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. Could it be that “misguided” maybe fits better that “unlawful”. There being no available sanction at the end of an investigation doesn’t make it unlawful, as far as I can see. The only remedy the SG had after an investigation was to share the information with the leader of the relevant party so as to make it harder for a serial offender to become a minister again.

    The Procedure doesn’t define any other remedy.

    Is that data sharing allowable?

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    1. Robert, I find the legal arguments below, copied from the original Petition prepared by Alex Salmond’s counsel, to be compelling and I believe that the court would have done too:

      “12. Ultra Vires. The Procedure has no statutory or other legal basis. It is ultra vires the powers of the first respondent.The petitioner was not a Minister when the Procedure was brought into being. He did not agree to it being brought in or to be bound by it or to it being applied to these complaints. He was not subject to the doctrine of collective Ministerial responsibility when it was brought in. The first respondent has no legal right or authority to subject the petitioner to the Procedure or to purport to make a decision which includes a finding that he has been guilty of misconduct. Esto the Procedure forms part of the terms and conditions of service of the complainers (which is not known and not admitted) it is not binding on the petitioner.”

      “14. Incompetency. The Proceedings against the petitioner are incompetent in respect that the complaints are of alleged misconduct which occurred long before the Procedure was written or came into effect. The Procedure does not bear to have retrospective effect and does not have that effect. At the time the alleged misconduct occurred complaints of this kind were dealt with using a different procedure called “Fairness at Work Policy and Procedures” (“Fairness at Work”). Fairness at Work does not purport to apply to the conduct of former ministers.”

      The point you raise about privacy is yet another ground of challenge which I believe would have been successful as what was done to Salmond was an egregious breach of his privacy rights under Article 8 of the ECHR and related domestic legislation.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. What an upside down world we live in.

    I would have expected any Independence Supporter, never mind the leader of the SNP and the CEO of the SNP to be extremely relieved to receive complaints which were ‘out of date’ about a high profile member of the SNP – who was no longer their responsibility to punish.

    I would have anticipated, that while they might have to be seen to ‘do something’ – they would also have a mind – for the good of the organisation they represent and lead – to also commit to ‘damage limitation’.

    Rather it seems the actions of both Murrell’s went hell for leather to take a wrecking ball to AS. and his reputation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Daisy, and the “explanations” given by Murrell today for the texts about pressurising the police and making Salmond “firefight” are laughable, and an insult to our intelligence. The “firefight” being urged on by Murrell was patently part of the larger “war” being waged by Evans and others on behalf of Sturgeon, and anyone who can’t see it just isn’t looking, I’m afraid.

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      1. Gordon, what I have found worrying about all these Committee sessions, and today’s was no different, was the complete lack of concern by them when blatantly talking nonsense and lying etc etc – its as if they feel they are invulnerable/untouchable.

        A married couple at the ahead of government and political party should be a complete no no.

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      2. and anyone who can’t see it just isn’t looking, I’m afraid…

        They are looking Gordon. it’s just that their vision is clouded by the fact that they’re wearing a pair of impenetrable lead-lined blinkers, with the words “Nippy saved us all from the black death, you fool!” inscribed in badly-scrawled marker pen on the inside.

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      3. Cubby,

        You have to remember these are all parliamentarians, and one thing you never ever do is call someone a liar in parliament. It’s the most utmost shockingest thing you could ever do. Yeah, go figure. So the snide little comments the committee members make are the closest they think is acceptable for calling any witness statement out.

        I think it must stem from the ministerial code – lying to parliament ,,, or, rather, getting CAUGHT lying to parliament, is the biggest breach of etiquette you can get. Do you remember Tony Blair and the Chilcott report, I mean remember what the biggest hoo-ha was about? It was the suspicion about whether or not he purposefully misled parliament about the Iraq war. Not the devastation of a country, not the morality, not the number of our own guys – including TAs – died, no, his biggest sin was lying to parliament (which, of course, the Chilcott report didn’t answer. Well, that was worth 10 years investigation and however many million pounds, wasn’t it). So I always remember that kind of mindset when I watch anything with politicians in it – that’s why it’s a big deal proving NS has been CAUGHT lying to parliament – it doesn’t seem to matter if you actually have done or not, it’s about being stupid enough to get caught, as far as I can tell.

        There is probably history there, but I’ve no idea what it is.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I also think the procedure was not legitimate on these grounds – any sane person would! Why did no one on the Committee purse this point about the policy having a retrospective capability with the cabal?

    To me this is the most compelling evidence we can have of a ‘get Salmond stitch up’…… the Committee totally let Hynd off the hook when he claimed it was his idea and he dreamt it up during his bathtime!

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  4. My initial comment would be how pathetic the SNP members on the Committee were. Did they self censor their questions because they were they frightened of Murrell or just want to minimise the damage to the SNP or was pressure applied to them beforehand. In particular Alasdair Allan – sometimes I wonder what he is even doing there – for all the contribution he seems to make.

    “I was not”- this was Murrells answer at the beginning of the session to Mitchell’s question (in very great detail to ensure she was clear) asking if he was aware in his 20 years of any Harrassment, bullying etc. in the SNP. The Chief Exec new nothing over 20 years. Now that truly is unbelievable. He then contradicts himself on multiple occasions during the session. He has people whose job is to deal with these matters and an unchanged procedure since 2004 but he knows of no instances. Mark MacDonald?

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    1. Thanks Cubby, your support of and contributions to the blog are much appreciated.

      Your point about Mark MacDonald and others is a wide-reaching one. When faced with these “concerns” about MacDonald and other Ministers, Sturgeon quite rightly didn’t say, “Well, we’ll have to wait for a formal complaint and investigation by the Permanent Secretary, and meantime I have no role, so please don’t tell me anything.”

      If any First Minister or Prime Minister did that, they’d be pilloried, again quite rightly, for shirking their responsibilities.

      Yet we’re asked to believe that this is what Sturgeon did when faced with the mere possibility that “concerns” MIGHT be coming about unnamed former Ministers.

      Aye, right.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂

        Its when I read this : “Well, we’ll have to wait for a formal complaint and investigation by the Permanent Secretary, and meantime I have no role, so please don’t tell me anything.”

        When I read ‘by the Permanent Secretary’ – I couldn’t help but laugh – just stated plainly like that, in general terms, makes you realise how utterly, bafflingly, ridiculous this whole thing is. No one in cabinet, none of the other ministers or any of NS advisors thought to say it was insane?! Why on earth would anyone consider that a rational idea? It’s like the Queen getting her butler to decide if she should disown Andrew or not!

        They use the excuse ‘duty of care to staff’, and then all the emails, after the 5th of Dec 2017, keep saying things like ‘this clarifies the Perm Sec’s role’ – that seems to be their justification for removing NS’s role in the procedure. The Perm Sec is a SERVANT, but she decides the fate of some unconnected previous master? No one would even consider that as reasonable.

        Sorry – I can be slow on the uptake at times, and they’ve discussed much about the ‘independence’ of the investigation but I thought it was more to do with Judith Mackinnons role – but it’s actually that it shouldn’t be any civil servant’s role to make the decisions on it (whether or not the procedure was a good idea in the first place, which it wasn’t)

        I hope they archive the Murrell interview soon, it sounds riveting – thanks for interrupting your long post Gordon to give us this fascinating report. I agree with what you say about the legal arguments from AS’s team, the whole thing – from the creation and adoption of the procedure, but more particularly the way the investigation was carried out, seems wholly unlawful.

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      2. Contrary, as yet further proof of your points above about Sturgeon turning the whole thing over (so she claims) to an unelected civil servant, see the letter from John Somers just published on the inquiry website:

        “Can I offer a correction to Ms Baillie’s assertion that I would have been sent a minute including the decision report. In keeping with the Procedure for Handling of Harassment Complaints involving Current or Former Ministers, the Permanent Secretary wrote to the First Minister on 22 August 2018 to inform her of the outcome of the investigation, in her capacity as both First Minister and Party Leader. It was that letter that I referred to in my response to Ms Baillie.

        “The Permanent Secretary also informed the First Minister at that time of the decision to refer matters to Police Scotland. The First Minister did not receive a copy of the Decision Report, nor did I.”

        According to Somers, then, the First Minister of Scotland did not even receive a copy of the unlawful document in which an unelected civil servant tried to end Alex Salmond’s political life, and ruin his actual life.

        And that’s her DEFENCE.

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      3. Gordon, it is not much of a defence more so when you remember that their own process says that if the former Minister is not cooperating then the current FM should be informed. I think it would be fair to say that the former Minister was clearly not quietly accepting his fate before then. So a reasonable interpretation of their own process should have been that Sturgeon should have been FORMALLY informed/involved earlier. It just sounds like more attempts to keep Surgeon away from the matter to protect her.

