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On Friday I was consumed by the saga of the Scotts. Alex Salmond delivered testimony and answered questions well and the Convener seemed fair, but it wasn’t about Scottish politics or the struggle for independence which doesn’t impact me personally. It was about the wider picture of justice and accountability throughout the UK as the remnants of our feeble democracy crumble and tumble into the seas that now isolate us from rescue by the EU. The breakdown in legal process and the maneuvers to deliberately manipulate the law for corrupt political ends were all exposed in a lengthy Scottish Parliamentary Committee hearing in a way that we can only hope that the rancid can of Tory maggots will very soon be torn open here in Westminster. Will it sound a warning to this corrupt Tory Sovereign Dictatorship that they might be able to cheat, plunder and exploit for a while, but in the end, justice will prevail? I doubt it; the focus south of the border was on how this disruptive battle might be used to derail Scottish Independence!
The SNP’s Maureen Watt MSP obsessed over the Me Too movement as if this seismic shift should herald the rewriting of all laws to prioritize sexual harassment, despite well-drafted, long considered, legislation already firmly in place. For her this inquiry wasn’t about examining and correcting deeply flawed legal procedures that had cost the Scottish taxpayer dearly; it was a chance to overturn the not-guilty verdict and force Alex Salmond to wallow in disgrace. Despite repeatedly framing her questions to meet this one objective, Salmond kept his cool, very patiently reminding her of the extensive Trade Union input during the eighteen months of formulating the ‘Fairness at Work’ Legislation. His message was ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater;’ build on existing laws rather than focusing on the hastily concocted, poorly drafted, target law that had proved not fit for purpose in Court. She was fixated on retrospective judgment of former Ministers; his objective was to restore genuine access to justice universally.
Another persistently hostile non-contributor to the hearing was Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton who aggressively and repeatedly tried to suck the Committee into the warped vortex of his vindictive ‘admit your guilt’ rabbit hole. He defied the very patient and fair Deputy Convener, Margaret Mitchell, several times with his flagrant attempts to retry Alex Salmond for trumped-up crimes he had already been acquitted of in a Court of law. Heaping discredit on himself, he stubbornly tried to force words of apology for Media stunt value, but Salmond maintained his composure by reminding those present of the Criminal trial acquittal and his Judicial Review victory. With his relentless badgering Cole-Hamilton offered nothing substantive that was material to establishing the facts that formed the subject of the hearing. Of course, positively contributing to the hearing was not his objective; he just wanted to toss some red meat to the tabloid press in the hope of damaging SNP support in the coming elections: in this he succeeded in spades!
As anticipated the heavily biased BBC hosted an opportunistic Newsnight segment to mislead the public into believing that Salmon had deliberately set out to sabotage the cause of Scottish Independence to rescue his own ego. The botched attempt to criminalize him had devastated his reputation, caused untold distress, but thankfully it had failed to get him thrown in jail! Amol Rajan’s claim that clearing his name was just an ego trip or a personal vendetta against his protege was a really cheap shot, well off the mark. The Tories would like nothing more than to see this rift within the SNP as a golden opportunity to sabotage Scottish Independence, but the feeling in Scotland goes way beyond personalities to address the abject Tory betrayal of the Scottish people. Brexit was the last straw for the Scotts with the majority in favor of remaining in the EU and the catastrophic impact on their fishing industry all ignored by the Tories; it will take a lot more than this internal spat to derail the call for InfiRef 2! They could vote pro-EU Green!
In the Scotsman Article entitled, “Alex Salmond inquiry: MSPs must test the truth of his incendiary claims about a ‘malicious scheme’ against him” they commented on the proceedings. They highlighted a clever nuance Salmond had used to avoid the term ‘conspiracy’ saying, “In his evidence to the MSPs’ committee investigating the Scottish government’s mishandling of complaints made against him, Alex Salmond said he was not alleging there had been a conspiracy against him.” This savvy politician chose his words carefully saying, “Instead, he called it a ‘malicious scheme or plan or campaign over a prolonged period of time’, making a distinction that may be lost on many members of the public.” In reality I think it was a smart calculation for a man combatting an overwhelmingly hostile media: ‘conspiracy theory’ is an easily discrediting hackneyed phrase.
