WHEN BLACK MEANS WHITE: THE ZANY WORLD OF THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT

Yesterday, John Somers told the inquiry that he had no involvement in the development of the procedure which was used against Alex Salmond.

This is not true.

Somers, in his capacity as Nicola Sturgeon’s Principal Private Secretary, had a key role in developing the policy at a critical time.

On Wednesday 6 December 2017, after a day and night of frantic activity which evidently resulted in very little sleep for her or other key participants, Leslie Evans emailed Nicola Richards, James Hynd and a third redacted recipient at 5.28 in the morning:

“Spoke with John S last night. We agreed you would send up tweaked codes in draft without any letters just now.

“And as discussed, info on the steps and touch points involved in the process also useful. Keep me posted – back in office tomorrow but happy to talk. John also I’m sure.”

As readers of previous posts on this blog may remember, the “tweaked codes” which Somers and Evans had agreed to “send up” to Nicola Sturgeon constituted the recast procedure which changed at a stroke everything which had been developed by Hynd and others to that point, by removing the First Minister completely from the process.

The “letters” which were now not to be sent to Sturgeon were letters which Hynd had been instructed by Evans to draft, in line with the procedure as it had existed prior to this discussion with Somers, and for the purpose of intimating the new procedure to former Ministers and former First Ministers when it was approved by the First Minister in due course.

Following the discussion between Evans and Somers on the night of Tuesday 5 December 2017, these letters simply disappeared from the development process, and the Scottish Government has never disclosed them to this day, at least not in the papers which have been made available to the public by the inquiry.

Exactly what comprised the “steps and touch points involved in the process” which were evidently also discussed by Evans and Somers remains a matter of guesswork since, of course, no-one at the inquiry asked Somers yesterday, or has ever asked Evans, what was meant by these terms.

What is clear is that both Evans herself and Somers were “happy to talk” to Richards, Hynd and the third, redacted, person about these “steps and touch points” in the procedure as now radically recast.

I want to say a lot more about the hugely significant context of this very obvious involvement of Somers, acting on behalf of Sturgeon, in the development – actually, in the complete recast – of the procedure but before doing so I want to wait for the transcripts of the evidence yesterday of Somers, Richards, Russell and Mackinnon at the inquiry since all were involved as key players in creating that context.

For now, it is worth noting that Somers’s evidence on affirmation yesterday was given, as Somers himself pointed out, with the specific endorsement in advance of the Scottish Government.

On 6 November 2020, Deputy First Minister John Swinney wrote to the inquiry:

“Mr Somers was not involved in the development of the procedure…”

Poor John Swinney. He gets all the dirty jobs.

117 thoughts on “WHEN BLACK MEANS WHITE: THE ZANY WORLD OF THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT

  1. I caught a bit of the inquiry yesterday with Gillian Russell giving evidence.

    Was Somers the first, or one of the first people to whom an allegation of attempt rape was made?

    If he was the first person to whom the allegation was disclosed – he simply has to be a primary witness on the prosecution report and the Police Crime Report.

    The inquiry attempted to ascertain the name of the Police Officer who first dealt with the criminal allegations of complainer A. The Government Report submitted, as GR highlighted, have redacted that Police Officers name, to prevent jigsaw identification. Which does not really hold much credence, but hey ho.

    But is it more likely, that the Police Officer, if called to give evidence, will disclose, that an important part of any rape or attempted rape allegation is to trace the witness to whom the complainer first discloses the allegation and get a statement from them. Which would include time, date and locus the disclosure is made.

    Given that one part of the focus of the inquiry is to ascertain who knew what, when, and if NS lied to parliament about when she knew… this chain of evidence and record keeping might be of use.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm … the first disclosure had been made, I think, a number of years previously. The event was looked into at the time, and the compainant was given an apology and and offer of transfer to another job.

      I thought John Somers came over very well, sounding plausible and competent. The only question without a satisfactory answer was in respect of an email he’d received attaching a WORD copy of the procedure with track changes visible. He’d no answer to why he’d received it, and denied having read this attachment.

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      1. 1971 Thistle

        I think I can square that one for you – he ain’t telling the truth.

        The House of Cards just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

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      2. He is a good actor Robert. I’ll give you that. When asked on critical issues by the Committee he averted his eyes downwards to look at the floor – classic sign of lying.

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  2. Oh. Oh! No, I didn’t pick up the terms ‘letters’ or “tweaked codes” meanings, no wonder I was having such difficulty figuring out what was happening 4th to 6th Dec 2017. On the 27th of Nov, James Hynd says “I have the commission re: the letters” to carry out a revision of code letters for former ministers to go with revised policy. He sends out revision v6.1 of the procedure, saying there are changes to that sent to the FM previously. But then I have him sending out the ‘final draft’ v6.1 on 30th Nov – but couldn’t quite figure out what was going on there. You don’t ever issue a changed document with the same revision and version number.

    Dammit, there were loads of references to letters (probably just repeated ones mind you) – that I thought were just, say, standardised letters to send out to the ex minister being complained about, so didn’t pay that much attention to. Okay, I understand the relevance now.

    And yes, what is the email trail about with subject “next steps following Perm Sec discussion” with James Hynd on 30th Nov? I never did see what the next steps actually were. Next thing we know James Hynd has it all agreed with legal and sending the procedure to the Permanent Secretary on the 6th December.

    Why so rushed though? Why would you rush it through? From what I can see, it was still being discussed after it was signed off on he 20th, over Christmas and the new year, by HR and the unions (along with other policies): all very rushed.

    Why is John Swinney taking the fall-guy role here? That seems to be a mad thing for him to do – is he going to chivalrously fall on his sword to protect the FM? Still refusing to reveal legal advice in his last letter dated 1st December, he has invited the committee convener and the speaker to have a little chat. I hope they both get legal advice before doing so!

    I’ve still to watch Tuesday’s meetings, and good idea to wait to see the transcripts Gordon too – I found reading back on some a lot more revealing than just watching the video again.

    I saw a BBC article that says Nicola Richards told the committee that it was Leslie Evans that decided the police should be informed, whether or not the complainers wanted it. I suppose next we’ll have Leslie Evans suddenly remembering this, despite her earlier testimony that she didn’t know who did it. Sigh.

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  3. Contrary, I enjoyed your comment “I hope they both get legal advice before doing so.”

    It is sad to see how many people in the Scotgov/SNP are just lying, finding reasons not to answer questions and forgetting stuff.

    Yes Richards was clear yesterday that Evans made the decision to go to the police. It was also said that the complainers were reluctant to formally get the police to take action. Well I guess if you are lying you would be reluctant to go to trial and give testimony under oath.

    For Swinney to actually say in his letter he doesn’t want to set a precedent re releasing legal advice when he knows that a precedent has already been set marks him out as signing up to the House of Cards.

    Somers says he only told his line manager Allison about the meetings with the complainer Ms A and then just forgot about it – aye right. Allison obviously then told Russell. Can we believe that all these senior managers/Directors knew about this complainer in November 2017 but never mentioned it to Evans or Sturgeon? No is my answer.

    Did Allison ever mention John Somers telling her about his meetings with a complainer in her verbal/ written submissions to the committee – I don’t think so – perhaps because the obvious question to her is did you tell Evans about the complainer. If she says yes then it moves on to Evans asking the same. If she says no then that would be surprising that she didn’t tell her line manager – the same line manager she exchanges messages with when on holiday in the Indian Ocean.

    Personally, It didn’t look like to me the Committee did a god job interviewing Somers but you never know what info they have that is not made public that means they take a different approach.

    To me it has always been clear that they all knew complainers were sitting there about Salmond and they deliberately tailored a new process to get Salmond. A process that gave Salmond no rights – that was unfair, unlawful and tainted by bias.

    I watched Tuesdays sessions in full and the more I see, hear and read just confirms what a nasty affair the whole business is and the people responsible need to be held to account.

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    1. Cubby, this was Allison at the Committee:

      “As I mentioned, the permanent secretary sent an all-staff note on 2 November. I understand that that precipitated a contact with Miss A. She then came forward to Gillian Russell to say that she wanted to share a concern. Separately, someone approached me to say that Miss A would like to have a chat with me in my pastoral care role and we agreed that we would see her together.”

      I’m hoping to put this in further context in the next post.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay, having watched the latest oral evidence – still to go through transcript if I have time, and eagerly awaiting written evidence – I have a clearer (by no means clear) idea of who said what to whom, and when.

        So both my notes were correct – Ms A met with both Barbara Allison and Gillian Russell on the 22nd Nov 2017.

