PETER MURRELL EXPLAINS WHY RETROSPECTIVE PROCEDURES ARE UNLAWFUL

My apologies to readers who have been waiting for the promised expansion of my last post. I’m afraid that is turning into a very long post which I expect to publish this week.

Meantime, Peter Murrell this morning must surely be the least impressive witness yet at the inquiry, and that is saying something. He did, however, manage to make one valid and important point during his last responses to the questioning of Jackie Baillie.

It seems that some of the women who made complaints to the police contacted the SNP too in September 2018, and that those complaints made their way to the National Secretary.

As Murrell pointed out, however, there was nothing the SNP could do about them as the Party’s ultimate sanction is expulsion and Salmond had already resigned from the Party.

Well, precisely.

That is one of the many reasons why the procedure taken by the Scottish Government against Alex Salmond was unlawful.

The ultimate sanction the First Minister can apply to any Minister for any misconduct is to require their resignation. There is no sanction that can be applied to a Minister who has already left office as Salmond had, years previously.

Hence, there is no procedure that can be adopted against a former Minister that is properly within — that is, not ultra vires of — the Scottish Government’s powers.

That is why the UK Government, among others, warned the Scottish Government against adopting their retrospective procedure. That is why the court would have found the procedure unlawful on that ground alone if the Scottish Government had proceeded to a hearing.

If only Mr Murrell could talk to his spouse about such matters…

120 thoughts on “PETER MURRELL EXPLAINS WHY RETROSPECTIVE PROCEDURES ARE UNLAWFUL

  1. Contrary,

    I should add that the point I was making earlier is that the more constructive way forward with regard to Ms A and possibly many other complainants was a thorough approach to changing SG culture. That would require sustained leadership from the FM to make bullying and harassment, whatever form, unacceptable. Neither the former or present FM tried that as far as I know. Predictably, the result is widespread concern about the scale of sexual harassment in both the Scottish and Westminster parliaments and across all parties.

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    1. Sam,

      Here I think you definitely need to divide between ministers and the civil servants – they are very much separate. Civil servants don’t work *with* ministers, they work *for* them. The culture is about the culture in the civil service – and that isn’t particularly relevant here – ministers come and go, they are never a permanent part of the system. By all accounts it seems there are plenty of complaints going about within the civil service – but we are interested in the cross-over between them and ministers only. The ministers are treated as third-parties by the civil service. The only role ministers, including the FM, have is with the code of conduct – that determines how they should behave towards civil servants. An FM can commission the civil service to do something, but changing the culture within the civil service is the role of the Permanent Secretary. (As I understand it!)

      Special advisors – political appointees and so temporary, but fully in the employ of the civil service, is an interesting cross-over. The unions suggested that SpAds should be included in the new procedure about ministers but were ignored, with no reasons given for excluding them, except that they are covered by civil service policy.

      I’m not sure the statistics show there is a widespread problem of sexual harassment between ministers and civil servants (the unions gave an idea of the scale) – obviously it should never occur at all, but in the bigger picture it would seem bullying is the biggest problem there.

      So they developed a procedure, in great haste, to create a bridge between the fairness at work policy (which also covered complaints against ministers) and the ministerial code, but only for sexual harassment, and excluding the category of SpAd. Interesting choices.

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      1. Contrary,

        The views of the FDA can be found at the link. Here’s a flavour.

        “Penman acknowledged that the Scottish Government was still the only part of government with a bespoke policy for dealing with these kinds of complaints against ministers, but pointed out that the it had focussed on “solving a series of problems rather than stepping back and addressing the bigger problem.” The cases brought to the FDA’s attention suggested that the Scottish Government was not addressing the workplace culture, accepted norms or patterns of behaviour. “When people raised a concern they would be the one that was moved, rather than addressing the broader problem.””

        https://www.fda.org.uk/home/Newsandmedia/News/FDA-renews-call-for-independent-process-for-handling-Scottish-Government-harassment-complaints.aspx

        I think Mr Murrell said under oath that the SNP was not aware of complaints against ministers.

        This link might also be of interest.

