend to fight this battle entirely on the defensive, and some of the funding may be put to launching actions against the Crown or others.




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“I Have a Plan So That We Can Remain Anonymous But Have Maximum Effect”

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, CENSORED PENDING CONTEMPT OF COURT TRIAL.

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.

Dramatis personae

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. NAME REMOVED PENDING CONTEMPT OF COURT TRIAL, 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 CENSORED PENDING CONTEMPTOF COURT TRIAL, 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.

Fair description.

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, CENSORED PENDING OUTCOME OF CONTEMPT OF COURT TRIAL.

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 see the guilt, she implies. Actually, when I first saw the jury I was very surprised by how young they were overall. Much younger than 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.

Do you?

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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How It Starts

The brevity of this post is out of proportion to the enormous importance of the subject. But I want to let you know I am thinking and working on it.

It is a recognised pattern for dictatorship to commence with emergency measures designed to combat a threat. Those emergency measures then become normalised and people exercising arbitrary power find it addictive. A new threat is then found to justify the continuation

It is by no means clear to me that it is a rational response to covid-19 to tear up all of the civil liberties which were won by the people against authority through centuries of struggle, and for which people died. To say that is not to minimise the threat of covid-19. It is also worth pointing out that a coronavirus pandemic was a widely foreseen eventuality. People keep sending me links to various TV shows or movies based on a coronavirus pandemic, generally claiming this proves it is a man-made event. No, that just proves it is a widely foreseen event. Which it is.

The lack of contingency preparedness is completely indefensible. It is partly a result of the stupidity of Tory austerity that has the NHS permanently operating at 100% capacity with no contingency, and partly the result of the crazed just-in time thinking that permeates management in all spheres and eliminates the holding of stock.

It is incredible to me that the UK is willing to throw away some £220 billion and rising on Trident against a war scenario nobody can sensibly define, but was not willing to spend a few million on holding stock of protective clothing for the NHS against the much more likely contingency of a pandemic. What does that say about our society?

Anyway, we are where we are. Nobody knows how deadly this virus is. There have not been, anywhere, sufficient reliable large general population samples to know what percentage of people who get the virus will die. We just do not know how many people in the UK have had it and not got seriously ill. My suspicion is that in a couple of years time it will be discovered the mortality rate was under 1%. But I do not know, and I do not blame the government for making worst assumptions in the absence of reliable scientific evidence. Personally, I am obeying lockdown and would advise others to do so too until the situation is clearer. But I do not want to see the police harassing people for going on a long walk or posting a letter. It really is a problem to have police empowered to stop and question a citizen for just walking in the street. It is also a problem that Peter Hitchens is being reviled for saying, in essence, little more than that. When you can’t criticise restrictions on liberty, you know society has entered a very dark phase indeed.

I would feel much more comfortable if they were open about what they do not know. All the excuses for not testing people rather than admit they did not have the tests rather rattles trust. The ability of the rich and well-connected to access tests also rattles trust.

But none of this justifies rule by fiat – if Parliament cannot sit, I personally believe it would benefit the nations of the UK to have no new laws for a while. There are too many laws already. It does not justify banning political gathering. I don’t recommend anyone to gather, and I don’t imagine they would gather, but the evil of banning political activity is much more serious than the danger of four lonely people in Solihull getting together to talk about coronavirus restrictions.

It certainly does not justify banning jury trials, which the Scottish government has just dropped from today’s Bill after a revolt led by Joanna Cherry. The bill still weakens the defence in trials by allowing pre-taped video evidence and dispensing with the right to cross-examine. If the accusers had been allowed to get away with their lies in the Alex Salmond trial without cross-examination, the result might have been very different. For God’s sake, if you cannot do justice, suspend it. Do not dispense rough justice.

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.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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13 Events, No Witnesses: The Prosecution Concludes the Case Against Alex Salmond

Today the prosecution concluded its case against Alex Salmond. The most important point was that, now the final prosecution witness has been called, we can conclusively say that the Crown did not produce a single eye witness to any of the 13 alleged incidents. This is even though many of them occurred in public; at a photo opportunity in Stirling Castle, in restaurants, in a vehicle with other occupants. It is strange that a behaviour allegedly so continuous and so compulsive was simultaneously so invisible – that is invisible to anybody who was not either a member of Nicola Sturgeon’s very closed inner circle – which describes six of the nine accusers – or a senior Scottish government civil servant, which describes the other three. It is the very narrow and connected milieu of the accusers which distinguishes this case from the comparisons the media had everywhere drawn with the monstrous Weinstein.

The nearest thing the crown had to an eye witness was Mr Donald Cameron, head of the private office of Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government. Mr Cameron testified on Friday that he had witnessed Alex Salmond attempt to brush the hair from the cheek of a civil servant in a lift (which is not one of the charges). Mr Cameron also agreed under questioning that there was not, to his knowledge, any policy against female civil servants working alongside Mr Salmond in Bute House, which claim had been the major trial media headline on Friday morning.

The other main point of interest since my last report has been the acknowledgement by accuser Ms J that she had been in messaging contact with Ms H – before making her allegations. The Crown did not after all call one of its listed witnesses, Ian McCann, the SNP official who had been in the WhatsApp group discussing (ahem) the accusations and who had been involved in the strategy to “sit on them” until they were “needed”. The cross-examination of McCann would have been very interesting; I am rather unsurprised the Crown have pulled him.

I had a conversation on the last AUOB march with a lady who used to be a senior British Airways air hostess. British Airways used to host promotional events such as conferences and dinners at venues such as Turnberry or Gleneagles. Air hostesses would be present for hospitality duties, in their uniforms in the day and then changing into evening wear for the evening function. Social mores change, and this would be viewed as pretty tacky now, but it was perfectly normal twenty or thirty years ago.

The lady told me that she very frequently had problems with guests becoming over familiar and trying it on with the hostesses, particularly after drinking at dinner. The guests were generally very senior executives and politicians. The hostesses would frequently discuss among themselves who was and who was not “handsy”, who to avoid and who was nice company. She told me that Alex Salmond had been very frequently, over many years, a guest of BA at these functions, in a variety of capacities. She had never once heard a single word of complaint about him. In the starkest contrast to many other public figures.

The media have had over a week of lurid headlines. Tomorrow will see the start of the defence case – and the good news is that means the court will be open to the public. If I can wake up and queue up early enough, I hope that I shall be able to bring you detailed reporting.

Shortly after Alex Salmond left the Scottish parliament, Robin Mcalpine told me that he had been entering the parliament with Alex Salmond for a meeting. The security guard had been rather embarrassed to tell the former First Minister that he would require to be signed in as he was no longer a member. Salmond replied “of course, call the First Minister’s office”. The guard did so, and the First Minister’s office refused to sign him in. That was when I first knew something was badly wrong.

Under Alex Salmond, Scottish nationalism was radical and challenged the imperialist English nationalist narrative that so dominates UK politics and media. Since his departure, there has been a radical change of emphasis. On Syria, on Ukraine, on Huawei, the SNP has decided to join in with Britnat union jack patriotism and indeed be still more militaristic than the Tory government. Rather than explain, let me present some contrasts which you should easily understand.