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      4. Gordon,

        You are right to use capitals there – it’s becoming repeatedly jaw-dropping the things they all think are suitable as excuses. That Somers seems to me like a right nasty wee weasel, those statements might as well have had ‘I have been told to say,,,’ at the start. I think I’ll be scouring the evidence again, when I get a chance, to see how many times his name pops up!

        I have Nicola Richards as saying the police were notified ‘early August’ – the 22nd isn’t early is it? I hate vague dates, they are so, well vague. I have ‘summer 2018’ for Sarah Davidson being commissioned to review the procedure, then it was put on hold because of the JR – that’s far too vague! The JR wasn’t until 20th September, hardly summertime.

        Gillian Russell said she was contacted by Ms A, probably towards the end of the week starting 13th Nov 2017 – no evidence for that, but you know how you can often put events within the context of a working week, I keep thinking: what if that was the case? Then Ms A had already contacted Russell the week before meeting Somers. Why then would she meet Somers and make a disclosure? Or rather, why would Swinney mention there was a disclosure? Surely there is no written evidence of this? Anyway, was Ms A meeting Somers to (1) put a price on it (that’s a reasonable disclosure I’d say, and something Somers could have been shocked by), and (2) get handed the brown envelope of incentives?

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  5. Not since listening to the evidence of Ernest Saunder ( the first and,so far as I’m aware, the only example of Altzheimers reversing) in the Guinness 4 trial ( where the defendants were charged with unlawfully manipulating the Guinness share price) have I heard such appallingly pathetic ‘evidence’ the veracity of which must be totally in doubt.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I wonder if there is another major issue with this?.

    Surely going over the material is very wrong as it could affect any Police investigation.
    Imagine if there had been some substance to the complaints (there wasn’t).

    The correct course of action on first discovering this should be to pass/direct the complainants to the Police for them to decide what action (if any) to take unless it is patently nonsense (brave call for any manager).

    The physical equivalent would be taking a stroll through a car crash scene before Police have pronounced that it is not a crime scene; Even with best intentions (ahem), DIY investigation muddies the waters and affects witnesses memories (human memory is not a video recording, it remodels with retelling and context).

    Surely the Crown Office Prosecution or the Police will have expressed their displeasure at this interference?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very good point, Douglas, and one that disciplinary procedures of employers have to engage with all the time where an accusation of conduct which might be criminal is made as a disciplinary complaint but no-one wants to involve the police.

      The idea that any employers in good faith would subject themselves, completely unnecessarily and most likely unlawfully, to such a situation in the case of a former employee is absurd.

      Yet that is exactly what the Scottish Government did in the Salmond case.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree with your Douglas —my understanding during my time working in a large institution was that should there be any hint of criminality regarding behaviour of a member of staff during work, then the staff member affected should go to the police ….not HR!! .

      This did not happen here for the reasons we now know – this process / theatre was simply designed to destroy Salmond.

      I am thinking (contrary to a few posts on here and Gordon Himself) that going to the police was not part of Plan A but rather a back stop which they hoped not to invoke. Ultimately events turned against them and was rushed into because they failed miserably in the Court and that left both Sturgeon and Evans humiliated and indignant.

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  7. This all chimes very comfortably with the points I made under the previous blogpost.

    The Government Procedure and investigation into Salmond was essentially a pointless workplace bit of theatre. He wasn’t even an MP or MSP at the time and even if he had been the Civil Service couldn’t do any more than have him fired.

    It was important that the investigation found him guilty and produced a report to back that assessment up, but not for the purposes of administering justice within the Civil Service.

    So, why did they do it? Why all these big names involved in this charade? Why all the cloak and dagger stuff? The answer is simple and staring us all in the face.

    Wightman’s line of questioning today was interesting. He clearly understands everything, particularly the importance of preparatory work they put in before the shooting started.

    I look forward to that lengthy article, Gordon.

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    1. Thanks, Pat. We do owe Murrell’s astonishing admission that he was in the house for some of the meeting on 2 April 2018 — having previously said unequivocally that he wasn’t — to Wightman having taken the trouble to actually read his written evidence and ask him specifically about pertinent bits of it.

      We can only hope other Committee members will take note. Some of them seem to think they’re conducting another inquiry altogether.

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      1. Schrodingers Murrell – he was in the house but he wasn’t in the house at the time of the meeting.

        People who are telling the truth tend to be happy to give a full account. Others, say as little as possible, then you cannot make a mistake, be pulled up about a memory lapse or as Murrell says he misspoke about his text messages.

        In the history of inquiries can so many have lied so much to so many.

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  8. Stuart Campbell over in Wings believes he has evidence of a Peter Murrell with the same phone number as “our” Peter Murrell.

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  9. That was a bit dim. Meant to say: “Stuart Campbell over in Wings believes he has evidence of a WhatsApp account linked to a Peter Murrell with the same phone number as “our” Peter Murrell.”

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  10. One aspect of the inquiry which I don’t think is very important at all but I find irritating is the amount of time spent discussing this Sky News/Edinburgh airport thing.

    As I understand it no complainer made a complaint of any sexual assault or Harrassment but it was Union Staff at the airport took exception to a comment Salmond made to a women about a pair of shoes she was wearing in the airport as they were waiting in a queue. The union staff then took it to the media. The media then considered making a big deal about it but gave up as it was nonsense by people trying to cause trouble for Salmond.

    Many years later at the criminal trial the police looked into it and found nothing and it did not play any part in the Scotgov investigation nor the criminal trial. So why is it continuously getting an airing – other than to smear Salmond and for Sturgeon to confuse matters about when she first heard about complaints about Salmond as she did on Sophy Ridge recently.

    Is this a correct summary?

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    1. Exactly Cubby, It’s a squirrell that’s being used by the cabal, to distract and deflect, and to maintain the slurs against Alex Salmond. I mean, the poor guy had to admit, to massive publicity and others’ exaggeration, a few bits of unthinking accidental touchy feely stuff, that 80% of the population know exactly how they wouldn’t want any of their own indiscretions known or to be reminded of them either – except for the piety brigade that have never done a thing wrong in their lives – can’t they give the guy a break!?

      Surely the lewd insinuations have lost any kind of shock factor for the general public? I don’t really know about the rest of the population, but are people not sick of hearing about the repeated no-news nasty gossip stuff by now?

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  11. Almost.

    According to Craig Murray, the lady (HA!) in question was a member of his staff who had not changed her footwear from the night before and was sliding about the concourse in her 6″ Stilettos before she ended up setting off a scanner.

    Alex S made a comment about them being actual, “Killer Heels,” and she METOO’d the crap out of him with a false allegation of sexual harassment that the airport caved in to by withdrawing Salmond’s access to the VIP lounges.

    There’s a reason why you only hear of the Airport Incident(tm) but have never seen the full story in the SMSM. The whole case falls apart when you see it in full. Just like the attacks in the chip shop, nightclub, Stirling Castle battlements, Bute House dinner, which were exposed for fantasy and outright lies in court.

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  12. Penguin, thanks for more info on this matter. Some of actual complaints that went to criminal court were so pathetic that you wonder how they decided to leave this out and include others which were similarly pathetic. If it is the lady(ha) I think it is then perhaps I can see a reason why the COPFS decided to leave it out of the formal charges.

    Were the union staff witnesses to the dastardly offence of “killer heels”?

    I suppose it does serve no purpose for the committee to keep referring to it other than as an ongoing smear on Salmond. We should never forget that the British MSPs whilst willing to get to the truth to get Sturgeon are also more than happy to smear Salmond as often as they can.

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  13. The manner in which today’s proceedings were conducted smacked of informality, to such an extent that Peter Murrell was enabled to obfuscate at will particularly with regard to procedures within or otherwise the SNP constitution and rule book that could assist any person within that organisation to pursue a grievance in and with confidence. On further reflection all that was missing was the birthday cake, wine and candles.

    It is preposterous to believe that Peter Murrell and Nicola Sturgeon do not talk shop in the privacy of their own surroundings even more surreal that if living under the same roof they were able to provide this inquiry with statements that are quite clearly in conflict, particularly in regard to a meeting which took place in their home on the 2nd of April. Did they never think to compare their recollection of events given the gravity of this inquiry?

    That Peter Murrell in his capacity as CEO of the SNP and commanding a salary purported to be circa 100,000 pounds per annum and following from his performance at today’s session of this inquiry, serious doubts must now arise regarding the lack of ethics employed by the SNP as an employer and a political party and consequently his suitability to the office he continues to hold.

