To Sir With Love

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Young actors in a Scottish Youth Theatre production

I was going to say this to Grouse Beater privately, but circumstances being what they are, I feel I should do it publically.

If you know me, you know I think the world of my mammy. She was, after all, the first Scottish Nationalist I ever met, and I met her before I was born. She supported Scottish independence even before she met my father.

Mammy did a spell in the Scottish Youth Theatre, (SYT), founded and run as the first artistic director by Gareth. Most of her pals at the time were Labour or Liberals depending on their income bracket – but my father’s sister was SNP. She was instrumental in my mammy joining, Gareth was another.

Back then, Scottish independence was a minority movement, a curiosity at best and a menace at worst. So independence supporters then stuck together. And my Mammy often told me about how much support she received from my aunt, and from Gareth himself, while she was at SYT.

My aunt passed away tragically many years ago. Mr McGillivray, who was mam’s link to Inverclyde’s SNP collective, also passed away.

Gareth is one of a small group of folk who brought my mammy into the Scottish Independence Movement – and, by extension, me. So, if nothing else, I want everyone to know that, through a few degrees of separation, Grouse Beater is one of the reasons I’ve dedicated so much of my time, life, and dreaming for Scottish Independence.

For that, I will be grateful forever, and will never forget. We will get there. Not in time to see it for Auntie Susan, nor Mr McGillivray, nor indeed for Grouse Beater – but they laid the bricks we’ll be climbing to that wonderful nation we dream of.

Thank you, Gareth. I hope we do you proud.

Al Harton

FOOTNOTE:

During the period the author talks about I was not a member of the SNP or any political party. That came in 2013 and ended in 2017, a year before the SNP began to implode and lose site of its reason for existing. Back in the day, my motivation was a growing understanding that Scotland was a colonised country, it’s progress suppressed and diverted. I tried to make folks see what I saw and experienced.

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Posted in Great Scots, Scottish Independence Referendum, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

SNP 2021 Draft Manifesto

This is the Draft Manifesto circulating among SNP branch groups. I publish it as received and without comment – I am not a member of the SNP since 2017 – pointing out only that the odd typos are not mine, so I leave uncorrected. I am told the draft is the composition of my old colleague, Mike Russell, now SNP President. I don’t believe it, so probably a hoax, but written by an SNP member of a loony unionist fly tipping?

We pledge to Protect Scotland’s Parliament and honour the will of the Scottish People.

Since at least 1320 it has been the accepted legal position in Scotland that it is the People of Scotland that are Sovereign and that all power wielded by our government is devolved to it by the People and with the consent of the People.

The form that government takes has changed many times in the intervening 700 years but the principle remains the same, all power flows ultimately from the People and their consent to be so governed.

Just over 20 years ago the People of Scotland instructed the UK parliament in Westminster to further devolve some of the powers they grant to it to a new Parliament closer to home at Holyrood.

A mere 6 years ago the People of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to make that parliament in Holyrood permanent, to never have its powers reduced, undermined, or removed by Westminster without their consent. Indeed they voted to greatly increase those powers and to enshrine in law the Sewell Convention that enforces Holyrood’s primacy over Westminster with respect to its devolved powers.

Since that date many new powers have come to Holyrood but the Tory government in Westminster, that has no Scottish mandate, has repeatedly chipped away at the powers of Holyrood and passed laws with devolved impacts over the express rejection of those laws by the Scottish People’s representatives both in Holyrood and Westminster. It has ignored the Scottish People’s elected representatives who voted against every single step of the EU Referendum process and has dragged Scotland out of the EU despite a clear instruction from the Scottish People not to do so.

With this manifesto the Scottish National Party explicitly seeks the authority of the People of Scotland to enact laws that protect the powers of the Parliament at Holyrood from further erosion, that enshrine in law the principle that Westminster may not pass laws that alter devolved law in Scotland without the consent of the Parliament at Holyrood or the consent of the Scottish People expressed in a clear referendum on the matter, and may call referendums on expanding the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament at any time, referendums that will carry the full force of the Sovereignty of the Scottish People.

Should the political parties that support this call represent a majority of Members of the Scottish Parliament after this election that will be interpreted as clear authority from the Sovereign Body in Scotland to enact said reforms protecting the Parliament at Holyrood and guaranteeing that the People of Scotland will always henceforth have the opportunity to express their wishes in a legally binding manner.

Hold a referendum on Scotland’s Future.

In 2016 the Scottish National Party sought election and formed a government in Scotland on the promise that should there be a sustained majority in favour of Independence or a material change in circumstances to those that prevailed in 2014, like being dragged out of the EU against the will of the Scottish People, we would seek to hold a further referendum on whether Scotland should become an Independent Nation again and chart its own course as part of the European family of Nations by the end of that parliament.

As each of those conditions has been met repeated requests have been made to Westminster to enable that referendum by temporarily devolving the power to explicitly do so through a Section 30 order as defined in the Scotland Act.

This manifesto represents our last and final request for those powers that the People of Scotland clearly voted for in 2016 to be granted to Holyrood by the mechanism of a Section 30 order.

Should that request not be fulfilled by the date of the election in May and should a majority of MSP’s committed to holding such a referendum be elected to Holyrood in that election the Scottish National Party will immediately move to pass legislation in Holyrood to hold such a referendum as soon as it is safe to do so.

The Scottish National Party will continue to press the UK government in Westminster to honour the will of the Scottish People to grant a Section 30 order and to participate in that referendum in good faith but we will not delay giving the People of Scotland the opportunity to express their will in this matter a moment longer than absolutely necessary.

The UK government can choose to honour Scottish constitutional law or continue to operate in flagrant breach of it. Its choices in this matter will speak volumes in the international community.

Regardless, the Scottish National Party will honour the wishes of the People of Scotland.

ENDS

Post Script

This ‘draft’ was dismissed as a hoax by an SNP spokesperson, but on Sunday the 14 March, the following was posted on Twitter by Chris Hanlon, SNP, one of the authors of the draft:

“Replying to @keithtribe, @GraceBrodie and @Feorlean –

Sorry Keith, I thought I had made it very plain that the document in question was not a ‘draft manifesto’ but a rough draft of a proposal circulated as a discussion document intended to inform the manifesto development process.”

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Posted in Scottish Independence Referendum | 17 Comments

Alex Salmond: A Statement

Alex Salmond inquiry: Everything you need to know so far | Evening Standard
The Right Honorable Alex Salmond

STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF ALEX SALMOND 

“The documents released tonight confirm that sisting (postponing) the Judicial Review was indeed under active consideration by the Scottish Government in September 2018.”

John Swinney must now be the only person in Scotland who believes that the piecemeal release of these extraordinary legal documents have done anything other than demolish the Government’s pretence that they were not warned months in advance that they were on course to lose the judicial review. The more they release the more threadbare the government’s position becomes. We look forward to further revelations in tomorrow’s instalment.

The real question he has to answer is why they kept running down the clock and running up the bills, long after they were warned of the position by external counsel in the starkest of terms.

A witness statement supplied to the Inquiry this week by Alex Salmond, demonstrates that the prospect of the criminal investigation overtaking the judicial review was well known among special advisers and SNP officials by November 2018.

External counsel were specifically asked in September by the Government to consider whether they  “should seek to have the judicial review proceedings sisted pending the outcome of any police investigation” and on September 4 said “we can see strength in the argument that the criminal investigation may make the entire petition pointless: if there is a criminal conviction then surely the case would not proceed.”

On September 17th the Lord Advocate advised in favour of reporting restrictions instead. In the event it was Alex Salmond’s legal team who moved for these reporting restrictions on 4th October 2018 in front of Lord Pentland. The Government were not even represented at the hearing.

Mr Salmond has never argued that the Lord Advocate was involved in accelerating the criminal case to overtake the judicial review. Indeed in his evidence last Friday he argued exactly the opposite.

What he has stated is two things;

Firstly, that the prospects of sisting was in wide discussion in September 2018. The Committee has not been given all of the documents by the Government but if they serve a notice on Mr Salmond’s lawyers they will be provided with the ones they hold. The Crown Office have blocked their release up until now.

Secondly, that it had become common knowledge among special advisers and SNP officials in November 2018 that the judicial review was going to succeed but that it could be overtaken by the criminal investigation if it were sufficiently advanced.

Mr Salmond at the Committee’s request, submitted a witness statement yesterday which corroborates that position. 

In contrast to the Scottish Government, Mr Salmond has provided, or offered to provide, documentary evidence to back every statement he has made to the Inquiry”

Appendix 1

In his oral evidence session Mr Salmond said;

“Sisting was being examined by the Lord Advocate because, quite clearly, you would expect him, as the Government’s legal adviser, to be looking at that—and not just Mr Cackette and others; it would be very important for those to see it. I am not suggesting for a second that the Lord Advocate was engaged in thinking, therefore, “We should accelerate the criminal case in order to avoid defeat in the civil case.” I am not suggesting that for a second. I am merely suggesting that there was widespread knowledge by November 2018 that the judicial review was going to fail, on the part of the Government, and that there was a prospect of it being sisted if the criminal case came to a moment before the judicial review hearing in January 2019.”

Appendix 2

Documents released from 4 September 2018 

Note from External Counsel

27. we have been asked for our views on whether the respondents should seek to have the judicial review proceedings sisted pending the outcome of any police investigation and/or criminal proceedings that may follow the investigation 

35. we can also see strength in the argument that the criminal investigation may make the entire petition pointless: if there is a criminal conviction then surely this case will not proceed; and if there is a trial and an acquittal then the Ministers would be faced with a very different situation than that which presently obtains”

ENDS 

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Posted in Scottish Politics | 19 Comments

I Am A Man

Seven of the most beautiful glens to visit on a Scottish day trip - Daily  Record

I Am A Man

I am a man. I am a man who is fighting for his rights.

I fight for the rights of every man in my homeland.

And every woman and every child, and those who want none,

The apathetic who will be richer from my struggle.

I am the sun’s balm, and the blood that flows within us.

I am the breeze that caresses the rocks and stones,

Whispering chapter, verse, the stories of our ancestors.

I am the scriever and the dominie and the wisdom of ages,

The planter of barley and the harvester of fruit.

I am the protector, and the bringer of hope.

I am your reflection in the flinty peat pool.

I am forever vigilant, the passing shadow of the eagle

Gliding ghost-like across the frost at your feet.

And when I die I shall be the seed in the earth.

I am a man. I am a man who is fighting for his rights.

I am the thistle in the conscience of my oppressor.

I will not be ignored.

(c) Gareth – February 2021

Composed while lying in a hospital bed of the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, and dedicated to the leadership of Alex Salmond who gave my nation the right to choose, and kindled justice in my belly.

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Posted in Great Scots | 38 Comments

Salmond: Inquiry Submission

This is a copy of the written submission made by the former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond. It contains redactions as published by the Scottish Parliament on 22nd February 2021. There is a clear and overriding public interest in seeing his submission despite the attempts by the “institutionally corrupt” Crown Office, along with others, to suppress the content.)

Submission of Alex Salmond

Introduction

This is my fourth submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry. It should be read in addition to, and in conjunction with, the three other previous submissions. Those prior submissions relate to the application of the procedure (phase 2), the Judicial Review (phase 3) and the Ministerial Code (phase 4).

This final document accordingly includes an introduction and overview of matters linking each of the four individual submissions

It thereafter includes submissions on

1. phase 1 of the Inquiry.

2. the question of ‘conspiracy’

3. Crown Office

Documentary evidence exists to support all of the factual statements made in this submission. I have sought to provide that to the Committee where it is within my power to do so. Despite repeated requests, however, Crown Office has not provided the Committee with the critical evidence which was unable to be led in the High Court. Perhaps even more concerning is the direction from Crown Office that I face the prospect of criminal prosecution for even referring to the existence of such evidence or specifying (even in broad terms) what that evidence is. One of their letters even suggested that the Committee’s use of such documentation might also constitute a criminal offence.

My hope and belief, expressed outside the High Court in Edinburgh after my acquittal, was that documents which were not put before the jury and the public would be published in the course of this Inquiry. To date, and despite the centrality of those documents to the remit of this Committee and the overwhelming public interest in their publication, Crown Office continue to veto any such publication under threat of prosecution.

Despite that deplorable prohibition, I can confirm that all of the material factual statements made in this submission are supported by documentary evidence. Where I am legally allowed to direct the Committee to such documents, I will be happy to do so.

Overview

The Committee has achieved progress in the volume of documentation supplied.

However it has been fundamentally obstructed in three key areas.

First on the legal advice which the Government received from external counsel in the Judicial Review. In normal circumstances the extraordinary discovery by this Committee that both Senior and Junior Counsel to the Government threatened resignation because the case they were being asked to argue was unstateable would have been headline news. However, despite two parliamentary votes, the full advice from Counsel hasn’t been provided to the Committee. It is extraordinary that the Lord Advocate, who could sanction such advice being published, has refused to do so. The legal provision for him to publish in the public interest is clear. Inexplicably, the Lord Advocate has been able to simply refuse that request and to get away with doing so in the face of the will of the Committee and of Parliament. Despite that, it appears from what has emerged that by October 2018 external counsel advised the Government that, on the balance of probability, they were heading for likely defeat. And yet, despite that advice and the cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds of avoidable legal fees, the Scottish Government pressed on with a case they expected to lose. This submission explains why.