Last week the SNP at Westminster sided with the most right wing Tory rebels in voting against Huawei’s involvement in constructing the UK’s 5G network. On Syria the SNP is actively calling for regime change and criticising the UK government for not adopting a policy of regime change.

On Ukraine also the SNP is actively more hawkish and anti-Russian than the Tory government and criticises from the extreme NATO hawk position. The SNP defence spokesman, Stewart MacDonald, posted a twitter stream of the books he read in 2019 which was an astonishing collection of Russophobia, both Russophobic “research” and Russophobic spy fantasy fiction. MacDonald was actually awarded a medal by the President of Ukraine for his services to Russophobia – sorry, services to Ukraine’s image abroad. (This is true, not a joke).

With Salmond out of the picture, the SNP has been captured to become a political party with an absolutely safe, dependable neo-con worldview. The SNP leadership unquestioningly now accepts and actively promotes the Britnat framing of China and Russia as the enemy. Salmond never did. The SNP has been successfully neutered by the British Establishment both from challenging the Britnat worldview and from any genuine intention to break free of the UK state. This has been a major success for the security services in neutralising what the UK state saw as its biggest single danger. It explains absolutely why Alex Salmond needs, from a UK security service point of view, to be permanently put out of the picture.

Neither China nor Russia is the enemy of Scotland. Quite the opposite. I am going to say that again so it sinks in. Neither China nor Russia is the enemy of Scotland. The acceptance by the SNP hierarchy of this Britnat imperialist framing is a betrayal of the Independence movement.

On Huawei, it seems to me extremely improbable that the Chinese state – which has enjoyed phenomenal success through peaceful economic expansion – has any intention of spying aimed at harming the interests of Scotland. What I do know for certain is that the UK government will use 5G, exactly as it has used every other communications technology, for mass spying on its own citizens. What I know for certain is that the UK government’s mass spying on its own citizens includes those it views as being a danger to the UK state through their support for Scottish Independence.

I should have been a great deal more impressed by the SNP’s vast coterie of Westminster MP’s, all of whose arses are becoming increasingly well padded from their long and comfortable sojourn on the green benches in Westminster, if they had taken the opportunity of the Huawei debate to speak, not in Churchillian terms about the Chinese Red threat to the United Kingdom, but to speak about GCHQ and MI5 spying on Scottish people. That is what the SNP should be about, not British patriotism.

Consider the above change in the SNP’s geopolitical stance. Consider that the majority of accusers are senior SNP figures close to the current leadership. Consider the role of SNP Party HQ in (ahem) discussing the accusations. I hope you now understand that is why I shall be in court every day from tomorrow.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Alternatively:

Account name
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Your Man Kept Oot the Gallery: The Alex Salmond Trial Day 3

I have long deplored the ever burgeoning number of party political hacks – of every political party – which the poor long suffering taxpayer has to stump up for. I recommend the excellent book The Triumph of the Political Class by Peter Oborne, on this and other subjects. There is an ever increasing rise in the number of SPADS. In addition, the offices of members of various parliaments are comfortably staffed both at parliament and in the constituency. Various individuals and groupings have taxpayer-funded but party appointed “Chiefs of Staff”. I have always viewed “Short money” as a constitutional abomination – the state, the poor taxpayer, should not be paying for political party machines. If the members of a party, any party, wish to try to impress their views on voters and to establish themselves in lucrative office, then the party members should fund their activity themselves. The Short money system pays for party HQ staff and machinery according to electoral success, and thus helps cement the establishment. Furthermore, there can be friction between taxpayer funded party appointees and the civil servants they work with – when I worked within the FCO, we career civil servants found SPADs an ill-informed nuisance. Plus the political patronage system can be open to abuse – remarkably, two SNP political appointees on the books of the Scottish civil service, paid for by the Scottish taxpayer, have recently without changing jobs been bumped up two whole pay grades on their taxpayer funded salary, a happening unavailable to ordinary civil servants.

Yesterday saw the continuation of the prosecution case in the Alex Salmond trial. As always, I have to write with extreme care for fear of being found in contempt of court.

The BBC is permitted to be highly selective on the aspects of the evidence it reports. Sarah Smith has been telling the camera with great emotion that an accuser referenced the Harvey Weinstein case, and has been stating with a voice full of angst that the “victim” said she did not want any of this, and swore that it is all true. Sarah Smith has done this without offering any substantial account at all of the defence’s cross examination of said witness. Sarah Smith is in no danger whatsoever of being found in contempt of court for a broadcast that reaches millions of people and is deliberately, professionally and competently designed to sway the viewers emotionally into a view of the case hostile to Alex Salmond. By contrast I, to a smaller audience, am writing with extreme circumspection, knowing the state will prosecute and probably jail me in a flash if I get one nuance wrong. So I am dependent on you reading this whole article with intelligence, and thinking “I wonder why he just told me that bit? Where was that relevant?”

It is essential to an understanding of this case, and not so far in any dispute, being fully brought out by the direct evidence of Ms A, Ms C and Ms H, that six of the accusers conferred (and I carefully used a neutral verb there) together over their accusations. Ms A yesterday denied a suggestion from the defence that she was thus involved in encouraging the accusations. We also know from Ms H’s evidence that at least two of the accusers were actively involved with SNP HQ in a plan to “sit on” the accusations until it was time to “deploy them” “if needed”, and that meant to stop Alex Salmond coming back into politics by refusing him vetting as an SNP candidate.

So it is extremely important for you to be aware that none of these accusers to date (up to end day 3) has been a career civil servant. CENSORED PENDING CONTEMPT OF COURT TRIAL There is, in my belief, a deliberate attempt at false portrayal in the media to pass some accusers off as career civil servants in order to give an undeserved aura of impartiality and trustworthiness. Which is not in the least to allege the accusers are not trustworthy persons, just to say their trustworthiness is not avouched by career civil service status. Some future accusers to be called may well be genuine civil servants. It is an important distinction; not for the purposes of the trial – it makes no difference to the jury or the facts of the case – but to the wider political ramifications.

Anyway, for a report on yesterday’s evidence from important SNP politicians and apparatchiks, I refer again to Grouse Beater. Today I am going to lift a section of his report wholesale, for which I trust he will forgive me:

d. Next witness is a complainer, Woman A, so court being cleared again. Alex Salmond is accused of indecently assaulting her and sexually assaulting her. Woman A tells the court she was working for the SNP in 2008 when Alex Salmond’s behaviour caused her concern. He says he would go in as if to kiss her cheek but then give her a “sloppy and kind of unpleasant” kiss on the lips. Woman A also says “at times he would put his hand on my back and move his hands so they were on the side of my chest or on my bum”. “I took the view it was deliberately…there was no need for his hand to be there, it wasn’t something you would have done by accident.” Did Woman A encourage Alex Salmond to kiss or touch her? “Not at all.” Did she want it to happen? “Absolutely not.” Did she voice disapproval? “I didn’t know how to say ‘don’t do this’ to the first minister, but I would move, I actually began to carry a bag so it was between us”. Why didn’t Woman A tell Alex Salmond to stop? “I liked my job,” she says. “He was the most powerful man in the country….I had experienced volatile mood swings and behaviour from him and it was always easier to move away then risk infuriating or antagonising him.” Did Woman A tell anyone? “I was embarrassed, I was doing this job which meant a lot to me and him humiliating me on a regular basis was embarrassing. I didn’t want to tell people he was doing this….it would make me look weak.”