        Taking everyone’s testimony at face value, Ms A arranged a meeting with Somers on 20th Nov (unknown reasons for doing so – there had been plenty of ‘encouraging’ emails from Perm Sec saying where to go and who to contact, and it didn’t include Somers: on 2nd Nov (all staff email), 6th Nov – Perm Sec blog post, 13th Nov, email naming Gillian Russell with a mobile number to contact, sent to all staff). Somers went to his line manager, Barbara Allison, immediately. Barbara Allison advised he recommend Gillian Russell, and contacted Gillian Russell separately to warn her of a possible contact. Ms A contacts Gillian Russell by text and arranges a meeting for the 22nd Nov.

        I believe Gillian Russell genuinely can’t remember when she got that initial text, and doesn’t have that information now. But it’s probably just the day before,,, she seemed to have the impression of it being earlier, but we can’t be certain.

        What isn’t clear is the discussion between Barbara Allison and Gillian Russell on why they both would be present at the meeting on the 22nd. Gillian Russell seems to have been leading it, and be taking all the notes. Allison wasn’t approached first, she was just the line manager being informed, so why she was present seems a bit strange – whatever other pastoral care role she might have had.

        I eagerly await your further context on this Gordon!

        As for Somers – he’s a right one eh? I think I have more to say on his oral evidence. One of the most interesting things he said was how he’s in charge of security for the FM office and Bute House. Someone in charge of security, having so little concern about the mysterious disappearing diary entries? I think not! Unless he disappeared them himself.

        He said himself he checked the FM diary every day – security means knowing exactly where and when she’ll be at any time, and anything that could mean possible falsification of the diary should be his priority to investigate. I note that he physically turned his body to the side, looking away, as he stumbled over giving the party-line regarding the Aberdein drop-in casual visit in passing not arranged at all pop the head round the door while he happened to be there passing through, visit. It’s quite a mouthful, so it’s understandable he stumbled over delivery.

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      2. Hah! And John Somers said he is best pals with both Liz Lloyd and Private Secretary 1 (who was heavily involved with procedure development), no one mentioned that! – you need to get your team of reporters here picking up on these things, Gordon 😉

        Actually, I might have just missed it, this comments thread turned into a confusing morass as bad as the committee evidence itself pretty quickly – I don’t envy you trying to keep track of this as well as the rest! I hope you take a decent break over Xmas and new year, and rest your weary brain cells. (Hm, unless there a lot of exciting developments, of course)

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    2. All good points, thanks Cubby for highlighting aspects there, I’m falling behind with my homework for sure.

      Gordon – an all staff email went out on 2nd Nov about the review of policy and to “encourage individuals to come forward” (that was said on a weekly note from Leslie Evans to FM on 10th Nov) from Evans. Allison was contacted by Ms B on the 8th of Nov. Another all-staff email from Leslie Evans went out on the 13th Nov specifically naming Gillian Russell as the confidential sounding board. I’m sure all staff were beginning to get the message by then, and the ‘encouragement’ was perhaps bordering on incitement. Ms A meets with Gillian Russell on the 22nd of Nov. That’s what the published written evidence says anyway.

      Allison’s confused account is difficult to make sense of – you’d quote the 13th of Nov email, if Ms A didn’t come forward until after it,,, though it sounds like they were all in cahoots and in contact all along, and it’s like Allison can’t remember who came forward when!

      I’ll also draw your attention to the Notes, on 7th Nov, from Private Secretary 1 – I really think he or she should be getting interviewed too – from Phase 1 FN10/ZZ005 p10 of 159 – it’s just a list of who should be doing what and general points, with things like “Perm Sec accepted short & longer term plan” and “issue for FM for ministers to be investigated by staff – would need to ask the FM,,,” – why is there no record of the FM being asked such things? And a paragraph redacted under the heading “allegations against former ministers” – surely they weren’t naming names at this early stage?! Before anyone came forward. I’m intensely curious at that redaction. Um, well, I suppose it’s not immediately relevant, but something to note maybe, for the mystery of the tweaked code. Like the email where JH shows concern about excluding the FM, then doesn’t mention it again.

      Oh, I went to try and find a reference there, and spotted on my initial notes – Nicola Richards’ further evidence, refers to YY008 where Ms A meets with Barbara Allison on 22nd Nov… I’ll have to check I haven’t got mixed up: Russell was the Sounding Board, and Allison was Pastoral Care, is what I’m assuming. I wish I had a head for all these names and dates! You might need to ignore me here Gordon.

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    3. Nope, I got it the right way round (re GR and BA), I went back to your earlier post

      https://gordondangerfield.com/2020/10/25/what-did-the-first-minister-know-and-when-did-she-know-it/

      And I’ll go back and review the others (and maybe tidy up my crib sheet) – I really wish I had your comprehension skills Gordon, and probable speed-reading skills,,, and probable memory while I’m at it! I have to keep going back over stuff again and again just to keep it in mind. I can do things (inanimate objects) and their spatial location and maybe when it was built, not people doing and saying things and dates! Hmm, maybe I can pretend they’ve just built a House of Cards,,, (little diagrams and sketches coming up on my crib sheet :-D)

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  4. Gordon, Amazon finally delivered your book. Thank you for your kind offer on the previous article BTL to come along to my wife’s book club if they choose it in the future as one of their books. Obviously at the moment it goes ahead as a zoom club. Once I have finished reading your book I’ll give you some feedback.

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  5. Just as MacKinnon et al are able to say her role as Investigating Officer was compatible with ‘their interpretation’ of paragraph 10, so Somers is able to say he had ‘no involvement in the development’ of the procedure because his interpretation of ‘involvement in the development’ does not include the facilitation of development by others.

    On the whole, and leaving this matter aside, I thought he was very convincing in his evidence which perhaps says something about the other witnesses?

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  6. What I don’t understand from yesterday is why John Somers became involved at all? I know he said he was asked to by his line manager but the Committee did not press him on why he thought he was asked, given that he is primarily PPS to NS.

    Jackie Bailey tried but I though was less effective than usual – fluffing her joke about JS and NS being husband and wife.

    For me the obvious question that needs to be answered is why a Man would be asked to talk with a woman who was the victim of attempted rape by another man?

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    1. Somers said in his evidence that Ms A seemed to be exploring her options, and that one of them was a discussion with the First Minister, hence her making the appointment with him. This has implications, which I hope to deal with in the next post.

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      1. Thanks Gordon. I will look forward to your next post. I guess I still think it strange that she would want to talk to a man about it at all…..especially if this man ‘had nothing to do with the development of the policy’….

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  7. Gordon, Allison is not exactly clear in that statement is she.

    “Someone ” – is that Somers. Did Allison meet with Somers and Miss A in the second meeting. There was a mention of a third person attending the second meeting but Swinney I am sure in his letter said there wasn’t a third person.

    Civil servants normally have crystal clear records of events. All these statements/ verbal evidence all seem as clear as mud as to what exactly was going on and contradict each other – not incompetence in my opinion – deliberately misleading by sowing confusion and trying to make it all impossible to understand what happened.

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    1. Absolutely, Cubby. I’ll try to cover this deliberate obfuscation in the next post. I think there’s also a genuine element of witnesses failing to remember what they said before and what others have said about the same event — not a problem of course if you just tell the truth!

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  8. “…strange that she would want to talk to a man about it at all…..especially if this man ‘had nothing to do with the development of the policy’….”

    John Somers’s explanation of this is that he was approached as a gatekeeper to Nicola Sturgeon, who was the person the complainant wished to speak to. At this stage it would be odd if the complainant had any idea at all about who was working on the procedure.

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      1. That ‘s right Gordon. Why would a woman who has suffered an attempted rape by a senior powerful man be directed to talk about it to another senior powerful man? This is either astonishingly crass from the civil servants involved or there is much more to the meeting that we have been told.

        I am also pretty sure from Mr Somers answers and body language that some of his answers were not fully truthful.

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    1. Yes, there’s an important point here, that I’ll try to bring out more fully in the next post. Although all the SG witnesses are at pains to obscure as far as possible exactly how and when Ms A entered and then progressed through the complaints process, it’s pretty clear she already knew about Russell and Allison, and was already in contact with at least one of them when she arranged to see Somers on her “personal” matter.

      There can be little doubt that her only reason for doing so was to get her “concerns” as directly as possible to the First Minister. This was an entirely understandable and legitimate thing for her to do and if Somers had set up a meeting or taken her “concerns” forthwith to the FM, that would have been an eminently sensible course of action.

      So why didn’t he? His vague waffling about not putting the FM in a “state of knowledge” makes no sense at all and should have been vigorously pursued. Of course it wasn’t.

