Salmond v Sturgeon: what’s going on in the Scottish nationalist camp?

All this sound and fury is serving to obscure Salmond’s real crime: the incitement of reactionary separatism amongst the British working class.

A biased and backdated staff complaints procedure was cooked up to ensnare him. Convenient leaks were published in the media to tarnish him, while he was legally obliged to remain silent. Finally, the Scottish government pressed their own lawyers, the media and the police into pursuing these trumped-up charges against him. And yet Alex Salmond remains standing. Ella Rule lays out the details of this onslaught, and what the man's real crimes actually are.

March 2021 saw the publication of two investigations into the conduct of the Scottish government in the matter of proceedings relating to the conduct of first minister Nicola Sturgeon in connection with proceedings taken against her predecessor Alex Salmond, first minister of Scotland until 2014, on charges of alleged sexual harassment.

One enquiry was by a committee of the Scottish parliament, which found by a majority of five to four that she had knowingly misled parliament (a resignation issue). The other was by an ‘independent’, former Irish attorney general, commissioned by Nicola Sturgeon herself, which found that she had done nothing of the kind and had no case to answer.

While the former investigation’s findings are being dismissed on the grounds that people voted according to their political interests rather than on any genuine finding of fact – despite the fact that the casting vote was held by a member of the Scottish parliament (MSP) who has no party affiliations, the Hamilton findings simply seem perverse in the light of incontestable evidence, insofar as it went so far as to say there was ‘no case to answer’ when very clearly Sturgeon did make incorrect statements to parliament, the only issue being whether or not she did so knowingly.

The only evidence as to whether she did so knowingly or not is her own say so, and therefore it was a question of whether Hamilton believed her or did not. Obviously he did decide to believe her, but it is quite disingenuous to say she had no case to answer.

Whose is the vendetta?

In giving his evidence to these inquiries, Alex Salmond is accused of conducting a “vendetta” against Sturgeon, motivated by his belief that she is supposedly not pursuing the cause of Scottish independence with sufficient ardour. The bourgeois press does not seem to think that Salmond should have any interest in clearing his name of the allegations of sexual harassment that have made against him.

Despite the fact that he has established in court that the procedure for sexual harassment that was brought against him was unfair in the extreme, and despite the fact that he successfully defended a criminal case brought against him involving 13 charges of sexual misconduct including attempted rape before a female judge sitting with a majority of female jurors, there are still persistent attempts to insist on his guilt – eg, by saying that the women who complained about Salmond’s behaviour had been ‘let down’ by the way the Scottish government conducted itself.

The Times, reporting on the Hamilton verdict, accused Salmond of vindictiveness, saying that although Sturgeon had been vindicated, ‘mud sticks’, entirely forgetting that if ‘mud sticks’, the person who has been most vilely affected is Alex Salmond.

The bourgeois media have taken the view that the whitewash of Sturgeon’s conduct by the Hamilton investigation has established that Salmond’s belief there had been a ‘conspiracy’ to denigrate him was entirely ill-founded. Hard evidence, however, makes it very difficult to avoid concluding that something akin to a conspiracy did indeed take place.

Signs of a conspiracy against Salmond

We will examine some of the known facts.

In November 2017, Alex Salmond made his debut as the host of The Alex Salmond Show on Russian television station RT – a weekly show that continues to this day. Shock and horror followed in all bourgeois circles, expressed, for instance, by the Guardian’s David Torrence: “Only a deep-seated craving for the limelight can explain the former SNP leader’s decision to host a TV show on the Kremlin-sponsored channel.” (Alex Salmond’s new job with RT tells us one thing: he’s desperate for attention, 10 November 2017)

Torrence continued expostulating: “Lots of otherwise intelligent individuals claimed to be shocked and appalled by the announcement, yet for anyone paying attention to Mr Salmond since circa 2011 – when a landslide election victory clearly went to his head – his decision to become an RT broadcaster really isn’t all that surprising, but rather the logical conclusion of his increasing disregard for the normal boundaries of Scottish and British politics.”