Lunch adjournment

e. Woman A tells court that Alex Salmond touched her at a party; running his hands down over “the curve of my body” while saying “you look good, you’ve lost weight”. She says she was “kind of internally shocked” and kept her distance from him for the rest of the night. Alex Prentice asks Woman A if she consented to anything Alex Salmond is said to have done to her? “Never”. Did she give a signal of consent? “No”. Prosecution finished with witness, now Gordon Jackson will cross examine.

f. Gordon Jackson says Alex Salmond kissed other people on the lips; “what he did to you was the same he did to members of the public – that’s the sort of man he was”. Woman A says she doesn’t remember seeing Alex Salmond holding other women by the shoulders. Jackson says “these events such as they were are absolutely nothing, and were not distressing in any way or form”. He says they have “turned into criminality” due to “revisionism because other things happened since”. Woman A says that’s “categorically wrong”. Jackson asking why she didn’t later disclose the alleged incidents; Woman A says she had “put them behind me” and “moved on”. Woman A says “I didn’t want to be drawn into a world where I was dealing with my complaint against Alex Salmond….until the police came to see me I was content not to be part of this.” On the incident where Woman A says Alex Salmond ran his hands over her and said she had lost weight, Jackson says “you call that groping?” “Yes,” she replies. He had contended that “nothing happened”; Woman A says “Mr Salmond assaulted me – that’s not nothing”. Asking about Woman A’s contact with other complainers. She says she contacted others off the back of the Daily Record story, saying she thought it “would be difficult for people to handle”, she wanted to “check they were okay”. She says she also reached out to men. Jackson says Woman A was “very much a part of encouraging people to make a complaint, and make things that were trivial, nothing, turned into criminal charges”. Woman A says “I was not encouraging people to make a complaint.”

g. Next witness is Woman C – an SNP politician. Alex Salmond is accused of sexually assaulting her. Woman C says she was celebrating after a Holyrood budget vote, at a restaurant. Alex Salmond offered her a lift to Waverley Station in his ministerial car afterwards to catch a train, she says. Woman C says Alex Salmond put his hand on her leg, above the knee, and kept it there for “a large proportion of the journey”. Did she invite him to do this? “Absolutely not”. She was “embarrassed” and “just hoped it would stop”. Asked why she didn’t say something or call for help, Woman C says “it was so surreally [sic] awful that I didn’t want to say anything, I was just really embarrassed by it and presumed he would stop quite soon because it was so not the right thing to do.”

h. Shelagh McCall cross examining now. She puts it to Woman C that Alex Salmond “says he never touched your leg”. Woman C replies that “I wish it wasn’t the case, so I wouldn’t be here today.” Asking Woman C about whether she felt under pressure from Woman A to speak to the police. She says she didn’t feel pressure to give a statement; she only wanted to speak about things when she wanted to, but “people were talking about this”. Asking if this was a trivial incident? Woman C says “it was something done by my first minister and leader – it was something you put to one side, because who on earth are you going to tell about something like that?” Asked if she thought alleged incident a sexual assault, Woman C says “it was entirely inappropriate and wrong”. “I suppose when you look back you realise how much you excuse a person because of who they are.”

The Ms A incident, if for the moment we take her account as true, raises some very serious questions. Sexual assault is rightly an extremely serious matter, carrying heavy penalties. When does contact over clothing, not with an erogenous zone, become sexual assault?
It is important to emphasise that the defence do not accept Ms A’s account, but the judge’s direction to the jury on this point is going to be extremely interesting. The jury determine fact, but on the point of law they should be guided by the judge.

Pizza Express are getting a lot of very peculiar publicity. The dinner from which Alex Salmond gave Ms C a lift to Waverley Station was at Pizza Express Holyrood. No evidence so far that Prince Andrew was at the next table. As the defence pointed out to Ms C, it’s about a quarter of a mile to drive. (This is true, I used to live next door, and I could dash it on foot in six minutes to catch a train).

Woman C says Alex Salmond put his hand on her leg, above the knee, and kept it there for “a large proportion of the journey”. Did she invite him to do this? “Absolutely not”. She was “embarrassed” and “just hoped it would stop”. Asked why she didn’t say something or call for help, Woman C says “it was so surreally awful that I didn’t want to say anything, I was just really embarrassed by it and presumed he would stop quite soon because it was so not the right thing to do.”

The defence also pointed out that the limousine in question had a large fixed armrest between the two back passengers which would make the surreptitious or casual placing of a hand difficult. None of these defence points appear to have found their way into mainstream media.

But the two most important facts of the day seem – as you would expect – to be missed entirely by the mainstream media.

They are brought out by the excellent report by James Doleman in Byline Times. The first is that Ms C admitted to being a member of a WhatsApp group that had been “discussing” the allegations against Salmond. I use the verb “discussing” used by James Doleman and presumably used in court. Other verbs are available.

Secondly, Ms C said she had come forward in response to an “unsolicited email” by a police officer. I have previously reported on the massive fishing expedition conducted by Police Scotland against Alex Salmond in the context of the civil case he won against the Scottish government for the unfair and biased process conducted against him.

The court remains closed to the public when the accusers give evidence, which is over 90% of the trial so far. I have reapplied for accreditation as media, now as the newly appointed Political Editor of an established media organisation, Black Isle Journalism Ltd, which meets the required criteria. I await a response.

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.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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The Alex Salmond Trial: Your Man Excluded From the Gallery

A jury member is only allowed to consider certain facts in a case. The judge has ruled rigorously on what both prosecution and defence counsel may present as relevant fact. The judge will have excluded certain facts from being presented for various reasons. One of these reasons is Scotland’s idiosyncratic and very strict law on collateral evidence.

The essence of the collateral evidence rule is that what must be judged is the alleged criminal action itself and evidence pertaining directly to it. So if I were alleged to have stolen a tricycle, and an eye-witness says they saw me do it, that must be judged on the evidence of the event itself. If I had evidence, for example, that a social media group had been discussing how to fit Craig Murray up as a thief, that evidence would very likely not be admissible in court because it would be collateral evidence. It does not relate to the direct eye witness evidence on the alleged criminal act itself.

The classic statement of this Scottish common law rule is from Justice Clerk Ross in Brady vs HM Advocate 1986

The general rule is that it is not admissible to lead evidence on collateral matters in a criminal trial. Various justifications have been put forward for this rule. The existence of a collateral fact does not render more probable the existence of the fact in issue; at best a collateral matter can only have an indirect bearing on the matter in issue; a jury may become confused by having to consider collateral matters and may have their attention diverted from the true matter in issue.

Some may find this strict law on collateral evidence counter-intuitive. But it is the law, and the social media group “evidence” would very likely be kept from the jury while my guilt or otherwise of tricycle theft was being considered. The jury would have properly, as is the law of the land, to consider only what the judge directs them to consider in reaching their verdict.

But a journalist is not a jury member. The journalist has a very different role. The journalist’s job is to dig out information of the kind the judge may consider collateral and immaterial to innocence or guilt of the act. The journalist could not, of course, publish any such information during the trial itself or the judge might send them to jail for a considerable period. But the job of the journalist is to dig, and to keep digging.