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      1. Why on earth would she want to go direct the the FM, woman or not, though? The top dog, and supposedly ‘friend and mentored’ of the person you were complaining about?

        I certainly don’t understand it! I’d be avoiding her like the plague. The only reason I could see – and if they were already friends MsA wouldn’t need to go through Somers – is if she wanted something specific from Nicola Sturgeon, maybe wanting to do a deal or something. I can’t envisage anything else – if she were in the upper echelons she’d already have access to NS – and if you were lower down, you don’t go to the top brass with genuine concerns where you are accusing their apparent friend of harassment.

        If MsA was really wanting access to NS, then she already knew quite a lot, or wanted quite a lot.

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  9. I haven’t had the chance to view again the evidence given on Tuesday but hope to later this week.

    One thing I was taught by my principal, when a newly qualified lawyer, was to review the correpondence regularly. this is a ball-aching task but, as he pointed out, the other side will almost never do it. It is in reviewing the contemporaneous documents and contrasting that with the evidence, both oral and written, that will show the flaws in the arguments and the lies.

    As Gordon says, that shouldn’t be a problem if you’re telling the truth.

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    1. Good point, Ingwe, though in fairness to the Committee members, they’re being very poorly served by their clerks in my opinion. How hard is it to assemble the Committee’s own paper or electronic bundle of documents that puts the correspondence and documentation in chronological and/or thematic order and can be made available at each hearing for the witnesses and members? As all parties who are in bad faith do, the Scottish Government have quite deliberately produced their evidence in the most haphazard and confusing form possible, and that’s even excluding the pages and pages of unexplained redactions, always of the most relevant material, and with the damaging stuff that cannot be completely concealed buried as deep as possible in the irrelevant rubbish.

      As we know, it’s a standard tactic, but it can be countered with some effectiveness if an effort is made.

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  10. “[Redacted] the woman who spoke to Barbara – has been in touch to speak…. She hasn’t made a statement but is still in close touch with the one who did. [Redacted] ”

    Seriously?

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      1. I stopped counting at 5 but I am certain I could have gone on. That’s 5 very serious questions that spring from the fact of collusion between the complainers. Did these complainers take part in the later criminal trial?

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      2. Yes Pat, both of them did, under different letters of the alphabet (i.e. Ms A is not Woman A at the trial, and Ms B is not Woman B). Everyone has been avoiding marrying the two processes together, presumably for fear of jigsaw identification. I don’t understand what the danger is personally, but better safe than sorry!

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    1. Richard, the Scottish Parliament TV website is here:

      https://www.scottishparliament.tv/

      When the hearings are on, you can watch them live and for previous hearings, go to the “Most recently archived” section at the bottom and scroll along, or you can use the search function for older ones. I must admit I find them hard to watch personally, and tend to wait for the official transcripts to be issued on the inquiry’s own webpage, which is here:

      https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/111052.aspx

      For transcripts, click on “Meeting Papers and Official Reports”.

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  11. While enjoying the attempts to establish a conspiracy to get AS, I am surprised that the Committee is not actually getting to the bottom of it’s actual remit: why did the SG get to the
    point of jacking in the JR? For some reason the assumption seems to have been that it was a decision based on the fact of the Investigating Officer’s prior contact with a complainer. Consistently the witnesses have however said in evidence that the SG never accepted, and still don’t accept, that the fact of that contact did not taint the procedure on a proper interpretation of the policy. The Lord Advocate tried at one point in his evidence to explain that this was not the basis on which the JR was conceded but the Committee failed to follow that up. On Tuesday the witnesses managed to answer the question the Committee have never asked and explained that conceding the JR was not based in the fact there had been contact but rather on the fact that it apparently came to light during the Commission and Diligence that the SG could not document convincingly that the prior contact was just as had been described and was not something more sinister that would in fact have tainted the procedure. Again however the Committee failed to follow up this line.

    Following through the Committee’s assumption about how the procedure got tainted, they have been beacering away trying to establish that some lawyer gave wrong advice or that some lawyer gave the correct advice but was ignored.

    If the actual basis for conceding the JR was not to do with the fact of the prior contact itself but something else associated with the prior contact, that would lead to totally different lines to pursue. Why don’t they follow up this issue that is fundamental to their remit?

    Wish their was a lawyer leading the questioning on behalf of the Committee.

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    1. I’m afraid I don’t agree with any of this, JS. If you read the earlier posts on this blog, and click, for example, on the link I give in the post “What did the First Minister know…” to the pleadings in the Salmond case, you’ll see that Mackinnon’s egregious breaches of natural justice and fairness were just the tip of the iceberg of SG unlawfulness that would have been exposed had this gone to a full hearing. Furthermore, a first year legal trainee could have told them this.

      The point of going after the legal advice is not at all the one you’ve surmised but rather that Roddy Dunlop QC, who was advising the SG during the JR, is an excellent lawyer and could certainly see what any first year legal trainee could see about the SG’s conduct of this. It’s inconceivable that he would not have told them that Salmond would win, not just on the Mackinnon ground but on many of the others too.

      So why did they keep going?

      If you think about that question, you’ll see why the legal advice is so central and why the SG are so determined to keep it secret.

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      1. Not to keep anyone in suspense about the answer to the question in my reply to JS above, the police investigation, instigated not by the complainers but by the Scottish Government, was ongoing throughout the JR.

        When they had stalled the JR as long as they possibly could, and had to concede, Evans texted Allison to say the battle was lost but not the war.

        A couple of weeks later, Salmond was charged, the media did their stuff, and the “war” was effectively over.

        How they must have cursed that couple of extra weeks.

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      2. I’m not sure what you are driving at, Gordon. Should I assume it would have been more convenient if Salmond was charged earlier in terms of the impact a formal investigation would have on the accessibility evidence and scrutiny of the government’s handling?

        Presumably nobody would ever have scrutinised the Procedure and how it was applied to Salmond if the criminal charges were initiated sooner and Salmond had been found guilty, which would have been the assumption back then.

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      3. Gordon, if you look at the correspondence Salmonds lawyers sent to Evans you can see that this was a one sided investigation in which Salmond was denied any basic rights. It would also say to any reasonable person that unless the legal advice I get from my lawyers counters these arguments in the strongest terms possible then I will lose the Judicial Review. I doubt that the Scotgov secret legal advice delivered sufficient confidence to proceed. But proceed they did.

        Serious question – could a faked legal advice be provided? Like a fake summary?

        This idea that it was just MacKinnons prior contact ( or as Evans tried to play it as – we lost the case because of a small error in implementing the process) is just a bit of a convenient blanket to hide the extent to which the whole process was unlawful and unfair.

        So your proposition seems completely likely as to why they kept the Judicial Review going. You can also see in the correspondence between Salmond and Sturgeon that he is at a loss as to why Sturgeon cannot recognise that the Scotgov will lose the Judicial Review. He offers to let her see a copy of his legal advice. He almost begs her to stop the Judicial Review as it will be bad for the Scotgov, SNP, Sturgeon and himself if it proceeds. She blanks him. Salmond also points out that although the process formally excludes her once the matter goes to a judicial review it is within her powers to stop the Review proceeding. She blanks him.

        Sturgeon is as guilty as Evans or any of the others in the growing House of Cards.

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      4. Gordon, just as they dragged out the commencement of the Judicial Review by holding back documentation etc they are doing the same to Scot Parliament inquiry. Running down the clock hoping to leave insufficient time to complete the Inquiry report before Parliament shuts down in March, I believe, for the election. Fabiani is of course retiring and others may not be re- elected to Parliament. What happens to the Inquiry if that happens? Will a more amenable Convenor to the Scotgov be appointed?

        It is always worth remembering that the Scotgov threw in the towel and admitted defeat in the Judicial Review just as the Diligence and Commission was finished and people were about to take the stand. It is obviously a more serious action to lie to the Court of Session than the Inquiry.

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      5. Pat, yes, I think they were delighted that the charges won them the “war” (as was always their goal) but were cursing that they arrived too late to prevent defeat in the JR “battle”. I agree with all that Cubby says about that above.

        What has not yet been exposed, because COPFS are covering up the evidence of it, is the escalation of the “war” (see, for example, Murrell’s reference to Salmond having to “firefight”) by the drumming up of further complaints for the police investigation.

        Cubby, I don’t think they can fake the legal advice, simply because there’s no way of doing that without getting caught. If they could do it and get away with it, I believe they’re capable of anything at this point.