The Scotsman reported that “The former First Minister said he had evidence to support his claims, pointing to text messages sent by SNP figures, including one by Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon’s husband and the party’s chief executive, in which, the day after Salmond was charged, he said it was a ‘good time to be pressurizing’ the police.” That was one of the less damaging messages among a selection that are already in the public domain. Salmond was determined to rigidly stick to the solid evedence that was in his possession, some of which is being deliberately kept from the inquiry team via threats of prosecution. The do admit that “he also made clear that he believes there is evidence that the committee has not been allowed to see that would provide further backing for his allegations.” The most damaging component of the entire hearing was the knowledge that evidence was being obscured for no legitimate reason and Salmond wanted the committee to demand access to it.
The Scotsman took a slanderous personal swipe at Alex Salmond stating that “Given what we know about Salmond’s admitted behavior, his reputation will be forever tarnished and so he should not be regarded the most upstanding of citizens.” Determined to reclassify Salmond’s open and honest presentation they continued on the offensive saying, “However, his evidence will be fuel to the fire of conspiracy theorists who have not been quite so circumspect as him, and that poses a danger to the reputation of Scotland’s democratic and legal institutions. It is most unsatisfactory that this shadow of suspicion should be allowed to hang over them in this way.” Perhaps they should have acted with genuine honesty and integrity, but that is certainly not in vogue right now in UK politics in general. This is exactly what I mean in reference to the bigger picture,’ with our current Tory Sovereign Dictatorship rife with corruption and seeking to manipulate the Judiciary and regulatory bodies in their favor.
The Scotsman explains how “The committee is examining the Scottish government’s handling of the complaints against Salmond and MSPs have stressed that he is not on trial.” It seems that some on the committee did not receive that brief… They continue “However, the conflicting accounts of Salmond and Sturgeon must be properly tested and so both are on trial if only in the court of public opinion.” Which they will no doubt seek to influence by inserting damaging insinuations regarding Alex Salmond’s character and honesty while at the same time loyally pitching Sturgeon’s popularity. They say that “The credibility and integrity of the current First Minister and other senior figures in the SNP and government have been called into question. The people of Scotland need to know whether or not Salmond’s claims are true or not and have confidence in the process of establishing this.”
Although the Scotsman say that “All pertinent evidence, including the Scottish government’s legal advice about its position in the judicial review of the complaints process brought by Salmond, that can be made public, should be:” how will they react when the enemy Salmond is fully vindicated? They say that “The anonymity of the women who complained about Salmond’s actions must be preserved and if the Salmond inquiry committee must sit in private in order for this to be achieved, then so be it, but it does need to get to the bottom of whether there was a ‘malicious plan’ or a conspiracy, call it what you will, or not.” It is clear that the Scotsman is cheering for the ‘or not’ camp as it is not even thinly disguised in their cynical reporting of the matter. Salmond insists that the suppressed evidence that should have been made available to the committee holds no clues that would expose the claimants. If the evidence establishes a strong case that fraud was perpetrated then that anonymity should be stripped away in perjury charges!
In the Politico Article entitled, “5 takeaways from Alex Salmond’s explosive Scottish parliament appearance,” they say that “The former first minister made a series of incendiary claims against Nicola Sturgeon’s government. ‘This is much, much bigger than me.’ That was the message from former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond during a long-awaited appearance before a parliamentary inquiry Friday. Even for the famously forthright politician, his over 4 hours of evidence was explosive. Ministers will have been expecting a political hand grenade, they got a thermonuclear detonation. Not only was there a conspiracy at the highest levels to expunge Salmond from public life, he claimed, involving the suppression of evidence and hamstringing a probe into the government’s handling of sexual harassment complaints against him, the malfeasance was eating away at Scotland’s democratic foundations.” The BBC had tried to pass this off as an inconsequential whimper and a private vendetta.
