Your Man Finally in the Public Gallery. The Alex Salmond Trial Day 8 215


After Day 8, there is a change in the balance of evidence. Previously a popular meme has been that either Alex Salmond must be lying, or 9 separate women must be lying. After today’s evidence we can say that either several of those women must be lying, or a variety of other direct witnesses, female and male, must be lying. There is of course an element of false dichotomy even in this statement of the case, as in a number of instances there is a fair degree of commonality from both prosecution and defence as to actions, but differences as to interpretation or to intent. I can also say without any fear of contradiction that many of the allegations would not meet the definition of a sexual assault as commonly understood by the person in the street. That is not to say they cannot meet a legal definition. There I will bow to the judge – who I continue to find very fair.

The first witness today was Ms Samantha Barber, a company director. She had known Alex Salmond since 1994 when she was working for the SNP as a research assistant for the Euro elections. She had thereafter been employed by the European Parliament, and in 2007 become the Chief Executive of Scottish Business in the Community, a post she still held in 2014. She is now a director of several companies.

In the seven years Alex Salmond was First Minister she had several times been a guest at Bute House for dinner. She had a positive and respectful relationship with Alex Salmond but they were not personal friends outside of business.

She had been a personal friend of Ms H, the accuser who alleged attempted rape, for some years by 2014. They remain friends. She had been invited to the evening reception of Ms H’s wedding. She testified she is also a friend of Ms H’s current husband.

Ms H had telephoned her to invite her to the dinner at Bute house with the (not to be named) actor on 13 June 2014. Ms H in inviting her had stated she (Ms H) was not able to be there. In fact Ms H had indeed not been at the dinner. Ms Barber had arrived that evening at around 7pm. She had been shown up to the drawing room. The actor was already there and they had chatted together, just the two of them, until about 7.15pm when Alex Salmond had joined them. The three of them had dinner together. It was friendly and conivivial. At first the actor’s career had been discussed and then Scottish independence. Nobody else was there. Asked if any private secretaries had been in and out during dinner, Ms Barber replied not to her recollection. Nobody interrupted them

One bottle of wine was served during dinner. She had left after dinner around 9 and the actor had stayed on as Alex Salmond offered to show him around the Cabinet Room.

Defence Counsel Shelagh McCall QC asked her if Ms H had been there? No. Did you see her at any point during the evening? No.

[Ms H had claimed she was at this dinner and the attempted rape occurred afterwards. Alex Salmond had testified Ms H was not there at all. A video police interview with the actor had tended to support the idea Ms H, or another similar woman, was there and they were four at dinner.]

Prosecution counsel Alex Prentice then cross-examined Ms Barber. He asked whether she had received a message from the police on 29 January. She replied yes she had, and called them back on 3 February. Prentice asked whether they had then told her they wanted a statement, and whether she had replied she needed to take advice first. Ms Barber agreed.

Prentice asked why she would need legal advice to give a statement to police. Ms Barber replied she had never been involved in any judicial matter and wanted to understand the process she was getting into before she did anything. She had not said she wanted legal advice first, just advice.

Prentice asked again “why would you need legal advice before talking to the police”? Ms Barber again replied she wanted to understand the process she was getting into.

Prentice asked again, twice more, “why would you need legal advice before talking to the police?”. He got the same answer each time. You will recognise from yesterday’s report of his cross-examination of Alex Salmond, that it is a rhetorical trick of Prentice, to constantly repeat the same question in order to throw an unreasoned suspicion on the veracity of the answer. On this occasion he was stopped by the judge, who had enough.

Lady Dorrian pointedly asked him “Is a citizen not entitled to take advice, Mr Prentice?”, in a Maggie Smith tone of contempt.

Prentice then asked whether Ms Barber had already been at another Bute House dinner in May. Ms Barber replied not that she could recall. Prentice then asserted that the dinner on 13 June was with the actor, Ms H, and Alex Salmond. Ms Barber replied no, she genuinely had no recollection at all of Ms H being there.

The defence counsel Shelagh McCall QC then resumed questions. She asked if the police had put to Ms Barber that Ms H was there. Ms Barber replied that they had, and she had told them exactly what she had told the defence and now told the court, that Ms H had not been there.

The next witness was Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, who swore on the Koran. She had joined the SNP in 2000 and been appointed national Women and Equalities Convenor in 2011. From 2015 to 2017 she was MP for the Ochil Hills.

Shelagh McCall QC asked if she knew Ms H. She replied for some years, and more frequently from 2012. Ms H had been involved in the Yes campaign. They had a good relationship, and in 2014 Ms H had asked her advice on standing for the SNP national executive committee.

McCall asked her if she remembered the date of the 13 June 2014 dinner. Tasmina responded yes, that was the day her father had died. She had received a message he was taken very ill that morning and had set off for London. At Carlisle they learnt he had died. (At this point the witness broke into tears.)

Before leaving Scotland with her husband she had messaged the First Minister’s office to say she would not be able to attend the Scottish women’s international football match the next day. (The point of this evidence is it contradicts Ms H’s evidence of her interaction with Ms Ahmed-Sheikh over the football.)

McCall led the witness on to June 2015 when Ms H had contacted her about becoming the SNP candidate for an Aberdeenshire constituency. Ms Ahmed-Sheikh confirmed that in June 2015 she had received a text from Ms H about the chances of Alex Salmond endorsing her, including the phrase “it would be great to be working with Alex again”.

Later Ms H discovered Salmond would not support her. Later texts read “Alex doesn’t think there is any chance for me against (name withheld)”, and then that she was withdrawing from the race and “Alex has it all to explain for”, alleging that Salmond had found another candidate to stand against her.