I am rather a hard working journalist. Therefore coming specifically to the Salmond case I know some things which the jury know but you, dear reader, are not permitted to know, like the identities of the accusers. I know other things around the alleged events which the jury will not know, because it does not fit in to the judge’s, or the lawyers’, view of what is needful to be presented at trial. Some of that I cannot tell you nor even hint at because it may influence the jury in the improbable event that they read my blog. Such event being made even less probable by the judge’s stern and correct admonition to the jury not to read about the trial online. But some of that I can tell you because certain facts are plainly not relevant to the question of guilt or innocence of the charges involved.

[As an aside, I was challenged online as to whether I agreed with the law of contempt of court. My own belief is it is much too strict in limiting publication. Throughout most of the world, freedom of speech allows people to comment on trials as they wish and it is for the jury or the judge not to be influenced by the media. The judge’s direction to the jury not to read or be influenced by media ought to be sufficient. There is something strange about the notion that trial should theoretically be public, but the public not permitted to write about it. What is the point of trials being public if the public are not permitted to comment? It is even stranger that I can say to you down the pub that I thought a witness came across as a liar, but that legally expressed opinion becomes illegal if I tweet it. Where is the line? Can I tell a small meeting I thought the witness was a liar? And finally, the extremely arbitrary powers of the judge to decide who is guilty of contempt of – the judge themself – is an extraordinarily abusive power if you think about it. Being able just to jail anyone who says you are personally doing a bad job is self evidently an abuse of human rights.]

Another category of things which I know, relates to the political circumstances and machinations around this most political of trials. At a crucial moment where the Independence movement is, frankly pathetically and unnecessarily, stalled by the Boris Johnson veto, it is no exaggeration to say that the fate of an entire nation can be affected by the outcome of this trial. The Independence movement is of course infinitely bigger than any individual or collection of individuals, just as the cosmos is much bigger than my teacup. But this trial directly relates to the stalling of the momentum of the Independence movement, and in a manner most people do not realise.

There are vital questions here which in no way depend on whether or not Ms H told the truth in her testimony about events in Bute House. It is very important to say that nothing I write here is affected in any way by whether the alleged attempted rape and alleged attempted assault with intent to rape actually happened or did not happen. Everything I am going to write will remain true whether the alleged assaults happened or not, and what I write makes that neither more nor less likely. The accusers’ claims and the accused’s denials must be fairly judged. I leave that in the very capable hands of Lady Dorrian and the jury (and I may add that all my research has cast no shadow at all on the reputation of the trial judge Lady Dorrian).

The trial was kicked off with by far the most serious allegations first, from Ms H. The court is cleared of the public for the evidence of the anonymous accusers. Media only are permitted to attend and watch in a CCTV room. I have been refused media accreditation on the grounds I do not write for “a media organisation regulated by Ofcom and owned by a limited company.” The ever excellent Grouse Beater blog has a very good compendium of Ms H’s evidence the first two days as reported by journalists, including by James Doleman and by Philip Sim.

I believe however I may comment on one aspect of Ms H’s evidence without fear of contempt of court, because my commentary in no way relates to the allegation made, or comments one way or the other on the plausibility of what Ms H said. I here take an aspect of Ms H’s evidence entirely at face value.

Ms H on Monday in court described herself as a “soft supporter of Independence”, “not very party political.”

Yet this is a person who could stay in a bedroom inside Bute House (not Salmond’s bedroom), who was employed then in a central, vital political capacity, CENSORED PENDING CONTEMPT OF COURT TRIAL, a person approved as an SNP candidate by central vetting, who attempted as the court heard today to get the nomination for an CENSORED PENDING CONTEMPT OF COURT TRIAL consituency CENSORED PENDING CONTEMPT OF COURT TRIAL.

A “soft independence supporter”. Her own words. Approved as a candidate.

This is three years after the alleged attempted rape. My point is purely a political one.

Those of us who are deeply unhappy with the apparent willingness of the SNP to accept a permanent Westminster veto on Independence, and to squander the mandate for Indyref2 won at the last Holyrood election, have long suspected that far too many people at the “professional”, careerist, highly paid core of the SNP are at best “soft independence supporters” and more interested in other political agendas: particularly agendas related to gender and identity politics. The revelations of this trial, entirely unrelated to the truth or otherwise of the allegations against Alex Salmond, are of massive public interest from a political standpoint.

According to her evidence today, when Ms H did finally years later report the alleged assault in Bute House, as she said inspired by the Harvey Weinstein case, she reported it not to the police, not to the civil service, but to the SNP’s conduct and discipline officer, Ian McCann. That is in itself sufficient indication that Ms H, who said in evidence she could go in and out of Bute House without signing in, is not the career civil servant she was rather disingenuously made out to be in the media.

Her evidence was perfectly clear. She made the sexual assault complaint to party HQ with the specific purpose of preventing any possible political comeback by Alex Salmond and to ensure he could not pass vetting in order to become an SNP candidate again. Ms H said this directly in her evidence.

Not only that, but she discussed this plan not just with Ian McCann – who reports directly to Peter Murrell – but with other accusers.

So here we have four women, Women H, G, J, and A, all of their identities kept secret because they are all accusers of Alex Salmond, all of them in very close circle within the current SNP leadership. They are in touch with each other and with Ian McCann. Woman H has given the SNP details of a serious criminal allegation against Alex Salmond with the stated intention that it should be used in vetting to prevent him being an SNP candidate again. She is discussing with some or all of the others how they can make allegations and stay anonymous. The official response from SNP HQ is that they will hold on to the allegations hoping they will “not need to deploy them.”

Witness H is specifically asked against what eventuality the party was sitting on the allegation, and she replied explicitly for vetting – ie to prevent Alex Salmond standing for parliament again. Sitting on allegations of an extremely serious criminal offence, in case you have to deploy them – why? for the political purpose of preventing an Alex Salmond comeback – is a very strange way indeed to deal with a criminal matter. Attempted rape is far more serious than that. If it is true, this is a gross insult to victims of sexual violence everywhere.

I repeat again, in the interests of my not going to jail. None of this in any way reflects on the truth or otherwise of the alleged assault itself. The above is all perfectly possible if based on a real, or based on a fabricated assault. I am not commenting on Ms H’s credibility. That would be illegal. I am commenting on the interesting fact of the SNP staff and the accusers sitting on allegations with the intention of deploying them, specifically only if necessary, to end Alex Salmond’s political career. The idea that attempted rape could be an insurance against an Alex Salmond comeback – an idea into which SNP HQ were fully bought in. Indeed it was SNP HQ who expressed it that way.

If you look through the twitter lines, you will see that journalists between them have missed at least three quarters of what is said in court. Because I am not there I am dependent on their selection of material. But allied to my background knowledge, I do hope that I have managed to elucidate some of what is happening, and fulfilled my purpose of supplying information you will not get from corporate and state media. It is plain enough that what I have stated is what has been given as evidence. It is extraordinary that mainstream media reports that I have seen mention none of this, but again only concentrate on the lurid details of the happenings in Bute House as alleged by Miss H.

Iain Macwhirter reckoned this trial could split the SNP from top to bottom. I respect Iain greatly and I know why he said it. But I believe Iain is wrong about the effect on the party. As more revelations come out, despite the anonymity of the accusers, what I do believe this trial might do is enable the broader SNP membership to cast off a fairly small and unrepresentative group of careerists who have gained control of the party machinery, who never had Independence at heart and have been making a very fat living on the back of the efforts of a devoted membership.