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      6. Gordon, that is the reason that I raised the possibility of the Scotgov trying to present fake legal advice if they are forced to release the advice- namely the previous unlawful behaviour and the fact that they are in it so deep. But I’m guessing you are saying that the lawyers (Dunlop) who gave the advice would call them out on it.

        Still not aware of what is happening re legal advice disclosure of Scotgov after the suggested meeting/discussion by Swinney to agree a way forward.

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      7. With reference to my post at 8.52pm Dec3rd where I mention my concern about the Scotgov trying to run down the clock on the Harrassment Inquiry I note that Wings over Scotland’s most recent article highlights this very concern in more detail and obviously a more comprehensive analysis.

        He points out that the voting in the current Parliament could mean a vote of confidence being lost ( eg the two lost votes on releasing the legal advice) if the Committee report is released in this parliament. If it is released in the next parliament and the SNP have a significant majority of MSPs then a potential vote of no confidence is more likely to fail no matter what is in the report.

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      8. Hah, yes, of course, you’ve mentioned that before Gordon about Salmond’s criminal charges taking the heat off the judicial review – and I see it now, the delay was trying to stretch it out until the charges appeared, and collapsed the civil case which would really take the heat off them, and might have got them out of paying such hefty compensation.

        How they must have cursed that two weeks, indeed. Delay seems to be the only skill our current government has at the moment.

        The implications of this are then huge, aren’t they? If Leslie Evans ignored legal advice, and at the same time had contacted the police (instructed others to do it maybe, but she’s in charge) against the wishes of the complainants, in the hope that she could,,, oh,,,, fight the battle anyway, and the conveniently timed war would let them win that battle (I get it now),,, then she acted maliciously. If this part was maliciously done, then it’s likely the whole was maliciously done.

        Gordon, you’ve said before that if Leslie Evans goes, then Nicola Sturgeon will too. I believe that will be the case, but keep trying to test it against possible outcomes. Say, for example, Leslie Evans decides to fall on her sword, along with John Swinney, and suddenly proclaims she has a personal overwhelming loathing for Alex Salmond, and confesses that it was all on her working maliciously against him and that she lied and deceived NS the whole time: would that give NS a chance to survive politically do you think? I can’t even guess at the likelihood of this ever happening! She would be risking jail to make such a confession, though, so I think very unlikely,,, unless she has pals in COPFS. Hm.

        Why, though, why go to all this trouble? I mean about the whole thing – it’s ludicrously convoluted and predicated on so many weak links, why would you even bother? I mean, is Nicola Sturgeon so politically weak she couldn’t even stand up and make a fair political fight of it if she wanted AS out of the picture? Or so personally weak she couldn’t tell him to his face how much she loathed him? Whatever her odd aims were, this must be one of the most stupid ways to go about it. Far too many parts all precariously linked, house of cards, or hastily applied wall paper – as soon as one part comes away,,,

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      9. Contrary, I think you hit the nail on the head with these two questions:

        “I mean, is Nicola Sturgeon so politically weak she couldn’t even stand up and make a fair political fight of it if she wanted AS out of the picture? Or so personally weak she couldn’t tell him to his face how much she loathed him?”

        The answer is plainly yes to both questions. People who still refuse to believe that she knew about the complaints from the outset are in denial, pure and simple.

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      10. Both! But, yes, when you think about it, it plainly must be both.

        It’s a remarkable feat, people still believing that NS was not involved, they must be able to compartmentalise their thinking completely. With this, and so many other things, NS has embarked on an incredible deception, and once you look at what she does and compare it to what she says – they are just so,,, opposite.

        It boils down to: she either knows what is happening and is in control so is a leader and is deceiving everyone with what she says, or knows nothing about anything and is a very poor leader. I can’t see any way in which she can ever be put back on that pedestal, or propped up there, and those that are trying to still do so must be tying themselves in knots trying to keep the delusion intact. It’s no wonder they have become so agressive with anyone even slightly critical of NS, as they hastily try to stuff everything back in the box to slam the lid shut. If one strand comes loose,,,

        It’s laziness really, the way I see it, they just want independence to somehow miraculously happen without having to make much of an effort, as NS promises. A nice happy fluffy delusion full of cosy warm feelings where the British establishment is our friend and everyone will play fair. I understand wanting to stay there, and I wish it were the case, but it’s not exactly realistic.

        And I think we SHOULD be making an effort, fighting for something that should be ours, not sitting back and expecting others to do it for us – let’s have a little pride in ourselves. We’ve let this happen as well, doesn’t history teach us that we’ll be sold out again and again, we should have been more alert (although it’s quite nice in a way that we can still be naively trusting, too). Ho hum, it is what it is. It’s annoying that so many years have been wasted while we were told there was a secret plan – there is so much to DO, practical things, actually having road maps and plans for addressing concerns and preparation for independence that the SNP hasn’t bothered their arse with – as well as trying to remove these obstacles that are preventing people from being asked the question they WANT to be asked. It feels a bit rushed just now, to get the timing right, but there are thousands of diverse people that want to put in the effort, and I’m banking on chaos theory to have it all come together. (If you haven’t read any chaos theory – it’s about how things are interlinked, not anarchy or how we envisage chaos itself).

        The Judicial Review blindsided Evans and Sturgeon a wee bit, didn’t it? That wasn’t part of their plan – and it is the main reason we are getting serious inquiries at all it seems – if only it had been allowed to continue, things might have been quite different. But even as it is, it was a remarkable ruling, and their attempts to dismiss it as ‘nothing really’ can only be futile.

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      11. Contrary, on Iain Lawsons blog the poster Mulwharcarcom was quite clear that there was a plot by the British to get Salmond but also to get Sturgeon. This was explained by saying Sturgeon had to along with it as she was trapped by having to follow the law. I asked what was this law that Sturgeon had to follow – no answer. There is no law that Sturgeon had to follow – people are just inventing stuff to avoid facing the hard truth.

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      12. I noticed that comment, after I’d written the one above, Cubby – and I was trying to formulate a reply that’s wasn’t insulting, but then decided it was too much effort.

        It’s amazing the number of people that are resorting to blaming MI5 or British agents or whatever, these days – going for the mystery conspiracy – I’m sure the Russians will come along soon enough – just so that they can retain their haloed ideal of NS. In fact, they might as well say ‘it’s God’s will’ and have done with it. The ‘following the law’ excuse sounded like the last vestiges of reaching to my mind, and you were right to ask which law? Doesn’t make sense, we are talking about ministerial codes and amoral behaviour, and lies and subterfuge.

        At least, no court action yet! I wonder if some clearing out of the stables in our justice services are needed first though? I have lost a lot of faith in many of our public services over this.

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  12. As ever Gordon thanks for your breakdown and exposures of certain elements and thanks also to posters giving their own critique , I just wish the

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  13. It is of course possible that the fight over the legal advice is intended as a distraction, and that the documents being hidden are elsewhere. Doesn’t smell like that that, though …

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  14. The next Committee meeting is Tuesday 8th Dec. Only one person being questioned – P Murrell Chief Exec of the SNP and husband of Nicola Sturgeon.

    I know what questions I would ask him if I was allowed to but I doubt the Committee members will go there😂😂.

    I suspect the questions will relate to the use of SNP email accounts on Scotgov business – which of course is a no no – but has the benefit of keeping it away from any formal Scotgov record keeping.

    Google Scottish Parlament TV and you will find the live broadcasting of the Committee sessions and recordings of previous sessions.

    Google Scottish Parliament Committees and you will find the paperwork – agendas, written submissions, copy letters etc etc under Harrassment Committee.

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    1. Heh, I noticed that Cubby, and I’m very sure they won’t let you participate in questioning 😉

      Why only one witness we wonder to ourselves, and wish that the other one was Ruddock, or even Angus Robertson. Or even Liz Lloyd. Nicola Sturgeon deserves her very own full day interview of course.

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      1. Contrary, it has all been very silent on the Sue Ruddick front. Did she do what Murrell asked her to do in the messages? Or did she say I am not doing that Peter it is not part of my job description as Chief Operating Officer of the SNP to do such things. I think I know the answer.

        It is truly amazing what SNP members will turn a blind eye to.

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      2. That the intention of the SG was always to put a case against Salmond (or more) for criminal trial would explain the folly of Judith Mackinnon’s behaviour. She never expected her behaviour to be subject to scrutiny.

        Though not in any of its procedures, I suspect the SG can argue, as suggested by Ms Richards, that there is a public duty to report suspected criminal behaviour to the police even against the wishes of potential complainants. That action could have been taken at once when the potential complaint was raised (again) in November. Ms Richards suggested further investigation was needed and done. That argument seems weak from a couple of points of view. First, you don’t really need to do any investigation of criminal cases. That’s for the polis. Second, any investigaion that took place seems.. umm..limited.