McCall then led Ms Ahmed-Sheikh to the occasion of the Stirling Castle dinner for the Council of Economic Advisers and the accusation of Ms E that Salmond had grabbed her buttock during a photoshoot. Ms Ahmed-Sheikh said the dinner had been very convivial, with a good atmosphere and speeches. Afterwards the guests had all gone onto the parapet in groups to have their photo taken with the First Minister with the Lion Rampant flag. Space was limited on the parapet so it was done in small groups. Ms Ahmed-Sheikh had been in the same small group as Ms E. She had her photo taken with the First Minister immediately before Ms E. Afterwards she had watched Ms E have her photo taken as the group all waited for each other and left together. This was just politeness.
Shelagh McCall asked a series of questions:
Did you see Alex Salmond insist Ms E have her photo taken? No.
Did you witness any discomfort from Ms E? No.
Did you see anything untoward? No.
[Ms E has accused Alex Salmond of grabbing her buttocks during the photoshoot.]

The prosecution asked no questions of Ms Ahmed-Sheikh.

The next defence witness was Fergus Mutch. He had worked from 2012 as a parliamentary constituency support worker for Alex Salmond, becoming office manager there in 2013 and in November 2015 head of communications and research for the SNP. He had first met Ms H in 2013 during the Yes campaign. In May and June 2015 he had dealt with her during the constituency selection process. In June 2015 she had sent him an email about wanting to become the candidate and asked him to set up a meeting with Alex Salmond. He had forwarded it on to Salmond.

Asked by Shelagh McCall if Alex Salmond had a preferred candidate, Mutch replied that Salmond had thought there were better, more local, candidates than Ms H. In June and July of 2015 Ms H had become well aware that was Mr Salmond’s view.

Shelagh McCall then turned to the accusation of Ms F, that she had been indecently assaulted by Alex Salmond in the early hours of 10/11 September 2014. Mr Mutch testified that during the 2014 referendum campaign both he and Ms F had accompanied Alex Salmond on tours, sometimes separately and sometimes together. On 12 September they had all three travelled by helicopter. He was shown a twitter post by Ms F made on 12 September at 6.45pm stating “extraordinary day in Indyref to Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Perth”. Mr Mutch said they had all been together from about 9am until about 9pm on the helicopter tour finishing at Gleneagles where they stayed the night.

Shelagh McCall QC asked how Ms F seemed that 12 September: “on good form, professional, buoyant”. How had she interacted with Alex Salmond “relaxed, normal, sitting next to him in the helicopter”.

Shelagh McCall then led Mr Mutch to February 2015, when he was working on a book about the referendum campaign. Ms F had sent him her campaign diary as source material. Ms F’s diary entry for 11 September (immediately following the alleged assault) read:
“Up at 7am. Heard Alex Salmond on Good Morning Scotland. Began making my way to International Conference Centre. Having to stand in the hot hall handing the microphone to journalists taking its toll, particularly after the whisky the night before. By contrast Alex Salmond is sharp in response to the questions, particularly from Nick Robinson.”

The prosecution had no questions for Mr Mutch.

The next defence witness was Mr Kirk Torrance. He had been a new media specialist for the SNP from 2009 to 2011 and had been brought in by them again for the referendum campaign. He testified that he had been in Bute House on several occasions, and the first time he had been there Alex Salmond had given a tour of the building and explained the history, paintings and so on. He had seen Alex Salmond do the same with other visitors.

He testified he had known Ms F since 2010. He well remembered the events of 10 September 2014 and the huge effect on the referendum campaign of the Royal Bank of Scotland announcement about moving its head office to England. The following day he had been inside SNP party headquarters watching the event from the International Conference Centre on live TV. After this Ms F had come in to SNP HQ and he had seen her in the kitchen at lunchtime. She had been regaling the HQ staff, especially the female staff, with the funny story that Alex Salmond had told her the previous evening about the well known political journalist who had passed out at Bute House after a sexual encounter.

Ms McCall asked whether she had appeared upset by the story [as Ms F and prosecution had claimed – see yesterday’s report]. Mr Torrance replied no, quite the opposite. She was enjoying retelling it, particularly to the female staff. Ms McCall asked whether the occasion could be interpreted as Ms F trying to process and make sense of an unfortunate event? No, replied Mr Torrance.

The next defence witness was Karen Watt, currently Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council for Further and Higher Education. From 2009 to 2012 she had been Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister.

Defence QC Gordon Jackson asked what Alex Salmond had been like as a boss. She replied working for him had been both a privilege and a penance. It has been exciting, fast paced, stressful and very demanding. Salmond could personally be demanding, fierce, fun and good company.

Jackson asked about Ms D. Ms Watt replied Ms D was very smart and got things done. Alex Salmond had rated her highly. Had Ms D enjoyed her time in the Private Office? Yes. Led by Jackson, Ms Watt explained that she would normally go on overseas visits with the First Minister but had not done so on the China trip as she was leaving the office shortly thereafter. The civil service contingent had thus been led by Donald Cameron, principal private secretary to Leslie Evans, head of the Scottish Civil Service. There had been a formal debrief meeting after the visit, at which nothing exceptional happened.

A few days later Donald Cameron had told her that he had witnessed an event in a lift in China where Alex Salmond had attempted to touch Ms D’s hair. He had seemed concerned but Ms Watt had not known what to make of it. The two of them had therefore held a meeting with Ms D. At the meeting Ms D had stated that the event was nothing that had concerned her. Ms Watt had viewed this as the end of the matter.