Irrespective of which, I wish the judge and jury well in their efforts to reach a fair and considered verdict on the allegations.

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.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four

Please try this experiment for me.
Try asking this question out loud, in a tone of intellectual interest and engagement: “Are you suggesting that the two have the same effect?”.

Now try asking this question out loud, in a tone of hostility and incredulity bordering on sarcasm: “Are you suggesting that the two have the same effect?”.

Firstly, congratulations on your acting skills; you take direction very well. Secondly, is it not fascinating how precisely the same words can convey the opposite meaning dependent on modulation of stress, pitch, and volume?

Yesterday the prosecution continued its argument that the provision in the 2007 UK/US Extradition Treaty that bars extradition for political offences is a dead letter, and that Julian Assange’s objectives are not political in any event. James Lewis QC for the prosecution spoke for about an hour, and Edward Fitzgerald QC replied for the defence for about the same time. During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times.

In the transcript, those interruptions will not look unreasonable:
“Could you clarify that for me Mr Fitzgerald…”
“So how do you cope with Mr Lewis’s point that…”
“But surely that’s a circular argument…”
“But it’s not incorporated, is it?…”

All these and the other dozen interruptions were designed to appear to show the judge attempting to clarify the defence’s argument in a spirit of intellectual testing. But if you heard the tone of Baraitser’s voice, saw her body language and facial expressions, it was anything but.

The false picture a transcript might give is exacerbated by the courtly Fitzgerald’s continually replying to each obvious harassment with “Thank you Madam, that is very helpful”, which again if you were there, plainly meant the opposite. But what a transcript will helpfully nevertheless show was the bully pulpit of Baraitser’s tactic in interrupting Fitzgerald again and again and again, belittling his points and very deliberately indeed preventing him from getting into the flow of his argument. The contrast in every way with her treatment of Lewis could not be more pronounced.

So now to report the legal arguments themselves.

James Lewis for the prosecution, continuing his arguments from the day before, said that Parliament had not included a bar on extradition for political offences in the 2003 Act. It could therefore not be reintroduced into law by a treaty. “To introduce a Political Offences bar by the back door would be to subvert the intention of Parliament.”

Lewis also argued that these were not political offences. The definition of a political offence was in the UK limited to behaviour intended “to overturn or change a government or induce it to change its policy.” Furthermore the aim must be to change government or policy in the short term, not the indeterminate future.

Lewis stated that further the term “political offence” could only be applied to offences committed within the territory where it was attempted to make the change. So to be classified as political offences, Assange would have had to commit them within the territory of the USA, but he did not.

If Baraitser did decide the bar on political offences applied, the court would have to determine the meaning of “political offence” in the UK/US Extradition Treaty and construe the meaning of paragraphs 4.1 and 4.2 of the Treaty. To construe the terms of an international treaty was beyond the powers of the court.

Lewis perorated that the conduct of Julian Assange cannot possibly be classified as a political offence. “It is impossible to place Julian Assange in the position of a political refugee”. The activity in which Wikileaks was engaged was not in its proper meaning political opposition to the US Administration or an attempt to overthrow that administration. Therefore the offence was not political.

For the defence Edward Fitzgerald replied that the 2003 Extradition Act was an enabling act under which treaties could operate. Parliament had been concerned to remove any threat of abuse of the political offence bar to cover terrorist acts of violence against innocent civilians. But there remained a clear protection, accepted worldwide, for peaceful political dissent. This was reflected in the Extradition Treaty on the basis of which the court was acting.

Baraitser interrupted that the UK/US Extradition Treaty was not incorporated into English Law.

Fitzgerald replied that the entire extradition request is on the basis of the treaty. It is an abuse of process for the authorities to rely on the treaty for the application but then to claim that its provisions do not apply.

“On the face of it, it is a very bizarre argument that a treaty which gives rise to the extradition, on which the extradition is founded, can be disregarded in its provisions. It is on the face of it absurd.” Edward Fitzgerald QC for the Defence

Fitzgerald added that English Courts construe treaties all the time. He gave examples.

Fitzgerald went on that the defence did not accept that treason, espionage and sedition were not regarded as political offences in England. But even if one did accept Lewis’s too narrow definition of political offence, Assange’s behaviour still met the test. What on earth could be the motive of publishing evidence of government war crimes and corruption, other than to change the policy of the government? Indeed, the evidence would prove that Wikileaks had effectively changed the policy of the US government, particularly on Iraq.

Baraitser interjected that to expose government wrongdoing was not the same thing as to try to change government policy. Fitzgerald asked her, finally in some exasperation after umpteen interruptions, what other point could there be in exposing government wrongdoing other than to induce a change in government policy?

That concluded opening arguments for the prosecution and defence.

MY PERSONAL COMMENTARY

Let me put this as neutrally as possible. If you could fairly state that Lewis’s argument was much more logical, rational and intuitive than Fitzgerald’s, you could understand why Lewis did not need an interruption while Fitzgerald had to be continually interrupted for “clarification”. But in fact it was Lewis who was making out the case that the provisions of the very treaty under which the extradition is being made, do not in fact apply, a logical step which I suggest the man on the Clapham omnibus might reason to need rather more testing than Fitzgerald’s assertion to the contrary. Baraitser’s comparative harassment of Fitzgerald when he had the prosecution on the ropes was straight out of the Stalin show trial playbook.

The defence did not mention it, and I do not know if it features in their written arguments, but I thought Lewis’s point that these could not be political offences, because Julian Assange was not in the USA when he committed them, was breathtakingly dishonest. The USA claims universal jurisdiction. Assange is being charged with crimes of publishing committed while he was outside the USA. The USA claims the right to charge anyone of any nationality, anywhere in the world, who harms US interests. They also in addition here claim that as the materials could be seen on the internet in the USA, there was an offence in the USA. At the same time to claim this could not be a political offence as the crime was committed outside the USA is, as Edward Fitzgerald might say, on the face of it absurd. Which curiously Baraitser did not pick up on.

Lewis’s argument that the Treaty does not have any standing in English law is not something he just made up. Nigel Farage did not materialise from nowhere. There is in truth a long tradition in English law that even a treaty signed and ratified with some bloody Johnny Foreigner country, can in no way bind an English court. Lewis could and did spout reams and reams of judgements from old beetroot faced judges holding forth to say exactly that in the House of Lords, before going off to shoot grouse and spank the footman’s son. Lewis was especially fond of the Tin Council case.

There is of course a contrary and more enlightened tradition, and a number of judgements that say the exact opposite, mostly more recent. This is why there was so much repetitive argument as each side piled up more and more volumes of “authorities” on their side of the case.

The difficulty for Lewis – and for Baraitser – is that this case is not analogous to me buying a Mars bar and then going to court because an International Treaty on Mars Bars says mine is too small.

Rather the 2003 Extradition Act is an Enabling Act on which extradition treaties then depend. You can’t thus extradite under the 2003 Act without the Treaty. So the Extradition Treaty of 2007 in a very real sense becomes an executive instrument legally required to authorise the extradition. For the executing authorities to breach the terms of the necessary executive instrument under which they are acting, simply has to be an abuse of process. So the Extradition Treaty owing to its type and its necessity for legal action, is in fact incorporated in English Law by the Extradition Act of 2003 on which it depends.