Second the restriction arises as a result of the failure of the Government to provide documents from when the Judicial Review started in August 2018 until the Scottish Government finally conceded in January 2019. There were 17 meetings with external Counsel, daily meetings on progress of defending the Judicial Review (according to Paul Cackette, acting Solicitor to the Scottish Government during the case) and thrice weekly meetings according to Ms Judith Mackinnon, the Investigating Officer. However, the Committee has yet to publish (or to my knowledge see) a single relevant minute, email, text message or ‘One Note’ from that entire period relating to those meetings despite being assured that such documents would be provided. Of particular interest to the Committee would be the extent to which various parties were informed of the progress of the case and in particular whether the Lord Advocate’s expressed views on “sisting” (pausing) the Judicial Review pending the criminal case were discussed, how widely and with whom.

Thirdly, the crown response to the section 23 request has hindered rather than assisted the Committee. The information provided was neither sought nor publishable by the Committee. Those in Crown Office providing that information must have been well aware of that. However, text messages which could be properly considered and published and which have been part of the Committee’s questioning and would bear directly on the veracity of evidence given under oath to this Committee have been withheld. The blocking of the Committee in this matter and others is nothing whatsoever to do with protecting the anonymity of complainants, which I support and have upheld at every stage in this process. Rather, it is a matter of the shielding of some of the most powerful people in the country who are acutely aware of how exposed they would become.

The Parliamentary Committee has already heard evidence of activities by civil servants, special advisers, Ministers and SNP officials which taken individually could be put down to incompetence, albeit on an epic scale. However taken together, and over such a prolonged period, it becomes impossible to explain such conduct as inadvertent co-incidence. The inescapable conclusion is of a malicious and concerted attempt to damage my reputation and remove me from public life in Scotland. It is an attempt which would, in fact, have succeeded but for the protection of the court and jury system and in particular the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary.

However, underlying all of this and perhaps the most serious issue of all is the complete breakdown of the necessary barriers which should exist between Government, political party and indeed the prosecution authorities in any country which abides by the rule of law.

In each of the written submissions under Phases 1-4 of the Inquiry remit I have sought to explore those themes, and identify evidence to assist the Committee in doing its job holding the Executive to account.

The success, or failure, of this Committee in doing so will have a very significant bearing on public confidence in the ability of Parliament more generally to expose failures across Government. The ramifications of a Committee unable to complete its work due to delay, obstruction and refusal on the part of those under investigation are both profound and chilling.

Phase 1

In relation to Phase 1, I am asked for evidence regarding the development of the policy.

I would make the following general comments, on which I will be very happy to expand in oral evidence.

1) Fairness at Work

The Committee has heard evidence on the origins of the Fairness at Work Policy 2010 (‘FaW’). As First Minister I approved the policy and, in contrast to any other witnesses before this Inquiry, I was actually involved in its development. Implementation of the policy was achieved with the co-operation of the trade unions and I was pleased to be the First Minister who sanctioned its adoption.

As Appendix 1 from a Management Board meeting of 23 November 2009 makes clear, it was not evolved as a result of specific complaints about Ministers at the time but reflected long standing trade union grievances about Ministerial Offices stretching back to the days of the Scottish Office. FaW was the first workplace policy to include Ministers and I approved it on the basis that it was made compatible with the statute based Ministerial Code in which the First Minister is the final decision maker on the fate of a Minister facing a complaint. This was done by placing the Deputy First Minister in the deliberative part of the policy. The result was that only after a recommendation had been made would the First Minister finally decide. This was aimed at avoiding him or her judging twice on the same case. The policy was negotiated over a period of 18 months, was carefully constructed, balanced and lawful. It was well received by all concerned.

In the event there were no formal complaints made against any Minister under the policy and thus it was never invoked. Specifically and to my knowledge the present First Minister was never informed about any complaints against me because there were none. Similarly I was never informed about any complaints against her or any other Minister under the terms of this policy because there were none.

In the evidence of Ms Richards (25th August 2020) she revealed that there have been two complaints under FaW against current Ministers since 2017. Presumably these will have been dealt with under the FaW provisions including the involvement of John Swinney as Deputy First Minister.

This Committee is charged with finding out what went wrong. It should also look at what can be done now to put matters right.

Fairness at Work, of which the Permanent Secretary admitted in her evidence (in response to Ms Mitchell on 18th August 2020) to “not being an expert”, is in reality a carefully considered policy which is still in operation for the civil service and for serving Ministers with regard to bullying complaints. The Permanent Secretary’s extraordinary claim in the same evidence session that it does not cover harassment can only be a result of her admitted lack of familiarity with the policy. In reality it covers this explicitly in paragraph 3.2.1. As recently as December 2017 FaW was hailed by the unions in a letter to the Permanent Secretary as an achievement “of which we all should rightly be proud and something that sets up as being more assiduous than our counterparts down south” ([Redacted] FDA Convener) FaW is legal, not illegal. It is procedurally fair, not unfair. It was carefully considered, not rushed. It achieved the central longstanding workforce ambition of having Ministers on the same footing as civil service managers. No doubt it can be updated and improved but the current position of limbo is ridiculous.

The concept of a civil service investigation into people over which they have no legitimate jurisdiction is nonsensical and the idea of passing the results to the relevant political party for action is self- evidently ludicrous. If legal action wasn’t taken against the government it would inevitably follow against any political party which attempted to proceed with any form of disciplinary action on such an unlawful basis.

Fairness At Work should be reinstated at the earliest opportunity pending the Dunlop review.

2) The Development of the 2017 Procedure

The Committee has already clearly established that there was no discussion or information presented to either Parliament or Cabinet on the 31st October 2017 of extending work place 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. And of course it was not carried forward in any other administration in the U.K. and was opposed by [Redacted] of the UK Cabinet Office when they were briefly consulted on the proposal later in November 2017. As she wryly asked the Scottish Government at that time, was there also to be such a retrospective policy for former civil servants? Nor was the new policy signalled in any of the internal communications with staff until February 2018.

The claim of the Government is that it came about independently from James Hynd who was tasked with drafting the policy and delivered the first draft applying ONLY to Former Ministers on November 8th 2017. However the previous day Ms McKinnon had circulated a “routemap” of a policy which also suggested applying to former Ministers. Mr Hynd reacted to that on 8th November saying that “neither of the pathways involving Ministers look right”.

It is stretching credibility to believe that this radical departure from all previous policy in the Scottish (or any other) administration was simultaneously and independently dreamed up by two separate civil servants. This is despite Mr Hynd telling the Committee on August 25th 2020 that he started with “a blank sheet of paper”. In one of the many letters to the Committee from civil servants correcting their evidence, Ms Mackinnon conceded on October 31 2020 that these things were “happening in parallel”. Indeed they were and there was a common factor. That common factor is the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans whose office was deeply involved in directing the work of both James Hynd on his policy and Ms Mackinnon on her route map.

In addition we know now that Ms Evans went to see the First Minister on November 6th about her information that Sky News were about to run a story concerning Edinburgh airport. I am now in the position to know exactly what this issue was about and the Permanent Secretary’s fears that it was about to break as a major story were groundless. However in the febrile atmosphere of November 2017 a sense of proportion and due process was in short supply.

In reality I had spent 30 years in public life in Scotland and for most of that time was certainly the most investigated person in the country by the press. It is inherently unlikely that misconduct had remained unreported and undiscovered over such a period. Mr Murrell confirmed in his evidence to this Committee that he had never heard of any such complaint against me in my entire time in politics and the First Minister confirmed this on BBC television to Andrew Marr on 7th October 2018.

Regardless, the chronology revealed by the evidence tells us that the Permanent Secretary briefed the First Minister on 6th November 2017 on the proposed story involving Edinburgh Airport. Further, the Permanent Secretary was contacted by Barbara Allison about a separate concern from a former civil servant on November 8th 2017. Having briefed the First Minister on the first of these it might be considered unlikely that she did not brief her on the second. In that context, the notion that a policy instructed immediately afterwards which specifically, and uniquely, extended to cover allegations against former ministers is co-incidental and unrelated is hardly sustainable.

If further confirmation of the basis for the policy were needed, the Committee has evidence of two directly political interventions at this stage.

First, the Chief of Staff to the First Minister drafted a specific amendment on 17 November 2017 which amended the commissioning letter instructing the policy proposing the wording “but also former Ministers, including from previous administrations regardless of Party”. This was in an email to Leslie Evans’ Private Secretary. It is impossible to accept that such a radical expansion of the jurisdiction of the Scottish Government to cover not just former ministers of the current administration but also those of previous administrations (many of whom are no longer even in elected office never mind in Government) was not specifically inserted to allow the complaint against me to be prosecuted.

The second political intervention was when the First Minister and the Permanent Secretary reached agreement, perhaps at their meeting on November 29th but certainly before December 5th 2017, that the policy should be recast in order that FM should be taken out of the policy proper and only consulted or even informed after the process was complete. This was a fundamental change in the policy.

The timing of this is significant. When the Permanent Secretary agreed with the First Minister that she should take over as key decision maker in terms of this new policy she was already aware of the developing complaints against me. Therefore she put herself at the centre of a policy in the full knowledge that I would likely be the first (and perhaps only given the subsequent declaration of illegality) subject of its implementation. Doing so from a position of already being tainted by bias is an extraordinary decision.

Despite her protestations to the contrary the Permanent Secretary was chiefly responsible for the pursuit of an unlawful policy which has cost the Scottish people millions of pounds.

In her letter of 21st June 2018 to Levy and McRae she describes the policy as “established by me”. She claimed ownership of it then, but not now. When asked at the Committee she said “there seems to have come into being a tradition of calling it my procedure. It is not; it is a Scottish Government procedure and one that has been agreed by Cabinet..” In fact, this procedure was never even seen by Cabinet or Parliament. It was established by Ms Evans.

In her presentations before the Committee, the Permanent Secretary still seems oblivious to the scale of the disaster she has inflicted on all concerned or the enormity of the misjudgements she has made.

The view that she should have resigned on 8th January 2019, the day that Lord Pentland’s interlocutor judged the policy Ms Evans established and the actions taken as “unlawful”, “unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias” is widely shared not least by Cabinet Ministers. The damage she has done to the reputation of the civil service is very significant. In my view, any person conscious of the responsibility of holding high office would have resigned long ago. Instead Ms Evans’ contract was extended.

3) The role of the Investigating Officer

As the Committee has already discovered the “prior contact” of the Investigating Officer with the complainants was not “welfare”, as was indicated to Parliament, but was specifically contact about emerging complaints, weeks before the policy under which they were to be pursued was even approved.

The Committee has already established that complainants were informed that Ms McKinnon would be appointed the Investigating Officer in early December 2017, long before complaints were actually made. The Committee has further established that the draft policy was even shared with one complainant for her comment and that Ms Mackinnon was in contact with both complainants to discuss the basis on which future complaints might be submitted under the policy.

Documentation which finally emerged at the Commission and Diligence ordered by the Court of Session at the end of December 2018 demonstrated that the Government pleadings were false in terms of the nature of this contact. This has been admitted by the Lord Advocate in his evidence to the Inquiry on 8th September 2020. Again, such conduct appears to carry no sanction. These are serious matters, especially so for a Government making statements to a public court.

For example the “OneNote” from Judith McKinnon dated January 9th 2018, and revealed as a result of the Commission process, speaks to “changing” the position of a reluctant complainant, the sharing of complaints, and of it “being better to get the policy finalised and approved before formal complaint comes in” and of not telling the FFM until we are “ready”. It is this information that was completely at odds with the government pleadings in the Judicial Review and indeed stands in stark contrast with the oral evidence presented to the Committee.

These practices are not just wrong, they are an affront to the principles which underpin workplace and human resources policy across the country. The Committee has made reference to ACAS guidance at various stages of the Inquiry. How such conduct could even be contemplated by an individual employed at significant public expense and with a string of HR qualifications remains to be explained.

Watching the evidence before the Committee, it is apparent to me that even after having conduct declared illegal in the Court of Session, those at fault in the civil service still cannot accept the fact that they did something seriously wrong. In reality behaving unlawfully is as serious as it gets for any public servant.

The repeated claim that the terminology somehow changed for the first to the final drafts of the procedure thus causing confusion for those implementing the policy is not just irrelevant (since it is only the final version that matters) it is also untrue.

In fact one of the very few unchanged provisions in the policy as it went through numerous drafts and redrafts between November 8th to the final iteration on December 20 2017 was that the Senior Officer/ Investigating Officer should have “no prior involvement”.

Nor is it credible that the claim that the need for impartiality of an investigating officer or equivalent was misunderstood. On the contrary, both James Hynd (10th November 2017) offering 3 names at “arms length” and Judith McKinnon (7th November 2017) seeking to engage an “independent party to investigate” recognised this at an early stage.

Whether that person came from the broader civil service or outside it is secondary. Perceived freedom from bias is an easily understood concept which is well established in common law and in workplace policy. The appointment of Judith McKinnon in this light was always wrong and is incomprehensible particularly in the face of the fact that she has confirmed before this Committee that the nature of her prior contact with the complainants was well known and indeed sanctioned among her colleagues and line managers.

When the fact of it was discovered by the Government’s external Counsel (and even after the duty of candour was explained to government lawyers by them on November 2nd and then by the court on November 6th, both 2018) the attempt was still made in pleadings to present it as “welfare” contact.

The documents which demonstrated this to be false had to be extracted from the Government by a Commission and Diligence procedure under the authority of the court as granted by Lord Pentland. The documents then produced under that procedure emerged despite the Government being willing to certify to the Court that these documents simply did not exist. That conduct is outrageous for a Government. At the Commission itself, Senior Counsel for the Government (himself blameless for the debacle) felt compelled to apologise to the court repeatedly as new batches of documents emerged.

