STURGEON: “JE RECUSE”

One aspect of the First Minister’s abdication of her responsibilities which seems to have passed unnoticed in the Salmond inquiry is her decision to “recuse” herself from providing the Scottish Government’s evidence to it.

It’s difficult to ascertain exactly when this decision was made or when it was first communicated, so I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Government seeking the full details, and I’ll provide them here when I get them.

What we do know is that, having corresponded with the Convenor at various times up to that point on the subject of the evidence and documentation to be provided to the inquiry, and having never so much as hinted that she was precluded in any way from doing so, the First Minister stood up in Parliament on 20 August 2020 and announced:

“Given that part of the Committee remit is to look at my conduct, I have recused myself from any decision making in terms of the Government’s interaction with the Committee, so I am not going to instruct the Government, because it would not be appropriate for me to do so. The Government will, I am sure, continue to co-operate fully and within the legal obligations that it operates under, and to make available the maximum amount of information that it can to the Committee.”

Swinney to the rescue

From around this time, responsibility for writing to the inquiry to explain (repeatedly) why, much as it would like to, the Scottish Government cannot actually provide the evidence the inquiry is seeking for this, that and the other reason has fallen on the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, who continues to fulfil the role with his usual diligence.

Readers with reasonably long powers of recall might remember that Swinney also played a similar role at the very start of this saga.

When the Scottish Cabinet met on 31 October 2017 to discuss the announcement to be made in Parliament that day of the Government’s new actions on sexual harassment in response to the Me Too movement, the minutes record his heroic decision to step forward at that moment too:

“Answering that day’s topical question on sexual harassment in the Parliament would provide an opportunity to highlight men’s responsibility to change their conduct and behaviour, and to help bring to an end the sexual harassment and abuse of women – whether in the workplace, in their social life, or at home. To emphasise this point, Mr Swinney proposed that, as the most senior man in the Government, he should answer the question and be explicit in his answer about his reason for doing so.”

Anyone who thinks that this really was John Swinney’s own idea must also think that Dominic Cummings just offers the odd suggestion to Boris Johnson.

According to the First Minister, in her interview last Sunday with Sophy Ridge, it is “age old” that when men are accused of misconduct against women, “often it’s a woman that ends up sitting answering for them”.

What is undoubtedly the case is that when a woman, Nicola Sturgeon, wants to abdicate her responsibilities, it’s often a man, John Swinney, who is wheeled in to help her out with that.

Evans again

But of course there’s a much more serious point at the heart of this. The Salmond inquiry webpages provide a list of its key correspondence with the Scottish Government over the provision of evidence, and one correspondent features there far more than any other.

As usual in this whole affair, the person making all the key decisions about what evidence is to be provided and what withheld is that correspondent, the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans.

Now let me remind readers of the terms of the remit of the inquiry:

“To consider and report on the actions of the First Minister, Scottish Government officials … ”

We can stop there.

If there is any one Scottish Government official whose conduct is more under the microscope than any other person in this whole inquiry it is the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans.

It was Evans who ran the whole unlawful investigation into the complaints against Salmond and Evans who made the unlawful decision on those complaints after Sturgeon had “recused” herself completely from that process too, as detailed earlier in this blog.

And it was Evans who was again a key player in the decision to contest Salmond’s judicial review action and to keep contesting it until finally, more than half a million pounds of public money later, even she had to concede that defeat was inevitable.

A plea for rationality

So I ask these questions in all sincerity, and above all as a person who prizes logical and rational thought:

If, because the inquiry is partly into her “actions”, Nicola Sturgeon has to recuse herself from all decisions about providing documents and evidence to the inquiry, why doesn’t Leslie Evans have to do the same?

Why is Leslie Evans still running the Scottish Government’s show?

21 thoughts on “STURGEON: “JE RECUSE”

  1. I do hope you have better luck than Wings Over Scotland in your quest for information from the Scottish government Gordon. He has submitted numerous requests and been met with a blanket refusal to answer anything if substance

    Liked by 2 people

  2. On John Swinney I found the near-slip that Leslie Evans made in her first evidence session quite interesting – she was going to say ‘we thought it would be USEFUL for a MAN to…’ – as in John Swinney is a useful patsy because he happens to be a compliant man (was my take on it) – she changed ‘useful’ to ‘good’ so it didn’t sound quite as condescending, but the entire statement had a nasty undertone that she seems to be unaware of – using men for her own ends,,,

    https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/committee-on-the-scottish-government-handling-of-harassment-complaints-august-18-2020?clip_start=12:30:28&clip_end=12:32:14

    I’m not sure if that almost-slip rattled her, or if there is just no love lost between her and Jackie Baillie, but questions from the latter straight after this appeared to make Evans uncomfortable – the evidence given directly after the above clip if you want to watch it.

