SALMOND INQUIRY: AN ESSENTIAL QUESTION

In August 2018, in a story breaking the news of the formal complaints against Alex Salmond and the Leslie Evans investigation of them, journalist David Clegg wrote in the Daily Record:

“Acting on a tip-off, we submitted questions to the Scottish Government on October 31 last year, in a bid to ascertain if any complaints had been made about Alex Salmond during his tenure as first minister.”

In January 2019, after the Scottish Government had conceded at judicial review that Evans’s investigation of the Salmond complaints had been biased and unlawful, the Daily Record quoted Salmond’s message to his supporters:

“The Daily Record boasted of a ‘tip-off ‘ about me in October 2017. The question is from who? Perhaps we are now getting very close to finding out.”

It is now more vital than ever that we should find out, and that the inquiry should know, who provided this “tip-off” to the Daily Record.

We must find out, and the inquiry must know, how it could be that David Clegg and the Daily Record knew something about these complaints on 31 October 2017 when, so we are told, no-one in the Scottish Government, up to and including Nicola Sturgeon, had any idea about them.

There is a measure of protection for journalists and their sources in such circumstances under section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981:

“No court may require a person to disclose, nor is any person guilty of contempt of court for refusing to disclose, the source of information contained in a publication for which he is responsible, unless it be established to the satisfaction of the court that disclosure is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime.”

The inquiry is not a court but it’s still a vexed question whether it’s worthwhile for the inquiry to call David Clegg and thereby bring down on itself all of the usual howls of outrage from Scotland’s selectively indignant mainstream media.

There is, however, nothing to stop the Committee asking witnesses to eliminate themselves as the source of the tip-off, which is the kind of thing the police do as a matter of routine to enable them to focus their enquiries properly on genuine suspects.

Nicola Sturgeon, Leslie Evans (again), Sturgeon’s Chief of Staff Liz Lloyd, and of course Alex Salmond himself are all still due to appear before the inquiry, which has announced it will resume taking evidence on 27 October.

They, and all other remotely relevant witnesses, should be asked, on oath or affirmation, if they were the source of the tip-off to Clegg.

15 thoughts on “SALMOND INQUIRY: AN ESSENTIAL QUESTION

  1. ‘We submitted questions (in the form of FOI questions – in which case they will have had an answer within a statutory time period – around about 21 days I think) on 31/10/1917.’

    They did not publish the answers/story until August 2018, when the complaints/legal proceedings became public knowledge. Why the delay in responding/reporting – unless of course they had no story to print until the matter went full public..

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  2. Gordon as you have stated this inquiry does not have the legal ability to force those individuals to affirm or deny their involvement with the leaking of the Clegg articles ,BUT the certain politicians and churnalists who are calling for a judge lead inquiry may EXPOSE the perpetrator/s and the reasons behind the leaks , and what these persons would gain from the leaks.
    As you and others have and are alluding to this has massive ramifications for the trust , honesty and integrity of our Scottish SNP Government and should warrant a FULL judge lead inquiry where individuals will HAVE to give evidence under oath and if found to be lying or economical with the TRUTH they are subject to legal penalties which should include prison
    Again, you and others have highlighted the cost of this legal PANTOMINE but it is NOT receiving the proper public OUTRAGE which it should be subjected to, the costs of this erroneous,egregious, unsubstantiated folly has been estimated to cost millions, millions which could have been spent feeding poverty stricken families and children

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  3. If the harassment procedure was declared unlawful from the judicial review, then surely any complaints processed by that procedure would also be unlawful?

    Leslie Evans states is was just a little thing, and implies that Judith MacKinnon was to blame for not being meticulous, that she had contact then investigated a complaint. This has been bothering me – this is a minor thing and wouldn’t seem to warrant Lord Pentland ruling it ‘unlawful’. What would be a very serious breach would be if an official who was involved the procedure and other complainers, turned out to be a complainer themself. If this was the case, and and all the officials knew about it, in particular Leslie Evans, then all the civil servants and public servants that knew and carried on with the process – through to police and procurator fiscal – have failed badly in their duty of care to the public, and can surely be accused of persecuting Alex Salmond.