Ms Watt was then asked about Ms B. She said that Ms B was good at her job, smart and professional. She managed other staff on the policy side. Gordon Jackson asked her if she remembered the matter of the Jack Vettriano Christmas card.
Had she shared the view that the card was inappropriate? Yes she had.
Did she remember it being discussed in the office? Yes she did.
Had Ms B said anything to her about a sexual encounter with Alex Salmond in relation to the painting? Ms Watt replied she could not recall such a thing.
Did she tell you Alex Salmond had repeatedly grabbed her wrists? I do not remember any such conversation.
Did she tell you about anything of a sexual nature with Alex Salmond? No.
[Ms Watt was Ms B’s manager. Ms B had testified she had reported the alleged incident to Ms Watt.]

There were no questions to Ms Watt from the prosecution.

The next defence witness was Geoff Aberdein. He had been Chief of Staff to Alex Salmond from 2011 to 2014. He had first started working for him in 2004. He testified that Alex Salmond was a firm but fair boss. Work had been very demanding. Salmond had high standards, did not mince his words but welcomed people giving the same back to him. Their relationship was purely professional – they were not friends outside working hours.

In 2013 Salmond’s Principal Private Secretary had told him about the incident with Ms F. He had never been aware of any other sexual allegation regarding Alex Salmond. Salmond had taken responsibility and apologised. Ms F had been offered the chance to leave Private Office for another civil service job, but had declined. In spring of 2014 Griffin had been on a trip with Salmond and Miss F together, which had been normal.

On 8 to 9 March 2018 Ms A had contacted him to say she was involved in a process of looking at complaints about Alex Salmond. He had spoken to Kevin Pringle and Duncan Hamilton by conference call to discuss this. On 29 March 2018 he had held a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament to discuss this. On 2 April he had attended a further meeting in Sturgeon’s home. In none of these contacts did Ms A reveal she was personally making allegations of abuse. Gordon Jackson asked whether there was even the slightest hint that Ms A was personally making a complaint? No, never.

There were no questions for Mr Aberdein from the prosecution.

The next defence witness was Ms Lorraine Kaye. A civil servant for 21 years, she had been deputy private secretary to Alex Salmond under three successive principal private secretaries. She stated that working in the Private Office was very demanding, the hours were incredibly long. You might start at 7am and then not leave Bute House until after midnight after dealing with the ministerial box and correspondence. You could be working on speeches and papers there until the early hours. She had personally done this.

Gordon Jackson asked if there had ever been a policy of female civil servants not being alone in the evening at Bute House with Alex Salmond. Ms Kaye replied no, she had frequently been there alone herself throughout. She had loved the job – it was the highlight of her career.

Asked about Alex Salmond as a boss, Ms Kaye said he was driven, committed and set high standards for himself and for everybody else. He was old-fashioned. He had always opened the door for her and other women and ushered them in, he would insist even junior civil servants be seated properly at table when working over meals. Gordon Jackson asked if Salmond was tactile? Yes, he was always hugging and kissing and posing for selfies with people.

Jackson said there was a difference between being tactile and over the top. Was he ever out of order? Not that I saw, replied Ms Kaye.
You were there sometimes very late? Yes, we could come back to Bute House after a dinner or function after 11pm and still have to finish papers and correspondence.
Was there ever any policy not to be alone there with Mr Salmond?
No. I was, frequently.

Gordon Jackson asked about Ms D. Had she ever tugged her hair? Ms Kaye said yes she had. Ms D had remarkable tight ringlets of which Ms Kaye laughed she was very jealous. People tugged them. This may sound surprising but the atmosphere in the Private Office was that they were all very close. They spent much more time with each other than with their own family and friends.
You were never uncomfortable around Mr Salmond? No.
Would you attend dinners at Bute House sometimes? Yes, that was part of the job.

There were no questions from the prosecution for Ms Kaye.

The next defence witness was Alexander Anderson. He had worked for Alex Salmond in various capacities from 1998 to 2016. From 2012 he had been a SPAD to the First Minister covering external policy, and had responsibility for speeches, correspondence and diary. He said that Salmond could be a demanding boss, but also encouraging and inspiring.

In 2008 Anderson had been working on press in the Glasgow East by-election campaign office. Alex Salmond arrived several times, always with an entourage, and would always be straight out campaigning with his entourage and the candidate. He had seen no interactions between Salmond and Ms A in the campaign offices.

The atmosphere in Salmond’s Private Office had been intense. It would be fair to call it a family atmosphere. It was very hard working but also light-hearted and they had socialised. Salmond was a tactile person. He would always take people’s hand on the street and hug people at bus stops or in businesses as he campaigned. Gordon Jackson asked if he saw a clear line between that and inappropriate sexuality? Absolutely.

Had Anderson seen Salmond together with Ms D? Yes. They appeared to have a great relationship. Ms D was very smart, a good colleague and a bubbly personality. Gordon Jackson asked if Anderson knew Ms F. Yes, he replied. Had he seen her in stockinged feet? Yes, Anderson replied, this appeared to be her habit at work. [This confirms Salmond’s account and contradicts Ms D’s account of how she came to have her shoes off.]

Gordon Jackson then led on to Ms E. Had Mr Anderson been at the Stirling Castle dinner, and had he been one of those photographed with Alex Salmond on the ramparts? Yes, replied Anderson, they had all had photos taken because it was the first time in 300 years the lion rampant had flown at Stirling castle. There had been a professional photographer there to take the photos.
Were you there when Ms E was photographed? Yes, I was on the ramparts with her.
Did you see anything inappropriate? No.
Did you witness any reluctance on her part? Did you hear her say anything? No.

The prosecution had no questions for Mr Anderson.