It is highly probable that had this documentation not been concealed from the court (and from the Governments own counsel) the falsity of the Government’s pleadings would have been avoided. The fact that even after the Government case collapsed, misinformation then appeared in both a press release from the Permanent Secretary and the First Minister’s statement to Parliament of 8th January 2019 speaks to an organisation unable and unwilling to admit the truth even after a catastrophic defeat, the terms of which they had conceded to the Court of Session.

The interests of the complainants

I also want to make a submission about the claims by the Scottish Government to have promoted the interests of the women who raised complaints. That is, on the evidence before the Committee, clearly false.

The Permanent Secretary claimed to the Committee that the interests of the complainants were paramount in the Government thinking. This is very far from the case. The complainants were brought into the process by conduct “bordering on encouragement” as it was submitted by my Senior Counsel to Lord Pentland in the Judicial Review.

The complainants were assured that they would be in control of the process and that any police involvement would be their choice. This assurance has been stipulated from the earliest origins of the policy (eg Nicola Richards’ email to Permanent Secretary of 23 November 2017) and remained in place until the Permanent Secretary countermanded it in her instruction to Ms Richards to send her decision report to the Crown Agent in August 2018, a move taken against the direct wishes of the complainants.

They were offered the option of making “anonymous complaints” for which there is no provision in the policy. However, when it came to actually protecting the anonymity of the complainants through a court order in the Judicial Review in October 2018 the Government was not even represented by Counsel in court. It was, in fact, me who instructed Counsel to seek that anonymity on the part of the women concerned.

The investigation was carried out against the advice of the police who pointed out that the Scottish Government were not competent to conduct the investigation. This has been made available to the Committee in the police evidence from the Chief Constable.

The reports to the Crown Office (instead of the police) were made against the express wishes of both complainants and in direct conflict with the terms of the policy at paragraph 19.

The leak of the story to the Daily Record on August 23 2018 was made with no consideration of the impact on the complainants, impact which the Permanent Secretary described in her evidence as causing considerable distress to all concerned. That, of course, was in itself in direct contravention of the confidentiality of the process promised to the complainants, and also to me.

However, it had been the Permanent Secretary’s own intention, despite police advice to the contrary, to issue a press statement confirming the fact of the complaints on Thursday 23 August 2018. This Committee’s remit is to examine the actions of those in authority. Accordingly the conduct of the Permanent Secretary and the civil servants and special advisers involved is important. To claim, as the Scottish Government has done, that the wishes and welfare of those who had made complaints were central to the decision making is demonstrably untrue.

The leak to the Daily Record

In my view, the circumstances of the leak of the details of the complaints to the Daily Record on 23rd/24th August 2018 should be thoroughly examined. It is highly likely that the leak came from within the Scottish Government and, in all likelihood, from one of the Special Advisers to the First Minister. The background facts may assist.

The Permanent Secretary instructed her staff to send her Decision Report to the Crown Agent on or about August 21st 2018.

The Crown Agent, according to the police informed them of the Government’s intention to release a story of the fact of the complaints to the press and the Chief Constable and another senior officer advised against it and refused to accept a copy of the report. We know, therefore, that the desire of the Scottish Government to get these matters into the public domain is fully supported by evidence.

Despite this police advice, two days later the Government informed my legal team they intended to release a statement at 5pm on Thursday 23 August 2018. We advised that we would interdict the statement pending our Judicial Review petition and the statement was withdrawn. On the strength of that undertaking, we didn’t require to seek interdict.

We were then informed at around 4pm that the Daily Record newspaper had phoned the Scottish Government press office with knowledge of the story but had no confirmation. At 8pm, the Record phoned and then emailed at 8.16pm claiming confirmation had now been given and broke the story at 10pm. The second story they printed on Saturday 23rd August 2018 contained specific details from the complaints and demonstrates that they also had access to the Permanent Secretary’s decision report or an extract from it.

This leak was (according to the ICO) prima facie criminal, deeply damaging to my interests and those of the complainants and a direct contravention of the assurances of confidentiality given to all. After I formally complained to the ICO, the conclusion of the ICO reviewer assessing these facts was that she was “sympathetic to the thesis that the leak came from a Government employee”. The only reason no further action could be taken was because the specific individual could not be identified without police investigation. I intend to return to that police complaint when this Committee has concluded its review. I should say that I am confident that I know the identity of those involved in the leak.

John Somers, The Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister confirmed that her office had received a copy of the Permanent Secretary’s report in evidence on 1st December 2020. However, that evidence was then corrected to say that it had not been received. However, that is difficult to reconcile with the ICO review report (paragraph 4.8) which list the PPS, and therefore The Private Office as one of the stakeholders “who has access to the internal misconduct investigation report”.

It is unlikely that a leak to the Daily Record came from mainstream civil service. The overwhelming likelihood is that it came from a Special Adviser to the First Minister who had access to the report or an extract from it which was the basis of the Daily Record story of August 25th 2018.

The question of ‘conspiracy’

It has been a matter of considerable public interest whether there was ‘a conspiracy’. I have never adopted the term but note that the Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as ‘the activity of secretly planning with other people to do something bad or illegal.’ I leave to others the question of what is, or is not, a conspiracy but am very clear in my position that the evidence supports a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned.

That includes, for the avoidance of doubt, Peter Murrell (Chief Executive), Ian McCann (Compliance officer) and Sue Ruddick (Chief Operating Officer) of the SNP together with Liz Lloyd, the First Minister’s Chief of Staff. There are others who, for legal reasons, I am not allowed to name.

The most obvious and compelling evidence of such conduct is contained within the material crown office refuses to release. That decision is frankly disgraceful. Refusing to allow the Committee to see that material both denies me the opportunity to put the full truth before the Committee and the public, and makes it impossible for the Committee to complete its task on a full sight of the relevant material. The only beneficiaries of that decision to withhold evidence are those involved in conduct designed to damage (and indeed imprison) me.

From a very early stage in the Judicial Review the Government realised that they were at risk of losing. By October they were told by external counsel that on the balance of probability they would likely lose. This is the legal advice they have hidden from the Committee in defiance of two parliamentary votes.

As the Committee has heard in evidence there were 17 meetings of the Committee formed to monitor and plan the Scottish Government defence of the Judicial Review between August 2018 and January 2019. Paul Cackette in his evidence said that there were daily meetings while Ms Mackinnon suggested three times a week. Despite this information being offered at the evidence session of 1st December no information has been received by the Committee of any of these meetings. I believe there have to be such emails which show the Lord Advocate’s advice on the possibilities of sisting (pausing) the Judicial Review behind the criminal case. The advantage of doing so in a context where the Judicial Review was likely to be lost was clear. Any adverse comment or publicity about the illegality of the Scottish Government actions would be swept away in the publicity of my arrest and subsequent criminal proceedings.

It became common knowledge in government, special advisers and the SNP that the Judicial Review was in trouble for the Government and the hope was that police action would mean that it never came to court, that the JR would be overtaken by the criminal investigation.

In evidence Ms Allison on 15th September 2020 specifically denied that the Scottish Government had any role in contacting potential witnesses or former civil servants after the police investigation had started on August 23rd 2018. This is not true.

I enclose at appendix 2 a copy of an unsolicited email sent by Ms Allison herself to an ex Scottish Government employee on August 27th who then received a further unsolicited email from Ms Ruddick of the SNP the following day (appendix 3) The individual concerned, who provided a defence statement, had never even been a member of the SNP. I believe her contact details were given to Ms Allison by a Government Special Adviser.

Another Special Adviser was in contact with the majority of people who thereafter became complainants in the criminal trial, shortly after the story being leaked to the Daily Record on August 23rd 2018.

In his evidence session of 8 February 2021 Mr Murrell spoke of the letter sent by the FM round all SNP members on 27th August 2018. I pause briefly to note that despite the email reaching 100,000 members, not one complaint about me was received in response. However, what he did not disclose was the email round SNP staff and ex staff members sent by his Chief Operating Officer from late August 2018 (enclosed as appendix 3). This email was sent selectively. Some staff members were targeted and sent it. Others were not.

The recruitment of names to receive this email provoked opposition. Appendix 4 shows the refusal of a senior member of the SNP administrative team at Westminster to supply names to HQ. The staff member expressed the view that she was not prepared to take part in an obvious “witch-hunt” which would be incompatible with her professional responsibilities as a lawyer. At Appendix 5 I enclose the terms of an affidavit of the staff member who has agreed to have it shared with the Committee. What is clear is that even at the time of the initial trawl for potentially supportive individuals, there was profound disquiet about the ethics and legality of the approach.

In addition to advocating the “pressurising” of the police (those text messages are public and before the Committee), Mr Murrell deployed his senior staff to recruit and persuade staff and ex staff members to submit police complaints. This activity was being co-ordinated with special advisers and was occurring after the police investigation had started and after I ceased to be a member of the SNP. From the description of the material released to the Committee under section 23 it is clear that any supporting evidence establishing this point was not shared with the Committee by the crown office. Why?

It was clear that defeat in the Judicial Review would have severe consequences. Cabinet Ministers thought it should lead to the resignation of the Permanent Secretary. The Special Adviser most associated with the policy believed that her job was in jeopardy and accordingly sought to change press releases in light of that. The First Minister’s team felt threatened by the process as did the civil service. The documentary evidence shows that special advisers were using civil servants and working with SNP officials in a fishing expedition to recruit potential complainants. This activity was taking place from late August 2018 to January 2019, after the police investigation had started.

The Judicial Review cannot be viewed in isolation. The effect of it, and its likely result of a defeat for the Scottish Government led to the need to escalate these matters to the police, even if that meant doing so entirely against the wishes of the two women who had raised concerns. The Permanent Secretary’s “we’ve lost the battle but not the war” message of January 8th 2019 to Ms Allison whilst on holiday in the Maldives is not (as she tried to claim) a general appeal for equality but rather shows her knowledge that there were further proceedings to come and her confidence that the criminal procedure would render such a loss in the Court of Session irrelevant. I note in passing, that such language is, in any event, totally incompatible with the role of a professional civil servant.

The Role of the Crown Office

The Crown Office has intervened three times to deny this Committee information for which it has asked.

This has been done by reliance on legislation which was never designed to obstruct the work of a Parliamentary Committee acting in the public interest and investigating the actions of the Scottish Government. I know this to be true because I was First Minister when the legislation was passed in 2010. The true purpose of s. 162 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 was to prevent witness statements falling into the hands of the accused and being used to intimidate or exert retribution on witnesses and further because of instances of evidence ending up held or disposed of in an insecure fashion. The basis of the legislation was Lord Coulsfield’s Report (2007) and the intent was to clarify the legal requirements of disclosure and to establish practical arrangements to prevent the misuse of disclosure. Thus section 162 (and 163) had nothing whatsoever to do with preventing relevant evidence being presented to a parliamentary Committee and its misinterpretation as such by the Crown Office is a profoundly disquieting development which strikes at the heart of the parliamentary system of accountability.

On 17th September 2020 the Crown Office said that our proposal to the Committee to identify the existence of documents which had not been provided by the Government but which had been disclosed to me in the criminal case would be covered by Section 163 of the 2010 Act that “any person who knowingly uses or discloses information in contravention of section 162 commits an offence”

Just in case we did not get the message he repeated the same point on 3 November 2020. On 17th December 2020 the Crown’s representative went further to block information specifically requested by the Committee “For you or your client to accede to the request of the clerk to the Committee would require both the use and disclosure of said information. As such what is proposed would amount to a clear breach of section 162 which, by reference to section 163 would amount to a criminal offence”.

He then appears to suggest that the Committee itself would be in danger of prosecution if we had acceded to the clerk’s request.

“Further, any person who received such information from you or your client would also be in breach of section 162, and consequently section 163, if they use or disclose that information. In these circumstances I do not consider what is proposed is acceptable”

This is a letter from an unelected official citing legislation passed by this Parliament for quite different reasons and using it to deny information to a Committee of elected parliamentarians. Some of the information we intended to provide included Government documents which should have been provided to the Committee in the first place. This position is extraordinary and totally unacceptable.

Given this attitude to disclosure by the Scottish Government and Crown Office, it becomes highly surprising that when this Committee exerted section 23 powers to require documents it was given irrelevant information for which it had not asked and could never be published while relevant information remained undisclosed. It is also clear that Government SPADS were briefing the media on this information before members had even seen it. This is not the behaviour of a prosecution department independent of government influence.

The Lord Advocate said in his evidence on 17th November 2020 that he thought the Committee has seen this correspondence. As far as I am aware this is not the case Nevertheless, I am happy now to provide that correspondence if the Committee so wishes. In his latest letter of 8th February the Lord Advocate pointedly fails to answer the specific question from the Committee Convener of 3rd February seeking confirmation that all Government records had been provided.

As was glaringly clear from his evidence and his inability to address the most basic of questions, his denial of provision of the legal advice of external counsel, his costly delay in settling the case, his refusal to confirm what the Committee eventually found out that both Counsel threatened to resign from the case, the Lord Advocate is deeply compromised between his twin roles as head of prosecutions and chief government legal adviser.

However the matter goes further yet. The Permanent Secretary has confirmed in evidence to the Committee that the referral to the crown office was contrary to the express wishes of the complainants. In spite of his protestations that he recused himself from anything to do with the criminal investigation. I believe that the Committee should ask the Lord Advocate directly whether he instructed two unwilling complainants to make police statements.