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      3. Sam, I agree with your post.

        Judith MacKinnon has been getting pelters for her role and some of it is warranted but it appears to me that MacKinnon as someone very new to the Scotgov could well have been recruited as a patsy. Someone less likely to question anything.

        Another fact worth remembering is that despite the Court of Session striking down the use/publication of the official Scotgov report on Salmond the Scotgov tried to give the report to the police. The police refused it. They still weren’t playing fair then or even lawfully.

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  15. Gordon. Thank you for your blogs.
    I fear that unless a very junior member of staff has managed to put all the incriminating evidence on to a few memory sticks?
    Most of it will have already gone through the shredder and computers/hard drives are at the bottom of the North Sea.

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  16. I wonder what steps are taken to check the metadata of electronic documents presented to the enquiry?

    I ask because I was looking at the documents provided to the committee in advance of the hearing on 1December. In particular, document [y0046] submitted in a letter dated 28 August 2020 by Nicolas Richards to Ms Fabiani. Page one of the letter seems to be in a bold font whereas page 2 is not. I find it strange that the font should change between page 1 and page 2 where there is no emphasis or any other reason to highlight script. It may be it’s just the display on my iPad but if this was a document in one of my cases, I’d require production of all metadata relating to documents.

    In my area of law, insolvency, I have come across documents that are composite or amended documents where it was only possible to ascertain the veracity by examination of the metadata.

    Just saying……….

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  17. If it was always intended by the SG to involve the police and to seek to bring Salmond to a criminal trial, might that mean that the question of interpretation of sec 10 and the apparently missing evidence are “look, there’s a squirrel?

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  18. I have a wee question which some may already have raised, so apologies for any duplication…
    Are the committee members allowed to ask about contacts between witnesses since the inquiry began?
    The reason I ask is that they have been so uniformly forgetful and/or unhelpful when it comes to very specific questions e.g. the frequency and status of meetings (‘those ones were just casual’, ‘those weren’t ‘real’ meetings, they were just ‘information-swapping sessions’, the lack of minutes etc) and presence of specific characters in specific rooms at very specific times. It’s as if they’ve been coached. And, of course, they all deliver the same boilerplate introduction which has clearly been written by a legal bod.
    If they’ve been coached and/or had contact with each other since the inquiry started, is the committee entitled to know?

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    1. Ian, in court proceedings witnesses are told not to talk to each other about their evidence and are often asked whether they have kept to this instruction so I see no reason why it couldn’t be asked. However, I doubt the answers would reveal much as it’s quite clear they have been coached, and I’m pretty sure they’ve been told what to say if they’re asked if they’ve been coached too…

      The way they’ve dealt with the question of how and when Ms A entered the complaints process and then continued in it is a great example. It’s completely unnatural for people in normal speech to compartmentalize everything the way these witnesses have done so that things one person says about the same chain of events fail to join up with things another person says.

      If you think of how any of us would speak of this, it would be: “AB told me on X date that he’d asked Ms A to speak to me as line manager, but actually she’d already contacted me as pastoral care person on Y date, and in fact CD and I had talked on Z date because Ms A had already contacted her on XY date…” and so on.

      It’s actually quite hard NOT to do this, which is why, in proceedings where hearsay is still not allowed, it’s perfectly permissible, even advisable, to try to help witnesses not to do it. In the Committee proceedings, on the other hand, hearsay of this kind is both admissible and helpful, and would get to the truth much quicker than the stilted, unnatural approach adopted by the SG witnesses.

      Which brings me back to the coaching and the coaching about the coaching, and why asking about it is unlikely to help. If they acknowledge it at all, they’ll just say they’ve been advised to stick to the point, not to elaborate unless asked to do so, and to keep strictly to things within their own knowledge, and who can quarrel with that?

      On a separate but related point, there are hundreds of redactions of relevant and important material in the documents provided to the Committee by the SG, and many of them I suspect have been made on the pretext of legal privilege. If privilege is fully waived, these redactions will have to be re-evaluated, which is one further reason the SG is fighting so hard on this.

      If they are forced to lift some of the redactions and reveal damaging material, we can expect the same line to be taken as with the coaching of witnesses: yes, it’s too bad we had to conceal that highly relevant and highly damaging passage from you but we were only following the rules as we understood them…

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      1. At Contrary and Gordon when contrary asks why ? would nikla do this to Alex , was Alex and others not ousted at the 2017 election due to niklas aversion to anything to do with indy and her election statements supporting this attitude , and would Alex not have been vociferous about niklas failed strategy and BLAME her for the abysmal turnout , and maybe some nikla acolyte and sycophant felt that the sainted one was in danger of being dethroned so informed her of Alex’s demeanor so a cunning plan was instigated to bring the big man down and stop him being a threat in the future

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      2. Gordon, on redactions I saw them possibly being in place for a number of reasons:

        1 to protect the identity of the alphabet women

        2. to not name junior civil servants.

        3. to not break any judicial review court orders

        4. to not break any criminal case court orders

        5. to not break confidentiality of legal advice on judicial review success.

        6. to not break confidentiality of other legal advice given

        7. to not name personnel from 3rd party organisations eg Police Scotland, COPFS

        8. to cover up wrongdoing by the Scotgov.

        A lot of redactions make things difficult to follow.

        If I am wrong or missed any – comments are welcome.

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      3. I was going to say something similar about your list Cubby, handy to have all the reasons for redactions outlined,,, except no.8 isn’t actually a permissible reason! But what we suspect to be the case for most of the redactions,,, there are some paragraphs I am eagerly waiting to be revealed.

        But, I really wish they’d be forced to submit the evidence in some sort of sensible order!

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    2. When dealing with anything high profile in the public domain the SG agrees the ‘lines to take’. They will have done this with their evidence for the enquiry you can be sure…in fact it’s obvious. That’s, why they are ‘protecting’ poor wee junior civil servants (who are still pretty senior) as the more people involved the more people have to know there are lines to take and the more likely the SG approach gets out and the more likely one of the wee junior civil servants slips up and doesn’t, follow the ‘line’.

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      1. Lulu,

        I am interested in the huge amount of involvement Private Secretary 1 – one of Leslie Evans private secretaries – had in the development of the procedure. Do you have any idea if that position is actually quite senior or not? Even though the person, similar to John Somers, would only be acting under instruction from Evans, I still think it useful if they were interviewed – PS1 was doing a lot of planning and coordination, surely they’d know more than Leslie Evans about who knew what when (in theory) – would they really be in the ‘junior’ civil servant category?

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      2. Contrary

        Re the grade of the Private Secretary. It’s hard to say. Depending on who you are working for and the responsibility of the job they can be different grades. I would expect that Lesley Evans will have a fairly large admin team with a variety of grades therein. Her most senior staff members will be C band, which I think is the same grade as the post Judith Mackinnon held, I don’t think she was Senior Civil Service. The band ranges from C1 to C3.

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      3. Ta Lulu,

        I think that answers my question – not really senior enough for the committee to call her up as a witness unless shown to be directly involved, I think. Oh well.

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  19. At the end of Murrells second written submission way back on 2/10/2020 it says the Committee are trying to get permission to publish correspondence from lawyers who are either SNP lawyers or Murrells own lawyers ( not sure if there is a practical distinction anyway). Not seen or heard anything about this since – anyone know anything on this.

    From a non lawyer perspective I would have thought if it was a letter sent by the lawyers to the Committee do they not have the right to publish it if they want or do they really need to get agreement from the lawyers?

    If Murrell has had no involvement in next to anything then why is he spending money on lawyers – no offence Gordon – I doubt it is cheap to hire them.

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  20. Wolffe is obviously ‘exceptional’ insofar as he’s the topmost lawyer and whatever he says has to be, I suppose ‘gospel’ in a sense. He managed to get through his most recent committee appearance by repeatedly refusing to answer questions even more frequently than he did in his first.
    Peter Murrell is, quite obviously, *not* the Lord Advocate. To what extent could he reasonably avoid questioning?
    I’m just thinking out loud here, not really expecting an answer – I suspect the committee members probably feel likewise right now.
    Is there a plausible option, in Scots law, for him to ‘take the 5th’?

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    1. It’s a difficult one, Ian. There’s a very longstanding privilege against self-incrimination in Scots law, which is now supported by the right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the ECHR but for obvious reasons it’s focused on the accused in criminal proceedings. How far back it goes for someone who might BECOME an accused in criminal proceedings if they are forced to answer questions in other proceedings is something of an open question.