The Extradition Treaty is a necessary precondition of the extradition, whereas a Mars Bar Treaty is not a necessary precondition to buying the Mars Bar.

That is as plain as I can put it. I do hope that is comprehensible.

It is of course difficult for Lewis that on the same day the Court of Appeal was ruling against the construction of the Heathrow Third Runway, partly because of its incompatibility with the Paris Agreement of 2016, despite the latter not being fully incorporated into English law by the Climate Change Act of 2008.

VITAL PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

It is intensely embarrassing for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) when an English court repudiates the application of a treaty the UK has ratified with one or more foreign states. For that reason, in the modern world, very serious procedures and precautions have been put into place to make certain that this cannot happen. Therefore the prosecution’s argument that all the provisions of the UK/US Extradition Treaty of 2007 are not able to be implemented under the Extradition Act of 2003, ought to be impossible.

I need to explain I have myself negotiated and overseen the entry into force of treaties within the FCO. The last one in which I personally tied the ribbon and applied the sealing wax (literally) was the Anglo-Belgian Continental Shelf Treaty of 1991, but I was involved in negotiating others and the system I am going to describe was still in place when I left the FCO as an Ambassador in 2005, and I believe is unchanged today (and remember the Extradition Act was 2003 and the US/UK Extradition Treaty ratified 2007, so my knowledge is not outdated). Departmental nomenclatures change from time to time and so does structural organisation. But the offices and functions I will describe remain, even if names may be different.

All international treaties have a two stage process. First they are signed to show the government agrees to the treaty. Then, after a delay, they are ratified. This second stage takes place when the government has enabled the legislation and other required agency to implement the treaty. This is the answer to Lewis’s observation about the roles of the executive and legislature. The ratification stage only takes place after any required legislative action. That is the whole point.

This is how it happens in the FCO. Officials negotiate the extradition treaty. It is signed for the UK. The signed treaty then gets returned to FCO Legal Advisers, Nationality and Treaty Department, Consular Department, North American Department and others and is sent on to Treasury/Cabinet Office Solicitors and to Home Office, Parliament and to any other Government Department whose area is impacted by the individual treaty.

The Treaty is extensively vetted to check that it can be fully implemented in all the jurisdictions of the UK. If it cannot, then amendments to the law have to be made so that it can. These amendments can be made by Act of Parliament or more generally by secondary legislation using powers conferred on the Secretary of State by an act. If there is already an Act of Parliament under which the Treaty can be implemented, then no enabling legislation needs to be passed. International Agreements are not all individually incorporated into English or Scottish laws by specific new legislation.

This is a very careful step by step process, carried out by lawyers and officials in the FCO, Treasury, Cabinet Office, Home Office, Parliament and elsewhere. Each will in parallel look at every clause of the Treaty and check that it can be applied. All changes needed to give effect to the treaty then have to be made – amending legislation, and necessary administrative steps. Only when all hurdles have been cleared, including legislation, and Parliamentary officials, Treasury, Cabinet Office, Home Office and FCO all certify that the Treaty is capable of having effect in the UK, will the FCO Legal Advisers give the go ahead for the Treaty to be ratified. You absolutely cannot ratify the treaty before FCO Legal Advisers have given this clearance.

This is a serious process. That is why the US/UK Extradition Treaty was signed in 2003 and ratified in 2007. That is not an abnormal delay.

So I know for certain that ALL the relevant British Government legal departments MUST have agreed that Article 4.1 of the UK/US Extradition Treaty was capable of being given effect under the 2003 Extradition Act. That certification has to have happened or the Treaty could never have been ratified.

It follows of necessity that the UK Government, in seeking to argue now that Article 4.1 is incompatible with the 2003 Act, is knowingly lying. There could not be a more gross abuse of process.

I have been keen for the hearing on this particular point to conclude so that I could give you the benefit of my experience. I shall rest there for now, but later today hope to post further on yesterday’s row in court over releasing Julian from the anti-terrorist armoured dock.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible. I wish to stress again that I absolutely do not want anybody to give anything if it causes them the slightest possibility of financial strain.

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.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It

Yesterday the Scottish Government published “Scotland’s Right to Choose“, its long heralded paper on the path to a new Independence referendum. It is a document riven by a basic intellectual flaw. It sets out in detail, and with helpful annexes, that Scotland is a historic nation with the absolute and inalienable right of self-determination, and that sovereignty lies not in the Westminster parliament but with the Scottish people.

It then contradicts all of this truth by affirming, at length, in detail, and entirely without reservation, that Scotland can only hold a legitimate Independence referendum if the Westminster Parliament devolves the power to do so under Section 30.

Both propositions cannot be true. Scotland cannot be a nation with the right of self-determination, and at the same time require the permission of somebody else to exercise that self-determination.

I was trying to find the right words to discuss the document. One possibility was “schizophrenic”. The first half appears to be written by somebody with a fundamental belief in Scottish Independence, and contains this passage:

The United Kingdom is best understood as a voluntary association of nations, in keeping with the principles of democracy and self‑determination.

For the place of Scotland in the United Kingdom to be based on the people of Scotland’s consent, Scotland must be able to choose whether and when it should make a decision about its future.

The decision whether the time is right for the people who live in Scotland again to make a choice about their constitutional future is for the Scottish Parliament, as the democratic voice of Scotland, to make.

Yet the rest of the paper completely negates this proposition and instead argues that the necessary powers must be granted by the Westminster Parliament:

The Scottish Government is committed to agreeing a process for giving effect to its mandate for a further independence referendum. When they make a decision about their future, the people of Scotland must do so in the knowledge that their decision will be heard and respected and given effect to: not just by the government in Scotland, but also by the UK Government, by the European Union and by the international community.

For a referendum to have this legitimacy, it must have the confidence of all of those that it would effect. This means not just the UK Government acknowledging and respecting the Scottish Government’s mandate, but the Scottish Government and UK Government seeking to agree the proper lawful basis for the referendum to take place.

We call on the UK Government to enter discussions about the Scottish Government’s mandate for giving the people of Scotland a choice, and to agree legislation with the Scottish Government that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.

I am frequently told that this paper is all just a cunning ploy, and that when the Tory Government rejects – as it will reject – this servile request to grant Scotland the powers to hold a referendum, the Scottish Government will go to court to say it has the right to a referendum.

If that really is the cunning plan, it is the most stupid cunning plan since Baldrick and his turnip. In what way does publishing an official Scottish Government paper which states explicitly that a referendum “must have” the agreement of the UK government to be legitimate, prepare the ground to go to court and argue the precise opposite? Plainly that is not the intent here.

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech presenting the paper made the acceptance of a veto from “the rest of the UK” on the holding of a second referendum even more explicit:

It is based on the solemn right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future.

The Scottish Government believes that right should be exercised free from the threat of legal challenge.

In line with our values, we acknowledge that a referendum must be legal and that it must be accepted as legitimate, here in Scotland and the rest of the UK as well as in the EU and the wider international community.

We are therefore today calling for the UK Government to negotiate and agree the transfer of power that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.