Secondly the Committee has heard of the highly unusual route via the Crown Agent that the Permanent Secretary ordered her staff, against the wishes of the complainants, to present her report to the Chief Constable. Crown Agent David Harvie’s line manager at that time was Leslie Evans, the Permanent Secretary.

The Crown Office under current leadership is a department simply not fit for purpose.

Summary

The procedure was devised when the Permanent Secretary, as decision maker, had knowledge of emerging complaints against me. From the outset the Permanent Secretary was compromised and should not have taken on that role.

The procedure was unsound not just in its implementation but in its genesis. It was devised “at pace”, probably with the purpose of progressing complaints against me and certainly without proper care or regard to its legality or effective consultation with the unions.

The documents disclosed to the Committee demonstrate further serious abuses of process by both the Investigating Officer and the Permanent Secretary.

In a further breach of the duty of candour the Government owed to the Court, those documents were not made available at Judicial Review.

The Investigating Officer had not just “prior involvement”, but subsequently regular contact with the complainants of a nature and level which was self-evidently inconsistent with that of an impartial official.

The Permanent Secretary who in her own words “established” the procedure met or spoke to both complainants on multiple occasions (including in mid process) and failed to disclose this in either the civil or criminal case.

The procedure was conceptually flawed and would have collapsed on principle even if it had been properly implemented. It is a retrospective, hybrid policy, which claims jurisdiction over private citizens who might have no connection whatsoever with the Scottish Government and shows complete confusion between the legitimate roles of Government and political parties.

It is demonstrably unfair. It transgresses the most basic principles of natural justice in not even allowing the person complained about the right to prepare their own defence. In addition, the Permanent Secretary denied access to civil servants, witness statements or even my diaries until they were pursued in a subject access request.

The Government was aware at a very early stage that they were at significant risk of defeat in the Judicial Review, and by October 2018 were advised that, on the balance of probabilities, they were likely to lose. Nevertheless they kept the clock running and the public ended up paying over £600,000 as a result.

This information on likely defeat in the JR was communicated to key decision makers – the Permanent Secretary, First Minster, the Lord Advocate, the Chief of Staff- in meetings with external Counsel through October and November 2018.

The interests of complainants were disregarded by the Government in refusing mediation initially without consultation, being given no consultation whatsoever on the possibility of arbitration, being given false assurances on the Government accepting their clear view against reporting matters to the police and then sending the report to the Crown Office against their express wishes. The Government didn’t even instruct counsel to attend court for the procedural hearing to address my application to guarantee the anonymity of complainants.

The Crown Office has blocked key information coming to this Inquiry by wilfully misinterpreting legislation designed for other purposes.

The Lord Advocate is manifestly conflicted in his roles as both Government legal adviser and prosecutor.

The advice of the Lord Advocate at one stage included, for example, the option of sisting (pausing) the Judicial Review to allow a criminal case to overtake the JR proceedings. A consequence of this happening would have been to protect the government from the catastrophic damage arising from losing the judicial review and a finding of unlawful conduct.

This prospect provided an incentive and imperative for the recruiting and encouragement of police complaints from others.

This was done by the closest advisers to the First Minister and senior SNP officials actively involving civil servants AFTER the police investigation had started.The Permanent Secretary ordered her decision report to be sent to the Crown Agent, David Harvie, against the terms of the policy and the wishes of the complainants. At that time I understand that she was his line manager.

Against police advice the Permanent Secretary decided to press release the fact of complaints on Thursday 21st August 2018. That publication was only prevented by threat of legal action by my solicitors.

A matter of hours later, there was what the ICO assessed as a prima facie criminal leak of information including details of complaints to the Daily Record, in breach of my rights of confidentiality, and those of the complainants. Such action was also contrary to the express assurances of confidentiality offered to all parties and central to such workplace issues.

The Judicial Review was only conceded when both Counsel threatened to resign from the case.

The policy and actions of the Permanent Secretary and the Government were accepted as and then judged as “unlawful”, “procedurally unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias”.

The real cost to the Scottish people runs into many millions of pounds and yet no-one in this entire process has uttered the simple words which are necessary on occasions to renew and refresh democratic institutions – “I Resign”.

The Committee now has the opportunity to address that position.

Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond

17th February 2021

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Dr William Gordon Stables

An ocasional series on eminent Scots forgotten or largely ignored

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Dr William Gordon Stables (foreground)

This is the tale of a travelling man who invented the caravan to make his life on the road more comfortable, a Scot, a man who without knowing it, was the forerunner of every caravan lover and the bete noir of every frustrated driver making their way along Scotland’s narrow Highland roads behind a caravan. He had gypsies to thank for his ‘invention’. In his day, he was celebrated.

You might think William Gordon Stables one name too many, and a surname as unScottish as jellied eels, something of an excentric dressed when he could in full Highland regalia. Then you might remember John Brown playing the role of John Brown also in full Highland dress, professional Scotsman and archetype, all to please Queen Victoria. Brown’s idea of freedom was to be an employee, but Stables was beholden to no man or woman, a free man, free to go where he pleased. As it turned out, ‘Stables’ is the perfect name to associate with a man who uses horses for travel most of his adult life.

Stables was a man of his time, only today we think a Scotsman in a kilt an odd thing to see in the street unless he’s lost his wedding car, or not playing the bagpipes for tourist money. Born in the Aberdeenshire village of Aberchirder, near Turrif, in 1837, he was the son of a farmer. His passion for exploring the outdoors began as a child, running across ploughed fields and chasing plovers among the furrows to check where they had made their nest. He was most at home wandering in the countryside gathering wild berries and mushrooms. He could name trees by their leaves or bark, and wildflowers and grasses without a handy pocket-sized guide to check, often seen sitting by a campfire communing with nature.

Anyhow, painting him as a wee boy among brambles, faced smeared in blue juice isn’t enough. We have to take note of the ‘doctor’ in his name. After attending Aberdeen Grammar School he studied theology at the University of Aberdeen but hasd enough sense to switch to medicine, a case of not worring about the afterlife and more attending to saving lives. He took a special interest in natural nutritional foods, not boiled till the goodness was drained out of them, probably a specialism born of his childhood days foraging for food. And so, he rejected the pulpit for pulp it.

A life on the ocean waves

On graduation from Aberdeen, Stables went to London with the intention, once again, of joining the Army. He ran out of money but was too proud to ask his father for more. In a sign of a sense of humour, it is believed the old poem was his coinage: ‘Dear Dad, no mon, your son – Dear son, too bad your dad.’

Royal Navy exams came round before those for the Army and his poverty caused him to take the first chance. He went on to serve as a surgeon in the Royal Navy, which, when you think about it, is another outdoor life mingled with adventure and travel. He was commissioned as an Assistant Ship Surgeon in February 1863 to the 39-gun frigate Narcissus.

He harboured literary ambitions and his naval experiences encouraged him to write his first book Medical Life in the Navy. This is possibly the only surviving work that detailed shipboard life from a medical perspective during the transition period from sail power to steam. However, the navy being a standing example of the English class system, officers were not supposed to write of service matters. In short, the uppity Scot was ignored for promotion, and never attained appointment to HMS Captain.

Still, Scots being of a practical bent, loss of status had Stables look for a new avenue of challenge and he left ship. This was doubly fortuitous, the tub turned over in the Bay of Biscay and all hands were lost. Moreover, to suppliment a meagre service’s pension, he went on to write over 130 books, largely boys’ adventure fiction, a kind of latter-day JK Rowling only without the plagiarised bits. They are probably hard to find these days, but the proceeds from them were never used to deny Scotland its own freedom.

His life on the ocean wave satified his compulsion for travel. He saw service in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the seas off West Africa. For colonial readers keen to make Scots guilty of everthing, especially helping to run the British Empire, Stables revolted. Off Africa he took part in suppressing the slave trade and apparently led a few raids on small ships carrying slaves, described by a colleague as a ‘a most piratical life’. So much for Scots aiding the nefarous and cruel goals of England’s imperialism.

A typical page and illustration from one of Stables youth novels

Home life

So-called jungle fever invalided him home in 1871 on half pay. He then served in the Merchant Service for two years, during which he travelled around the world twice and gained first-hand experience of South America and Australia. He might have settle in any one of the countries in those continents had he not fallen in love. In 1874 he married Theresa Williams and settled in Twyford, Berkshire where they raised four sons and two daughters. He must have been something of a novelty in that sleepy village, dressed to the hilt in his chosen taratan. By then he was a pensioned naval officer. I found little information on Theresa, (apologies to female readers), other than they were a devoted couple, but the sight of a Scotsman in full regalia must have been the attraction, a real man., she was, after all, of the Fraser clan.

To supplement his pension he turned to his writing and published works on diverse subjects such as health (particularly for young people), and the natural world around him. He also professed expertise in the breeding and husbandry of a number of species of domestic animals – particularly dogs, on which he soon became a world authority. There must have been an element of self-promotion in his claim because his farm days were limited to his childhood and youth, but his dog essays are erudite.

As befitting a man who likes journies on rural roads, Stables found other hobbies to fills the gaps. The Caravan Club describes his output as: “A keen cyclist, published poet and amateur musician (playing violin, guitar and squeeze box – the harmonium), and a member of the Humanitarian League. His afrticles on dog breeds saw him Kennel Editor of the Livestock Journal and wandering secretary of the Sea Bird Protection Society was also reflected in his writing.”

His main works, as I mentioned earlier, were real life adventure stories for boys, drawing on his experiences at sea. Of the two I’ve seen, there is an element of the Baden Powell Boy Scout in the plots and upright moral attitudes. They are full of cheerful courage and kindness to animals. What is missing, and healthier to my mind, is a lack of an adherence to the English class ethos that epitomises the Victorian age. His short stories appeared in serial form before publication as novels. He wrote for a number of publications including two of the best in their day, Chambers Journal (then located in Edinburgh), and Cassell’s Magazine for Fiction, a journal for pulp fiction. Cassells line up included some illustrious contributors: Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Quiller-Coucch, Sheridan Le Fanue, P.G. Woodhouse, Marjorie Bowen, Arnold Bennett, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie, a man who knew the money and fame lay in London. Stables kept good company.

He contributed both stories and his medical expertise to the Boy’s Own Paper from its first edition in 1879 until his death, and to the Girl’s Own Paper for more than 30 years. His popularity is unquestioned. He came top in a poll of readers of the Boy’s Own Paper in March of 1899 ahead of competition that included the great science fiction writer Jules Verne, who came fourth.

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Inside the ‘Wanderer’

The ‘Wanderer’ Land Cruiser

So where do caravans fit in to this story? One summer day as all good stories begin, Stables was travelling in his pony and trap through Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire, when he stopped close to a Gypsy encampment. Not in the least recoiled by travelling folk, he stopped because his horse shied and ‘made a determined attempt to enter a Draper’s shop’. Minor damage to the trap meant that he had time to kill while repairs were made. He got talking to the gypsies who mending his trap’s damaged wheel. He recalled that, as a boy, he had “envied Gypsy children who he saw leaning over the windows and doors of their brightly painted family caravans”.

The gypsies invited him to take a look inside their travelling homes. The navy man and the inveterate traveller were inspired all at once. He could, with some ingenuity, create his own ‘land yacht’ to roam the highways and byways. He soon roughed up sketches and visited a coach builder, Bristol Wagon Company, renowned for building Pullman saloons for the railways. They took a look at his drawing, shook hands over a deposit, and the Land Yacht Wanderer was born. As one Anglo-centric magazine put it, The Gentleman Gypsy took to the road.

The Wanderer measures some 18 feet long, 6 feet 7inches wide and a maximum of 10 feet 8inches high. Built of double-skinned walls of panelled mahogany – a wood plentiful in those days and not banned – it weighs about two tons, about the same as a moden Bentley car. Entry is up wooden steps at the rear into the small pantry. To the right is a portable wash stand, to the left (for caravan anoraks), a Rippingille’s oil cooking stove. Sliding doors give access to the saloon, furnished to the right with a fixed sofa bed with storage beneath and to the left by a folding table. At the far end a door gives access to the dickey where the driving seat doubles as a corn bin, feed for the horses. It was pulled by two work horses English cobs, and I think Clydesdales later,

The Wanderer usually had a retinue that included the doctor’s valet, together with his coachman, favourite dog and a cockatoo, and was completed by his ‘Navy cutlass and a good revolver’.

After preliminary short trial runs, the first major tour in 1885 was a 1300 mile (2100 kilometre), journey to Scotland that was chronicled in his book The Cruise of the Land Yacht Wanderer. Thereafter The Wanderer was used each year for a summer ‘cruise’, principally along the south coast and through EastAnglia, during which he would write features, reserving the winter months for writing his novels – which he did in an unheated wooden cabin at the end of his garden.

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Stables, his wife Theresa, and his coachman

William Gordon Stables the independinista


Stables was known to tackle anybody who dared talk of Scotland as a second-class nation, or deride its right to exist, an unfashionable thing to do when living in merry England, and prospering from English fans and readers. The Scottish National Party was a mere idea in the head of some Scottish intellectuals and writers, but Stables was known to them. When he wore Highland dress people knew what his politics might be, he did not have to make a song and Highland dance about them. He was fiercely proud of his Scottish heritage; of the Clan Gordon on his father’s side and the Robertsons and Frasers on his mother’s. He lived in an era when my own grandfather hired a charabanc pulled by horses to take his large family a day’s picnic up to the Pentland Hills from the centre of Edinburgh and back again.