      For example, the phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire tried to plead the privilege when he was being required to answer questions in civil proceedings and was unsuccessful. As usual in such cases, though, the English court made very clear that they were deciding the issue in the particular context of that case and were not laying down any general rules.

      None of this is to say that Murrell is in such a position of course, but as to the general approach he takes to the Committee’s questions, I guess we’ll just have to see what the expensive lawyers hired by him — and funded by the subscriptions of SNP members — have advised!

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  21. On Tuesday if the Committee are doing their job they should be asking Murrell about why Salmonds lawyers are saying the SNP are not releasing documentation relevant to the Inquiry. Presumably they are saying that because they saw the documentation during either or both the Judicial Review and Criminal Trial. Probably mostly the criminal trial.

    As per Barbara Allison who requested a copy of her battle/war message it needs the owner of the data to authorise the courts to release the documentation ( although I am pretty sure Gordon in one of his articles stated there have been exceptions/precedent).

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  22. Basically, it seems like we are all waiting on the Inquiry to find some sort of evidence of a smoking gun that will prove there was a conspiracy. But when you think about it, the whole government investigation into the claims of the complainers, the change of the procedure, the role of the civil servants, etc., maybe that was the conspiracy and its goal was to develop evidence that they could pass to police.

    Everything fits with the theory. So much so that I consider the matter closed in my own mind.

    Gordon, I’d be happy if you could explain what the implications would have been for the CoS trial had the police announced charges against Salmond while it was ongoing. Would they have put the JR/CoS trial on hold pending an outcome to the criminal trial? I can only assume they would have.

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  23. Nicola Richards, Director of People stated on Tuesday that the reason the same very small group of people were involved at every stage of this whole matter was the critical importance of maintaining confidentiality. Well when the confidential details were leaked to the Daily Record it proved that they failed. Surprisingly, since it was quite a small and tight group involved no one has ever been found culpable for the leak.

    She didn’t care much for Maureen Watt calling them a cabal but sounds about right to me.

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    1. Haha, Maureen Watt should not have said cabal – it was unnecessary and will just get Swinney jumping down their throats for treating the poor wee vulnerable civil servants terribly. Bad move, even if a bit amusing so see it.

      I’ve watched all the oral evidence from Tuesday now – kept putting it off – and there were a few quite interesting things: just more bits to slot into the overall picture, never ground-breaking is it?

      On Nicola Richards: well, I’ll say she’s pulled herself together a bit and is obfuscating smoothly and effectively now. She’ll feel more relaxed about the complaints handling phase because she wasn’t in charge of that – unlike the procedure development.

      I found the comments she made on confidentiality interesting – for what you say Cubby, the leak should easily be found within such a small tight group – but it was used as an excuse for an awful lot: if they were really so concerned about confidentiality, as expressed by the lengths they went to to maintain it (allegedly) by forgoing good practice etc, then ,,,

      WHY didn’t they take up Alex Salmond’s offer of either mediation, or arbitration?

      That would have guaranteed confidentiality by keeping everything in-house.

      That would have been the logical step. The Permanent Secretary’s decision to go to the police when she did makes no sense (along with most other decisions made in any of this!).

      IF there really was seeming criminality – proved not to be the case by a later criminal court, but at the time, one person’s side of an elaborated story might have appeared so, so we can take that at face value for the initial stages – there would be no point in doing an in-house investigation – the police did not accept the final investigation report, and would not, so it was a pointless exercise. Especially considering it obviously should NOT have shown criminality, if it was fair and unbiased (as proved in criminal court) – that is, what they produced was mince (as decreed by the judicial review).

      The committee was right to pursue this point – why not immediately go to the police – and it was not satisfactorily answered.

      Lay-people should not be investigating criminal matters – and these professionals would have known that. No two ways about it. It either ‘looked’ to be criminal so passed to the police immediately for them to investigate properly, or it didn’t and so should have never gone to the police. I’m taking into consideration here that none of the testimonies given ever, at any point, said that ‘it was only after investigation we thought criminality might be an issue’. Everyone agrees that, from the start, there might have been some criminality, according to the complainer.

      So they didn’t need an elaborate investigation, for Ms A anyway; that was an unnecessary and unprofessional decision. Leslie Evans has an awful lot of questions to answer – ones she should not be allowed to dodge this time. Her initial oral evidence was so misleading, I think it can only be put down to intentional and malicious obfuscation – that in itself should get her hauled up – for someone in her position to do it (so badly) says to me she should be suspended immediately – though I’m sure the committee doesn’t have the power to do so without their final report.

      I have to say, I found Gillian Russell came across as genuine and professional, it was refreshing to hear her evidence. Note she had no fear of saying ‘Ms A’ as often as necessary – most other witnesses quickly move on to generalities, as fast as possible. Russell was also clear about there being many other, irrelevant here, complaints happening at the time and managed to distinguish them easily and clearly, and didn’t use it to obfuscate. She had also done her homework before appearing and mostly knew when all the relevant events took place. Not that difficult, for a professional with nothing to hide.

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  24. Contrary, very good post.

    Bringing Gillian Russell in to the matter seems to not make much sense since she herself had doubts about her role and whether it should have been someone completey independent of the Civil Service. The very fact that Nicola Richards in her first testimony couldn’t even remember if Russell was still formally responsible for this “confidant” role tells me it was not important to her as Director of People. Also all this caring for their staff and the me to movement stuff seems to have all been quietly forgotten. Finally, Barbara Allison already had a pastoral care responsibility so why have this new role of Russell’s at all. I agree that Russell didn’t seem to be telling any pork pies.

    Perhaps Judith MacKinnon, who having been recruited recently from the police in late 2017, was a handy person with her police contacts and someone who could be easily manipulated and not ask any questions

    With respect to maintaining confidentiality in their tight group (cabal😃) they managed it in terms of the identity of the complainers but not all the actual complainers details which were passed to the Daily Record – a sort of one sided anti Salmond type of confidentiality.

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    1. Thanks, Cubby and Contrary, there’s loads of stuff in these exchanges that I’d like to pick up on but I’m working on a long, long post that will give my take on a lot of it so I hope it’s not too ungracious of me to leave most of it there for now.

      One thing that you touch on, and that I’ll be covering, is the strange double appointment of Allison and Russell.

      As you say, Contrary, Russell’s appointment makes at least some sense in the world these people inhabit (although the role was already well covered by their EAP, the unions and others) but Allison’s appointment makes no sense at all, even in that world, until you realise that Ms B had already contacted her on 8 November, and Allison had told Evans this on 9 November.

      Lo and behold, at 20.09 on 9 November, Evans is arranging to speak the next morning not just to Russell to appoint her as a “sounding board” (honestly, the way these people speak!) but to Allison too, as she has suddenly realised that there is a yet additional need for “pastoral care” (a term specifically coined by Evans herself).

      If you look at Evans’s email of 13 November, intimating Russell’s appointment (and supposedly intimating Allison’s), you’ll see what a sham Allison’s supposed role was. Imagine you’re an SG worker in need of “pastoral care” and try to figure out how you would possibly know to contact Allison from the terms of that email.

      Of course they can’t just admit the obvious fact that Allison was “appointed” to her “role” purely and simply to ensure they didn’t lose Ms B while they got reinforcements organised to encourage her to keep going, because if they do the whole house of cards starts to come down.

      Hence we have the ludicrous spectacle of Evans’s evidence on this topic, among many others, where Ms B is never so much as mentioned as a factor in Allison’s appointment. Once you understand how small shams like this work, it gets easier and easier to see how the whole sham being orchestrated by Evans is working.

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      1. Haha, Gordon, I was writing about orchestration probably just as you were concluding your comment about Evans orchestrating things!

        (I won’t say ‘great minds think alike’ in case anyone disputes it)

        I had forgotten about that snippet you mention – as I was creating my new crib-sheet and I suddenly saw clearly how Ms B had come forward to Ms Allison on the 8th of Nov,,, THEN Ms Allison was appointed pastoral care on the 10th. Definitely warrants further investigation!

        Just you carry on with your long, long post Gordon, don’t you worry about us, we can keep ourselves amused here 😉

        (Actually, I must go out and do things, I’ve allowed myself to get wholly distracted today!)

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      2. Gordon, look forward to your long post or even a short post whenever you are ready.

        This whole business needs a book to be written in the future – probably a few vols as well to cover it all with a Netflix series😂.