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cw5m7rq7z8rt/westminster-harassment-scandal

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  2. I believe (memory?) that throughout the trial there was no reference to perjury by either side or the judge. Nor was there any reference to perjury after the trial. Claims about witness perjuring themselves rests on nothing?

    sam,
    I’m glad there was a question mark there at the end!

    You do understand that the paramount consideration in all of this affair, in everything, is to maintain the confidentiality of the complainers? The Scottish Government can leak against Salmond to its hearts content, and it’s all good fun, but woe betide anyone who doxes the complainers. In fact, isn’t there a quote from the whatsapp group where one says “I know a way we can stay anonymous and cause him maximum damage”?

    But you still think claims of perjury rest on nothing? Is that correct?

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    1. That is an interesting idea, John. Confidentiality trumps perjury, is that it? I have doubts about that. The person to give a better answer than me is the host of this excellent blog, Gordon. Should we ask him for his views?

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  3. Poster Sam just keeps on making stuff up and tries to take the moral high ground. Making stuff up is placing you on pretty low ground in my opinion. Sams posts continue to show him to be an apologist for the alphabet woman. The question is why?

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  4. Cubby

    It is time for you to concede that you are talking rubbish. Whether or not there was collusion and conspiracy or perjury is entirely irrelevant to the subject of this blog. The Committee’s work being scrutinised by Gordon is not considering those matters.

    For the same reason, it is also time for me to admit that I have been talking the same rubbish. As an aside, however, I would remind you that Alec Salmond’s defence stated that collusion and conspiracy could not be proved but there was a “smell” about the case. That women had committed perjury was never mentioned.

    There are serious fractures among some in the Yes group and perhaps more deeply in the SNP. SNP MPs are divided, some openly critical of the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon. Looking on and making their voices heard are groups of people with more or less extreme views about the leadership of Ms Sturgeon, for better or worse.

    While opinion polls are in favour of independence, it is possible that could change during an independence campaign. I don’t believe that the SNP has done anywhere near enough preparatory work for a successful campaign. The Growth Commission Report is all that is available at the moment and that is a deeply flawed bit of work.

    It is possible that the Committee looking at the handling of these complaints will do enough to unseat Ms Sturgeon as leader. If not the fractures will remain and probably worsen.

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  5. The only one posting error strewn comments ( a reasonable person would classify that as rubbish) with a very suspicious motivation is poster Sam.

    The poster Sam seems to think he determines the scope of this blog. He doesn’t.

    The poster Sam admits frequently in his post he knows nothing about this or that but then categorically makes a statement on the matter eg he says there was no conspiracy.

    The poster Sam seems to know selected parts of things eg he knows about the “smell ” comment but not other stuff.

    The evidence in the criminal trial clearly showed alphabet women were lying.

    The evidence in the judicial review resulted in a verdict of unlawful, unfair and tainted by apparent bias but still people turn up saying no to this or no to that and then throw in the Salmond smear.

    I know there was a plot. The people who attended the trial will know there was a plot. Just because the judge prevented physical proof from being presented at the trial does not mean there was not a plot. The Britnat media will know there was a plot.

    So poster Sam you do not get to tell me when it is time to do anything. I don’t want you going down any road with me so you can stay on your own road of error strewn misinformation and strangely selective ignorance about the whole scandal.

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  6. Well done Cubby, your haranguing has hounded someone off and created a nice toxic atmosphere for everyone. Very conducive to debate. Or rather, not.

    Exactly the same as the no-debate crew.

    I hadn’t been aware you objected so strongly to academic analysis. Which then begs the question, what the fuck are you doing reading this blog, let alone commenting on it, at all?! Who appointed you policeman? It’s not your blog, and we are all adults here – it’s the readers’ responsibility to read critically – and if someone addresses their comment directly to me, I find I’m quite capable of asking what’s meant or determining the accuracy or worth of it myself.

    It’s you that are trolling – you want to exclude people because they don’t believe exactly what you believe, or express it in the ‘right’ way, then create your own blog. It’s not your responsibility to police comments on others’ blogs, and we aren’t children where we need the material we read sanctioned and redacted to protect our sensibilities. I have no duty of care to any reader; on an open Internet forum where you can’t know who your audience is; it’s impossible. If you don’t understand what the comments mean or where it’s leading, you can ask, or wait for the outcome.