As his fame and lifestyle spread so did an interest in carvanning by horse and wagon. To encourage the faithful he wrote: ” It is time for those who have no caravans to build, and for those who have to see to varnish, gold leaf and paint. Anyhow I wish the best of good luck, good roads, good weather and nice pitches to all good caravannists”.

Stables died on 10 May, 1910. The Wanderer remained with his family until the early sixties when carvaning became ever more popular for themasses, and we drivers ever more annoyed to find one of the ‘land yachtys’ swaying in front of us. It was gifted to The Caravan Club by the will of his daughter Ottoline, now housed in the Industrial Museum at Bristol. In his book Caravanning and Camping Out (1931) J. Harris Stone says of Dr William Gordon Stables as ‘… a great apostle of life in the open air; … he may fairly be considered the pioneer of modern caravanning”.

Stables always described himself as a Scot and a born wanderer. In fact, he even reached the Arctic, twice, while still a student. During the first trip his vessel became stuck in pack ice and was reported lost. After weeks of a journey, he returned home to be met by his father and sister dressed in deep mourning. ‘Which of the family is dead?’ he asked apprehensively. ‘You are,’ was the shocked reply!

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Dr William Gordon Stables

Further Reading: Graham Gordon Stables, W., 1886. ‘Cruise of the Land Yacht Wanderer‘ or thirteen hundred miles in my Caravan. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

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Posted in Great Scots, Transportation | 13 Comments

Salmond: Hamilton Inquiry

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James Hamilton QC

James Hamilton QC is engaged in a separate inquiry into the Civil Service Scandal. He has no limitations placed on him, and indeed, would not have taken on the role had their been constraints on getting to the truth. He is expected to publish his report by the end of the month, or very soon there after. Hamilton was Ireland’s former Director of Public Prosecutions, and is repected as a scrupulously honest straight talker.

It is a separate submission from the one Salmond supplied to the Holyrood Inquiry, an inquiry which now looks as much hobbled in what it can do to name the guilty and exonerate the innocent, as is Salmond in answering their questions.

The Holyrood Inquiry has since been cut some slack by Senior Judge Lady Dorrian, who modified her stricture to make plain it did not include other events unrelated to the Salmond case. The Holyrood Inquiry is not looking into the Salmond case, but rather the warped process that led to accusations that ran up over £1 million in legal costs paid by the taxpayer.

Introduction

1. This is a submission to James Hamilton at his repeated request to assist in his examination of possible breaches of the Ministerial Code by the First Minister.

2. I have also shared this submission with the Parliamentary Committee as it is relevant to Phase Four of their Inquiry into complaints handling by Civil Servants, Government Ministers and Special Advisers.

3. The Whatsapp messages between myself and the First Minister were provided to the Parliamentary Committee by the First Minister and published by them. Therefore, I do not enclose them here, save for the inclusion of the message of 13th July 2018 in unredacted form referred to below. (Appendix A)

The Terms of Reference

4. Mr Hamilton wrote to me on 8th September, 29th October, 16th November, 4th and 19th December. I replied on 6th and 17th October, 23rd November and 23rd December. I finally agreed under some protest to make this submission.

The reason for my concern is that the remit drawn up for Mr Hamilton focuses on whether the First Minister intervened in a civil service process. As I have pointed out to Mr Hamilton, I know of no provisions in the Ministerial Code which makes it improper for a First Minister to so intervene.

5. To the contrary, intervention by the First Minister in an apparently unlawful process (subsequently confirmed by the Court of Session) would not constitute a breach precisely because the First Minister is under a duty in clause 2.30 of the Ministerial Code to avoid such illegality on the part of the Government she leads.

6. Further, to suggest intervention was a breach would be to ignore and contradict the express reliance of the procedure on the position of the First Minister as the leader of the party to which the former minister was a member in order to administer some unspecified sanction.

7. It will accordingly be a significant surprise if any breach of the Ministerial Code is found when the terms of reference have been tightly drafted by the Deputy First Minister to focus on that aspect of the First Minister’s conduct.

8. By contrast, I have information which suggests other related breaches of the Ministerial Code which should properly be examined by Mr Hamilton. I have asked that he undertake that investigation. I have drawn his attention to the apparent parliamentary assurance from the First Minister on 29th October 2020 that there was no restriction on Mr Hamilton preventing him from doing so.

9. Mr Hamilton has failed to give me a clear response as to whether these related matters relevant to the Ministerial Code, but outwith the specific remit, are going to be considered. However, in his letter of 4th December he did indicate that he was inclined to the view that such matters could be considered and will take into account arguments for their inclusion. It is on that basis I make this submission.

10. In doing so, I would note that it does not serve the public interest if the independent process of examination of the Ministerial Code (which I introduced as First Minister) is predetermined, or seen to be predetermined, by a restrictive remit given by the Deputy First Minister.

11. A restricted investigation would not achieve its purpose of genuine independent determination and would undermine confidence in what has been a useful innovation in public accountability.

12. I would accordingly urge Mr Hamilton to embrace the independence of his role and the express assurance given to the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister that he is free to expand the original remit drafted by the Deputy First Minister and to address each of the matters contained in this submission.

Breaches of the Ministerial Code.

13. Beyond the terms of the remit set for Mr Hamilton by the Deputy First Minister, there are other aspects of the conduct of the First Minister which, in my submission, require scrutiny and determination in relation to breaches of the Ministerial Code.

14. I was contacted by phone on or around 9 March 2018 and further the following week by Geoff Aberdein, my former Chief of Staff. The purpose of the contact was to tell me about meetings he had held with the First Minister’s Chief of Staff, Liz Lloyd, at her request.

15. In the second of these meetings she had informed him that she was aware of two complaints concerning me under a new complaints process introduced to include former Ministers. She named one of the complainers to him. At that stage I did not know the identity of the other complainer.

16. On receipt of the letter from the Permanent Secretary first informing me of complaints on 7th March 2018 I had secured Levy and McRae as my solicitors and Duncan Hamilton, Advocate and Ronnie Clancy QC as my counsel.

17. Even at this early stage we had identified that there were a range of serious deficiencies in the procedure. There was no public or parliamentary record of it ever being adopted. In addition it contained many aspects of both procedural unfairness and substantive illegality.

There was an obvious and immediate question over the respect to which the Scottish Government even had jurisdiction to consider the complaints. In relation to former Ministers (in contrast to current Ministers) it offered no opportunity for mediation. The complaints procedure of which I was familiar (‘Fairness at Work’) was based on the legislative foundation of the Ministerial Code in which the First Minister was the final decision maker.

I wished to bring all of these matters to the attention of the First Minister. I did not know at that stage the degree of knowledge and involvement in the policy on the part of both the First Minister and her Chief of Staff.

18. Mr Aberdein had been asked by Ms Lloyd to be her contact with me and they jointly arranged a meeting with the First Minister in the Scottish Parliament on 29th March 2018. This meeting was for the purpose of discussing the complaints and thereafter arranging a direct meeting between myself and the First Minister.

There was never the slightest doubt what the meeting was about. Any suggestion by the First Minister to the Scottish Parliament (Official Report, 8th October 2020) that the meeting was ‘fleeting or opportunistic’ is simply untrue.

It was agreed on the 29th March 2018 at the meeting in the Scottish Parliament attended by Mr Aberdein and the First Minister [REDACTED] that the meeting between myself and the First Minister would take place on 2nd April at her home near Glasgow. Self-evidently only the First Minister could issue that invitation to her private home.

19. In attendance at the meeting on 2nd April 2018 were Mr Aberdein, Mr Hamilton, Ms Lloyd and myself. The First Minister and I met privately and then there was a general discussion with all five of us. My purpose was to alert the First Minister to the illegality of the process (not being aware at that time of her involvement in it) and to seek an intervention from the First Minister to secure a mediation process to resolve the complaints.

20. I was well aware that under the Ministerial Code the First Minister should notify the civil service of the discussion and believed that this would be the point at which she would make her views known. The First Minister assured us that she would make such an intervention at an appropriate stage.

21. On 23rd April 2018, I phoned the First Minister by arrangement on WhatsApp to say that a formal offer of mediation was being made via my solicitor to the Permanent Secretary that day. In the event, this offer was declined by the Permanent Secretary, even before it was put to the complainers.

22. By the end of May, it was becoming clear that the substantial arguments my legal team were making in correspondence against the legality of the procedure were not having any impact with the Permanent Secretary. My legal team advised that it was impossible properly to defend myself against the complaints under such a flawed procedure. They advised that a petition for Judicial Review would have excellent prospects of success given the Government were acting unlawfully.

However I was extremely reluctant to sue the Government I once led. I wanted to avoid the damage both to the Scottish Government and the SNP which would inevitably result. To avoid such a drastic step, I resolved to let the First Minister see the draft petition for Judicial Review. As a lawyer, and as First Minister, I assumed that she would see the legal jeopardy into which the government was drifting. I therefore sought a further meeting.

23. On 1st June 2018 the First Minister sent me a message which was the opposite of the assurance she had given on the 2nd April 2018 suggesting instead that she had always said that intervention was “not the right thing to do”.

That was both untrue and disturbing. On 3rd June 2018 I sent her a message on the implications for the Government in losing a Judicial Review and pointing to her obligation (under the Ministerial Code) to ensure that her administration was acting lawfully and (under the Scotland Act) to ensure that their actions were compliant with the European Convention.

24. The First Minister and I met in Aberdeen on 7th June 2018 when I asked her to look at the draft Judicial Review Petition. She did briefly but made it clear she was now disinclined to make any intervention.

25. My desire to avoid damaging and expensive litigation remained. My legal team thereafter offered arbitration as an alternative to putting the matter before the Court of Session. That proposal was designed to offer a quick and relatively inexpensive means of demonstrating the illegality of the procedure in a process which guaranteed the confidentiality of the complainers.

It would also have demonstrated the illegality of the process in a forum which would be much less damaging to the Scottish Government than the subsequent public declaration of illegality.

I was prepared at that time to engage fully with the procedure in the event my legal advice was incorrect. In the event, of course, it was robust. I explained the advantages of such an approach to the First Minister in a Whatsapp message of 5th July 2018.

26. (REDACTED)

27. On 18th July 2018 the First Minister phoned me at 13.05 to say that arbitration had been rejected and suggested that this was on the advice of the Law Officers. She urged me to submit a substantive rebuttal of the specific complaints against me, suggested that the general complaints already answered were of little consequence and would be dismissed, and then assured me that my submission would be judged fairly.

She told me I would receive a letter from the Permanent Secretary offering me further time to submit such a rebuttal which duly arrived later that day. As it turned out the rebuttal once submitted was given only cursory examination by the Investigating Officer in the course of a single day and she had already submitted her final report to the Permanent Secretary.

My view is now that it was believed that my submission of a rebuttal would weaken the case for Judicial Review (my involvement in rebutting the substance of the complaints being seen to cure the procedural unfairness) and that the First Minister’s phone call of 18th July 2018 and the Permanent Secretary’s letter of the same date suggesting that it was in my “interests” to submit a substantive response was designed to achieve that.

28. In terms of the meetings with me, the only breaches of the Ministerial Code are the failure to inform civil servants timeously of the nature of the meetings.

29. My view is that the First Minister should have informed the Permanent Secretary of the legal risks they were running and ensured a proper examination of the legal position and satisfied herself that her Government were acting lawfully.

30. Further once the Judicial Review had commenced, and at the very latest by October 31st 2018 the Government and the First Minister knew of legal advice from external counsel (the First Minister consulted with counsel on 13th November) that on the balance of probability they would lose the Judicial Review and be found to have acted unlawfully.

Despite this the legal action was continued until early January 2019 and was only conceded after both Government external counsel threatened to resign from the case which they considered to be unstateable. This, on any reading, is contrary to section 2.30 of the Ministerial Code.

31. Most seriously, Parliament has been repeatedly misled on a number of occasions about the nature of the meeting of 2nd April 2018.

32. The First Minister told Parliament (see Official Report of 8th,10th & 17th January 2019) that she first learned of the complaints against me when I visited her home on 2nd April 2018. That is untrue and is a breach of the Ministerial Code.

The evidence from Mr Aberdein that he personally discussed the existence of the complaints, and summarised the substance of the complaints, with the First Minister in a pre arranged meeting in Parliament on 29th March 2018 arranged for that specific purpose cannot be reconciled with the position of the First Minister to Parliament.

The fact that Mr Aberdein learned of these complaints in early March 2018 from the Chief of Staff to the First Minister who thereafter arranged for the meeting between Mr Aberdein and the First Minister on 29th March to discuss them, is supported by his sharing that information contemporaneously with myself, Kevin Pringle and Duncan Hamilton, Advocate.

33. In her written submission to the Committee, the First Minister has subsequently admitted to that meeting on 29th March 2018, claiming to have previously ‘forgotten’ about it. That is, with respect, untenable.

The pre-arranged meeting in the Scottish Parliament of 29th March 2018 was “forgotten” about because acknowledging it would have rendered ridiculous the claim made by the First Minister in Parliament that it had been believed that the meeting on 2nd April was on SNP Party business (Official Report 8th & 10th January 2019) and thus held at her private residence.

In reality all participants in that meeting were fully aware of what the meeting was about and why it had been arranged. The meeting took place with a shared understanding of the issues for discussion – the complaints made and the Scottish Government procedure which had been launched.

The First Minister’s claim that it was ever thought to be about anything other than the complaints made against me is wholly false.