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      3. I have wondered a lot why Barbara Allison was ever involved in this matter. Barbara has been Director of Communications and Ministerial Support since June 2016. So why was she involved at all? She was previously the director responsible for HR/People, whatever the title was I cannot recall as they change them constantly. As she had moved on why was she now being involved in HR matters and given some new role for pastoral care. A totally newly created role that never existed before and that no average member of staff would ever be able to make use of. Average staff members have no direct access to people like Barbara Allison so who was she going to provide pastoral care for?

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    2. I think what you’ve said about Judith Mackinnon – her being a patsy – seems about right Cubby. I admit she seems a bit dim – I don’t mean particularly stupid, more naive, and no match for the forces that planned on using her – and I end up with some sympathy for her. She really struggles with the obfuscation and covering up I think. But, we must remember, she’s an adult, was and is a willing participant of events, however badly used she has been. I think if she’d come clean and admitted everything she knew at the start, we’d have some real sympathy – but I think everyone involved has too much to lose. Tangled webs etc.

      I was thinking about Pat’s comment just above there, about what the overview means – I think it’s good to pull back from the detail and review what it all means in context of the whole. And what do we have?

      Nicola Sturgeon writes to Westminster at the beginning of 2017 to spur them on to look at adressing harassment complaints handling. August 2017, they appoint Mackinnon from outside the organisation to HR, someone that couldn’t have been involved in any earlier events so is ‘independent’. Westminster writes officially to say to review policies October 2017. End of October 2017 (scotgov) cabinet meets and officially commissions a review of all policies. November 2017 is a flurry of intense activity using general policy review to obscure an unusual new procedure development, while the Perm Sec trawls for actual complaints. (I think I’d wait for the new policies to come out before encouraging people, but hey ho). Dec 2017, only one procedure is signed off by the FM, or anyone. January 2018, two official complaints made using the new procedure… Actually even a brief overview timeline will take too long! The whole thing stinks anyway. And at each stage the excuses for the decisions made are not valid ones.

      That’s the strange thing about Judith Mackinnon – it wasn’t her that had police contacts was it, it was Gillian Russell, it was her that gave Mackinnon names in the police for getting advice. You’d have thought Mackinnon would know someone to contact, wouldn’t you, given her background. M-hm.

      I noticed that Nicola Richards let slip something about keeping things in-house for confidentiality purposes for ALL parties – but then had a mumble to herself, so I’ll need to read the transcript on that one.

      The decision making tree, to be constructed, of Nicola Richards and Leslie Evans, should make it plain that the only reasons they made their decisions the way they did was for the purpose of breaching confidentiality for Alex Salmond. Once that is proved, then we look at motivation – why were they motivated to do this? For political reasons, most likely,,, so it was not them driving it, but their political leader.

      An orchestra analogy: Nicola Sturgeon is the composer. Leslie Evans and Barbara Allison are the conductors, orchestrating the overall piece created by the composer. Nicola Richards is the orchestra lead; the first violin; ensuring all the parts hold together. The main players – James Hynd, Judith Mackinnon, John Somers, Liz Lloyd, et al – are all the leads of their respective sections, ensuring the different instruments all play their parts in time and in tune with the First Violin. Unfortunately, the composition is shit, the conductors know nothing about orchestration, and the first violin didn’t tune up correctly: all we hear is a screeching crashing mess. Who else drove and helped Nicola Sturgeon to compose such an atrocious piece is another matter, and may come out in the wash.

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      1. Contrary, it’s very easy to get bogged down in the details of this. The details are much more intelligible if you understand the big picture and reduce everything to basic principles and objectives.

        What was the purpose of the investigation into AS? Remember, he wasn’t a civil servant. He wasn’t even a politician at the time. Why, then, were all these big stars involved in this rather unimportant internal investigation?

        They changed The Procedure so that they could reprimand AS at some employment tribunal?

        Why, even when they knew the JR was doomed to fail in court, did they continue with it?

        The answer is simple. Notice I said “doomed to fail in court” above and not fail in any outright sense. The fact is it didn’t fail, not really. The Criminal trial was a big disappointment for them, we can be sure of that, but the JR wasn’t. The internal investigation which precipitated the JR was a complete success.

        Is it even conceivable that there would have been a police investigation if there had not been the internal government investigation first? Of course, it isn’t. The JR becomes almost an irrelvance when you assume the thing that mattered was the investigation, except in one important respect; the JR shone a light on some of the detail of what happened during the investigation.

        Ok, so now we have a theory and it’s time to test it.

        Have fun.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think we are going to need a lot more detail before we can see the real overview, Pat – by detail I just mean extracting the minute bits of evidence and sticking them all together. I’ve found it useful to speculate though – that sort of tests what I think is relevant against what might actually be. It’s like drawing blood from a stone finding the information though – and I really do think it could fill a book, there are so many simultaneous threads running, and overlapping, it’s not a simple linear story!

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  25. For once I disagree Contrary….. Nicola Sturgeon is not the composer …. her husband is. This is a plot that has its origins in the Murrells kitchen hatched while they opened some M&S spag bog.

    Mr Murrell is a creature of the night and I simply cannot believe that N.S., an experienced and able politician would have come up with this legal minefield approach …. which amounted to a full frontal assault on AS

    Experienced politicians prefer a stab in the back as there is less risk to their own career and reputation. N.S. was played by them because Mr Murrell loaths A.S. as does L.E. and because N.S. dislikes men.

    Without her hubby hovering around though I suspect this conspiracy would never have got going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Achnaban, I very much doubt Sturgeon was played by her husband but I do agree/know that SNP people have a lot more involvement in this matter than the Inquiry to date has covered. Most of the Inquiry has focused on Scotgov personnel. For Sturgeon to have been played you have to imagine Sturgeon as this manipulated person who has no control over her friends, her government , her party and her husband. Nope sorry, as you say yourself she is an experienced and able politician.

      She just has a problem with anyone/anything who may be a risk to her position of power. An indyref is a threat to her position of power as much as certain individuals.

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    2. Okay, I’m going to agree and disagree with both of you here – based on not enough facts for any of us to say for sure, of course. And it was one reason I added ‘who else drove and helped NS…’ To the orchestration analogy:

      Yes I think Murrell played a key role. But at this point we then have to make assumptions about who or what NS really is and what is her relationship with her husband.

      The fact is, NS is head of government, so she takes full responsibility for all her own actions – her motivations and abilities are an aside: so that’s the public side of it vs private.

      What is going on in the background? Who knows, but it doesn’t look like the Murrells have a particularly healthy relationship, and it has been suggested it’s a marriage of convenience. Is NS an abused wife? Maybe (I include psychological abuse here). Is she a willing stooge – driven by the need for power and popularity (narcissistic personality) – with Murrell telling her what and how to do it in the background, meanwhile playing out his own agenda? Maybe.

      In the end, just about anything is possible – we might learn more from Murrell’s testimony, but at the moment we have to take things at face value I think – NS is head of government and is ultimately responsible for all her own, and that of her government, actions. You don’t reach that level of power without having some responsibility.

      And – is she really an experienced and able politician – or has she just been very well coached so she SEEMS to be that way? That’s what I keep asking myself.

      Like

  26. Contrary,

    “is NS an abused wife” – come on really.

    NS is a very able person some coaching can not get get you this far.

    In addition if you know who some of the alphabet women are then that makes you very comfortable saying Sturgeon is involved but even if you do not, then as you say, it is her Government.. She could have stopped the Judicial Review, The Sophy Ridge Show showed her true feelings/character, she lied about when she knew about the complainers, she signed off a process that was obviously unfair, Salmond was removed from the SNP history, she didn’t congratulate Salmond on being found innocent but instead the Scotgov funded Rape Crisis Scotland immediately used the MSM to declare him guilty.

    If you had a wee peek in to Sturgeons handbag you would not find a secret independence plan but the knife she stabbed Salmond in the back with. The whole business is a disgraceful abuse of power and misuse of public funds.

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    1. Cubby,

      You certainly have her number. The retention of power is ALL she is interested in.

      Most folk don’t see the threat that a Referendum poses to her position. She knows that if she holds one and loses, she has to go. Maybe in 5 years time she will feel ready to take that chance but she has served, more or less, a 20 year apprenticeship to get where she is and she wants the return on that investment.

      However they present themselves, most of these top politicians are incredibly insecure and paranoid. It is why they generally surround themselves with people who just agree or, at the very worst, represent no credible threat. Look at the current Scottish Cabinet, do you honestly see anyone who offers the remotest threat to Sturgeon’s leadership? She’s cleared them all out. The able ones who remain are on their way out anyway and the rest are so mediocre they could be replaced without missing a beat.