    The SNP as an organisation has a duty of care to all who come within its ambit and on the evidence presented by Peter Murrell today that principle does not enjoy a high priority within its structures.

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  14. Two matters I thought they should/would have raised today with Murrell.

    1. The specific point – missing information/documents that Salmonds lawyers claim the SNP have not supplied the Committee.

    2. The use of SNP email accounts for gov business.

    As is always the case we do not know what info they have and kept to themselves/ not made public on their website and how it affects their questioning.

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  15. Gordon, I’m more than content to wait for your lengthy post. Don’t rush it. As they used to say in the army, speed’s fine, accuracy’s final!
    When Murrell was cornered on his messages concerning pressurising the police, he put it down to his inappropriate use of words for which he apologised. But no one of the committee thought to ask him to explain in appropriate words, what it was he was trying to convey. It’s all very well going on about the words being out of character etc but what was his intended meaning?

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    1. Exactly, Ingwe. A trained advocate would have taken him through it, phrase by phrase, and asked what he intended to convey. Of course, he’d have been still further exposed by the exercise. His vacuous version of what he meant versus what he actually wrote reminded me of the preachers you’d see on TV when I lived in the US who would read out a bit of scripture and then gloss it with a meaning that was the direct opposite of what the text said — to rapturous applause from the believers.

      Someone should really do a satirical “Parliamo Murrello” (you have to be old, Scottish and a Stanley Baxter fan to get this) translating some key Murrellese phrases for us all. If I had the time, I’d do it myself.

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    2. Ingwe, what I was amazed about yesterday was the lack of a follow up about what Sue Ruddick his Chief
      Operating Officer did next after getting the messages from Murrrell. Did she reply to him? If yes can we see the messages please should be the follow up. Did she say those messages are totally out of character. Do you really mean what it says Peter? I doubt she said that. Is it realistic to accept that Ruddick would not have replied to these two messages from her boss. She just blanked him I doubt it. Have the Committee asked her these questions in writing?

      Who were the folk he wanted Ruddick to get to pressurise the police? Logically it could be the alphabet women and that means Murrell and Ruddick are heavily involved. Did folk pressurise the police? Did Ruddick get involved with London police? The Chief Exec of the party in power at Holyrood and husband of the FM asking his Chief Opersting Officer to pressurise police in Scotland/London regarding a criminal case. This is the stuff of banana republics and it does not say much for the SNP and Scotland in general that the outcry has been so low key. I believe if Murrell was not married to Sturgeon he would have been suspended by now in the SNP.

      Ruddick and her role seems to be a completely silent area by the Committee. Have the Committee written to Ruddick and received a reply but not made public any of it. The Committee were not shy in asking for the other messages related to the “battle and war ” messages between Evans and Allison but not Ruddick’s messages seems strange unless ……….

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      1. But isn’t the problem here that that it is outwith the remit of the Committee?

        So, while what Murrell MEANT by his text messages might shed some light on his and others’ motivations throughout the government investigation, anything Ruddick did in response would clearly relate to the criminal investigation which the committee has no remit to examine.

        I don’t think the committee thought there was very much to be gained by examining these messages further. The fact that Murrell could not give a satisfactory explanation for their meaning was all they needed to confirm that what he meant was exactly what he said. There is no jury to convince here – if they know, they know and they don’t have to (and arguably shouldn’t) demonstrate that they know.

        I suspect the committee was much more interested in Murrell’s accounts of the Salmond / Sturgeon meetings because, ultimately, these meetings are at the heart of what they are investigating. He was all over the place on these matters. (BTW, I think this shows the value of engaging witnesses on a variety of issues so that they cannot focus their mind fully on any premeditated ‘story’ for the ‘important’ bits.)

        I might have missed something (entirely possible and would appreciate being set straight if so) but my understanding of these meetings up to yesterday was that Sturgeon and Salmond were meeting in one room while Aberdein and Lloyd were in another room. Murrell said there were three people in the other room when he got back home.

        That jumped out at me as a significant difference to previous accounts I have heard.

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      2. Definitely food for thought there, GeeK. I’d argue that the “war” clearly began when Evans sent her report and other documents from Mackinnon’s “investigation” to the police on 22 August 2018 in the face of manifest reluctance from the two complainers. It’s clear that the Scottish Government then did everything they could to get Salmond charged and then to get him convicted.

        The JR is at the heart of the “war”, firstly because it was ongoing throughout the first phase, from August 2018 to January 2019, when they hoped to get the JR sisted (suspended) until charges and then a conviction would make it redundant, and then from January 2019 onwards for the reasons Salmond’s counsel submitted at the trial and are set out in my post on the subject.

        They’re still fighting the “war” at the inquiry, desperately trying (with some success) to get the focus onto the alleged misconduct of Salmond (which is IN TERMS irrelevant to the inquiry’s remit) and away from their own incompetence and misconduct. Murrell’s texts, and whatever followed from them, are a central part of this. If this and other similar evidence is not exposed by the inquiry, the aims of the “war” will be furthered and the inquiry thwarted.

        Duncan Hamilton was the third person in the room when Murrell popped his head in.

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      3. Excellent points, Cubby. As I recall, he didn’t confirm the identify the recipients of the messages, even though it was pointed out that this was already in the public domain. Of course it’s easy to conclude, from his dire performance, that he’s a bumbling idiot, but given that he’s the CEO of the SNP and maried to the FM, he’s role playing to obfuscate, delay and ultimately to be the symbolic sacfrifice, if required.

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  16. Geek, I would suggest that if these messages are part of an ongoing involvement/communications showing Murrell and Ruddicks and others involvement way back to the Judicial Review and further back to the complaints process/ handling then it is indeed part of the Committees remit. Why did Murrell just suddenly get involved if he wasn’t involved previously? As Baillie said how did he know about any London situation. And what business is it of his anyway. Early on in his testimony he paints a picture of no involvement in Harrassment matters then he mentions London and Salmond having fight on multiple fronts in these messages.

    Murrell, of course, stated in his written testimony that he was not at home when the meeting took place. Again no one asked him who the three people were. I guess they already knew. Salmonds solicitor I believe – Hamilton.

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      1. Thanks for the clarification. I thought Hamilton had only been involved in meetings prior to the meeting at chez Murrell. Unlike some of you guys I am relying on my failing mind to recall details. I wish I could bring myself to write some of this stuff down but reading the accounts of others makes me feel ill enough. For the avoidance of doubt, this is not a reflection on the quality of your collective works!

        Maybe you are right about the text messages but I can’t imagine that the content of them could be any more damning than the fact that the CEO of the SNP and husband of the FM saw fit to write them at all.

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  17. Three new written updates following on from last weeks Committee meeting have now been received by the Committee – Somers, Richards and MacKinnon. A new letter from Fabiani to Barbara Allison has also been sent.

    Richards confirms that Evans decided to go to the police – following legal advice. It would be interesting to see that legal advice. Did the legal advice say she should offer the police the report?

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  18. Since it’s topical and always puzzled me, can anyone explain when and how the phone was taken as evidence (Ruddick’s phone, I believe)? I think I read that it was taken by police as part of some investigation and evidence gathering process? It’s an important aspect of this since it yielded a lot of quite damning information from what I can see. And I have heard rumours that there are lots of damning texts and whatsapp messages in storage somewhere – how can we see those, if it’s true?

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      1. Thanks Cubby. I’ve read it several times. I actually think it’s the meatiest of them all. But it doesn’t seem to say when and why the phone that was in the possession of Ruddick was taken as a source of potential evidence, only that it was.

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  19. Murrell getting stick in the media re his Whattsapp claim that he did not use Whattsapp at the Inquiry on Tuesday.

    Now I would have said ” I have NEVER used Whattsapp” to be crystal clear because what counts is was he using it back in 2017/8/9. His “I do not use it “can be interpretated as now not ever. Was this the advice he got from his lawyers if it was it ain’t good advice.

    Technically, evidence that he did use it as recently as November seems to have been established.

    Therefore he can say he told the truth ( a bit like slimeball Gove tells the truth) and say your question was not clear enough.

    How many lies do all these SNP members need to hear before they accept something isn’t right.

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  20. In the article entitled ‘The Institutional Bias of COPFS’ it is explained that Salmond’s lawyers seemed to believe that the criminal trial was somehow triggered by the loss of the Judicial Review, i.e. that the Government and leading actors in this “plot” were so enraged that they activated the criminal charges.

    This can’t be right, though. We know that the police had been investigating Salmond since August 2018, many months before the JR proceedings had got underway at the CoS. We also know that Evans insisted on calling the police and reporting the findings of the internal investigation and that she handed them the final report.

    Everything suggests that involving the police was the objective here, since well before the surrender at the CoS.