Needless to say, his erstwhile colleagues in the Scottish National Party were appropriately shocked and horrified. The Times, for instance, reported on 11 November 2017: “Nicola Sturgeon has led condemnation of Alex Salmond, her predecessor as Scotland’s first minister, over his decision to host a chat show on a TV channel backed by the Kremlin.” (Nicola Sturgeon criticises Alex Salmond for RT TV show by Daniel Sanderson)

She had to firmly assert that she herself would not shy away from criticising the Russian government! How embarrassing!

Then by coincidence (of course!), round about the same time frantic and hasty efforts were assembled within the Scottish government to change its staff complaints procedure, specifically in order to backdate its application so as to enable ministers, though not civil servants, who have left office to be called to book under its provisions.

The procedure was started possibly quite independently as a result of the Me Too movement, but equally possibly after it was privately known that Salmond would be presenting on RT. However, on 31 October 2017, before the public announcement of the new policy, Salmond says that it had already been “clearly established that there was no discussion or information presented to either Parliament or Cabinet on the 31st October 2017 of extending workplace policies to former ministers. Nor was there any suggestion that this should be done in the head of the civil service’s letter of 3rd November 2017.”

Early in November, the idea was floated with Whitehall that Scottish past ministers should be liable to answer to the Scottish government for breach of workplace policies, to which Whitehall responded with a firm No. Leading members of Sturgeon’s team went ahead regardless, however.

Apparently, one James Hynd had been tasked with revising the policy, but he did not suggest that it should apply to ministers at all, let alone former ministers. The first suggestion that it should do so came from the government’s head of HR, Judith Mackinnon, on 7 November, and Mr Hynd apparently expressed reservations about it applying to ministers at all.

However, it was clear that, whatever the origins of the idea that it was necessary to change the harassment policy, the opportunity was going to be taken to push forward the extraordinary idea that it was to apply not only to serving ministers but also to former ministers (though not to former civil servants). It is virtually impossible that those backing this ‘reform’ didn’t have one particular former minister in mind.

Incidentally, the revised policy was extraordinary in that it contained no provision at all for mediation, which is unusual, to say the least.

It is manifestly an absurdity for a staff rule book to be extended to people who are no longer working in the enterprise in question, for the obvious reason that sanctions can only be applied to people who are still in service: they can be dismissed, or placed under supervision, or given a warning that would lead to dismissal should there be any recurrence. Otherwise, the only sanction would be: bad publicity should information about the proceedings leak out.

Again, it is hard to see what other possible motivation lay behind this ‘reform’ or, as things turned out, that all along it had been intended to target Alex Salmond.

Scottish government caught lying, forced to pay damages

Salmond decided in 2018 to take the decision of the Scottish government to pursue this matter against him to judicial review. At this stage, no word had leaked out about the proceedings and Salmond obviously was keen that they should not do so, hence the legal action he took against the Scottish government.

In the course of these proceedings, it was revealed, among other abuses, that the new policy had been drawn up in consultation with the complainants. It was no surprise then that “in due course this complaints procedure and process was judged by Lord Pentland in the highest civil court in Scotland to be ‘unlawful’, ‘unfair’, and ‘tainted by apparent bias’”. (David Davis MP, Speech to Parliament, 16 March 2021)

That being the case, the government’s lawyers advised their client that Salmond was likely to win and that they should therefore withdraw the proceedings against him. They refused to do so. Moreover, they placed their own lawyers in such an embarrassing position with regard to attempted concealment of evidence that the lawyers had to threaten to resign.

The QC acting for the government was to tell an enquiry afterwards: “Suffice to say that we have each experienced extreme professional embarrassment as a result of assurances which we have given, both to our opponents and the court, which assurances have been given on instructions, turning out to be false as a result of the revelation of further documents.”