The failure to account for the meeting on 29th March 2018 when making a statement to Parliament, and thereafter failing to correct that false representation, is a further breach of the Ministerial Code.

Further, the repeated representation to the Parliament of the meeting on the 2nd April 2018 as being a ‘party’ meeting because it proceeded in ignorance of the complaints is false and manifestly untrue. The meeting on 2nd April 2018 was arranged as a direct consequence of the prior meeting about the complaints held in the Scottish Parliament on 29th March 2018.

34. The First Minister additionally informed Parliament (Official Report 10th January 2018) that ‘I did not know how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint, I did not know how the Scottish Government intended to deal with the complaint and I did not make any effort to find out how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint or to intervene in how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint.’

I would contrast that position with the factual position at paragraphs 20 and 27 above. The First Minister’s position on this is simply untrue. She did initially offer to intervene, in the presence of all those at the First Minister’s house on the 2nd April 2018.

Moreover, she did engage in following the process of the complaint and indeed reported the status of that process to me personally.

35. I also believe it should be investigated further in terms of the Ministerial Code, whether the criminal leak of part of the contents of the Permanent Secretary’s Decision report to the Daily Record was sourced from the First Minister’s Office.

We now know from a statement made by the Daily Record editor that they received a document. I enclose at Appendix B the summary of the ICO review of the complaint which explains the criminal nature of the leak and the identification of 23 possible staff sources of the leak given that the Prosecutor has sympathy with the hypothesis that the leak came from an employee of the Scottish Government”.

My reasoning is as follows. The leak did not come from me, or anyone representing me. In fact I sought interdict to prevent publication and damage to my reputation. The leak is very unlikely indeed to have come from either of the two complainers.

The Chief Constable, correctly, refused to accept a copy of the report when it was offered to Police Scotland on August 21st 2018 by the Crown Agent. It cannot, therefore have leaked from Police Scotland.

Scottish Government officials had not leaked the fact of an investigation from January when it started.

The only additional group of people to have received such a document, or summary of such a document, in the week prior to publication in the Daily Record was the First Minister’s Office as indicated in paragraph 4.8 of the ICO Prosecutor’s Report. In that office, the document would be accessed by the First Minister and her Special Advisers.

I would be happy to offer further information on this submission.

Rt Hon Alex Salmond

31st December 2020

Mr Hamilton, as an advisor to the Scottish government on its ministerial code. Scottish political observers believe Nicola Sturgeon’s position could be become untenable if Mr Hamilton’s findings go against her.

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Posted in Scottish Politics | 8 Comments

An Innocent Man

Image result for alex salmond
Alex Salmond, former MP and MSP, and protector of Scotland’s rights

This is the submission of Alex Salmond to the Holyrood Inquiry. He lays out the process that led to an innocent man facing the rest of his days in jail, a heinous charge made by people intent on a constructive campaign to erase his reputation from the public record. It failed.

The pursuit of the former first minister was conducted ruthlessly by key aides to the current First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. This is why I retitle the Inquiry the ‘Civil Service Scandal’ and not as the press prefer to call it, ‘The Salmond Affair’ – a sly way of keeping the public’s mind on charges that were false.

It is reproduced here in full, refreshingly written in non-legal language. To follow his argument, now endorsed by judge and jury, is to understand the entire process that let to his appearance in court, that was unlawful and improper. Procedure, contacts between the Investigating Officer and the complainers, an attempt to pass the Decision Report to the police via the Crown Agent, all were unlawful.

A key passage is highlighted in bold, Paragraph 20, an incident in which the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans altered the record to cover her tracks, the most telling moment in this shameful episode in Scotland’s history, and one that illuminates the character and intentions of his tormentors.

If readers find the submission too long to digest at one sitting, they can read the sections highlighted in blue at the beginning and at the end.

  1. The Permanent Secretary wrote to me on 7th March 2018 saying that the Scottish
    Government was implementing a complaints process against me. I instructed Levy
    and McRae as my solicitors and Ronnie Clancy QC and Duncan Hamilton, Advocate,
    as my Counsel. At an early stage it was clear to me and to my legal advisers that the
    process was defective in a number of ways and that its application was suspect. In
    particular, I had never even heard of such a procedure applying to former Ministers and there was no parliamentary or public record of it ever being implemented.
  2. One striking and immediately identified feature of this policy was that there was no
    provision for mediation in the case of former Ministers, in contrast to the policy on
    serving Ministers (see para 4 procedure) I put this to the First Minister at the meeting
    at her home on 2nd April 2018 which has now been referred to on many occasions.
    Such a provision would be a normal feature of complaints policies and was
    specifically part of the Scottish Government policies with which I was familiar
  3. In the meeting of April 2nd the First Minister had suggested that she would intervene
    in favour of a mediation process at an appropriate stage. She subsequently decided
    against such an intervention. In the event, our proposals of 4th April 2018 seeking
    mediation were rejected by the Permanent Secretary without them even being placed
    before the complainers as an option.
  4. My legal team crystallised our objections to the procedure in a letter to the Permanent
    Secretary of 5th June 2018. This letter which has been provided to the Committee
    gives Senior Counsel’s opinion that on grounds of retrospectivity, absence of
    jurisdiction and multiple examples of lack of procedural fairness the procedure was
    inherently flawed and unlawful. A summary of the legal arguments is also provided in
    the open record which we have provided to assist the Committee. . However, to this
    and to other representations on procedural unfairness there was no substantive
    response.
  5. My legal team advised strongly against rebutting specific allegations because in their
    view the Government had pursued an unfair and unlawful process. Their advice was
    that in those circumstances, full engagement and detailed rebuttal (as ultimately was provided in the High Court) would risk being presented as having acquiesced in that unlawful procedure.
  6. I have produced for the committee the full correspondence from 7th March 2018 up to
    the date of raising proceedings, which should be read in conjunction with this
    submission.
  7. No substantive reply being received to our legal arguments, my lawyers advised that I
    should move to judicially review the government and that the prospects of success
    were excellent. I had asked them to draw up a draft petition for Judicial Review but I
    was extremely reluctant to sue the government I had previously led. I was also deeply
    concerned about such an action given what it might mean for both the First Minister
    and the SNP. I therefore asked to meet the First Minister to show her the draft Judicial
    Review petition. This meeting took place on 7th June. In contrast to our first meeting,
    the First Minister was now against making any intervention although I had previously
    spelt out in a WhatsApp message to her of June 3rd what I considered to be her duty
    to do so under the Ministerial Code. That too has been provided to the Committee.
  8. On 26th June 2018, still seeking to avoid damaging court proceedings, we (my legal
    team and I) put forward a new proposal for arbitration drawing on Scottish ]
    legislation passed in 2010. The offer was that I would abide by the decision of the
    arbiter if it went against me. We were confident that many of our criticisms would be
    accepted in any arbitration and agreed to submit to the full Scottish Government
    process if my legal advice was wrong. Arbitration had multiple advantages. First, it
    was confidential and thus protected those who had made complaints. Secondly, it
    would provide legal clarity and resolve whether the clear advice on the unlawfulness
    of the procedure was correct. Thirdly, it would have resolved these matters in a forum
    which maximised the potential for avoiding expense to the public purse, to me and
    minimised the damaging fallout for the complainers, Scottish Government and the
    SNP in the event I was successful. I explained the benefits of arbitration to the First
    Minister in a WhatsApp message of 5 July. At the First Minister’s invitation
    (delivered via a senior official on 13 July) I met her for a third time at her home in
    Glasgow the following day to ask her to make it clear that she was not personally
    against such arbitration. That request arose in case any such perception was the basis
    for the otherwise inexplicable decision on the part of the Permanent Secretary to
    refuse any form of alternative dispute resolution and instead force this matter into an expensive judicial review in the Court of Session. I updated my lawyers about this meeting.
  9. On 18th July I was written to by the Permanent Secretary and phoned by the FirstMinister at 13.05 urging me to submit evidence on the specific complaints. This I did after a formal consultation with my legal team to whom I divulged the First Minister’s phone call and advice. I refer to my submission made to Mr James Hamilton, the independent adviser to the Ministerial Code, which covers this passage of my evidence.
  10. I now know that the submission was given only the most cursory examination by the Investigating Officer whose report had already been drafted and submitted to the Permanent Secretary. The rebuttal was submitted on Friday July 20th. The Investigating Officer finalised her report after submitting my comments to both complainers on Monday July 23rd.
  11. On August 22nd the Permanent Secretary sent me her Decision Report having already instructed that it be sent to the Crown Agent, Mr David Harvie – not bringing matters “directly to the attention of the police” as provided for in the policy. On August 21st. The Chief Constable and the lead officer correctly refused to accept the Decision Report when the Crown Agent tried to hand it to them, and asked that there be no publicity, lest their investigation be contaminated.
  12. Despite this, on Thursday 23rd August my legal team was informed that the Scottish Government intended to release a public statement on the fact of the investigation at 5pm that day. That, despite the firm assurances of confidentiality which had been made throughout. We replied that such a decision to publicise left no option but to seek an interim interdict against the government that evening preventing publication. That action became the petition for Judicial Review. The Scottish Government agreed to withdraw their proposed public statement pending resolution of the interim interdict application by the Court of Session.
  13. By late afternoon the Government claimed that they had been contacted by the press but had confirmed nothing. At 6.34pm we informed the Government that an interim interdict would not be heard that evening. We had by that stage had no contact from any news outlet. Shortly after 8pm I was phoned by David Clegg, political editor of the Daily Record who then emailed me at 20.16 informing me that they now had been given confirmation that a police complaint had been made against me and were publishing their story at 10pm. We were unable by that time to secure a judge to hear

STATEMENT FROM ALEX SALMOND EMBARGO 10pm THURSDAY 23rd AUGUST
FORMER FIRST MINISTER TAKES

LEGAL ACTION AGAINST SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT IN COURT OF
SESSION


“For many months now, and on the advice of Senior Counsel, I have attempted to persuade the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government that she is behaving unlawfully in the application of a complaints procedure, introduced by her more than three years after I left office. This is a procedure so unjust that even now I have not been allowed to see and therefore to properly challenge the case against me. I have not been allowed to see the evidence. I have tried everything, including offers of conciliation, mediation and legal arbitration to resolve these matters both properly and amicably. This would have been in everybody’s interests, particularly those of the two complainants. All of these efforts have been rejected.

The Permanent Secretary chose to deny me contact with any current civil servant, many of whom wished to give evidence on my behalf and access to documentation to allow me to properly challenge the complaints, all of which I refute and some of which were patently ridiculous. The procedure as put into operation by the Permanent Secretary is grossly unfair and therefore inevitably will lead to prejudicial outcomes. It is therefore with great reluctance that I have today (Thursday 23rd August) launched a Judicial Review in the Court of Session which will decide the issue of the lawfulness of the procedure which has been used against me.

If I lose then I will have to answer to the complaints both comprehensively and publicly. Until then I am bound to say nothing which would impinge on the Court proceedings. In our submissions on Judicial Review we have asked that the complainants’ identity be protected.

If the Court of Session finds in my favour then the administration at the senior levels of the Scottish Government will have the most serious questions to answer. In my opinion and for whatever reason the Permanent Secretary has decided to mount a process against me using an unlawful procedure which she herself introduced. I will let a real court decide whether it was lawful for her to do so.”

STATEMENT FROM ALEX SALMOND THURSDAY 23rd AUGUST
FORMER FIRST MINISTER TAKES LEGAL ACTION AGAINST SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT IN COURT OF SESSION


“For many months now, and on the advice of Senior Counsel, I have attempted to persuade the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government that she is behaving unlawfully in the application of a complaints procedure, introduced by her more than three years after I left office.

This is a procedure so unjust that even now I have not been allowed to see and therefore to properly challenge the case against me. I have not been allowed to see the evidence. I have tried everything, including offers of conciliation, mediation and legal arbitration to resolve these matters both properly and amicably. This would have been in everybody’s interests, particularly those of the two complainants. All of these efforts have been rejected. The Permanent Secretary chose to deny me contact with any current civil servant, many of whom wished to give evidence on my behalf and access to documentation to allow me to properly challenge the complaints, all of which I refute and some of which were patently ridiculous. The procedure as put into operation by the Permanent Secretary is grossly unfair and therefore inevitably will lead to prejudicial outcomes.

It is therefore with great reluctance that I have today (Thursday 23rd August) launched a Judicial Review in the Court of Session which will decide the issue of the lawfulness of the procedure which has been used against me. If I lose then I will have to answer to the complaints both comprehensively and publicly. Until then I am bound to say nothing which would impinge on the Court proceedings. In our submissions on Judicial Review we have asked that the complainants’ identity be protected.

If the Court of Session finds in my favour then the administration at the senior levels of the Scottish Government will have the most serious questions to answer. In my opinion and for whatever reason the Permanent Secretary has decided to mount a process against me using an unlawful procedure which she herself introduced. I will let a real court decide whether it was lawful for her to do so.”