    This isn’t just an important issue, it is central to everything. It is the most important issue of all, as I see it.

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  21. I can see your point Pat but I am not so sure about your conclusion to be honest.

    I do think LE and JM prepared the police for a criminal prosecution but it was agreed with police charges were only to be made if the JR failed. I thin they considered it their ‘last resort’ and possibly only began working with the police to pressure and threaten Salmond into admit wrong doing.

    If it was a backstop significant questions about the political nature of police actions over the entire period you refer to need to be asked.

    Time for a Judge led enquiry… Alex Neil called it right.

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    1. Sorry just to add … my argument is based on the assumption that no experienced politician such as NS would ever want to end up in court – because then everything (all the lies and mendacity) may come out under due legal process and under oath.

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    2. “it was agreed with police charges were only to be made if the JR failed”

      The implications of that are huge. But I like to think the Scottish Police have more integrity and independence than it suggests.

      It’s hard to believe they could just switch their charges against Salmond on and off at will in such an ad hoc manner. A lot of preparation would have gone into the charges against Salmond and your theory here suggests that all that work would have been for nothing had the Government won its judicial review.

      I don’t think it’s plausible. I think the police were going to go ahead with their charges regardless of the JR. The evidence supports the theory that they would have done so and that criminal charges with police involvement was the plan all along.

      I’m sure the Government would have been glad if the JR was in some way put on hold. Dangerfield seems to agree. It follows that the JR wasn’t that important to them. And it follows from that that the Investigation wasn’t important either, since they are so intrisincally connected, except in so far as it precipitated a police investigation.

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      1. You could be right Pat but I guess I do actually question the integrity of some in the police and Crown Office. Don’t
        you?

        If your theory is right I am really struggling to understand why NS was prepared to risk all in this way….. there is a very good chance she will have to go in the next couple of months due to the Enquiry and I cant understand why a politician would ever want to go to court as the truth will out!!

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      2. “I am really struggling to understand why NS was prepared to risk all in this way….”

        The risk was all on the other side of the equation, though. AS was the one who faced the possibility of going to prison for the rest of his life. AS was the one who faced the prospect of his reputation and legacy being destroyed and stained.

        If this was a conspiracy instigated and conducted the FM and various other high ranking cohorts, SpAds, Civil Servants, etc., and I believe the evidence conforms with that theory, it was carried out from the safety of positions of power with very little risk involved and all sorts of protections provided by the law.

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  22. I appreciate this thread is about Murrell but I just wanted to flag up Judith Mackinnon. She seems to have been a bit under the radar, sometimes perhaps people thinking she was a more junior member of the cabal.

    I contend that she was actually of of the major players – remember her background in the Police as ‘leading change’. and causing a few problems? I suggest it was JM who pushed for police involvement, using her prior contacts in the police to persuade others in the cabal..

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    1. Achnabanan,

      I don’t think Judith Mackinnon has been under the radar? She is obviously a major player, she did the investigation etc, after all But – she isn’t a ‘decision maker’, so she isn’t senior enough to suggest she carried out the whole thing herself. It also wasn’t her that had the police contacts, it was Gillian Russell – so the conclusion JM pushed for police involvement sounds unlikely.

      I’m not that certain about your and Pat’s discussion above, it’s a bit confusing, and I’m not sure what you are basing your assumptions on for the motivations. The JR was not planned for – that was Alex Salmond that brought it: but he gave them plenty forewarning in 2018 – are you discussing a revised plan in light of a possible JR (I very much doubt that would be factored in from the start!)?

      It wasn’t the police that brought the charges, it was COPFS, the police might have handed them the info, but I don’t think they investigated anything before COPFS asked them to – I may be wrong about that – so they weren’t driving anything (though being told to go on a fishing expedition and agreeing to it is a bit suspect, though they must have thought it was a nice easy earner too).

      The whole thing seems to be aimed at ‘exposing’ AS, which is the only certain part, but as to what decisions were made for what reasons during 2018 I’m can’t even guess at at the moment – I need to see actual written evidence with more exact dates I think – the timing seems more aligned to what Gordon says though – LE knew the judicial Review would fail (we need to see the legal advice to verify that), but went ahead and fought it after she’d notified the police in readiness. She’d already made sure the JR was going to expose Salmond (hence the timing of the daily record leak), she just needed to wriggle out of losing the JR after that. I think the ‘confidentiality’ that was promised for the complainers means that it was planned to go to court from the start, maybe – that’s the only way you can get any assurance of anonymity – though maybe it was just meant to go to the newspapers? who knows!

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  23. Contrary, it’s not often that I need to read something 3 times but for the life of me I can’t distinguish a lot of what you’ve written above from a stream of quite random words. One of the few intelligible things you said was this;

    “the timing seems more aligned to what Gordon says though – LE knew the judicial Review would fail (we need to see the legal advice to verify that)”

    Even here I don’t know what you’re talking about (timing or chances of the JR failure?) but it is a working hypothesis that the Government knew in advance that the JR would go against them. It isn’t controversial to suggest that and the judgement of the CoS corroborates the view that the Investigation was conducted in a hopelessly incompetent and careless manner.

    You say “I’m not sure what you are basing your assumptions on for the motivations”.

    In cases where people deny wrongdoing it logically follows that you are always going to be guessing at motives. They are hardly likely to admit what motivated them whilst denying wrongdoing, are they?

    It’s hard to contemplate how any legal system would function if proof of motive was a requirement. Actually, even accepting the ridiculousness of such a proposition, I can’t imagine what form that proof would take.

    Everyone that believes the investigations into Salmond were conducted “unlawfully” with “apparent bias” – and that includes the judge at the CoS – is making an assumption that the motives of those involved were negative in relation to Salmond’s standing, reputation, and liberty. We are basing our assumptions on the details of this case and how it was carried out, as well as the apparent cover-up we are witnessing today.

    For the record, you say “It also wasn’t her that had the police contacts, it was Gillian Russell – so the conclusion JM pushed for police involvement sounds unlikely.”

    You are guessing here. It is known that JM worked with Police Scotland before taking the job on with the Scottish Government, and that she literally made the jump around 3 months before she was thrown into this stuff. We also know that JM had contacted Police Scotland late in 2017, apparently to take advice on how the police might be included as an option in the new Procedure.

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  24. Thanks Pat and Contrary – I can see I still have some more thinking to do.

    However, I simply cannot believe a top politician would manoeuvre, or be manoeuvred into, a court case where evidence is tested by sharp legal minds!

    Who knows, perhaps NS was already in too deep by the time the police were called in?

    Whatever the real explanation is, NS has demonstrated, to me at least, that she does not have the political touch or craft of great leaders …. this is a political bourach and it is going to destroy her career.

    She is either gullible, vulnerable, or complicit in the conspiracy (or all three). Whatever the reason she has failed as our national leader.

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  25. Haha, sorry Pat, I was far too tired when I wrote that (it made sense in my own head) and probably when reading your and Achabanan comments too, so without reading back over what I said, I’ll take it as read I wasn’t clear. I just laugh at myself there because I’m far too old to handle long hours at work, then I had a water leak from the flat above yesterday – my nicely painted ceilings bloody well water damaged, again – so had to clean that up too, and I thought I’m still on the ball later on, but no, my intellect has definitely shut down! Anyway, excuses aside:

    We are making assumptions on a lot of of what we say – so being clear about what those assumptions are is quite important, I think.

    I don’t agree with what you say in total there though – I would say a judge will nearly always make some kind of value judgement on motivation, to hand down a sentence anyway (not to prove a case maybe) – and it can make big different between manslaughter and murder, for instance – so does seem to be part of our legal systems. And a judge always needs to explain why they came to their conclusions – is that proof of motivation? Maybe. Certainly the judge made a value judgement on motivation in the Judicial review, and we make the assumption that he had good reason to do so.

    Also, you say I’m guessing about Gillian Russell being the one to pass over police contacts – but that was her testimony in the committee meeting, I’m not guessing – I am, however, assuming she told the truth. I’m just saying, from the evidence so far, there is nothing to indicate Mackinnon was using any of her own contacts, or had any influence on the police, directly. I really appreciate all levels of speculation from everyone here – and on this one I’m curious what it is you have picked up that informed this speculation. Not everyone keeps in contact with previous work or colleagues.

    Just because I think Gillian Russell seemed to be being relatively honest and professional about her part in this, doesn’t mean to say she wasn’t being, um circumspect about information that might drop her colleague in it. So any assumption about her telling the truth may not lead to strictly accurate conclusions.