And what does Ms Sturgeon plan to do when Boris Johnson just says no, as he assuredly will? To be fair to Nicola, she could not have been clearer about what she intends to do. Absolutely nothing different.

Of course, I anticipate that in the short term we will simply hear a restatement of the UK government’s opposition.

But they should be under no illusion that this will be an end of the matter.

We will continue to pursue the democratic case for Scotland’s right to choose.

We will do so in a reasonable and considered manner.

So this is the Sturgeon plan: in the short term, we accept Johnson can block Independence. Beyond the short term (how many years is that?) we do nothing except continue in democratic politics as the SNP already is, operating at Holyrood and putting before Scottish voters “the democratic case for Scotland’s right to choose”, while accepting Westminster’s veto. This will have the pleasant side effect of keeping Ms Sturgeon living very nicely indeed in Bute House, with her husband picking up a massive salary as CEO of the Party, and the SNP just like the last five years doing nothing whatsoever about Independence other than occasionally blether about it, “pursuing the democratic case”, while very explicitly accepting Westminster’s veto.

The truth is there is no route to a referendum by legal challenge in the UK courts. The UK Supreme Court has already ruled that Westminster, the “Crown in Parliament” is sovereign, that the Sewell Convention has no legal force and that any powers that the Scottish parliament has, and indeed the very existence of the Scottish Parliament, is entirely at the gift of Westminster. The clue is on the tin. It is the UK Supreme Court. To be fair the Scottish Government paper plainly does not anticipate any such pointless legal challenge, though it is not inconceivable that one may be futilely undertaken at some stage to keep the SNP’s pro-Independence activists happy, by pretending to do something and kicking Indy yet a few months further down the road.

Because the truth is, that is the purpose of the current Scottish Government paper. The reason it is schizophrenic is that it is a deeply dishonest document. All the stuff at the beginning, about Scotland’s ancient right as a nation and the sovereignty residing in the Scottish people, is no more and no less than window dressing to keep Scottish Independence activists happy. The actual meat of the paper, that Indyref2 “must have” Westminster agreement or it is not legitimate, sits there like a great steaming turd whose stink cannot be disguised no matter how much the SNP leadership has tried to conceal it under flowers.

I have to say, I am astonished how many very decent people in the SNP have fallen for the trick.

The Scottish Government position is fundamentally incorrect. The Independence of a nation is a matter of international law, not of domestic legislation. The UN Charter enshrines the right of self-determination of peoples, and nobody has argued that the Scots are not a people in the encapsulated sense.

It is perfectly normal for States to become Independent without the permission of the state from which they are seceding. The UK Government itself argued precisely this position before the International Court of Justice over Kosovo. I here repeat a post I wrote almost exactly one year ago setting out the legal position:

BEGINS

The London Supreme Court last week not only confirmed that the Westminster Parliament could overrule at will any Scottish Government legislation, irrespective of the Scotland Act and the Sewell Convention, but it also ruled that Westminster had already successfully done so, by retrospectively passing provisions in the EU (Withdrawal) Act that overruled the Bill on the same subject, within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, that had already been passed by Holyrood.

Not content with that, the London Supreme Court confirmed that London ministers may, by secondary legislation, under the Scotland Act decree laws for Scotland that are not even passed through the Westminster parliament.

Which leaves Scotland in this extraordinary situation. English MPs or English ministers in their London Parliament can, at any time, impose any legislation they choose on Scotland, overriding Scotland’s parliament and Scotland’s representation in the London parliament. Yet, under the English Votes for English Laws rules of the London Parliament introduced by the Tories in 2015, Scottish MPs cannot vote at all on matters solely affecting England.

That is plainly a situation of colonial subservience.

I am firmly of the view that the Scottish government should now move to withdraw from the Treaty of Union. Scotland’s right to self determination is inalienable. It cannot be signed away forever or restricted by past decisions.

The Independence of a country is not a matter of domestic law it is a matter of international law. The right of the Scottish Parliament to declare Independence may not be restricted by UK domestic law or by purported limitations on the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The legal position is set out very clearly here:

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State‟s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. Of major relevance, it is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that the Scottish Government has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of London and completely irrespective of the London Supreme Court.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. 1 Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

As I have stressed, the SNP should now be making a massive effort to prepare other countries, especially in the EU and in the developing world, to recognise Scotland when the moment comes. There is no task more important. There is a worrying lack of activity in this area. It may currently not be possible to spend government money on sending out envoys for this task, but if personal envoys were endorsed by the First Minister they would get access and could easily be crowd funded by the Independence Movement. I am one of a number of former senior British diplomats who would happily undertake this work without pay. We should be lobbying not just the EU but every country in Africa, Asia and South America.

My preferred route to Independence is this. The Scottish Parliament should immediately legislate for a new Independence referendum. The London Government will attempt to block it. The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.

There will never be a better time than now for Scotland to become an Independent, normal, nation once again. It is no time for faint hearts or haverers; we must seize the moment.

ENDS

Events since I wrote that have made the case still stronger. With the UK now leaving the European Union, EU states will be extremely eager to recognise Scottish Independence and get Scotland and its resources back inside the EU, while sending out a strong message that leaving the EU can have severe consequences. At the UN, the UK’s repudiation of the International Court of Justice ruling and overwhelming General Assembly mandate over the Chagos Islands has made the UK even more of a pariah state, while senior statesmen in the developing world see Scottish Independence as a wedge issue to open the question of the UK’s ridiculous permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

The claim that to proceed to Independence without Westminster consent is illegal and illegitimate lies at the heart of this truly disgraceful Scottish Government paper. That claim is wrong at every level.

You cannot both believe that the Scots are a people with the right of self-determination, and believe that Westminster has a right to veto that self-determination.

This paper by the Scottish Government is nothing more and nothing less than proof that the gradualists who sadly head the SNP are perfectly happy operating within the devolution system and have no intention of ever paying any more than lip service to Independence.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Alternatively:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

View with comments

Resolution

It is very difficult to collect my thoughts into something coherent after four hours sleep in the last 48 hours, but these are heads of key issues to be developed later.

I have no doubt that the Johnson government will very quickly become the most unpopular in UK political history. The ultra-hard Brexit he is pushing will not be the panacea which the deluded anticipate. It will have a negative economic impact felt most keenly in the remaining industry of the Midlands and North East of England. Deregulation will worsen conditions for those fortunate enough to have employment, as will further benefits squeezes. Immigration will not in practice reduce; what will reduce are the rights and conditions for the immigrants.

Decaying, left-behind towns will moulder further. The fishing industry will very quickly be sold down the river in trade negotiations with the EU – access to fishing (and most of the UK fishing grounds are Scottish) is one of the few decent offers Boris has to make to the EU in seeking market access. His Brexit deal will take years and be overwhelmingly fashioned to benefit the City of London.

There is zero chance the Conservatives will employ a sizeable number of extra nurses: they just will not be prepared to put in the money. They will employ more policemen. In a couple of years time they will need them for widespread riots. They will not build any significant portion of the hospitals or other infrastructure they promised. They most certainly will do nothing effective about climate change. These were simply dishonest promises. The NHS will continue to crumble with more and more of its service provision contracted out, and more and more of its money going into private shareholders’ pockets (including many Tory MPs).