The final witness of the day was Ms Ann Harvey, who worked in the SNP whips’ office at Westminster from 2006-9 and 2011 to present. She had been present at the Glasgow East by-election. In response to a question from Gordon Jackson, she replied that she had witnessed nothing inappropriate there when Alex Salmond visited.

Gordon Jackson asked whether she had more recently been asked anything relevant? Ms Harvey replied that on 31 October 2017 she had received a series of 16 text messages to her private number asking for information and whether she could disclose anything about the past. Gordon Jackson asked what the messages said specifically and who they were from.

At this point, Alex Prentice rose for the prosecution and objected to this line of questioning. The jury was dismissed and a legal argument was held on the admissibility of this information. I am not allowed to report the legal discussion. In the end the judge ruled the evidence inadmissible and Ms Harvey was dismissed.

That concluded the day’s proceedings. It was a day on which defence witnesses directly contradicted evidence from the accusers on a number of key points, most importantly but by no means solely on the question of whether Ms H was present at all at the event where she claimed to have been the victim of attempted rape. It was also given in evidence that people had not reported incidents they said they had reported, and there was no civil service policy against women working alone in the evening with Alex Salmond – which claim had been one of the MSM’s most lurid headlines.

MSM reporting I have seen to date has not reported today’s proceedings fairly. For example in reporting that Ms Barber had testified Ms H was not at the dinner, the media has not generally reported the key facts that Ms Barber knew Ms H very well and the dinner was just for three people.

It is interesting that the prosecution chose not to cross examine the defence witnesses, except in the case of Ms Barber who was subjected more to innuendo than to cross-examination and who gained the protection of the judge. I am very constrained by what I can legally comment at present, so let us leave it there for the day.

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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215 thoughts on “Your Man Finally in the Public Gallery. The Alex Salmond Trial Day 8

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  • Antonym

    Ms Harvey replied that on 31 October 2017 she had received a series of 16 text messages to her private number asking for information and whether she could disclose anything about the past.

    In the end the judge ruled the evidence inadmissible and Ms Harvey was dismissed.

    Good material for an appeal. “Legally” does not always equal morally or even logically: it is just some compromise by “‘the powerful”.

    • Margaret

      Since it was the prosecution that objected to this evidence being presented to the jury, I would surmise that it in some way it was not beneficial to the prosecution case.

      • Boaby

        It is contempt of court to report discussions as to the admissibility of evidence held outwith the presence of the jury. What the jury weren’t told can be reported only after the verdict has been brought in.

  • ciaris

    So far, this appears to be a trial in search of a crime. Looks like the Mike Pence rule isn’t so daft after all. It’s even gotten to the stage of taking separate lifts, which is deeply disturbing.

    It is what it is, but I do hope male MP’s take very careful notice of what’s happening here. I certainly am paying attention. On the upside, I’d never vote for a party led by Nicola again, which is nice.

    • Alisdair Mc

      Ciaris

      Yes when i first heard about the mike Pence rule, I laughed. I’m not laughing now.

      • Deb O'Nair

        The Mike Pence rule is never dine alone with women. How could that have helped AS and prevented him from cuddling up to a young woman lying on a bed after he offered her drinks during a bit of boring paper-work?

    • Boaby

      Nicola was all over Harvey Weinstein posting stupid #metoo #ibelieveher tweets. She seems to have fallen strangely silent.

  • Dhuglass

    Superb account – and as you say Craig, quite different from the MSM including the dreadful BBC. The failure to cross examine the defence witnesses speaks volumes!! I have cancelled my subscription to the National and will begin one with your good self. More power to you!

    • Northern Sole

      I cancelled my subs to the National this year, not quite the paper I (naively) imagined it would be. Imagine my surprise on learning that I can still read the full edition from the website completely free and without charge! Hmm, I wonder if I’m still counted in their rather unimpressive subscription numbers?

  • Phil E

    Craig this is great and detailed reporting and puts to shame other so called journalists attending the trial and their editors. I am of similar age and background to you and quite possibly in better health. My admiration for your determination to do such a good honest job and your capacity to work so hard is boundless. In my view you are redefining what a professional journalist actually is. I am sure any so called professionals in the big print media who retain a conscience or any sense of professional pride must hang their heads in shame in those private moments of the soul when they compare your contribution to their own.

    • Cubby

      Phil E

      Well said.

      Craig, a minor error? – in the last paragraph it says Ms Baker should it not be Barber.

      • Tom Welsh

        Also “[Ms Watt was Ms B’s manager. Ms B had testified she had reported the alleged incident to Ms B]”.

        I think the final name should be Ms Watt.

  • Sam Buchan

    OK I’m a layman when it comes to the law but reading your descriptive report Craig this whole business really stinks.nevertheless I’m more than convinced that my original thoughts about this whole debacle hold some truth. I sincerely hope that who I think is involved is not.

  • Vital Spark

    Thank you Craig for your comprehensive reporting of this farce.
    Hopefully it will reach its conclusion soon and the pandemic will not cause a suspension of proceedings.
    I have seen more than enough to cancel my SNP membership and any support of its current leadership.
    One major selling point of the SNP for me was that it was the only truly Scottish party – unlike all the others with a head office in London.
    Unfortunately I seem to have been mistaken – “A parcel of rogues” has never sounded more apt!

    • Tony

      I was very pleased when the SNP opposed the bombing of Kosovo and very disappointed when all 6 of their MPs voted to bomb Libya.

      That latter example was a terrible lack of judgement. I doubt whether Salmond would have made it.

    • John A

      If the jury finds Salmond not guilty, the Guardian will claim this was due to Russian propaganda and disinformation!