  1. The press conference was held on August 24th and was entirely devoted to the
    process of judicial review with no discussion allowed on the nature of the complaints.
    However, the Daily Record had also been leaked the detail of one of the complaints
    taken directly from the Permanent Secretary’s Decision Report or an extract from it
    and published those details on August 25th. The Daily Record editor later confirmed
    on a documentary presented by Kirsty Wark on BBC television on 17th August 2020
    that they had been in receipt of such a document.
  2. The timing of these leaks is summarised in the enclosed review report from the ICO
    (appendix A paragraph 4.6) who concluded that they had “sympathy with the
    hypothesis that the leak came from an employee of the SG and agree that the timing
    could raise such an inference”. There were in fact two leaks. First the leak to Mr
    Clegg on the evening of Thursday 23rd August followed by the release of details of
    one of the complaints published in the Record on Saturday 25th August. These leaks
    were carried out with no consideration to data protection laws, and with no regard to
    the interests or rights of the complainers or indeed myself. They were considered by
    the ICO to be prima face criminal. They set off a media storm deeply damaging to my
    reputation.
  3. On 29th August I resigned from the SNP and launched a crowd funder to assist with
    the costs of Judicial Review challenge in the Court of Session. The crowd funder
    attracted 4146 donations in three days and I closed it at £100,000 on Saturday 1
    September.
  4. Shortly thereafter, my legal team lodged the petition for Judicial Review. Their advice
    was that the chances of success were high. The initial petition has been provided to
    the Committee. The Permanent Secretary has made much of the fact that the original
    petition for judicial review did not found on the prior contact of the Investigating
    Officer with the complainers. In fact this would have been impossible given that this
    information was not provided to us until the beginning of November 2018. Indeed
    there is overwhelming evidence that this information was concealed by the Scottish
    Government. Had it been provided earlier, it would certainly have been included as a
    further basis for the judicial review. Even without it, there were multiple substantial
    grounds for a successful review. Those were not decided simply because the Scottish
    Government conceded the petition prior to the matter being argued.
  5. On 4th October at the first hearing of the judicial review (and on my insistence), my
    legal team lodged a motion to protect the anonymity of the complainers. The Scottish
    Government chose not to attend this hearing.
  6. On 16th October the Scottish Government lodged Answers to the Judicial Review
    which leant heavily on the technical argument that the Petition was out of time being
    more than three months after the investigation started. We were not concerned that
    there was any force to that argument and I personally took that as a sign of weakness
    and a lack of confidence in their substantive case. That argument was later
    abandoned.
  7. On 21st October we received information that the new complaints process had not been published on the internal Scottish Government intranet until February 2018 which opened the question of how realistically complaints could have been submitted under it in January 2018. We also learned that the press statement released by the Permanent Secretary on August 23rd 2018 had been deliberately worded to conceal this fact (appendix B shows the original wording and appendix C the version as recently amended on 21st August 2020.) The original wording reads “Internal procedure agreed in December 2017 and published at that time on the ScottishGovernment Intranet”. The new wording reads “Internal procedure agreed in December 2017 and published in February 2018 on the Scottish Government intranet” Our requests for further documents were informed by those revelations.
  8. On November 5th the Government finally disclosed the prior contact of the
    Investigating Officer with the complainers and that both complainers had been in
    contact with various Scottish Government staff in November and December 2017. As
    we now know this was only after Senior Counsel insisted that they do so. We adjusted
    the Petition accordingly.
  9. On November 6th we petitioned the court for release of documents. Lord Pentland
    reminded the Government of their duty of candour as a public authority to release all
    relevant material saying, according to a court note taken by my legal team, that “A public authority usually takes the view that it should disclose everything in a matter of this nature. Specifications are unusual for that reason.”
  10. Despite this, on 16th November when the first tranche of 147 documents were
    produced, followed by a further 70 pages on the 19th of November, it was clear that
    much information was missing, particularly on the origins of the procedure.
  11. During November 2018 we became concerned about the possibility of the
    Government attempting to sist (delay) the judicial review and (mindful of their likely
    loss in court) seek to emphasise instead the police investigation. We have a witness
    precognition (statement) which recounts that in late November 2018 a Special
    Adviser told the witness that the Government knew they would lose the JR but that
    they would “get him” in the criminal case.
  12. On the 1st December the ICO criminal investigation officer informed us that a
    “criminal offence may have been committed” on the leak of data and that their
    investigations were continuing.
  13. On December 14th we successfully petitioned for a Commission on Diligence. It was
    opposed by the Government who had maintained that no more relevant documents
    existed. Remarkably, the Scottish Government had even signed a certificate
    confirming to the Court that no documents existed. In direct contradiction of that
    position, in the immediate run up to the Commission, during the Commission itself
    and in the aftermath of it, many batches of documents were produced which exposed
    many incriminating pieces of evidence against the government’s position.
    Furthermore it became clear that the Government’s position until that point on the
    nature of the contact between the Investigating Officer and the complainers was
    untrue. We also were aware that the Government’s position introduced into their
    pleadings that the first time the First Minister knew of the complaints against me was
    on April 2nd 2018 was also untrue.
  14. On 19th December at the first hearing of the Commission the Government’s own
    Senior Counsel (properly) apologised to the Commissioner on multiple occasions for
    the late provision of documents. A further 18 pages of documents were then produced
    from the Investigating Officer. More documents emerged after the second hearing of
    the Commission on 21st December. In a further procedural meeting of the
    Commission on 28th December it emerged that potentially many more documents
    existed. My legal team then decided to call the Chief of Staff Liz Lloyd and Principal
    Private Secretary Mr Somers to the Commission as potential havers (people who hold
    documents) at the beginning of January 2019. This was when suggestions emerged of
    meetings with a complainer in the First Minister’s Office on 20th and 21st November
    2017.
  15. On January 3rd my lawyers were contacted by Government lawyers with an offer to
    concede the case on the basis that the process had been unlawful, unfair and tainted by
    apparent bias.
  16. On January 8th 2019 Lord Pentland, after a hearing in the Court of Session, issued an
    interlocutor to that effect (appendix D and reduced both the Investigation and
    Permanent Secretary’s Decision Report. The Government provided undertakings not
    to distribute documents. Those undertakings were recorded in the Minute of
    Proceedings. Expenses were awarded on the punitive scale of agent and client, client
    paying basis. The interlocutor found that the actions of the Permanent Secretary had
    been unlawful on the grounds that the process had been carried forward in
    circumstances which were “procedurally unfair” AND “tainted by apparent bias”. My
    senior counsel pointed out in court that the Investigating Officer’s multiple contacts
    with the complainers were “bordering on encouragement”
  17. On the same day the Permanent Secretary released a press statement asserting that on
    all other grounds the petition had been dismissed. This was deliberately misleading as
    in fact none of the many other grounds of challenge required to be heard, since the
    petition had been conceded prior to the hearing and her whole decision report reduced
    by the court. My legal team and I remained confident on the many other legal heads
    of challenge I had brought. These are all contained in the Record (court document
    containing petition and answers) which the committee has.
  18. The First Minister told Parliament that the nature of the contact between the
    Investigating Officer and complainers was in the nature of “welfare support” Clearly
    she was misinformed because it is precisely because the Government had misled the
    Court in its pleadings about the nature of the contact that the Government case
    became, in the view of their own counsel, unstateable. This was confirmed to the
    Committee by the Lord Advocate in both of his evidence sessions on 8 September and
    17th November 2020
  19. At no stage was I, or indeed Parliament, informed of the fact that both Senior and
    Junior Counsel representing the Government had intimated in December 2018 their
    intent to resign from the case if the Government did not concede by January 3rd 2019.
  20. I am now aware from documents obtained by this Committee that the Investigating
    Officer’s behaviour involved contact with complainers before, during and after the
    procedure of a kind which would not stand any reasonable test of impartiality. I
    believe this included briefing the complainers and witnesses and pejoratively
    summarising my legal advice. I also understand that subsequent to the JR petition
    being lodged, she also briefed complainers and others of the Lord Advocates position
    on sisting the Judicial Review.
  21. I am now aware from documents recently obtained by this Committee that the
    Permanent Secretary met one complainer and phoned the other in mid process before
    contacting me on March 7th 2018. I was astonished when I discovered this). There is
    nothing in the procedure which allows for this and I would certainly have wanted to
    argue this in our judicial review petition as behaviour incompatible with the role of an
    impartial decision maker and further evidence of bias against me. The failure to
    disclose this meeting either in the civil or criminal case despite court orders is a
    serious matter which I intend to take forward with the appropriate authorities.

SUMMARY


The procedure adopted “at pace” in late 2017 was not just “tainted by apparent bias” in the of the Investigating Officer but “procedurally unfair” in itself. Only my reluctance to sue the Government as a Former First Minister prevented me from exercising that right earlier. Instead I offered conciliation, mediation and then arbitration which I was prepared to accept as binding. All such attempts at swift and confidential resolution of the legal issues without the expense and confrontation of court proceedings were rejected without consulting the complainers, in case of mediation without initially consulting the complainers and in the case of arbitration without consulting the complainers at all.

There is an overwhelming likelihood in my view that the criminal leak(s) of August 21/222018 came from within Government and were committed with the intention of damaging my reputation but with no regard whatsoever to the interests of the complainers. The advice of my counsel at the outset was that I had a very strong case which only further strengthened as the process continued. The evidence was forced out of the government by a lengthy and expensive commission process, despite the government having assured the Court and my legal team previously, that they had produced all relevant documents. This turned out to be untrue.

I have yet to read the government’s legal advice from external counsel. This is despite two parliamentary votes to force its release. It is rare in my experience, for the Scottish Government to behave unlawfully. It is surely rarer still for the Government to only concede a case when both of its external counsel threaten resignation.

I understand that expenses being awarded on an agent and client, client paying basis reflects the court’s dissatisfaction with the conduct of the case from the Government. That failure was not due just to incompetence. The pattern of government lack of candour and a systematic failure to disclose has been deliberate and consistent since 7 March 2018It continued through the judicial review process and then my criminal trial. To my astonishment, it continues to date with a persistent failure to produce all relevant documents to the parliamentary Inquirywhich has forced two Parliamentary votes and triggered an unprecedented procedure under s.23 of the Scotland Act. It has also seen the recall of a number of government witnesses to clarify and in some cases correct their evidence.

In short, it remains a matter of deep regret that I had no option but to take the Scottish
Government to the Court of Session. I did so very reluctantly and only after every other
avenue had been exhausted. But courts exist for a reason. They exist because when Governments act illegally there must be a remedy for the citizen. In this case, the illegality was finally conceded but only after a legal process which will have cost upwards of £750,000 of taxpayers money and which caused immense strain and distress to all involved. The behaviour of the Government was, in my view, a disgrace. But actions have consequences. Accountability is at the heart of the Scottish Parliament. The rule of law requires that those who have acted illegally are held to account. It is now the job of this Committee to resolve how that is best done.

Ends
Alex Salmond
27th January 2021

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Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

A Shakespearean Tragedy

Pin on Macbeth
“Will these hands ne’er be clean?” Lady Macbeth

Only two days ago I published an essay beginning with these words: “The SNP is wrestling with a fundamental crisis of its own making, a profound loss of trust by the public in its honesty and methods…..“. I referred to the SNP’s unnerving ability to implode with unerring regularity into some scandal or other. Today, Nicola Sturgeon summarily removed the Right Honourable Joanna Cherry MP QC from Westminster’s front bench in a shocking act egregiously based on an SNP cabal’s engineered campaign of falsehoods, amounting to constructive dismissal. The sacking of Joanna Cherry indicates Scotland’s First Minister is incapable of sound judgement, or determined to preserve her power at all costs.

This is the same Joanna Cherry who beat in court the charlatan known as Boris Johnson, self-styled Prime Minister of the Union. Cherry won a great victory in the UK’s highest court, a victory no one else has matched since.

In that essay, I also drew attention to the stupidity of people who think knowledge of the inner machinations of a ponderous political party is safely boxed and locked with folk who use Twitter. SNP events with the First Minister as star have been the stuff of international gossip columnists for a while now, and now move into the mainstream press. When your every prat-fall (not a James Bond title) is the talk of Tumblr, the American microblogging, social networking website, you are in deep trouble. 

Nicola Sturgeon has a tremendous following worldwide, particularly by admiring women, some highly influencial, who do not realise how they demean her by calling her a ‘female’ First Minister. (Was Salmond ever described as a ‘male’ First Minister?) Those women must be asking, how does a ‘woman’ find herself so disenchanted with one of her best MPs, another woman, that she can humiliate her, and do it so publicly?

Nicola Sturgeon’s mounting list of non-achievement makes admiration of her all the more mysterious. Among many disappointments, mandates stored not capitalised, two years chasing England’s Brexit when climate change is the gravest threat to Scotland and humankind, the hunting of Alex Salmond and her cold inability to cease the chase of an exonerated man, the support of ravaging and ravenous civil servants, missing funds for a second referendum, and now with a husband who, Mafia-like, thinks himself above the law, refusing to attend a Holyrood Inquiry into the process that led to the civil service scandal. These matters crush peoples’ hopes and break a bond of trust.

With what is Joanna Cherry charged?

She is accused of transphobia and associating with a ‘known’ anti-Semite, a claim utterly false, designed to defame in a blatant act of character assassination. Cherry has assiduously avoided espousing transphobic views. She holds to the belief woman’s rights, attained after decades of hard struggle, are sacrosanct while wishing trans rights a safe haven. Cherry has been given police protection because of death threats from the ‘peaceful’ community of trans lobbyists. This development is a blight on the legacy of Scotland’s Enlightenment.

Some sections of the party saw Cherry as a possible first minister one day. She is a clever, perceptive, very likeable and dedicated champion of Scotland’s future, but to be candid, not my first or even second choice. But my opinion is neither here nor there. Unlike Sturgeon, she is not burdened by severe skill and personality limitations. Nevertheless, it is impossible for Nicola Sturgeon to claim she was not aware of Joanna Cherry’s acumen and popularity, and the hopes of many Cherry might take on the role one day. It is inconceivable that Cherry, a fine example of intellectual honesty, would not conform to the party line if, after National Executive Committee (NEC) and cabinet debate, her advice was outvoted. So, what did Nicola Sturgeon have to fear?