    Achnabanan, yes – that is a bit of a strange thing, that NS would want it to go to court – but did they need to win in court? did she gamble that the fan fare and publicity would overshadow anything else? – also, it wasn’t ‘her’ bringing the case – ‘je recuse’ remember – nothing to do with her, had no part in it blah blah – she just goes on about how there ‘were complaints and it was right to investigate’. I am guessing she, and associates, thought they were being clever and had covered all bases, politically speaking. It’s certainly not an easy one to unravel!! I think there are still too many pieces of the puzzle to put together before we get close to finding an answer to that one, but it’s always good to keep in mind as a sense-check.

    I find it most useful to go in the opposite direction to make a sense check – try assuming everyone is being open and honest and behaved in the most proper and upright manner throughout, with always the best of intentions, and with caring and considerate motivations at all times – does ANY of the evidence fit with those situations? These are the situations each of those involved try to sell us – and I dunno about anyone else, but it hurts my brain to even attempt to fit the evidence and behaviour and decisions into a category of ‘it was all above board’. But I think that’s what each piece of information has to be tested against.

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    1. I meant to also say that Lord Pentland would have given his reasoning in full about motivations of the Scottish Government creating the procedure, and its application, IF the judicial Review had been allowed to conclude – Evans definitely had to concede – if it’s the case that they hadn’t behaved in an open honest upright etc manner – conceding the case is a fairly damning thing to do, if all it was was a tiny bit of one part of a paragraph that might have been misunderstood by other people, not them of course. If everything was above board, and it was a simple slight misunderstanding on paragraph 10, the judge would have rapped their knuckles over it but found in their favour – IF the case had not been conceded AND everything was above board. So, why concede if everything was right and proper? They wouldn’t have, so something(s) stink.

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  26. Angus Robertson has replied to the Committee and his very brief letter is on the Committee website.

    He basically says he has no information/knowledge to share on the whole business – oh yes you do Mr Robertson and the Committee will know this.

    However, he feels the need to raise the redherring/smear/nonsense about Edinburgh airport and Salmond to “assist” the inquiry. The result is that the BBC can then smear Salmond again by implying some sexual assault/incident in 2009. I don’t think this was accidental on Robertsons part.

    Does anyone think all this business is good for the SNP or the cause of independence. I don’t and I know who is responsible and they should be booted out of the SNP.

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    1. Huh, so he has, and you are spot on with your summary of it Cubby. At least it was a brief letter I suppose.

      I’m getting a bit tired of all the Edinburgh airport references, have to say, but no doubt they can squeeze in another couple of thousand of them before this is over.

      It appears that there ARE those in the SNP that do not have our, or the party’s, best interests at heart – our best interests being independence in the main – otherwise none of this would have happened in the first place.

      I’d like to see some booting getting started soon.

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      1. Contrary, as you and I both realised previously from reading the correspondence between Sturgeon and Salmond submitted by Sturgeon to the Committee Salmond realised that Sturgeon did not have the best interests of the SNP or Independence at heart and that Sturgeon was out to get him.

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      2. Aye, true, very true.

        I keep wondering when Alex Salmond became aware – I think it was sometime during 2018. He seemed to still be trying to salvage something at the beginning of the year, perhaps believing Nicola Sturgeon’s line about it being nothing to do with her? Hence the meetings and calls with her – trying to reason and find a political solution, giving plenty warning of the path he’d need to take, you don’t do that with someone you don’t trust and don’t think is reasonable.

        It makes me feel a bit better about being wholly taken in by Nicola Sturgeon’s projected persona, knowing that someone as politically astutute, and at the top of the SNP, as Alex Salmond, was also unaware of the rot at the top. It also indicates that we shouldn’t all be kicking ourselves for being stupid: we weren’t – we couldn’t have known, being so far removed from the action.

        People that still think everything is fine and still buying into the false promises – I just don’t get it. I don’t think you have to look far – I don’t believe you need to look at the detail as we’ve been doing; that only shows us the extent of the rot – to know something is not right, that there IS some rot. It’s avoidance on a grand scale.

        Once we get an outline of what happened when, enough to stitch events and players together, there should enough that can’t be ignored any longer. I hope!

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  27. No wonder the Committee are having a wholly private session on Tuesday. So much to ponder. The inevitable question is will the Committee split in to SNP versus the others and if it does happen ( a distinct possibility I think) when will it happen. Not too early I would suggest as the Britnats will want to keep it all going. Probably the final report.

    With regards to the 2April 2018 meeting at Sturgeons house and the different takes by Sturgeon and Murrell as to whether it was SNP or Scotgov business I think Sturgeon could have got away with saying I initially thought it was SNP but then realised it was Scotgov business if that was the first she knew about it. But now she has admitted to the prior meeting with Geoff Aberdein in late March she clearly knew it was Scotgov business. Of course the REAL truth is that she has known about it from the beginning.

    The Aberdein written submission and possible appearance would appear to being kept in abeyance until the right moment. Possibly Sturgeons appearance.

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    1. The descriptions of all those meetings are such a mess eh? It’s constant doublespeak to confuse everyone, as though that makes it all okay then, everyone will just give up because it looks too difficult a rask to unravel. Do you think that Murrell was just trying to sow more confusion, or is actually happy to throw Sturgeon under a bus? I can’t decide if there is any element of the last in Murrell’s scheming, did you get any feeling there might be?

      What is it you mean by a split in the committee? In what way could they split? There has to be just one report, so will it matter is the SNP members try to overrule the others? Certainly Alastair Allen is a seat-warmer, I’ve never heard so many irrelevant, disinterested questions on any committee I’ve ever watched! He’s a sight to behold: he should have declared a lack of interest to the committee, not any conflicts of interest. The rest, I just can’t tell, or if the inquiry is getting dragged out to any extent either. And it needs to be concluded swiftly.

      I keep thinking how I wish the Judicial Review was allowed to finish! The JR would have found all this out and found a conspiracy – the criminal court refused to hear it, and I can sort of see why they didn’t want to go there, sort of – but it is absolutely what a JR would have found (expensively!). And just thinking there – if the judicial review HAD concluded, and found a conspiracy, what would have happened to the criminal case? Would COPFS have dropped the investigation? In fact, if it’s found to be so now, would the criminal trial be deemed unlawful itself?

      The committee has a ton of evidence to get though, so yes no wonder they are meeting in private on Tuesday.

      Cubby, what order do you think the witnesses, the big ones, should be seen in? For the life of me I can’t decide!

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  28. Gordon,

    Have you read Judith Mackinnon’s additional written submission after the 1st Dec meeting?

    It is,,, interesting. Her answers to questions seem to consist entirely of giving them other people’s answers then saying she agrees with them. Is this normal practice? Allowable, for a witness statement?

    The one where, in oral evidence, she had no clue to what Nicola Richards was referring (‘testing [timeline] back against the policy’ email from 6th Dec 2017), in writing she just quotes NR and says that was her understanding at the time – really?!

    Surely the letter does NOT answer the committee’s questions to her, when she just boldly gives them everyone else’s answers?

    Phenomenal effort of missing the point entirely about should she have referred the complaint of Ms A immediately to the police.

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  29. And then there is the aspect of what seems like the entire civil service missing the point entirely about ‘independence of the investigation’.

    Without going into detail of events, it’s not just a case of Judith Mackinnon knowing the complainers before the investigation, and thinking that was grand from her understanding of the procedure, and everyone knew anyway so it wasn’t her fault. During the investigation, her lack of independence was reinforced and embedded. She happily says she mediated and was in constant contact with the complainers throughout events of 2018, and was appointed to do so. I can’t consolidate the two very separate roles of:

    1) supporting the complainers and mediating for them, and
    2) impartially investigating the complaints, to produce a fair and unbiased report.

    No one person can do this, it’s impossible – you can’t offer non-judgemental support to a person at the same time as trying to find out if what they said is true or not. It’s a contradictory position. There should have been a mediator between the Investigating Officer and the complainers – whatever the procedure said or their interpretation.

    I can only assume the main players constant references to the external review of the procedure is as a suggestion everyone should wait for that, whenever it’s carried out and concluded somewhere in the far distant future, to delay everything further. We can’t have delay, we need this sorted now – from lots of different perspectives.

    My perspective is that it gives the SNP a chance to sort themselves out well in advance of the Holyrood election, so the unionists don’t have the unfair advantage of producing a scandal at the 11th hour. Politically, the unionists have to be seen to be pushing for the scandal to be revealed, so if we keep up the pressure they will have to follow through despite their likely preferred timing. Obviously, there is a gamble there on whether or not the SNP can sort themselves out in time.