      • Muscleguy

        More likely the Guardian will complain about the women not all being believed utterly by all and sundry. They will run articles about how to get this sort of thing rectified and it will be trotted out as a bad example whenever the parlous state of rape prosecutions is discussed.

        One bad thing from this trial may be that people will assume from it that women always exaggerate such things when the police get involved in order to get action. That would be unfortunate.

        Im increasingly wondering about the decisions to add each of these charges. Granted the police might not have had access to all the defence witnesses but also there seems to have been no checking.

        I suspect all this is because Salmond got the recurrence of the civil service investigation stopped over the egregious rule floating which went on (why those responsibility were not disciplined and/or fired is beyond me). The polis investigation was ongoing throughout that, which if it had been allowed to proceed with Salmond mounting such a defence might have concentrated minds in the Fiscal’s office.

        Absent that the Fiscal might have been sailing on towards the shoals in ignorance until disclosure. Why they didn’t call a halt or trim the charges after disclosure is an interesting question.

        • Cubby

          Muscleguy

          Grousebeater, if I remember correctly, says that the police officer in charge testified this morning to say they had taken 368 statements.

          • Muscleguy

            So? if in those statements they had better witnesses for the prosecution they would have been used in court.

            As has been noted and is being mooted the police when investigating crime start with an assumption that the complained of events actually happened and then go out to prove that. This mindset can cause people to ignore inconvenient facts. Which is why it is now mooted that the police should start out as genuine sceptics in the scientific mode.

            In science if you have not made sufficient efforts to test your hypothesis to destruction as well as providing evidence in favour the referees will insist you do so. In your discussion you are expected to evince a dispassionate attitude to the fact that your evidence might be illusory or even wrong.

            Police officers can still tell victims that they will do their utmost to get to the bottom of things and if the evidence genuinely is enough for a case to be made then all well and good. This tendency to ignore inconvenient facts is a feature of our psychology. Science noted it long ago and moved to counter it. Time for the police to get with modernity.

            If you look at a lot of miscarriages of justice there is a pattern of going all out to prove a suspect did it instead of stepping back and being dispassionate. The prosecutor was supposed to be this step but their jobs now rely on success rates and they get with the police case if they possibly can. So we rely on judges and juries or more commonly the appeal courts while innocent people sit in the gaol.

            Things like the fact that dna results are probabilities, not facts, ditto fingerprints. Here in Scotland we test more dna loci than in England because the probabilities are better. If I was ever charged with dna evidence put forward I would put solid scientific arguments into my lawyer’s hands.

            There are 70million people in the UK, a 1 in 10million probability means there are 70 people here who will match the test, not one.

  • Scrum5

    Craig, on a point of detail, in Kirk Torrance’s testimony you ascribe responses to 2 points as from “Mr Mutch”, which I take to be a simple error?

    [ Mod: Thanks for pointing that out – duly corrected. ]

    Thank you for the thoroughly detailed reporting of this case, which raises a number of points for debate for a later date.

  • Alisdair Mc

    A question for the legal types out there.
    Is there anything to stop information relating to the 16 messages from being published AFTER the trial?

    • Boaby

      If Salmond had sent 16 messages that had been ruled inadmissible then that could be published after the trial. And would be published. But they won’t be any to publish anything that compromise the identity of the complainers. Anyway, it is not like the Dailty Record even if they could would publish anything favourable to Salmond would.

    • Los

      Presumably not if it were to identify accusers who were granted anonymity for Life irresprective of the outcome.

      • Tom Welsh

        I wonder what would happen in such a case – not of course this one – in which some of the accusers were prosecuted for perjury? Would their trials be conducted in secrecy?

  • Kangaroo

    Having read all the posts from yourself and Grousebeater I cannot find anything which would remotely suggest that an actual real live “criminal offence” has been committed. Its all He said, She said stuff. Stunned that the Proc Fiscal took this up in the first place given the lack of corroborating evidence. I will await the summaries of the final days before I jump to any conclusion, as I think there must be more to this than meets the eye.

  • John McLeod

    Thanks for this court report. Its so useful to get a detailed, factual account of what is happening. Don’t want to make any further comment, because of reporting restrictions.

  • Boaby

    “I can also say without any fear of contradiction that many of the allegations would not meet the definition of a sexual assault as commonly understood by the person in the street. That is not to say they cannot meet a legal definition.” There is the ordinary meaning of a word (what the common man or woman mean) and then the legal meaning. Language is also used to manipulate public perception. This is particularity true for sexual offences. What does the word “rape” mean to the common man or woman? And what do you think constitutes “rape” in a court. There are phrases such as “drunk in charge of a vehicle”. You would assume that was driving a car on a public highway whilst drunk. No, you could be sleeping in the back of your car in a supermarket car park. Guilty of being drunk in charge of a vehicle. The legal system is very good at making mountains out of molehills. The thing is that you can lose you driving licence or even go to prison for a long time for a molehill.

    • Bentley

      You can be lifted for having the keys in your hand near the vehicle even if you are handing them over to a sober person. My Dad was arrested and taken to court by the PF, luckily the Sherriff was a common sense fellow and threw it out.

      • Tom Welsh

        Would it be all right with the law if you asked the sober person to put their hand in your trouser pocket and take your keys?

        Of course, they might then be prosecuted for sexual assault…

        No wonder some lawyers get so rich.

  • Graham Harris Graham

    Some readers already decided Alex Salmond’s guilt, the moment the charges were made public. And others, no doubt, rolled their eyes, concluding already that there was no case to answer.

    Whatever your opinions & whatever the outcome, Craig’s forensic account reveals much about how the inner apparatus of Scotland’s governance operates. I personally find it indulgent, overstaffed & costly. My hope is that an independent Scotland can find a more economic way to run itself, rather than continue with a bloated structure that was, whether we like it or not, made in Britain.