    I watched it again there, and realise that later evidence has now shown Evans statements here regarding the chief of staff involvement in the procedure to be,,, incorrect, and unlikely to be because she ‘forgot’. A one-to-one meeting, and the Chief of Staff making major alterations to the draft procedure that make Evans as Perm Secretary fully responsible for the procedure decisions regarding past ministers (NS being recused on that too – for being the First Minister, she doesn’t seem to be responsible for very much, does she) – not things easily forgotten I’d say, and later email evidence and diary entries prove that Evans was very much involved unlike her repeated claims in this session that ‘it isn’t her job’. That was the final version of the procedure. The version that was probably designed to be, and was, used maliciously,

    Why IS Leslie Evans still in a job?

    Why was her contract extended, even? She was rewarded for her performance. Unbelievable.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Great spot, C. I confess I hadn’t picked up on that clip, and it puts the matter beyond any doubt. I agree with the rest of your take too. Sturgeon and Evans have tied their fates together. Unless Evans is prepared to sacrifice herself, it will be both of them who go or neither. I don’t believe there is any chance that Sturgeon will ever sack her.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep, I think you are correct there, they are entrenched – and I don’t believe Evans would survive in position without Sturgeon there at the top. A crowbar may be needed to extract the clique that’s there.

        I would personally take a bulldozer to the entirety of Holyrood and start again, from bottom up. After first building a high wall at the border, with some aesthetic towers and all topped with lots of pretty chrome barbed wire, peopled by lots of lovely customs folk in shiny new uniforms that ensure everyone that comes to work in the civil service has a shiny new work permit and visa.

        But if anyone is able to come up with a crowbar-solution, I’m all ears.

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  3. The strangest aspect for me about the whole thing has to be NS’s response to AS’s acquittal. This was a man who had been her “friend and mentor” for 30 years, accused of the most terrible crimes of rape & sexual assault. She had refused to push his offer of arbitration which would have saved the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of £££, yet she & Evans have almost shrugged that off as collateral damage (yet the SNP pride themselves as the thrifty keepers of Scotland’s budget)

    When the verdict came in her demeanour was that of “Oh well, we’ll just have to accept it” – not a flicker of “Thank goodness, a man I’ve known for 30 years has been proven innocent and won’t now die in prison”

    Years ago, a colleague of mine was falsely accused of something at work, involving inappropriate emails, and he was taken through the full disciplinary procedure, only to be fully exonerated at the end. I can still remember the joy and relief I felt for him even though I knew he hadn’t done anything wrong, but they dragged him through months of anguish & endless waiting before clearing him. But Alex was dragged through a thousand times worse and his friend of thirty years no longer speaks to him? Says he’s angry with her because she wouldn’t help him?

    Yet Leslie Evans, whose performances at the Inquiry have been worse than dire, gets her full support?

    I’m not ashamed to admit finding this all very difficult to take in, but as an Occams Razor kinda girl, it’s not looking good is it 😦

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, MM, I agree with all of this. They say a liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested. I hope the people behind this never have to go through what Salmond has been through but if they ever do they’ll find that the presumption of innocence and right to due process suddenly matter a hell of a lot more to them than all their “duty of care” patter and woke virtue-signalling.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Cubby, I think that even without knowing who the alphabet women are, this much is clear:

        Sturgeon could have quite legitimately and lawfully refused to countenance a Scottish Government retrospective complaints policy against former Ministers in October 2017. She could have quite legitimately and lawfully instructed her civil servants to tell Ms A and Ms B that the Scottish Government had no locus to deal with their complaints and that they should consult their own solicitors and/or the police if they wanted to try to progress them. She could quite legitimately and lawfully have done the same if more alphabet women had come forward with complaints to the Scottish Government, although it seems unlikely that they would have, once the position had been made clear re Ms A and Ms B.