With what is Nicola Sturgeon charged?

Nicola Sturgeon is charged first with a vindictive act. It is no less. It taints the post she holds. She saw Cherry elected to the NEC and sensed events – sustained criticism of her governance, were closing in around her. She took a panic decision. She did this after months of the most vile harrassment dumped on Cherry’s head by the trans lobby, a small group of shriekers and sociopaths separated from genuine trans people, the former propelled by mental instability borne of carnal revulsion. Sturgeon did not intervene to stop the hostility.

Worse, Sturgeon has formed a cabinet of Yes clones, making her no better than Boris Johnson who sacked a third of his party for expressing concern at his far-right policies, and she is no better than Donald Trump who would put down his own dog if it barked when he wanted silence, and not have it euthanised first.

To demand conformity to the point contrarian opinion and advice is forbidden on pain of demotion or ‘removal’, is the very antithesis of democracy. The whole point of having a cabinet of colleagues is to listen to their advice and expertise and seek consensus for whatever policy is finally composed. If you do not want their advice, just be a dictator, choose the language of the fascist creed. Nicola Sturgeon stands accused of turning her role as protector of the nation into one of protector of her legacy.

A Shakespearean tragedy

Character assassination, craven colleagues, show trials, death threats, this is Scotland in the year 2021. Really? Is this a portent of the new society? How anyone can argue Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership is inspirational, without blemish, compassionate and wise?

This is a Shakespearean tragedy. The SNP enfeeblement of Joanna Cherry MP is a calamatous act. Nicola Sturgeon exposes the fragility of the SNP’s current popularity. In embracing the role of Macbeth’s wife so wholeheardely, so aggressively, deciding all challengers to her crown should be dispatched … without hesitation or regret, the First Minister is determined not only to hold onto power, but to monopolise it.

With polls predicting a landslide victory for the SNP at the May election, the sacking of Cherry is crazy. It plunges the party into yet more conflict. It hands more dry powder to the British state’s minions to tell Scotland we are useless governing ourselves.

We are sold a vision of a humanising, decent leader, ‘put your trust in her ‘, and this is what we get. Uncritical adoration of a populist leader is dangerous. It leads to fans threatening to kill their opponent so the object of their love can enjoy a quiet life.

Scotland’s governing executive is almost totally purged of critical independent voices—nothing left but sycophants. If they’re not sufficiently loyal to the mistress, fire them and get someone else.

The SNP ask the populace to follow them to the promised land, but we are expected to take the baggage of antagonism, animus, assassination and corruption with us to the new society. This is the brutal creed of neo-liberal regression.

If a determined independence voter with a conscience, a smidgen of decency, alarmed by SNP’s intolerance, you are forced to ignore their unethical practices to vote SNP.

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Posted in Scottish Politics | 36 Comments

SNP and Loyalty

Letters: The 1707 Act of Union was nothing but a stitch-up | The National
Queen Anne and the 1707 Act of Union. Note the flag – two nations

The SNP is wrestling with a fundamental crisis of its own making, a profound loss of trust by the public in its honesty and methods, a crisis that that has spilled over onto its ability to secure independence, the principle it was entrusted to achieve. How it arrived at this situation is not the stuff of this analytical essay. Leadership is the subject, why we look to leadership for guidance, and why, when they are in a pickle, a leader’s authority can evaporate, we are blamed and become cynical about politicians.

To understand why we choose leaders, rather than decisions made by group and referenda, means going back a few thousand years of human history to see how leaders were formed and identified.

Down from the trees

Man has come a long way since he dropped down from the trees to venture out of his safety zone and sight of his group. (It might have been a woman, but not if protecting children.) In the journey he took he aquired survival skills, knowledge of things around him, a path to follow to the river and water, but not, it seems, develop an acute intellectual capacity. Listening to some people argue politics suggests we prefer to hold tight to our prejudices, beliefs, blind faith, myths, and received wisdom, in comparison to curiosity, challenge and new ways of seeing.

The first to abandon the safety of a tree at night and risk meeting a predatory animal, will have appeared fearless, perhaps reckless, to those still up the tree. When he first fashioned a spear to hunt and for protection, the group would have marvelled, the same when he lit a fire from flint, and fashioned a wheel. Given preference to tell the others what to do in their best interest, who should sleep under the tree in the midday heat, who should stand guard, they probably thought him clever, a good protector. He anticipated trouble and he helped them prepare for it.

Next came living in caves. The Paleolithic family who moved to a cave for shelter as a safe place to live, eat, sleep, concieve and bring up children, probably guarded it from other families, habital caves being in short supply. This, you could say, was the origins of the property owning society, only it was not a society then. It became a society as we know it once groups of families chose to inhabit a series of caves, man-made or natural, like those on cliff escarpments where ladders are needed to reach the first level, a method of protection from predatory animals and roaming hunters with clubs out to steal stored winter grain.

Once the mini-society was formed, a group leader emerged, someone who decided when to plant seed corn and when to harvest it, when fish were plentiful and when to gather berries from the woods. There may also have appeared a shaman, the man respected for knowing the reason of things, sickness, death, the afterlife, interpretating visions, bad weather and the night sky. A shaman would ask for rituals to create rain for parched crops, or to keep evil spirits away. Today, we call them political parties.

The hunt

Hunting fast-moving food soon identified the one man who had worked out how to trap a wounded woolly mammoth in a pit, kill it there and then with spear and rock, and not be crushed by it face-to-face. His skill recognised, he gained ardent followers, gifts, special priviledges, first to eat regular meals, his protection the group’s incentive.

Those he led would feel lost and afraid if he died suddenly, or vanished from the group. If that happened they looked for another who showed similar courage and skills. The beginning of the charismatic hunter warrior began to take shape in minds, admiration for bravery painted on cave walls, often signed by membership card – a berry-stained palm print.

At some point, group superstition became a cult where people were put to work fashioning stone circles assumed to be special safe spiritual places, the origins of religion. One day a group member saw power in religion, not for the good of the community but for himself. He claimed to speak on behalf of the spirits in the sky.

In time, this organisation of the herd evolved into organised religion, with places of worship for the local society to pay allegiance to an unseen god or gods as an act of loyalty, a sanctuary some found a comforting illusion.

Social cohesion

Social cohesion began with loyalty to a group, and moved on over time to tribes, and in Scotland’s case, clans. Though Scotland’s clans are often depicted as tribes constantly at war with each other, stealing cattle and valued possessions, the truth is much nearer a Scotland that found ways for small, self-supporting societies to co-exist. What can be said is, each clan had its own ways and means and guarded their traditions with pride.

Loyalty took the form of allegience to the clan. Your children took the name of the clan chief. The community looked after each other, and poetry, song and games arose from a sense of belonging. Food was bred in herding cattle, ground tilled for planting oats; people shared what they had. Clan loyalty saw you receive benefits in kind, protection, a roof over your head, a longer life than foraging for yourself, but the freedoms Paleolithic man enjoyed were not the same as those a Scottish clan held important.

Enter the exploiters and slave traders

One day, communities, profuse and widely scattered, decided power should be centralised. It reduced the wayward from causing chaos. Someone was crowned overlord or king, the tribes told to unite under his tutelage, servants of his domain. This was a new kind of loyalty, not based on territorial affinity, or family or race, but on identity of creed. Promises were made of equality, but not for the overlords, they were above all that.

Through time, the communities grew larger and became nations. A few, like Scotland, protected their territory against malicious incursion, Scotland against the Romans (when we were Picts), and then against English invasion, Vikings in between times.

Bigger nations took to war against smaller nations, to boost their wealth and conquer new lands, nations less organised, just as tribes did in distant times. The wars, which like all wars, started as attempts at extermination, gradually became campaigns of conquest. Loyalty was given to a general on the field of battle and then to a monarch.

The vanquished were not put to death (unlike Cumberland’s slaughter of Scots after the battle of Culloden), but instead were made slaves, or became the workers for the conquering nation. In all cases, loyalty to the victor was paramount, all sorts of sanctions and even imprisonment landed on the heads of dissidents or the rebellious.

Soon there were two sets of communities, those who remembered the old, freer ways, and those happy to adopt the new ways of their colonial masters.

The Scottish National Party Community

The Scottish National Party has always been a gathering of unlike minds yet settled on one single ideal, reinstating the freedoms of Scotland. It is a party of individuals from different social backgrounds with different life priorities, save one, the shared imperative of self-governance.

England, lost for an empire, plays contact sports with its neighbours as if they are its empire. In effect, Scotland remains a modern slave nation, thoroughly colonised to a degree that is both subtle and glaringly obvious.

Unfortunately, it is not obvious to many people in Scotland who feel they enjoy full freedoms, they can choose a car, which shop to buy produce, dress as they wish, choose the school for their children’s education, and pick and choose their leisure activities, none of which constitutes political freedom. Those are mere consumer choices, choices determined by manufacturers, corporate entities and advertising companies.

Happiness in the hands of the venal

Ever since the advent of slavery, the powerful have assumed their happiness is dependent on inflicting misery on the rest of us. Contemporary England is no different.

Staying in modern times for historical example, Scotland was offered a faux democracy, three political parties all intent on retaining the status quo, that is, power residing in their neighbour state, expressly London. It was if Sir William Wallace and Robert the Bruce never existed, never achieved a furlong of rights for Scotland.

English power saw no issue in the destruction of Scotland’s ship building industry or its steel industry. It did not recoil from using Scotland as a guinea pig for the Poll Tax experiment. More recently, it used an advisory referendum to haul Scotland from centuries association with our European neighbours. It obstructs Scotland’s exports to the east and to the west. It removes over sixty percent of Scotland’s wealth annually, imposes alien policies that cause hardship and premature death, and tells our inhabitants to be happy with our lot. England leads, Scotland must follow. Whom so ever is elected UK prime minister expects the dignity of his office is respected.

Today, under the Tory party, an England society is geared to destroy the legitimate hope of Scotland, a Scotland that wants to create a society that has as many outlets as possible to create joy and pride and splendour to human activity. This is what Westminster calls bad leadership.

Leaders are needed but not irreplaceable

Those profound impositions demand an elected leader of Scotland who is politically astute, fearless, and above all morally courageous. Scots prefer individual liberty, not conformity. England talks of ‘the country’, the state. The ‘state’ is an abstract concept. It does not feel pain or anxiety. The state, when you look closely, is nothing more than a governing minority. Call it the Tory party if you like.

The SNP finds itself in a crisis of its own making, faced by internal warfare among its own politicians and civil servants, while confronted by an England flexing its strength as if back in the imperialist 18th century. The party wants loyalty irrespective of how badly the party is performing. But a leader is the means to an end, not the end in itself.

History shows us some leaders can be good, some plainly disasterous and murderous. Who to trust? The leader to trust is usually the one preaching a society that brings happiness to the majority, not the few. As in all societies, we transfer our hopes and dreams to a leader, essentially an unhealthy indentification because human nature can let us down.

This is what analytical philosophy calls the ‘administrator’s fallacy’. By that I mean, people who think society is a systematic whole, parts held together like a jigsaw. Pull the pieces apart and cohesion is lost. (This was JK Rowlings argument, only she talked of threads and weave.)

To explain in party terms: in return for voter loyalty to the party, the party will secure benefits for the membership. This is a mechanical outlook. It is for the individuals and their communities, not the whole, that ultimate value is sought.

I mean, if a farmer in Barra is caught in a freezing winter’s gale, it isn’t the politician in Edinburgh who feels the cold. A political party is elected to seek ways to provide what it has promised the electorate, cheap housing and fuel, for example, but once in governance and set in its ways, deaf to the electorate, not open to spontaneity, it soon dismisses new ideas unless you are a loyal member delivering the approved message. The leadership wants to keep the old ways, youth to institute new ways.

The expression ‘troughers’ aimed at MPs who have become lazy and unproductive, has some truth to it. If in governance too long, they can forget what life is like for the rest of us as they shuffle papers on their desk, and sit at interminable committee meetings. vision and energy expended. They end up trying to fit people to the system, than fit the system to the people.

In summation

What I am saying is, the primitive instinct for adventure constrained, curiousity and the hunt obstructed, people will demand an outlet. Ours is independence, a free nation. We have had over 300 years of limits placed on Scotland, culturally, economically and in international relations. Our democracy is hobbled, ersatz, a copy of England’s, so watch what you say and how you say it. Do not get too adventurous.

The Tory party’s ideology and that of Labour too, is a dogmatic political creed, no different from the Communist party, or capitalism. The SNP has managed to avoid dogma because its central goal is to create a society where such creeds cannot exist. It promises to lead us not to a new land, but to a better society.

The SNP never promised reinstatement of self-governance will dispel evils. It has no false gods. What it promises is to liberate a nation so people can exercise free will, make decisions that are not derived from instruction imposed by its neighbour, create a healthy version of social cohesion. From all evidence, the current SNP administration has chased minor goals, experiments, as if intimidated by the thought of succeeding, that classic moment when in supreme victory the party leader says, ‘now what?’

‘Wheest for Indy’ is the preaching of moralists, self-discipline and cold showers, people who do not understand human nature. We have the will to reach our goal, only the folly of the party elected to achieve our hopes can trip up that quest and leave us in the bondage of an undesirable, fraudulant Union with a hostile tribe.

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NOTE: This is a work in progress.

Posted in Scottish Politics | 17 Comments