The Politico reported that “The actions of senior ministers were ‘undermining the system of government in Scotland,’ Salmond said, even as erstwhile allies in the Scottish independence movement dubbed the performance a grandstanding distraction to salve his oversized ego.” I am sure the poor man had bottled his anger over the attempt to criminalize him for long enough; he was relishing the opportunity to put his case before the public in all its sordid detail and he did it with calm, calculating panache. The Politico highlighted him “Telling the committee he had turned down hundreds of media appearances in order to give his evidence direct to lawmakers, Salmond cast himself as the defender of truth in a murky affair that threatens to bring down First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and with her the cause of independence itself.” I wouldn’t have drawn that final conclusion from observing the entire hearing. As Politico presented them, “Here are five key takeaways from Salmond’s committee appearance:”
1. “Top down,” Politico describes how, “The former first minister didn’t pull his punches. While Salmond rejected claims that the affair had rendered Scotland a ‘failed state,’ he said that the mishandling of his case stemmed from the very top. ‘Scotland hasn’t failed. Its leadership has failed,’ the 66-year-old said, laying blame squarely at Sturgeon’s feet. Salmond then went a step further, suggesting that Sturgeon’s administration, alongside elements of the civil service and prosecuting authority, was so incompetent that his dreams of independence were in jeopardy. ‘Our move to independence … must be accompanied by institutions whose leadership is strong and robust and capable of protecting each and every citizen from arbitrary authority,’ Salmond told lawmakers on the Holyrood committee. Sturgeon denies she has done anything wrong.”
2. According to Politico the “Scottish National Party rift widens. The Salmond vs. Sturgeon saga has torn a hole through SNP ranks, splitting the party in two. Today’s blistering session will have done little to soothe tempers or bridge the divide. As the committee got underway, a string of SNP politicians changed their profile pictures to grinning snaps with Sturgeon. One of them, Brendan O’Hara MP, added a little context: ‘Please be in no doubt as to where my loyalties lie. #IStandWithNicola.’James Dorman MSP, who represents a Glasgow constituency, upped the ante, accusing Salmond of ‘undoing everything he fought for to salve his ego.’ The former first minister’s supporters weren’t to be outdone, however. ‘How much further can [the] jaw drop [?],’ tweeted MP Angus MacNeil, responding to claims of Scottish government bungling in a court case against Salmond. For a party trying to instill trust in the independence cause, these fissures threaten to upend voter confidence.”
3. “Salmond the victim,” claim Politico on Salmond’s behalf, although not necessarily taking his side. They quote, “It has been a testing couple of years, Salmond told the committee: harassment claims, court cases, criminal prosecution, eventual acquittal. He described it as a ‘nightmare … among the most wounding that any person can face.’ But is he sorry for behavior towards multiple women that, though not criminal, he has admitted was sometimes inappropriate (he acknowledged that he could’ve been ‘a better man’ during the trial)? That’s what committee member Alex Cole-Hamilton wanted to know. ‘Laying aside the charges of which you’ve been acquitted and the allegations you deny, of the behaviors you have admitted to, some of which are appalling, are you sorry?” the Liberal Democrat MSP asked.
The Politico report that “The former first minister did not offer an apology, instead referring to the Scottish government’s botched handling of claims, and the consequences that had had for all involved.” Alex Cole-Hamilton conveniently forgot the actual purpose of the hearing in order to have a rant that implied that the Jury who acquitted Salmond had made some grievous error of judgment, but he could save the day by retrying him in committee. In all fairness, the Convener wasn’t having it and reminded him that such questioning was not part of their remit, but it didn’t prevent the obnoxious MSP from rephrasing the exact same request several times before he finally shut up having contributed nothing relevant to the proceeding. Salmond diplomatically avoided being drawn into the trap of offering an unwanted apology by calmly reiterating the outcome of Court verdicts in his favor. Cole-Hamilton came across as petty and vindictive, but his questions will be quoted and embellished in our biased Media.