        Instead, she chose to approve an unlawful process against Salmond, knowing full well what decision Evans was likely to make at the end of that process and, in an act of the greatest political cowardice, to “recuse” herself from the whole business so that all of the blame fell on Evans, Richards and Mackinnon. In taking that course, she committed herself irretrievably to the cause of the alphabet women, and against any loyalty or fairness to Alex Salmond.

        After the debacle of the judicial review, the only thing that could save further disaster in the civil courts was the Crown decision to prosecute, which was duly taken. The guilty verdicts which she and the whole of the Scottish establishment confidently expected would then have saved the day completely. The acquittal must have been devastating to her, hence her response.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks Gordon, what you say here makes sense.

        Nicola Stugeon does appear to think all men are guilty anyway though, whether they are or not – but I suppose that could be put down to a panicked, and ill-considered, response (Sky news interview).

        The plausible deniability that was written into (or out of) the procedure was a very strange thing to do – it makes NS look guilty of something underhand, to agree to be taken out of the process entirely makes no sense. If she is so good at ‘doing the right thing’ then she would have taken on the burden of the task. Cowardice, yes, I think you are right. Maybe that weakness will be her undoing?

        Do you think the email scandal has anything to do with this – I think it’s meant to be a separate inquiry under the ministerial code? I haven’t heard much about it lately. Using personal email accounts for government business is a big no-no I believe – is that being covered up, or delayed, because it might have something to do with these events? It’s a strange thing to do, use the wrong email account,,,

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      3. I hadn’t followed the email thing, C, and have just looked it up. The justification seems to be that all Government business is subject to FOI laws regardless of which platform it’s done on so we’re back to the more fundamental problem that FOI isn’t worth the paper it’s written on if you actually want to find out anything. I’d say it’s all part of the same thing in as much as secrecy and obstruction of legitimate inquiry is now at the heart of this administration and, from what I read, at the heart of the SNP too. If you google the Labour Party rule book, you’ll get the link to all 112 pages of it as your first hit. Try finding the same for the SNP…

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      4. Now, I obviously have no idea as the media have been so careful to keep their identities hidden 🙄 – however I cannot imagine how they kept them hidden from our leader who insists she knows nada, nothing about anything and has subsequently forgotten any of it anyway

        I cannot wait for AS to jog her memory

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  4. Gordon thank you for keeping on this corruption , lies ,and duplicity Scotland deserves better than this , this is not the transparent, honest and open government that we Scots were promised

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  5. We are all waiting in anticipation, I think, for all the juicy stuff – grim as it is likely to be – to be revealed on 27th October. We don’t know what might spark the avalanche of public awareness, but the likelihood is that the evidence will need picking apart and examined carefully to reveal anything (thanks Gordon; no pressure or anything), and going by current behaviour we can expect the Scottish Government to run interference at every stage; so it’s not likely to be a big ‘reveal all’ event. It’ll be a hard slog – maybe, maybe not – maybe the witness interviews (or interrogations more like if Jackie Baillie is asking questions, haha) will be,,, influential in themselves.

    We also have the s.30 judicial review starting at the start of November. Even though ScotGov has, bizarrely, withdrawn from the case, they are still running interference via their legal lackey the Lord Advocate – not known for his fairness or upstanding behaviour (ref:unfairly pursuing prosecution (persecution) and costing the ScotGov many millions most likely in the Rangers case) – even though he is supposed to be only representing the Scottish Parliament. There is a very good team on our side though, so it’s not a no-hope situation, and it’s better that the legal status is clearly defined. Win or lose in this case, the answer needs to be known. Nicola Sturgeon, if she had any thoughts of independence at all, should have pursued this already – then she wouldn’t have had to make up all that mince about an ‘illegal’ referendum. For having a legal background, she’s not very legally accurate – in her terminology or her assumptions.

    Everything the ScotGov seems to be doing is aimed at delay – to try and delay until after Holyrood? (To con us once more?) To try and delay until after Brexit? (I’m not sure the reasons why this would be a date, except that afterwards there will gradually be less urgency in people’s minds to have independence,,,).