Finally, the Scottish government was forced in January 2019 to concede the case, leading to the complaint against Salmond being withdrawn and his being awarded over £500,000 in legal costs – to be paid by the Sottish taxpayer along with substantial sums for the government’s lawyers. One cannot imagine that this kind of behaviour was exactly designed to create faith among the electorate in the governing Scottish National party.

Huge media and police campaign fails to have Salmond convicted of sex offences

The government, in the meantime, had coerced a reluctant police force into bringing a prosecution against Salmond on charges that included attempted rape! Let him be humiliated by the imposition of a prison sentence, having his name included on the sex offenders register, and pour as much ignominy on his head as could conceivably be mustered.

Here too, more skulduggery and dirty work came into play. Nicola Sturgeon’s permanent secretary, Ms Leslie Evans, proposed to issue a press statement proclaiming to the world that a criminal prosecution of Mr Salmond for sex offences was pending.

It is a quirk of the British legal system that when a criminal trial is pending, nobody is allowed to interfere with the case by publishing information that might come up in the trial. So while public allegations of rape, etc, are made against a named person who has been charged, neither he nor anybody else is permitted to say a word in refutation. If the charges are unjustified, this amounts to legalised defamation.

In any case, the police were opposed to the issue of any press statement on the matter, and the statement was therefore withdrawn, only to be followed within the week by an ‘unauthorised leak’ to the Daily Record by an unnamed person with intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the Scottish government.

As might be expected, by now the whole prosecution procedure was again characterised by prevarication on the part of the Scottish government, with information being quite improperly withheld at every turn, and, in the event, Alex Salmond “was exonerated on all charges by a predominantly female jury in a criminal court presided over by a female judge”. (David Davis MP, op cit)

According to Craig Murray, the former British diplomat and a supporter of Scottish self-determination, who met with Alex Salmond and attended his trial, Salmond spoke to him of a “massive police operation underway to try to get accusers to come forward against him”.

Murray continued: “Four hundred people had been interviewed. He [Salmond] told of one retired police officer’s view ‘that the fact it was a stitch-up was evidenced by the fact all the accusations emanated from the same small coterie, there was not a single accusation from an outside or independent source’.” Murray said his source was someone close to Sturgeon who was “not happy with the fitting up of Alex Salmond” and was a “highly credible source with good access”.

“Murray noted that he had briefly been able to see a message between Peter Murrell, SNP chief executive officer and also Sturgeon’s husband, and Sue Ruddick, the SNP’s chief operating officer proposing ‘it was now the right time to put pressure on Police Scotland to move forward against Alex Salmond’ (Murray’s words).

“Another message from Ruddick suggested that if the police would explain what evidence they wanted, Ruddick et al would get it. Another explained the plan to have a ‘strongly detrimental effect’ (Murray’s words) on Salmond while retaining anonymity.” (Craig Murray case exposes factional warfare in Scottish National Party between Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond by Steve James, WSWS, 3 February 2021)

Silencing the counter-narrative

For his pains, Craig Murray was found guilty of contempt of court on 24 March 2021 because, through the blogs that he wrote during the course of Alex Salmond’s trial, it might have been possible to ascertain the identities of four complainants whom it had been agreed would remain anonymous. He will be sentenced in May.

This again is a most suspect move, designed to silence a person who has been diligent in exposing the injustices of the ‘justice’ system of Britain – as he did in the course of the Julian Assange case. ‘Justice’ must have its revenge, but can only do so through further injustice, as WSWS reports:

“A deluge of lurid news and TV headlines accompanied the news that Salmond had been charged with attempted rape, intent to rape, indecent assault and a series of more minor charges. Murray noted: ‘The Crown can release salacious detail about attempted rape while lying naked on top of somebody in bed, and the media can echo this to the heavens. But from that moment, nobody can publish anything to contradict the Crown without being in contempt of court.’