4. Politico pointed out the “Election approaching” saying that “After Friday’s bombshell session, there’s little chance of the debacle blowing over before May’s Scottish Parliament election. For the SNP’s electoral rivals, desperate to counter the party’s seemingly ironclad popularity, that is good news. ‘I am no fan of Alex Salmond. He is not a man I respect,’ said Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross as the hearing commenced. ‘But he is right about at least one thing, truth, and honesty in government matters. And we’re not getting it from Nicola Sturgeon.’ Expect to hear this line over and over again. If the opposition can sow seeds of doubt in Sturgeon’s probity, the SNP, reliant on their leader’s public standing, will be in big trouble (a point borne out by recent polling).”
5. But the Politico claim that “This is far from over,” saying “Salmond professed his wish to move on from the ugly affair, but there’s plenty of play in it yet. The prospect of new police involvement looms large after the hearing, with Salmond demanding that the leak of harassment allegations against him be investigated.” One can hardly blame him for wanting this after all the torment he has suffered. Politico point out that “next week, Sturgeon will be in the hot seat herself. She’ll be facing questions on a range of topics: not least whether she breached the ministerial code by pursuing a court case despite her team having had prior contact with complainants, or whether a complainant’s name was passed illicitly to Salmond’s chief of staff, two things her predecessor seems certain of. Even more dangerous for Sturgeon is a separate probe being conducted by James Hamilton, an Irish barrister investigating her conduct. He is due to give his verdict just weeks out from election day.”
Someone should have reminded Sturgeon that when you’re in a really deep hole it is best to stop digging! There are already tentative grounds to charge her with breaching the ministerial code, but she arrogantly tried it on with another flagrant violation; does she really want to torpedo her political career? I have a funny feeling she knows it’s all over now baby blue… This latest gaff has prompted Justin to start a new Discussion Thread entitled, “Jim Sillars’ formal complaint re Nicola Sturgeon’s smears about Alex Salmond.” He reports that “Jim Sillars, former Depute Leader of the SNP, has lodged a formal complaint about Nicola Sturgeon’s rants during her televised official Covid briefing on Wednesday.” To read more visit Justin’s thread where he has posted a copy of Jim Sillars “letter of complaint” in full.
Throughout this hearing Alex Salmond remained calm and level headed at all times answering without faltering or being evasive, He did not call for the entrapment techniques of two members of the committee who asked inappropriate and irrelevant questions in an attempt to implicate guilt over charges already dismissed as bearing no criminal liability. He was razor sharp and right on the money in his exposure of the grossly unnecessary squandering of public funds in the futile attempt to justify their relentless persecution of a case against him. This should be sounding alarm bells with regard to Tory squandering of public funds and the bottomless pit of public cash spent repeatedly defending unfair laws, corruption and other Government wrongdoing. If the persecuted and exploited are too impoverished to go to Court only the powerful and the egregiously guilty can afford limitless representation we have zero access to justice in the UK. Crowdfunding offers us the opportunity to rebalance the scales of justice and hold Government to account.
On the rare occasion where Alex Salmond held back, he cited the evidence he was being forced to suppress, against his will, on pain of prosecution. He saved his greatest asset for a parting salvo when asked if he had any final remarks. He stated very clearly that this, or any other Parliamentary Committee, had an absolute right to access all relevant evidence without restriction and he suggested that they forcefully demand that access. Throwing down a confident ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ gauntlet, he made it crystal clear that if such evidence was demanded of his legal team they would be obligated to hand it over to the committee and it would be in their possession by Monday. Come in Nicola Sturgeon, your time is up… This was genuinely forensic;’ exactly what is needed to expose obscene levels of squandered public funds that continue to enrich the Tory elite and also reveal the truth in a really robust Investigation of the Covert 2019 Rigged Election. Salmond is blazing an accountability trail: we really must Get The Tories Out! DO NOT MOVE ON!