    Nicola Sturgeon’s written evidence went over-the-top with reminding everyone to not reveal the names of the accusers. Considering it is a court order, and written in the committee’s remit, it seems excessive to me to mention it even once. I can only assume that she attributes some importance to the identities of at least one accuser, but the fact of the matter is – I shouldn’t have to know any identities for any unlawfulness or wrongdoing to be dealt with – it is the officials that have full responsibility for the care of them and for the public, to ensure everything has been done in a reasonable manner, and if any official had a conflict of interest then the whole process – of creating the mad harassment procedure in the first place – needs to be examined and restarted. There would be no other choice if this was the case, if the process was tainted by anyone that was shown to have ill-intent.

    Leslie Evans claims the procedure only needs to be reworded a bit – I think the judicial review ruling, the sudden withdrawal of the government, and the amount of money handed over (and as you explained to us Gordon, a very unusual ruling on type of award, implying ill-intent) shows that she is misleading us – repeatedly and unreasonably given her position – and that the whole Scottish government is also doing so. I think the Lord Advocate has shown publicly how untrustworthy he is as well.
    —–
    Hi Gordon, sorry for using your blog for working through a few of my own thoughts – I like my opinions and thoughts to be tested by anyone and everyone so leave thoughts scattered all over the place.

    I really appreciate your analysis of the evidence here, it’s really useful to look at it from your perspective, with legal context.

    I think one MSP or MP (SNP) has called for a judge led inquiry with teeth to investigate – I forget who right at this moment – and I now think that something like this might be necessary – the number of public officials that might have known about my speculated breach of contract (to us, the public, their duty of care) and remained silent and allowed the whole process to go ahead seems to be enormous. That they thought they could avoid the unlawfulness of the procedure by immediately starting a criminal investigation – effectively a witch hunt persecuting a private citizen in intent, that cost the public purse a lot of money to find nothing really happened (which the police and procurator fiscal should have reasonably known from the supposed evidence they found – evidence that amounted to a few women with grievances, not of criminal wrongdoing). That irritating ‘reasonable observer’ again eh, of which there seems to have been a serious lack throughout.

    I believe it’s within the public interest to begin investigation and prosecution – would this need to be civil or can it be criminal or either after investigation? This whole affair appears to go much deeper than one man being wronged, and I would really like to know Scots Law, or common law, allows some recourse for the public (me) to be protected from potential corruption and bad actors in our public services without us having to be directly out of pocket. How do we demand such an investigation?

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    1. Supplementary:

      I reach the above conclusions not just from the judicial review ruling and evidence published and spoken by Leslie Evans and Nicola Sturgeon but also:

      Oral evidence from the main trade unions involved: their persistent reference to an ‘independent’ body to deal with the complaints as the best option, that there is no evidence of large numbers of people requiring this type of procedure (covering former ministers).

      Oral evidence given by the former permanent secretary. He was fairly freely spoken, and though he never explicitly stated it, his whole testimony regarding Leslie Evans implies he thought she wasn’t doing her job, that she had somehow failed. He did think a procedure with their ‘identified gap’ was a good thing though – my thoughts on that are if you are going to identify gaps, how about starting with holding previous ministers to account for harmful policies, fraud, illegal wars (e.g)?

      A harassment policy is to protect employees and employers – ex employees? Those are dealt with by criminal law. There was no gap, their previous procedure looked to be pretty sound to me. And, as you have stated Gordon, why suddenly remove the FMs role from any part of the procedure,,, ah, the whole thing does indeed stink.

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      1. Thanks, C, your thoughts on whether there really was any “gap” resonate particularly with me. If an employee of my wee legal firm were to tell me that a former employee or third party had harassed them, I’d advise that employee, as I would any client that consulted me, of her options to pursue action in the civil courts or by making a report to the police. I wouldn’t remotely think it was lawful or appropriate for me to try to discipline the former employee, and nor would any reasonable employer. I have to say that I also have my own priorities when it comes to power imbalances. I’m much more concerned about the woman who “consents” to work a zero hours contract for a millionaire employer because she has to feed her kids than I am about the secretary who sleeps with her boss and regrets it in the morning.

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      2. Haha yes, quite, on that last. But that’s one reason all harassment procedures are designed to take the responsibility for being reasonable out of the hands of the complainer isn’t it – as soon as the complaint is made it is in the hands of the official designated to deal with it,,, so we would hope that the official takes an objective and rational approach. Hm, well, people being people as they are, I’m sure that mostly happens.