      It is really not difficult to see why Sturgeon might want to nobble Salmond once you understand her character. Salmond, bound by parliamentary group standing orders, is an irritation that can be managed. But Salmond, with no whip to respect AND with a TV show – one can only imagine the palpitations that caused at chez Murrell.

      If she has been played at all, I think it would be in the escalation of this matter into criminal proceedings. I’m not sure a criminal investigation was necessarily in the thoughts of the party people to begin with but Salmond wouldn’t play ball and they lost control of events and some of the other players and found themselves doubling down.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Cubby,

      Hey! I’m just exploring all options 😀 she *could* be in an abusive relationship.

      And you know fine that you can’t go peeking into handbags – that’s taking scrutiny too far!

      Like

  27. GeeK, I agree for the most part.

    We will never really know the exact motivations of all the people involved in this scandal but once they have got involved they are signed up to more and more actions which they may or may not be that happy about. Some may find themselves having the choice of being a whistleblower or hoping it all turns out all right for them. No whistleblowers yet so they are all culpable. Some have now left the Scotgov. Plenty of SNP people still there.

    With regard to the criminal court case it does seem by the timing of Evans formally reporting the case to the police it happens after Salmonds lawyers make it clear he will not be playing ball as you say. Remember I. McCann SNP told a complainer when she raised it with him we will hold on to this and use it if required in the future. Not exactly concerned about taking it to the police – nor was Somers or Russell or Allison or Evans initially. Nor were the complainers keen on going to the police if you believe Richards. And, of course, Evans tried to give her report on the matter to the police even though it had been struck down by the Court of Session. That was an attempt to influence the police investigation but it was also possibly a contempt of court.

    As you say about the TV show you only have to look back at all the SNP MPs lining up in the MSM to mention RUSSIAN TV to smear Salmond as some sort of traitor. SNP MPs on British propaganda channels criticising Salmond for having an independent show on RT. Perhaps they should have been asking these channels why they didn’t give him a show on their networks but, of course, they (being Sturgeon and her team) didn’t want him having a show at all.

    I have always thought that it is likely there have been some Secret Service people involved giving it the correct nudge at the correct time but that will only be a small number taking advantage of the situation. Sturgeon like so many others in Scotlands history is more concerned with protecting her own position of power than the interests of the nation. That does not make her an Mi5 spy just another useless Scottish leader when it comes to Scotlands sovereignty.

    Like

    1. “it does seem by the timing of Evans formally reporting the case to the police it happens after Salmonds lawyers make it clear he will not be playing ball as you say.”

      The timing was probably more down to the report being finalised around then, July/August 2018 if I remember correctly. Basically as soon as it was complete they contacted the police and offered them the finalised report AFAIK.

      JM had contacted the police earlier, November or December 2017 I believe, claiming she did so in relation to her work on The Procedure.

      If you assume the whole point in the Investigation was to produce a report and call the police, everything soon slots into place. It explains why they shunned AS’s repeated offers of mediation and arbitration (even when they knew the JR was doomed to fail), it explains why they were determined to report to the police (despite the complainers not wishing to), it explains the “lost the battle but not the war” line (she knew the investigation was going on behind the scenes even if no charges at that point had officially been aanounced against AS), it explains why PM was urging people to put pressure on the police, everything.

      And getting back to the point, it explains why without hesitation they contacted the police as soon as the IO’s report was finalised. The report we given to the police and as I understand it they used complainer A’s testimony as the basis for some of the charges.

      Like

    2. Cubby, don’t forget that it was in August 2018 that Evans sent her report to the police so at that stage it hadn’t been struck down yet by the court. That happened in January 2019 when the JR was conceded. DCS Lesley Boal said she didn’t use the report when she got it in August 2018 but that wasn’t because of anything the court had done.

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      1. Yes Gordon, I realised after I posted the contempt of court comment that it was not accurate.

        However, what was on my mind was in fact that Evans probably realised well before then that the report was unlawful and unfair and Salmond would end up winning any Judicial Review but she still wanted to influence the police investigation with a report she knew was dodgy.

        Also good to know that people reading posts on this blog are maintaining standards of accuracy of posts.😀

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      2. Gordon: “DCS Lesley Boal said she didn’t use the report when she got it in August 2018”

        Could that mean she used it in September?

        Gordon, can you tell me what you think would have happened had the CoS been ongoing when the police announced that Salmond was being charged? Would the CoS hearing have been put on hold?

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      3. I think we need to seperate out the IO report here – that was Mackinnon’s investigation report as submitted to Evans (and the complainers) – and the Decision Report by Evans (that included the IO report).

        I’ve still to sort out dates of what happened when exactly – reading the Levy & McRae letters, gives an idea of the amount of correspondence and information being passed back and forth – or not: that is, Salmond wasn’t allowed to see what the the complaints were and had not been given the right to reply – the ‘unfair and apparent bias’ was throughout the whole process, not just Mackinnon knowing the complainers before investigating! But, AS’s lawyers did get to read it and had laid into Evans with details of how unfair it was, before the judicial review.

        So Evans sent her decision report to AS on the 22nd Aug 2018
        On the 23rd Aug, AS notifies the Scottish Government of of their intention to petition for JR.

        But, there was a lot happening before that where everyone knew a lot already – 7th of March was when Evans contacted AS’s lawyers saying there was causes for concern,,,

        So, investigation started 17th January 2018

        It lasted 7 weeks (Levy & McRae docs say this)

        7th March Evans notifies AS (via lawyers, so things have already been set in motion) there are concerns, and appoints Mackinnon as intermediary – she is asked to interview witnesses for AS, because he isn’t allowed access himself (dodgy, not very impartial as regards investigator chosen).

        Final IO report submitted to Evans before end of July. What date?

        Early August Evans refers complaints to police (and hands over decision report?). Mackinnon submits documents to the Crown Office, not directly to police (why did she emphasise this?). Which dates?

        22nd August: decision report sent to AS.
        23rd August: AS notifies SG intention to petition for JR.
        20th September: SG & Evans decide to defend JR.

        These dates don’t reflect the amount of information passing back and forward before them – that is, AS must have known what was in the decision report before it was sent, because it was such a quick reponse. Etc. We have all the meetings between NS and AS between March and August too.

        I think it might be useful to seperate out the IO report into preliminary (?) – after the initial investigation – and final, after she’d interviewed AS’s witnesses, assuming that was in the same report and part of the decision report. Apparently the IO report was jam packed full of hearsay and innuendo, not actual known complaints (Moorov process).

        Too many unknowns still!

        I want to slot other things into my timeline too – things like the meetings between AS and NS – for context – so if anyone can think of other events happening during 2018 that might be vaguely interesting – with dates – it would be handy. Sometimes things that appear to have no bearing on events, can actually be ,,, quite interesting when put in context, so don’t hold back.

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      4. Cubby also mentions about people picking up inaccuracies – I think it’s vital that people do speak up if they think something doesn’t seem quite right (or is total rubbish), for me anyway, it’s really helpful that anything is pointed out as soon as possible, the smallest thing in this complicated mess can lead to wrong assumptions.

        Heh, I just embarrassed myself on another blog discussing something based on a ‘piddly £50 million’,,, eventually I was told BILLION not million. Woops. Can happen to anyone though eh.

        Dunno about you though Cubby, I’ve not found any inaccuracies in any of Gordon’s posts – is this because he has an eidetic memory, or are we being too complacent,,, hm. It’s impossible keeping all the diverse parts of the puzzle in mind, and in place, while its so incomplete still!

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    3. Pat, the legal issues in the JR and criminal trial were quite separate so Salmond being charged would have made no difference to the court’s ability to decide on whether or not the SG’s procedure had been unlawful. However, the SG would, I’m sure, have argued that it was potentially prejudicial to the criminal proceedings for documents relevant to both proceedings to be put in process, and for witnesses to be giving affidavits, appearing at commission and diligence proceedings and so on in the JR process when those same witnesses might now be giving evidence in criminal proceedings in due course. That may or may not have found favour with the court.

      However, as we both know, the real value of charges being announced while the JR was ongoing would have been tactical and political. Just as the Scottish public are likely to have been very hostile to the present inquiry going ahead at all if Salmond had been found guilty of anything at the criminal trial, so they would likely have been very hostile to Salmond’s position and sympathetic to that of the SG in the JR if the charges and the tabloid frenzy that followed had come while the JR was ongoing.

      Like

      1. Thanks for that, it’s appreciated. I was unsure if Scots law would allow that sort of potentially prejudicial hearing and discussion to go on whilst a criminal case was in process.

        Like

  28. Contrary, you are of course correct she could be in an abusive relationship but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    I can assure you I have never peeked into any handbags and have no plans to start now.😂

    Like

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