    But really, the rot at heart of government needs to weeded out – Scotland is a mature country, we need our primary governing and legislative body to behave in a manner that suits us – maturely. We need to be seen to be able to deal with this effectively, otherwise trust will erode. We need to decide if we want a replicated, toothless, mini-Westminster, or a real government with politicians taking their roles and our country seriously and trying to make it better and fit for (our) purpose. This doesn’t depend on the constitutional question, or perhaps more particularly revolves around being a devolved nation – at what point does the population of Scotland decide there is little point in having an extra layer of administration, same as the rest, that just seems like yet another way in which the establishment gets the opportunity to screw us over? I don’t think it helps any of us to let this one fester.

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  30. Regarding the investigation itself which is an important matter in terms of how it was conducted, it is worth remembering that Evans when asked if she’d do things differently essentially responded by saying she wouldn’t. Defending that position she said the investigation was in line with legal advice (which we can’t and probably won’t ever see) and in line with ACAS recommendations.

    It took me about 3 minutes on Google to establish that the investigation was not conducted in a way that ACAS would recommend and in actual fact was conducted in a way that was flagrantly at odds with ACAS recommendations. Happy to provide links if needed.

    ACAS puts a lot of emphasis on having a clear procedure but the procedure in this case was not even formally in place. Evans would say that it was in place when the investigation started but because JM was involved previously in interviewing complainers it isn’t straightforwardly correct to say the investigation started after the procedure was formally introduced. Her interviews and involvement could be considered part of an investigation, taking place before the procedure was in place.

    To make matters even more confused and irregular, compromising everything further, JM was also involved in drafting the procedure itself and indeed seems to have shown it in draft form to the complainers in order to take advice on how appropriate and suitable it might be later on when their cases would go live.

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    1. Pat,

      Well done on reading the ACAS guidelines – I didn’t think it would be worthwhile, so that’s very interesting it’s at odds with what they did. Yes please, can you post the link to it?

      You are right about Evans – and that line about how they wouldn’t have done anything different seems to be adopted by everyone – it’s a very,,, bold thing to say about something that had already been called out by the judge in the Judicial Review!

      I’ve been thinking about them showing the draft procedure to the complainers – and in no way was that the ‘right thing to do’ – but with all that’s been said about how it is normal practice to get the opinion of people with lived experience (the unions said that’s normally done through them).

      Well, Ms A did have lived experience, she’d already brought forward an informal complaint in the past, at the time of the event, and it had been resolved. So, she did have ‘lived experience’, but Nicola Richards, Evans, and Mackinnon kept failing to mention this – was this part of the anonymity thing? I mean, we can obviously identify her as another letter of the alphabet, but that’s hardly revealing an identity! Gillian Russell told us this (and it’s stated in written evidence), and it might have let the Evans gang a little big off the hook – on that anyway – so why not say it? ,,, I suppose if doesn’t really, as Ms A was again going through the complaints process and shouldn’t have been giving advice on the drafting of a procedure she was going to use! Okay, forget that one 😉

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      1. This isn’t from ACAS but it’s a summary by a company that specialises in HR and advises on ACAS policy;

        “Who should investigate? – Usually, the employee’s line manager will be the appropriate person, however, when the matters are more serious or complex, someone more senior or experienced may be better placed. People who are personally involved in the matter; create a conflict of interest; may be involved in decision making later on or who have limited availability should be avoided.”

        https://www.peninsulagrouplimited.com/corporate-eye-january-edition-2016/acas-guidance-on-conducting-workplace-investigations/

        Here’s a link to the relevant section on the ACAS website on conducting investigations; https://www.acas.org.uk/disciplinary-procedure-step-by-step/step-3-carrying-out-an-investigation

        The ACAS site is hard work and points to various documents. The emphasis is on impartiality of the investigation officer and making sure there’s a well defined procedure in place.

        Evans claims her investigation was in line with ACAS advice. It simply was not.

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      2. Thanks Pat, this is really good – that you thought too look in the first place too! They quote ACAS loads, and none of us want to go through tedious admin guidance documents unless necessary – it’ll be good to put each of their ACAS comments into context directly,,, if I get the time – too many real-world things to do just now, but hoping to get a bit of time soon. It’ll certainly add to my (still theoretical!) decision-making tree – hopefully that’ll give a straightforward outline of the poor decision-making, or make clear that their stated reasoning doesn’t match the decisions made (I have to stop myself making too many assumptions from the outset, I wouldn’t like to be accused of producing an unfair and biased report 😉 )

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      3. Huh, Pat, you missed this, it appears they at least followed *some* of ACAS advice, this bit:

        ” If the employer does not carry out a reasonable investigation, any decisions they make in the disciplinary or grievance case are likely to be unfair. This could risk legal action. ”

        😉

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  31. When I worked in Acas one of my tasks was to deliver training courses on the development and use of disciplinary and grievance procedures. Acas was interested in targetting small employers with few resources, not bodies such as a national government.

    I think it is beyond doubt that Judith Mackinnon knows very well that her prior contact, and the nature of it, with complainants should have disqualified her as an investigator of complaints of misconduct made by those people with whom she had prior contact.

    Ms Mackinnon seems to be the only person in the SG with the necessary experience to undertake an investigation into misconduct.

    This whole episode looks like an enormous shambles, undertaken at speed, without forethought as to the possible consequences and without the skill and knowledge to prevent disaster. Certainly, natural justice was never much considered with regard to Alec Salmond or the complainants.

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    1. I agree with what you say here Sam.

      I don’t know much about ACAS, but now reading some of the guidance, I was getting the feeing it was aimed at smaller businesses, so thanks for that confirmation. Most large organisations have the resources to set out their own procedures and guidance, and pay for investigations if needed.

      I picked up that Judith Mackinnon might have been the only person qualified to carry out an investigation – which makes it interesting that she was employed a few months before the policy review was started (at end on October) – if she’d been employed directly to do the investigation January 2018 that would have been fair enough (and would have ensured no prior contact), but had someone ‘identified a gap’ in the HR team skill set well in advance of reviewing policies? And why never before?

      That everyone knew she was the only person likely to carry out an investigation, makes all the decisions made on her involvement at each stage very shaky – considering Leslie Evans was openly ‘encouraging’ complaints to be made at the same time, increasing the likelihood of the need of an IO.

      I keep emphasising ‘encouraging’ because that’s a quite different thing from ‘giving people the confidence’ to come forward, to my mind. It probably doesn’t matter how they term it in the grand scheme of things, but it keeps telling me the intentions weren’t very good when they use it so often.

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      1. I have not had time to keep up with detail here so I rely on comments of you and others and Gordon’s posts. Was Ms A, the first complainant, bringing forward a case she thought previously unresolved to her satisfaction? if so, it has to do with misconduct that was, at first sight, criminal. There might be a number of reasons why her complaint was not resolved to her satisfaction when she first raised it. Power imbalances, ineffective representation, the unwillingness of the SG to address the issue fairly or at all. There is likely to have been thought given to some of that when Ms A raised the issue a second time, prompting the start of a chaotic series of actions.

        I don’t think Ms Mackinnon was recruited with any of this affair in mind. It was a (belated?) recognition of a need for her kind of knowledge and experience, I think

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      2. Sam, a point to remember is that the complaint raised in 2017 was not as per the complaint raised years earlier. It would not have been seen as criminal first time as it was almost changed out of all recognition. Second time around it would have been seen as a serious criminal offence to most people so it begs the question why did none of these senior civil servants not tell her to go to the police or indeed tell the police themselves.

        Of course the second updated version of the complaint was a lie. A deliberate lie by the complainer – who out of these civil servants knew at the time it was a lie is the question? Personally, if I was Somers and I was told the details of the complaint in the first meeting I would have said go to the police and taken legal advice. I would not have met her the following day. Two secret meetings with the complainer.

        But if course if you know who this person is and some of the other complainers are then the fog lifts.

        The whole thing stinks.

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  32. Very open minded of you Sam! (In your above reply) In any grievance procedure I don’t think anyone should make assumptions about the complaint or the complainer – but in this case, that complaint has been through a criminal case, and the jury found the argument that the complaint had been exaggerated out of all proportion to be more acceptable, and Alex Salmond not guilty of that exact accusation.

    BUT! The committee isn’t looking at the complaints (or revisiting the criminal trial) themselves (so tut tut, Cubby). So taking it at face value, In 2017, yes there could have been many reasons and she could have been still traumatised – and, let’s face it, a grievance procedure never satisfies anyone so it may not have been addressed at in 2013, she may have not really accepted the apology at the time but felt pressured to do so etc etc. But she either downplayed the event in 2013, or exaggerated the event in 2017.