        I’m actually repeatedly bewildered at how everyone appears to accept the bizarre claim of having ‘identified a gap’ – but only for sexual harassment (ref:MeToo movement at this stage to emotionally blackmail folk into accepting it. That’s wearing a bit thin these days from repitition and now the furore has died down, though). Harassment procedures are provided by your employer to ensure you have a safe and comfortable working environment,,, if the source of your distress is gone, then it’s resolved – surely?! Historic things are not really appropriate to the purpose of such a procedure…

        I don’t think there is any point trying to make sense of it – it doesn’t make sense, and I suspect civil servants live on a different planet; a more granular one possibly.

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      3. Agree totally, C. I think a big part of the problem is that — largely through our own fault — the labour and trade union movement has been sidelined in a lot of the activism that’s happening now. Who would ever have thought it would be up to Evans and other occupants of Granular Planet to be fighting for women’s rights?

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      4. Well, Evans and her ilk are NOT fighting for women’s rights, they’ve hijacked a cause for their own advancement. I’m a woman, and I can assure you I feel zero solidarity with any of the women involved in this, including Nicola Sturgeon. They all bleat on about equal rights for women, while wholly conforming to gender stereotypes and effectively being sexist against men, in much of what they say and do.

        Far from fighting for our rights Evans et al are going to put us back decades – I work in a male-dominated environment and I see entrenched, but mostly subconscious, sexism every day and what that means for me as a woman – and having women ‘use their sex’ to threaten and intimidate men is not the way to assure them we should be treated as equals because of our skills and abilities. It makes me sick to see what they are doing – they are using hard won rights, won by many strong and determined women in the past (and some men), to show how untrustworthy and conniving women are in positions of power – a classic gender stereotyped way of manipulating people. To actually use sexual harassment as a way to gain power – to use it to try and put a man in jail – and for Nicola Sturgeon then in that sky interview saying things along the lines of ‘well, that’s men for you, none are innocent’ – disgusts me.

        Sorry – but I might be a little bit furious about their supposed ‘feminism’ that they like to advertise so much, as though applying a label to themselves makes them that thing. They make the word meaningless. I should declare that I am not a feminist, never have been, and never will be – I support equality, not women’s rights over those of men (however unfairly we have been treated over the millennia), and that all equality should be proportional to our skills and abilities as individuals. And *I* behave in a way that reflects that belief. (however pointless it seems at times)

        Feminists are needed though, you need the extremes to get anywhere in any fight for your rights as human beings, people with such strong beliefs that they will put their heart and soul into being an activist. But Evans et al are very far from being feminist, they are nasty, conniving, careerist, self-serving fantasists that are doing a lot of damage to the cause of equality – and I wonder at how many real feminists they have silenced in their time; they certainly seem to be making an effort to do just that with some of their other policies.

        I think the Alex Salmond affair is just the culmination, just the part we see, of a wider, more sinister, aspect to the current power base in Holyrood. I hoped it wasn’t so, but the more I see, the more I realise it was a vain hope.

        I don’t normally talk about this aspect so have gone on a bit, and I could go on about ‘blame’ too – that’s an occasionally favourite topic of mine (effectively we, the public, are to blame for everything that happens to us – victim blaming by the neoliberal elite – even though we didn’t structure this world around us, we didn’t decide on a 5-day working week, or decide we should use cars and planes to get about, or to produce junk food that’s cheaper to eat than healthy food, or many other things where we are blamed for: being fat and unhealthy; polluting the atmosphere and the ground etc etc – pick any one, they tell us it’s our fault on the news and everyone believes it) – I was going to say ‘but I won’t’ haha – I’m not known for being brief! Anyway – I don’t think it is our own fault for trade unions being sidelined, is my point.

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      5. I agree with a great deal of what you say here, C. My late mum, who absolutely WAS a second-wave feminist, would have agreed with much of it too. I take your point about not blaming ourselves. I just despair of all the years we were told not to question Labour leaders for the sake of getting, then keeping, power and now of course we’re being told to “wheesht for Indy” and trust that Nicola, Leslie and their wee clique will look after us. I didn’t believe it about Callaghan or Kinnock or Blair or Brown, and I don’t believe it about Sturgeon.

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      6. Aye, you are right of course, we (collectively) seem to fall for the political lies and hypocrisy each and every time – even if some individuals have more wisdom, it’s the collective acceptance that puts us all at risk. I suppose people like to hope,,, but I think the lack of wisdom from the majority mainly comes about from the way the MSM feeds us ‘news’. Wisdom = having learnt form past mistakes/events.

        Even I thought there was more to Nicola Sturgeon for a few years there and fell for some of it, and I’m a steadfast tactical voter with zero loyalty to anyone in politics. Her acting skills have been phenomenal.

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