    It was too much to hope for, I suppose, being allowed to take an analytical approach where people felt comfortable challenging any speculation or conclusion – yes, on detailed niche stuff, but I thought that was the subject of the blog, or near enough.

    Well, it’s done now. Gone is any hope of open productive discussion, okay so maybe what I was using it for wasn’t worthwhile anyway – but I’m still fairly furious that you thought it was okay impose your ideals and judgement on everyone in such an aggressive manner.

    I’m just writing this to express how annoyed I am on this specific subject, and that the thread has been so thoroughly derailed: as far as I’m concerned though, it’s done now, and over with.

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  7. Contrary, sorry you feel that way but you may want to review the previous comments and you will see in fact that it was both you and Sam who were trying to dictate how and what I should post on. Indeed the very scope of the blog. Not me. Sure if someone lists what I believe are error strewn comments I may comment. Sam immediately rejected my initial comments when I was trying to assist with his inaccurate comments with his ignorant – ” I don’t want to go down that road”.

    Sam playing the victim was all so predictable.

    Your comments are getting offensive contrary and I have no idea what you were thinking about when you said I was off base. I was simply explaining that I was referring to a male in my posts but if Sam was a female then sorry – Sam is often Samantha.

    I am not imposing my ideals on everyone as you say.

    I do not object to academic analysis. I just said it would be better if it was not mixed up with actual case reality – the case being the Salmond scandal – and asked that it was made clear in the posts that this was a general academic discussion not comments on the specific Salmond scandal.

    If you read your post immediately above again you will see it is you who are telling me why is it I am I here – it is you who are telling me who and what I can post. I can’t say I have ever said that to you – just asked for clarity on your posts. It is you who is telling me what to do – if anyone is acting like a policeman it is you. It is you that has determined in your mind what the “subject of the blog” is and is attempting to impose it.

    There is opinion and there is fact.

    I take my lead on the subject matter from the actual article heading and the overall heading at the top:

    Law Culture and Politics.

    Read back the posts Sam tells me I should only comment on the Judicial Review as that is what the blog is all about – it clearly is not.

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    1. Well on first reading of the deal it seems to be a very one sided deal in favour of the Scotgov. What a nice Xmas present for the Committee members stuck in a room on pain of death almost 3 days before Xmas. They will be reading some of the legal advice provided but must not take anything away or take copies of anything. You would think they were reading legal advice on whether to go to war with Iraq rather than going to war with one man.

      What a farce. Delay delay by the Scotgov. String it out hope the Committee goes away. Our Scotgov is nothing more than a UK gov when it comes down to the same values or lack of.

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  8. Wings has a good article on some of the latest evidence published by the committee. The evidence of legal advice still has massive redactions. I’ve still to catch up with what’s new with the evidence and fit it into what I have on the rest, but here is a link to the article and specifically the comment I made there which is just background info on Sarah Davidson (I think that the fact she was twice stopped from reviewing the procedure suggests she probably wasn’t involved in any alleged conspiracy):

    https://wingsoverscotland.com/a-game-of-blankety-blank/comment-page-1/#comment-2590810

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  9. Here is an interview of Alex Neil MSP (SNP) by the Twa Auld Heids

    He is calling for a judge-led inquiry to look into the accusation of a conspiracy by Alex Salmond, and discusses how it would be looking at a different thing from the committee inquiry. They also discuss how something is rotten at the core of COPFS and with the Lord Advocate, and how something seriously needs to be done about it. Just words – but at least Alex Neil is being vocal and going somewhat against the party whip in parliament, as regards the release of legal advice to the committee.

    (I don’t necessarily agree with Alex Neil politically, on his gradualist approach, and not happy that his economic discussion did not once mention Tim Rideout – but those are seperate matters! The main thing is that there are SNP politicians willing to speak out about things being very awry in the hallowed halls of government).

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    1. Oops! I thought that would just come up as a link. In the above interview they also discuss the need for more IT professionals, haha, yep.

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