    The behaviour between of all of those who have appeared in court strikes me as unsurprisingly normal for a once close group of politicians & bureaucrats. Much of it clearly crosses ethical lines & no doubt breaches official rules of conduct & policy. This however is not evidence of criminality. There must be many who have read the accounts & winced when they recognized their own experiences being repeated in court. And we are in hypocritical, dangerous Puritanical witch hunt territory if society chooses to jail people because someone, years later, objects to a friendly peck on the cheek or a chummy, if professionally inappropriate, cuddle. If however, the complainers felt victimized & believe the behaviour was criminal & have evidence, they have the right to present it & let the jury decide.

    But flirts, compliments & physical contact are used daily by men & women to win acceptance, curry favour, find a partner & no doubt, coerce promoters at work. Society can criminalize this if it wants to. Look to the Taliban for inspiration where women are forcibly covered up, reading is banned & the sexes are segregated “for their own good.” Public affection is punishable & sexual liberation considered heresy.

    Meanwhile, Craig’s account strips away the hyperbole, bias & skilfully crafted propaganda broadcast by the BBC, ITV & the British print media. Notice how Salmond’s defense is now relegated to third or fourth headline status & bulletin lengths are significantly reduced. The accusations are still repeated but there’s barely a mention of his defense & rarely is any of it explained in detail. This is deliberate & wilful. It attempts to secure in the public’s mind that his guilt is already confirmed, the British state now only needs the court to finish the job.

    The BBC in particular is adept at broadcasting propaganda because like advertising, it works. We might sneer at those adverts on the telly but no one spends millions on ad campaigns if they have no influence on the viewer.

    If nothing else, Craig’s work reminds us that we live immersed in state sponsored propaganda that seeks to make us think in a way that maintains the status quo, protects the British Establishment & undermines anyone the state perceives as a threat. But that threat isn’t from Russia or North Korea or even Iran. These bogey men are created by the state to keep you in fear so that you permit the state to create & enact legislation & build apparatuses that expand & deepen its control & authority over you.

    Only the jury can decide Salmond’s innocence or guilt. But you can still have an opinion that Alex Salmond’s appearance in court may or may not be collateral damage for wanting Scots to have the right to choose their government at every election, not just the ones coincidentally chosen by England.

    • Dhuglass

      Excellent comments Graham! I would add that there is a motive for controlling people by the ‘Authorities’ ….. and it is not to fight facism/communism, (nor indeed as retribution for the assassination of Arch-Duke Ferdinand), it is, and has always been, to maintain the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the elites…… there is ‘no trickle down’ in the economy, there is only profiteering at the expense of the environment and our wellbeing as humans and communities

    • Tom Welsh

      Very true, Graham.

      “Look to the Taliban for inspiration where women are forcibly covered up, reading is banned & the sexes are segregated “for their own good.” Public affection is punishable & sexual liberation considered heresy”.

      Or, if Scots examples are more compelling, look to Scotland in the 1500s and 1600s. There is not very much difference between the Taliban’s religious views and those of John Knox.

      • Tom Welsh

        And, indeed, not much difference in visual appearance and apparel. Just look at some portraits of 16th century European Protestant leaders: you will see men heavily swathed in black or dark clothing, usually with hats, and full sets of long beards, moustaches and whiskers.

      • Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

        The following is from a University of Edinburgh (Moray House) site —

        “The Reformation had a significant impact on the development of education in Scotland. […] John Knox in 1560 outlined a plan for ‘the vertue and godlie upbringing of the youth of this Realm’. Education for rich and poor alike was seen as a joint enterprise between the family, the school and the Kirk. His Book of Discipline provided an outline for the establishment of a national education scheme, which encompassed parish primary schools, burgh grammar schools, high schools and the ancient universities. […] From these early developments there grew a respect in Scotland for education and learning. From the 18th century onwards parish and burgh schools provided many Scots with a good standard of education leading to Scotland at this time having the highest standard of literacy of any European nation.”
        https://www.ed.ac.uk/education/about-us/maps-estates-history/history/part-one

        Also this from online article ‘John Knox and Education’ —

        “Knox’s national educational system provided for schools to be financed by the accumulated wealth of the church and monasteries, which were being overthrown in Scotland, but the nobles refused to approve this financial scheme because they wanted to divide the spoils among themselves. […] It is interesting to note that gender issues do not feature in his educational design.”
        https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318042683_John_Knox_and_education

    • terence callachan

      Graham Harris graham …and then there is the possibility that the jury will not find Alex Salmond guilty and not find him innocent
      They may decide on not proven

      Not proven will be used in England to smear him and taint him

  • SayLess

    Superb and essential reporting! Your work is far more useful and trustworthy than the biased BBC and Guardian.
    In the time of the coronavirus, citizens desperately need truthful, unbiased information, and they’re just not getting that from the MSM.

    Craig, I would love to donate, but wish to do so anonymously. Can you or someone please advise how to do this? Forgive my paranoia, but I do not wish to donate in these ways:
    – use PayPal (traceable to me)
    – use bank transfer (traceable to me)
    – deposit cash (Natwest no longer allow cash deposits into accounts not your own, unless you have a paying-in slip)

    • Tony_0pmoc

      SayLess, Put some money in an envelope, and post it to his address, which is very easy to find for free, as you know his full name, the area in which he lives, and that he is a company director.

    • David

      Good question, sadly, even “anonymous” donations are likely traceable, and stored in bulk personal datasets, forever, with AI’s able to scan on a whim; potentially giving rise (it has) to eventual future embarrassment, secret or overt discrimination, potentially even biased court cases or trial by MSM.