The disillusionment will be on the same scale as Johnson’s bombastic promises. The Establishment are not stupid and realise there will be an anti-Tory reaction. Their major effort will therefore be to change Labour back into a party supporting neo-liberal economic policy and neo-conservative foreign (or rather war) policy. They will want to be quite certain that, having seen off the Labour Party’s popular European style social democratic programme with Brexit anti-immigrant fervour, the electorate have no effective non-right wing choice at the next election, just like in the Blair years.

To that end, every Blairite horror has been resurrected already by the BBC to tell us that the Labour Party must now move right – McNicol, McTernan, Campbell, Hazarayika and many more, not to mention the platforms given to Caroline Flint, Ruth Smeeth and John Mann. The most important immediate fight for radicals in England is to maintain Labour as a mainstream European social democratic party and resist its reversion to a Clinton style right wing ultra capitalist party. Whether that is possible depends how many of the Momentum generation lose heart and quit.

Northern Ireland is perhaps the most important story of this election, with a seismic shift in a net gain of two seats in Belfast from the Unionists, plus the replacement of a unionist independent by the Alliance Party. Irish reunification is now very much on the agenda. The largesse to the DUP will be cut off now Boris does not need them.

For me personally, Scotland is the most important development of all. A stunning result for the SNP. The SNP result gave them a bigger voter share in Scotland than the Tories got in the UK. So if Johnson got a “stonking mandate for Brexit”, as he just claimed in his private school idiom, the SNP got a “stonking mandate” for Independence.

I hope the SNP learnt the lesson that by being much more upfront about Independence than in the disastrous “don’t mention Independence” election of 2017, the SNP got spectacularly better results.

I refrained from criticising the SNP leadership during the campaign, even to the extent of not supporting my friend Stu Campbell when he was criticised for doing so (and I did advise him to wait until after election day). But I can say now that the election events, which are perfect for promoting Independence, are not necessarily welcome to the gradualists in the SNP. A “stonking mandate” for Independence and a brutal Johnson government treating Scotland with total disrespect leaves no room for hedge or haver. The SNP needs to strike now, within weeks not months, to organise a new Independence referendum with or without Westminster agreement.

If we truly believe Westminster has no right to block Scottish democracy, we need urgently to act to that effect and not just pretend to believe it. Now the election is over, I will state my genuine belief there is a political class in the SNP, Including a minority but significant portion of elected politicians, office holders and staff, who are very happy with their fat living from the devolution settlement and who view any striking out for Independence as a potential threat to their personal income.

You will hear from these people we should wait for EU trade negotiations, for a decision on a section 30, for lengthy and complicated court cases, or any other excuse to maintain the status quo, rather than move their well=paid arses for Independence. But the emergency of the empowered Johnson government, and the new mandate from the Scottish electorate, require immediate and resolute action. We need to organise an Independence referendum with or without Westminster permission, and if successful go straight for UDI. If the referendum is blocked, straight UDI it is, based on the four successive election victory mandates.

With this large Tory majority, there is nothing the SNP MPs can in practice achieve against Westminster. We should now withdraw our MPs from the Westminster Parliament and take all actions to paralyse the union. This is how the Irish achieved Independence. We will never get Independence by asking Boris Johnson nicely. Anyone who claims to believe otherwise is a fool or a charlatan.

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The Incredible Disappearing Farage, and Other Electoral Oddities

For a decade Nigel Farage has been flung into our living rooms continually by the BBC. Even when UKIP barely registered a blip in the opinion polls, he was a regular on Question Time and the other news, current affairs and politics programme. Farage’s celebrity was a BBC creation. He served an important purpose. At a time when the wealth gap was growing exponentially, and working conditions and real incomes of ordinary people were deteriorating sharply, Farage helped amplify the Establishment message that the cause of these problems was not the burgeoning class of billionaires sucking up the world’s resources, but rather the poor immigrants also scratching to make a living.

Having undermined the prospects of a left wing reaction to massively increasing inequality, Farage has now served his purpose. The exigencies of fighting an election under first past the post are such that Farage has become a potentially serious problem for the wealthy elite. The Brexit Party is a fundamental threat to Boris Johnson’s strategy of moving the Tory Party decisively to the hard right and attempting to win seats on the back of working class anti-immigrant votes in the Midlands and North of England. More liberal Scottish, London and South Western Tory voters have been deliberately abandoned, and consituencies sacrificed, in order to chase hard racist votes. Those indoctrinated to hate their fellow man if he has a Polish accent, are now required by the elite to vote Tory, not to vote for the Brexit Party.

The remarkable result of this is that, at precisely the point where Farage’s influence will be most crucial in determining the future of politics in the UK, he has been dropped by the media. I am extremely confident in my perception that he has appeared less in the last month than at any period in the preceding decade. Having been boosted into prominence by the BBC when they were insignificant, the BBC will do everything it possibly can to dampen down Farage and his Brexit Party now they legitimately deserve coverage as a critical factor.

I am happy to state with confidence that this election will backfire on the Tories. The strong evidence from both the 2017 election and the Scottish referendum campaign, is that once broadcasting rules on equal time come into play, the impact on voters is profound of hearing direct from normally derided people and their normally ridiculed arguments.

The Johnson/Cummings electoral strategy is catastrophically bad. First past the post rewards regional voter concentration. Cummings plan is to sacrifice votes in traditional Tory areas in order to pile them up in traditionally hostile areas. The result will be to even out their vote, lose regional concentration and lose the election. They can pile on two million racist votes in traditional Labour constituencies without gaining more than a dozen seats. That will merely cancel out losses in Scotland. That people en masse are going to forget the devastation of their communities by Thatcher or the generations of fight for a decent living is far from probable. The antipathy to the Tories in parts of the UK is not “tribal”, it is the result of generations of hard experience.

The Brexit Party may have more appeal than the Tories in traditional Labour consituencies, but neither they nor the Tories will win any significant number of them. It is in the marginals of the Midlands and Lancashire where the Brexit Party may damage the Tories’ chances, not in Sunderland and Hartlepool which will stay Labour. The SNP is going to sweep Scotland, the Liberal Democrats make substantive gains in London and the South West and the Labour Party will do much better in London and the North than anybody now expects. The Midlands, both East and West, are hard to predict and the key battleground, but the number of possible Tory gains is not enough to compensate for their losses elsewhere. The Tories could end up with the largest share of the vote, perhaps 36%, but less seats than the Labour Party. That is what I expect to happen.

The fly in this alluring ointment is that the Liberal Democrats have shifted so decisively to the right on economic policy. In general I advise everyone in England to vote tactically to defeat the Tories in their constituency, but obviously both Lib Dems and Labour have individual right wing horror candidates I could never ask anyone to vote for.

Here in Scotland, Independence remains the overriding priority. We must escape from Tory domination and the right wing jingoism that so infects English politics; but also it is simply normal for a nation to be Independent. So we all have to vote and campaign for the SNP in what could be a decisive moment in our history.
Incidentally, there is not a single constituency in Scotland where there is a plausible argument that to vote SNP risks letting a Tory in. I am hopeful that we will sweep the Tories out of Scotland completely this time. I am also quite keen about the SNP helping Corbyn pass the basis of a radical left wing reform agenda through Westminster, whilst briefly on a swift route to Independence.

Now that would be a good Christmas present.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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