“Murray resorted to satire, proposing a script for the famous BBC TV comedy, Yes Minister, which sketched ‘the tactics being employed by the prosecution, and seeking to make it plain to the Sturgeon circle that he knew precisely how their scheme was supposed to operate’.

“He continued: ‘The notion that this cryptic, satirical article, described as fiction, on a personal blog, would influence a jury is fanciful. When compared to the absolute torrent of hostile mainstream media material fed by the Crown Office, as detailed above, and vicious social media comment, aimed at Alex Salmond, the fact that the Crown Office are prosecuting only an extremely rare news source sympathetic to Salmond is, in my view, deeply sinister…’

“The remainder of Murray’s submission compares his writing and commentary with other reporters, hostile to Salmond, offering far more explicit clues as to the identity of the accusers and none of whom have been accused of contempt of court. These include pieces by Dani Garavelli for Scotland on Sunday and news presenter Kirsty Wark’s The Trial of Alex Salmond for the BBC, both of which sought to rerun the trial, missing out defence witnesses whose evidence led to Salmond’s acquittal on all charges and giving the impression that the jury’s verdict was perverse.”

What does appear to have come out quite clearly is that all four complainants were members of Sturgeon’s inner circle.

One of the frustrating things about reporting on this case is that it is impossible to know what the complaints against Alex Salmond consisted of and whether there was the slightest merit in them. The fact that they only emerged four years after he had left office and five years after they were alleged to have occurred does cast doubt on their sincerity.

If we suppose that there was genuine cause for complaint, the Me Too movement – that is to such a considerable extent dominating the agenda as far as the treatment of women is concerned – does not distinguish at all between a hopeful pat on a fully-dressed knee and rape at gunpoint, or anything in between.

By and large, both men and women have little difficulty in dealing with a boozy pass from a member of the opposite sex at the office Christmas party, with ordinary christian charity demanding that everyone should pretend it never happened. Consequences only need to follow when the offender persists in the face of distinct lack of any encouragement and/or fails to comprehend the word No and desist accordingly.

Even then, unless there is rape, or reasonable fear of rape or other physical violation, the matter should normally be dealt with internally by means of warnings, abject apologies or sacking as appropriate, not by criminal prosecution, imprisonment or entries on the sex offenders’ register.

Unfortunately, we have no information about the actual events in this case, except that Alex Salmond was tried in a court of law and found to be not guilty. That being the case, nobody has the slightest right without proving it to air the view or throw out hints that Salmond should be ostracised as a sex pest.

Salmond’s real crime: inciting reactionary separatism among British workers

As we go to press, Alex Salmond has announced the creation of a new party, the Alba party, with himself at its head, that will seek to gather the support of the most fervent Scottish separatists in order to strengthen the hand of separatism in the Scottish parliament. Frankly, it is his obsession with dividing the British working class against itself via his poisonous nationalist ideology that he needs to be ostracised.

The Scottish National party, in order to curry favour with the electorate in advance of this May’s Scottish parliamentary elections, has put up a few showy gimmicks, such as being willing to give health workers a 4 percent pay rise against the miserly 1 percent proposed by Westminster, but in reality Scottish government in the hands of that party, both under Salmond and under Sturgeon, has not done well:

“During 14 years in power, evenly divided between Ms Sturgeon and her erstwhile mentor, the SNP has presided over plunging standards in education, record-breaking levels of drug deaths, declining satisfaction with public services and ebbing confidence in healthcare,” correctly noted a Times editorial on 24 March. (The Times view on the Salmond affair: Back to Business)

Of course, Westminster has done no better, but it is time for all British workers to face up to the fact that it is not the various ‘self-governing’ regional parliaments that are the problem but the single true-blue British imperialist capitalist class that pulls the strings of all of them, directing them to impose austerity and deprivation of all kinds on the masses of the workers in order to safeguard the wealth of the rich.