      A standard , apparently routine , postal sealed letter to Craig’s home address , with another sealed envelope inside that, and a chlorine washed rolled-up new plastic-fiver, is about the best you can get, probably.

      in a time of ubiquitous surveillance, we lose/have lost a lot of rights, UN list is here:-
      https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

      some of these rights do read nowadays as ‘anachronistic’, out of time, quaint.

      in my own case, I foolishly persisted, and was expressly granted the right to post on Craig’s website, following “freedom of expression (Article 10)” (and Art.14) of the European convention on Human Rights as summarised here:-
      https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/what-european-convention-human-rights

      in my case there was “a secret trial” to which I was not invited, probably.

  • A C Bruce

    Many thanks, Craig. Very clear and detailed accounts of the days you have managed to get access to the Court. It’s a pity they wouldn’t allow you access during the prosecution’s case. There’s a lot of details we have missed.

    So far my thinking on this case is WTF. I hope that’s not contempt of Court.

  • shugsrug

    Craig, thank you very much for such a detailed report. You are doing us all a great service.

  • Vivian O'Blivion

    ” …. and the dinner was just for three people.” Does this imply that there is a record from the catering function that dinner was ordered for three?

    • Hamish McGlumpha

      Could be. Craig reported in another post that diaries and kitchen records for Bute House were entered as evidence. This would be proper corroboration – as opposed to the Moorov confected sort.

    • Nut Brown Maiden

      Dinner could have been ordered for three but four turned up equally dinner could have been ordered for four but only three turned up. Either way the catering company would bill for four people.
      I’m assuming that Bute House still uses outside caterers.

      If the celebrity attending the dinner was a big enough name then the waiting staff might remember otherwise dinners at Bute House would be very easily forgotten.

    • LxR

      Was it yesterday that the Bute House kitchen records were examined? I may be wrong but I seem to recall they were examined, do check; kitchen records would include the number of “covers” ie meals served/places at table.

      • Vivian O'Blivion

        From the account of day one of the defence: “The Court spent a great deal of time as the defence team took Salmond through …. the Bute House kitchen records to establish that there was no Bute House event in May 2014 at which Ms H might have been present.”.
        Sounds like the caterers were not asked to provide covers for four that month.

        • Nut Brown Maiden

          I would agree that ‘kitchen records’ could establish that there were no dinners however not sure they could tell if there were 3/4 covers on a night there was a dinner.

          I would think the most reliable witnesses would be people who attended the dinner.

          I’m looking at this from someone who worked for outside caterers who did functions at Bute House. It was a a wee while ago(when I was a student) but I can’t imagine the layout in Bute House has changed much. I can’t see them having a huge industrial kitchen employing a head chef & a full team of kitchen staff plus head waiter/sommelier etc who keep meticulous ‘kitchen records’

          I’m guessing ‘kitchen records’ would be invoices from the outside caterers.

    • terence callachan

      Three people would notice a fourth person, they didn’t , so it was three people , surely you understand that deduction ?

  • pete

    Again I would like to express my thanks for this detailed reporting, it is a fascinating record of how such a case proceeds. On the face of it I can see no reason not to abandon the prosecution, which looks like a pointlessly vindictive act inspired by malice, aided and abetted by the PTB. Unless the prosecution can introduce a new witness with detailed corroborative evidence they would be best advised to attempt to get an adjournment, say, until the end of time.

    • Tom Welsh

      I agree, pete. I can’t help imagining people ramming their heads into nooses. What could induce intelligent politicians and civil servants to allege things in court that appear, on the face of it, to be easily and authoritatively refuted?

      Surely perjury is still a crime?

  • Mark Mel

    Great job reporting of this trial Craig, you have blown the main stream media’s portrayal of events out the water, have told everyone who might listen to check out your work. ; )

    hopefully justice prevails here.

  • DiggerUK

    When in a hole, stop digging. That is sound but oft ignored advice.

    What are the odds of this trial concluding in a heightened frenzy of media coverage about Coronavirus, or somebody getting very active with a spade and suspending all court cases before it gets that far.

    The defence case does seem to be making the allegations flimsier by the day, but without the benefit of unedited prosecution arguments it is difficult to know what the jury makes of all this.

    Will the prosecution case be suddenly withdrawn? The smears at least would remain…_

    • nevermind

      Do you mean suspending courts and handing over justice to the police? Martial law instead. Oh boy what a concoction that would make.
      Just hand the courts some PPE equipment and let them carry on looking for a crime. After all, we are paying for this charade.

  • Magic Robot

    Trips in helicopters, staying at Gleneagles, jaunts to foreign lands, luxury meals.
    Tough at the top?

    • N_

      Don’t forget the three separate residences in Edinburgh, all paid for by the taxpayer.

      • Cubby

        N

        Misleading again misrepresenting again – do you work for one of the Britnat rags because you would certainly qualify.

      • Rob Royston

        I think they said three working places in Edinburgh, one of which was the Bute House residence.

      • Tom Welsh

        Quite unlike the residences and other luxurious surroundings enjoyed by every other head of state or political leader in the world. Even those (one would hope quite a few) who do not particularly enjoy that kind of things, and would personally prefer simpler lives.

        Even with a diminutive population such as Scotland’s 5 million (and a wee bit), costs of say £5 million a year are equivalent to £1/year for each citizen. Certainly not back-breaking, and presumably acceptable for those with pride in their nation.

        As of a couple of years ago, “The royal family cost each British taxpayer 69 pence last year (up 4 pence compared to last year)…” https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2018/06/royal-family-costs

        Not the scale of costs to which anyone would object, except on principle.