    I have been teaching myself economics over the past few years – I don’t find that sort of stuff easy to learn, so have stuck to broad-scope macro economics (that is, don’t bother asking me anything about double-entry bookkeeping), and Richard Murphy has been of immense help, giving good guidance even though he’s in no way obligated to help me – he has also emerged as a good advocate for Scottish Independence, as I’m sure most folk know by now – just from his strong sense of social justice as far as I can see.

    Knowing enough about real macro economics, how it works, I am aware that Nicola Sturgeon has no clue, and has no interest in learning (similar to her medical and public health knowledge I’d say), and also has no interest in listening to SNP policy on the matter – preferring Wilson’s Growth Commission report instead of looking for true independence and a good future.

    A strong economical framework could see us through a smooth transition to being an independent country.

    [yes, yes, m’lud, I do have a point, I’ll get there shortly. I need to introduce a few subjects first to lead in,,,]

    Richard Muphy has posted the latest Alex Salmond Show on his blog because it pertains to economics:

    https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2020/10/17/emerging-from-the-economic-storm/

    I am going to make some, probably highly dubious, inferences from this episode of the show (hence my long intro!)…

    Alex Salmond himself looks well, he’s lost two decades, he is happy, and confident. A bit like, he has a plan, and sees a good future in front of him (and us?). He’s chosen the subject matter – with an emphasis on ‘new economical thinking, and how to make it into policy’ this implies to me: he means here MMT and using it to build a successful country. Blanchflower’s easy and positive references to ‘when you were first minister, Alex,,,’ (he did many good things) comes across to me like a bit of political campaigning. The complete avoidance of mentioning the SNP leadership implies that they will not be in the picture at all for any good future developments. In talking to common weal he has inferred his positive support for a green new deal. I could go on, but won’t 😉

    I would like to admit that I was never a big Alex Salmond fan before – he’s always been a good politician (but that doesn’t make for a good person!), but has been at Westminster so many years, I saw him as being entrenched in the establishment system. What this whole sorry harassment complaint dabacle has done for me, is reveal Alex Salmond to have acquitted himself well at all times, and has shown himself to be a man of integrity – I actually admire him after all this.

    His whole demeanour in the above show says to me, he has his confidence back, and a renewed vigour, and I think he will perform extremely well in any interrogations by Jackie Baillie. I also believe (even though my evidence here is a bit weak,,,) that he has a plan, one that might give us hope in the near future. I want an economist to be in charge of taking us through independence – and Alex Salmond is an economist, with Prof Murphy confirming Alex has moved on from the poor economical thinking of 2014, so we can be sure he is considering the best possibilities – and someone with the political experience that Alex has.

    Whatever happens over the next few months, I think I will be voting for Alex Salmond, whether he’s standing or not, in the next Holyrood Election – even if I have to add his name and a box myself. ‘Alex Salmond. For independence. For a future.’ X.

    Yeah yeah, on a hope and a prayer – but I wanted to pass on a bit of maybe-hope to others too – it isn’t ALL bleak waiting to see if anything will happen,,, there ARE things happening, I just don’t know what they are, exactly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great post Contrary!

      My thoughts almost exactly…. I have met and even shared a platform with Alex S. some years ago. (He even offered to buy me a whisky, but in retrospect that was just a pretence to avoid my criticism about lack of progress on land reform which is my field).

      I did not warm to him very much but I always respected him as a politician with some integrity and a vision. I think 2014 came to early for the economic arguments to play out and I do worry that the SNP are asleep at the wheel on the economy and the importance of developing a post covid & climate friendly growth strategy.

      Andrew Wilson who I also know should be nowhere near any serious economic thinking.. he is far too comfortable with massaging egos of corporate finance.

      and Gordon thanks do much for your blog. It really provides great insight and value to the debate. Expertise and knowledge are wonderful things… I just wish politicians respected those things more!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! ,,, you’ve read it already?? I’m always surprised at the speed other people can read at – I just feel bad that the hope isn’t on firmer foundations,,, but: there is an older clip of Alex interviewing Blanchflower in April in there – and the difference in demeanour is stark.

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  6. Gordon, you make a very good point as is often the case.

    The way the inquiry is being run would be similar to Salmond deciding what evidence is to be made available in his criminal trial for the jury to see.

    The whole matter is an abuse of power and misuse of public funds by the Scotgov and SNP leadership.

    Liked by 1 person

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