    I don’t think anyone should should really be giving an opinion on the complaint itself or we start down a route of victim-blaming or validation (that is, should she be allowed to continue to persecute Alex Salmond after the trial? Just because she made a complaint doesn’t make everything she says correct. The unfairness where she is afforded anonymity while Alex Salmond is not, makes any attack on his integrity very unfair.) – the reference to it being a prior event, that had been dealt with, is relevant because it was *known* about and there are existing records. At no point would I ever suggest she should not have come forward again. (Well,,, if was valid,,, but I’m ignoring subsequent findings). It’s something to keep in mind IF there was a fishing expedition to find complaints: Ms A may have been approached – though that’s pure speculation just now.

    Certainly Gillian Russell – who heard Ms A’s official concern – found the complaint upsetting, whatever was said, and passed it over to HR immediately. Ms A never found the need to use Gillian Russell’s offer of continued support after that point.

    Ms A wasn’t the first to raise a concern; Ms B was (on 7th or 8th of Nov, even that date has now become murky). Ms A was the first person to make a *formal* complaint after raising a concern – hence the ‘A’ designation I suspect, on the 16th of Jan 2018. (the concern was raised sometime between 13th and 22nd Nov, at which time she gave a statement to Russell – the uncertainty in dates is due to oral evidence not quite stacking up).

    What is it that makes you believe Mackinnon was appointed in innocence Sam?

    It may have been, I have no evidence either way, but maybe you have insight into the timing and how the need was identified? – it could even be that it was only after appointing her they suddenly realised they could carry out in-house investigations and decided to stir things up to use that resource?!

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  33. I tried editing that last comment and it went a bit awry. I should start a bit earlier Sam in answer to your question about Ms A:

    Most witnesses at the committee have avoided mentioning Ms A’s previous complaint, it’s mentioned in some of the letters (to L Evans) submitted my Levy & McRae, but then Gillian Russell said in oral evidence this was so – there is no reason not to mention it, because there is nothing wrong with bringing a complaint up again, if given the opportunity, and if it felt like it still hadn’t been resolved to her.

    The point at which Ms A raised the complaint again, the procedure – that would give her that opportunity – had not yet been published, it was still being revised, and still confidential I’d assume – so there is the first question, how did she know she’d get the opportunity? Lets assume she was actually just so traumatised she had to come forward then:

    Ms B’s complaint, for some reason, is rarely mentioned in any context, but Ms A’s is repeatedly referred to as being ‘serious’ and as possibly criminal in nature. Just because the two complaints were against the same person, surely that doesn’t mean they should have been treated the same? If it was that serious, then it should have been investigated under the fairness at work policy immediately (that had an equivalent section for third party contractors – not specific to former ministers but sufficient) – I would have thought? Regardless of any other complaints. Either that or, as Cubby says, referred to the police immediately.

    It sounds like Ms B’s complaint could wait for the new procedure to come out – but could Ms A’s? Was it serious, or wasn’t it? Normally civil servants take years to draft things, would you risk waiting for an unknown length of time? For something so serious, something that had driven her to come forward without knowing there was a specific procedure coming along for her exact case?

    But wait they did, and then they bundled up all the complaints in one investigation and into one big report (3 to tell the truth, but I’ve still to find what they were divided into) – which means, it wasn’t about helping the women at all, it was all about finding against Alex Salmond. Leslie Evans, Nicola Richards and Judith Mackinnon all failed in their duty of care to their staff, and by their own admission.

    Many other options are available, but I have difficulty finding any that puts those three in a good light. You try it 😉

    Is it really okay to ‘sit on’ complaints? You need to resolve grievances immediately once they are raised, surely?

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  34. I agree Contrary – serious allegations need to be acted upon immediately not sat on – if they are serious enough they should have been referred to the police right away.

    The fact that they did not suggests the complaint was brought up merely to fire up the conspiracy to get AS!.

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  35. Contrary, There is of course the Moorov doctrine which could of course have been in the mind of the plotters, the more complainers the more likely to get a conviction. Unfortunately for the plotters the jury heard evidence/witnesses that proved the alphabet women were lying as distinct from multiple complainers words against Salmonds word which Moorov is based on.

    The Inquiry may not have in its remit to directly re run the trial but the trial was what happened next and is part and parcel of the whole disgraceful scandal. I am not aware Gordon has limited his blog to just the Inquiry remit. His latest blog suggests he has not.

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    1. No of course not – I just mean to examine the decisions made at the time, where the future was not known (hindsight is a great thing etc 🙂 ) – I’m personally not examining anything on the basis of the actual complaints or complainers behaviour. It might seem artificial, and it is, and I have very strong opinions on those aspects, much stronger than I have said here, but I’m compartmentalising that aspect to look at how things might have been at the time – to find proof from what is in the public domain.

      Obviously everything is interrelated, which makes it very complex, so information on later events (say JR) feed into the earlier ones (say procedure development), and trying to keep in mind the tiny little disjointed pieces is near impossible. So, yes you relating earlier events to the criminal case and later events is useful, because it keeps those things in mind, gives context.

      But: as soon as a complaint (or ‘concern’!) is made, it is then the responsibility of the official. That official needs to make the decisions etc, the assumption is that the complainer is not necessarily thinking straight, through emotional upset, or know employment law. IF the complaint was malicious in any way, it is the responsibility of the official – ALL officials – to ensure it goes no further, and causes no damage. The complainer has the right to talk utter shite if it’s said in confidence to an official who is appointed to take the responsibility.

      So, if you leap ahead to the end product, and say it’s obvious: then we have the problem of an awful of officials, a lot, that knew the complaints to be malicious, but kept going and pushing them through to cause the MOST damage, and all on one person. That’s a lot of jobs on the line, and a lot of arse-covering happening. And no whistleblowers. Yet. How do we show that has been the case?

      What I’m trying to do is come at it from the side – keep digging by:

      Constantly examining: if it was above board (assumption 1), and the stated motivation of witness was true (assumption 2), would they have decided xxx? Rinse and repeat.

      There are so many threads and seemingly unrelated bits of information, it needs things like Pat alerting us to ACAS, – or you reminding us of where it led, but that, to my mind, is the final piece to apply, it isn’t the first step – though it’s good to have people with knowledge guiding the direction so things don’t go too far off-piste. If the officials are found to have been acting improperly, only after that will we have a chance of seeing prosecution of all those that were acting maliciously.

      By discussing ACAS, it has led to the realisation that even at the time their decisions were not motivated by a duty of care to staff, so we then have evidence that points in the direction that the PURPOSE was to attack Alex Salmond, not resolve the complaints.

      Believe me, I’d prefer a judge examining everything, this is an arduous process, but we need to do it if we aren’t willing to wait for several years, when everyone has forgotten about it. I believe there will be a tipping point, there just needs to be enough done, and we don’t know what might precipitate that, so it needs lots of different points of view.

      If might not LOOK like I’m getting anywhere or doing much except chatting about silly little detail, but the overall picture is being formed and it’s not a pretty picture. Gordon will be able to throw it all together and find the best way to proceed if no action is taken by officials maybe,,,

      Um, I kind of got off-subject there ahem. I just meant that what we know finally about the complaints shouldn’t be applied to what was known at the time – the investigation and procedure development stages. (I.e. It doesn’t matter if they were lies or not, then, for this purpose. And if we want them and the lies to be prosecuted, which I think is the right thing to do, then we need to show that the officials were acting unlawfully or some such first).

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      1. Contrary, two points to make on your post.

        1) Were the officials acting out of a duty of care you ask – I would refer you back to some of the testimony – Richards didn’t even know if the confidant position was still being undertaken by Russell. No other cases had been processed. No updated Evans communication had been sent out. The only excuse/explanation for this lack of profile/action and general interest was the me too movement had faded somewhat since late 2017. They did not come across to me as people who had a genuine interest in their duty of care. More doing what their boss wanted in 2017.

        2) “That a lot of jobs on the line ” – yes as I said before a great big house of cards stretching from the SNP to the Civil Service/Special advisors/COPFS and who sits at the top linking all of these areas.

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      2. It’s all on the list Cubby, it’s all on the,,, well, one of the many lists, it’s a bit messy at the mo, but I want to compile all those things on the decision-making tree ,,, I was thinking to use their claims as broad categories, and examine each throughout the stages: ‘duty of care’, ‘confidentiality/anonymity’, ‘following ACAS’ , ‘the right thing to do’,,, okay, I’ve still to decide on that too, I don’t want to include too many mindless business-speak nonsense phrases. If you can think of any good juicy ones let me know.

        Yes, good point about the house of cards, there is a very broad range at the base,,, this aspect and it’s interrelations needs more thought,,,

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  36. Umm, some of you, probably many, have been following the detail of this more closely than me. That said, I don’t know how anything can be known about the detail of Ms A first raising her complaint which was settled informally, wasn’t it? I don’t know what can be known about the detail of the complaint which Ms A raised again. It was, at first sight, criminal. The details of both matters raised by Ms A are likely to be recorded and known to some people in the SG. Major differences in detail between the two accounts of the same matter are likely to be of interest to people in the SG. If there was TU representation there will be a record of that, perhaps.