        Certainly in comparison with the total tax burden on an average UK citizen: income tax, “national insurance” (aka just more income tax), VAT, council tax, road tax, TV licence, etc. etc.

        Which, it has been pointed out, takes a large chunk of the average British person’s income than a medieval serf had to give to his lord.

      • FranzB

        This is what CM wrote:-

        “The First Minister had three sets of offices from all of which the Private Office operated. At St Andrews House, in the Holyrood Parliament and at Bute House, which contained both substantial offices and living accommodation.”

        St. Andrews House is the location of the Scottish govt. Bute House is the FM’s official residence.

      • terence callachan

        Only three ?
        England has hundreds , why does Scotland only have three ?

    • Rob Royston

      Apart from Gleneagles, that’s been working life for many Scots for Forty Five years. Tough, maybe, but not always at the top, except for derickmen.

    • terence callachan

      That’s not even the top it’s a long way down from Westminster where they do it on a much grander scale

  • N_

    Before leaving Scotland with her husband she had messaged the First Minister’s office to say she would not be able to attend the Scottish women’s international football match the next day. (The point of this evidence is it contradicts Ms H’s evidence of her interaction with Ms Ahmed-Sheikh over the football.)

    How successful have the defence been with this line?

    If the alleged message contradicts H’s evidence then have phone company records been checked? I’d want that pursued if I were the judge.

    Maybe the message is alleged to have been written?

    Are the defence relying on Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh’s verbal evidence? If they can smash a main prosecution witness on forensics they’ll be doing well. That’s true in any trial. I am intrigued as to whether they’ve tried.

    Did the defence put it to H that she received the said message from TAS?

    • terence callachan

      Evidence is evidence and of course it has to be verified
      I know it’s tough for you
      You hoped there would be no defence ,get over it N
      Go dream your federalist dreams

  • Tony M

    I’m beginning to understand now something everyone perceived at the time and could not comprehend, the utter uselessness and failure of the eye-wateringly lack-lustre Official Yes Campaign. Except for the little butterfly Yes stickers, I liked them, had one on the old jalopy till it went to the breakers long after the Yes campaign and referendum was over, sticker still proudly on display. A badge of honour.

  • nevermind

    Absolutly rivetting! Comparing your real journalism with the utter kack that the masses are represented with by the bbc, sky and the other red tops is a tonic that should be bottled demanding a price.
    I’m honoured to support your hard work with a monthly subscription. Thank you Craig.

  • Monster

    Excellent reporting Craig. A joy to read in comparison with our ‘papers of record’. Could these witnesses be prosecuted for perjury, or more generally, for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. I seem to remember a certain literary peer spent time in prison for such an offence.

  • Giyane

    It’s very obvious that a political deal has been done in which any resemblance of AS’s vision of Scottish Independence has been jettisoned and the only obstacle remaining is him.

    The SNP is now a proxy, like Al Qaida is a proxy, that will maintain the status quo ad infinitum. Question is what do the SNP have to do in return? What Al Qaida gets from trashing Libya and Syria is literally power to terrorise the people to compensate them for having been terrorised themselves by torture rendition. What the SNP has been promised, by pernicious Albion, is a massive spending spree, already hinted at in the budget.

    Alex Salmond is in the way of this treacherous plan. The a cysations against him are lies and the underlying politics is obvious. As a long observer of my own psychology I can honestly say that political betrayal is much harder to endure than sexual betrayal. In fact sometimes we prefer to cope with the latter than the former because although we are a animals we are also intellectual and moral homo sapiens.

    Political betrayal is very hard to deal with. The SNP has become a sanitary towel for the Queen of England, plugging the flow of Imperial power to Global banking. Enabling our chartered politicians to feel good about their high punching reputation , in the face of losing a cruel , colonial Empire and criticism even from the UN.

    • Tom Welsh

      “The SNP has become a sanitary towel for the Queen of England, plugging the flow of Imperial power to Global banking”.

      Sometimes I really feel like just cutting off my broadband link.

      • giyane

        Tom Welsh

        The way politics is conducted today, keep the slogan, Islamic Jihad, Western Democracy, Royal Family, United Kingdom, Scottish National Party, but throw out all semblance of correlation between the slogan and reality, makes me want to ignore politics completely and vegetate in ignorance. It seems as though the Tories , who bought all Liberal and Labour members under Thatcher, and have now bought the entire SNP, think that with the help of the MSM , they can discredit Jeremy Corbyn and Alex Salmond and run the opposition as a unit from inside their own party. I wouldn’t rage against the dying of the light unless the powers that be were not permanently engaged in suffocating truth like a lion suffocates an antelope. To see this suffocation taking place through the state broadcaster as it was at the last election, or through the Scottish judicial system, puts the state broadcaster and the state judiciary in the role of dictatorial oppressor. I am just disgusted that the Tories can now treat the institutions of our Western society with such disrespect. Disrespect for our institutions is a very dangerous path to go down and the Tories or Crown or PTB must be totally desperate to abuse the very institutions on which our society depends for its unity and safety. Bits of the institution of government are dropping off, two heirs to the throne, two travesties of justice consecutively, two banking crises in quick succession because the PTB failed to take notice of those with the foresight to warn about the impending catastrophes.

        OK change my metaphor to a rusting high pressure water main pipe that is temporarily sealed inside a rubber bandage wherever leaks appear because its too expensive to renew the pipe completely.
        I would prefer to live in China under Mr Xi than witness the sordid collapse of this country.

        No wonder the public think

      • Sid Falco

        You’re narrowing the field.
        When I read that yesterday I winced and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was what done for you.

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