    I think it would be very unusual for a complaint serious enough to be considered criminal by people competent to make that judgement to be settled informally.

    Is this Ms A that I am writing about now the Ms A whose complaint was considered in the criminal trial faced by Mr Salmond? How would one know?

    Given the remit of the Committee I think the judicial review is the focus of attention.

    Contrary, as well as working for Acas i worked for the Association of University Teachers providing representation for members. I was doing a Masters in Industrial Relations and my tutor recommended me to the Scottish president of the union. This was long ago and passage of time means I do not regard myself as having specialist knowledge in any subject. In the early 90s I represented lots of women whose complaints often were about bullying by men. Some were settled informally.

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    1. Like pat says, different letters of the alphabet were used in the criminal trial – I would be able to match up Ms A’s if I tried, but I haven’t, but am aware of what evidence was heard in court regarding that complaint.

      The committee is covering different stages – at the moment it is ‘complaint handling’ – that is, the investigation and decisions phase. They have covered ‘procedure development’ and ‘judicial review’ phases, and still to do ‘ministerial code’ phase I think. They will likely need to revisit all phases in light of new information, and witnesses cover all different phases if they were involved with them – so it isn’t,,, easy, to parcel it into neat stages.

      You have good experience then, Sam, for comment on the complaints handling phase, whether or not it’s recent. Having been through a bullying event this year, by a person that did so about 10 years ago, that had been resolved informally then – well, let’s say ‘resolved’ means an uneasy truce where, as the less powerful person, I constantly have to sell a bit of my soul just to keep my job and they aren’t quite as shitty as they want to be (mere derogatory and patronising comments about my skills and abilities, but he does that with everyone). Because the fact is, if the person doing the bullying is higher up the hierarchy, it’s not them that will lose their job or be moved elsewhere, it’s the person doing the complaining that does – unless very serious, and it isn’t resolved.

      The resurgence took me by surprise and was very upsetting, it puts my employment in jeapordy (emails to my staff manager about how I should be relegated,,,) and creates a toxic environment, and reminds me of the past event. I am not silent about it, and he’s pretty nasty with everyone below him so no surprise to anyone, and I’m afforded some protection by colleagues, so a workable solution – once I realised his ‘motivations’ – has hopefully been found, and I have stopped dreading contact with him. This has been resolved very informally by (a) my staff manager supporting me and (b) me sorting out in my own head the best way to approach him. The outcome could have been very different though (and may still be). Those type of people don’t change, I erroneously believed he had mellowed, and they will always suck a bit of your soul from you – damage limitation is the best to hope for I think, for an improved working environment, if you are not willing to move on.

      I didn’t mean to go into personal information there – but I have good reason for saying that no grievance procedure resolves anything, it just patches over cracks for the most part. And it is very fresh in my mind. Personality clashes can be at play though, and some form of mediator is absolutely necessary to ensure things are kept in perspective. If those mediators fail in their role and are biased, then there are real problems. ‘Affirmation’ of complaints, is a very poor way to handle them.

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  37. “Is this Ms A that I am writing about now the Ms A whose complaint was considered in the criminal trial faced by Mr Salmond?”

    No.

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  38. Murrell has written to the Inquiry following his visit. He states again as he stated verbally at the inquiry he does not use Whattsapp. He could have clarified the point inhand by saying he has NEVER used Whattsapp but he didn’t.

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  39. Fabiani wrote to Aberdein in early July asking for a written response. There doesn’t seem to be any written response posted on the inquiry website that I can find nor does there seem to be a follow up letter from Fabiani chasing up a reply from Aberdein. So unless I have missed them on the website I still think they are keeping his response confidential. I’m guessing the contents may be referred to when Sturgeon appears before the Committee.

    It still seems that Salmond has not yet agreed to attend as he wants all the documentation that the SNP and Scotgov he says have not provided made available. There seems to be a bit of a standoff between the Committee, Salmond, Lord Advocate/COPFS, SNP and Scotgov. Will Salmond actually attend? He still hasn’t sent the Committee his written submission for the same reason and that has been outstanding for months.

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  40. Yep, still waiting on Aberdein’s submission – I suspect you are right it’s being kept confidential, as probably a fair amount of evidence has been.

    I think Alex Salmond is right to do this – from his personal perspective – why should he expose himself more to the venom of the SG, and he said he wasn’t taking legal advice – how much money is he expected to spend on what is, effectively, persecution of him? The committee has even refused to reimburse Levy & McRae for sorting through all the documents! And all because one woman wanted to keep power,,,

    We’d all like Alex Salmond to appear and give evidence, but it’s a really awkward one for him. (Politically and legally).

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    1. Contrary, Salmond obviously wants the evidence he referred to at the conclusion of his criminal trial that will see the light of day in the future revealed. Quite right too.

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    2. Yes, and I think it’s crucial he does get to present that evidence too. Craig Murray has said he’ll reveal some of it, if he’s allowed to testify in his own defence (who would’ve thought the day would come where we have to say ‘if’ there?!) in January, so the courts might as well release it (I forget: is this the evidence they claim to not have at all, or some other type of restriction?).

      This is the bit about law I really don’t get: as soon as you present evidence to the court, even if they don’t use it, it’s suddenly theirs? What on earth are the legal niceties here? All the stuff about the ‘open record’ from the judicial review being blocked because,,, I can’t remember – The right person hadn’t asked for it?

      Then we have the SG continually trying to hand over Leslie Evans decision report – a report banned by the judicial review from ever seeing the light of day! Meanwhile Alex Salmond isn’t allowed to see his own evidence?

      I must be picking things up wrong or getting mixed up somewhere, none of it makes sense.

      Actually. The whole thing is madness. There is a ton of evidence out there – that people have seen, but aren’t allowed to talk about – and a huge pile of officials in lots of different positions, who all know fine what has been happening – but aren’t allowed to talk about it. Why not?? Do all these officials and courts NOT think it’s in the public interests to know about rot in the government?! Madness.

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  41. Contrary, Ms A came to the SG with the intention to try to ensure that what had happened to her would not happen to others. We don’t know what her experience was. We do know she did not want to go to the police with her concern and she seems, on the face of it, to have the resilience to put those particular past events behind her.

    By and large, it seems to me that, initially, representation involves exploring and discussing various options of potential resolution, their pros and cons, to enable a person to reach an informed decision about how best to go forward.

    Going to the police is not her choice. Devising a new procedure and showing her how it is in the stage of development is not a practical solution either, imho. Her concern is that a serious matter, possibly criminal, was not well enough addressed but was, she felt, swept under the carpet. To explore the concern of Ms A about the possibility of a repeat of her situation one possible approach would be to look back to see how her complaint was handled and to try to identify the weaknesses that there were and, if possible, remedy them. That might have been enough, it might not. It seems to me to be a better approach for Ms A than the road that was taken.

    Cultural change in the SG that might allay the concerns of Ms A is not best done by the FM devising retrospective actions against former ministers but by being the leader of change in the organisation to resist all forms of bullying and harassment at all levels.

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    1. Sam, there seemed to be no attempt to re-examine the previous complaint handling from 2013 – I can’t be certain, because it might have just been missed out from the evidence or redacted, and could have been part of the investigation. But that would seem a good way forward. They did say they often asked for lived experience opinions when developing policies, but then claim Ms A seeing it had no influence,,,,

      Claiming to be bringing up a complaint again as a way to ensure if won’t happen to others, doesn’t really make sense – if you want resolution, you need it for yourself, particularly a historical event – nothing new had happened to her to warrant putting the person complained about through another process. If the aim was to help others, she could have revealed the original complaint and commented on the informal complaints process & how it wasn’t adequate. Anonymously doing the whole thing again doesn’t achieve the stated goal to my mind.

      I think there are huge ethical questions to be answered about employers reporting events to the police against the wishes of the complainant – advising it or even saying they won’t investigate would seem reasonable – but going to the police without consent? And there is another inconsistency in Evans/Mackinnon/Richards testimony; they repeatedly say it’s about the complainers wishes ,,, then Evans goes against their wishes!?

      This evidence session with Gillian Russell then Judith Mackinnon would be a good one for you to watch:

      https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/committee-on-the-scottish-government-handling-of-harassment-complaints-part-i-december-1-2020

      Gillian Russell was appointed to have the ‘Confidential Sounding Board’ role. A role that was quietly forgotten about by Evans et al after the complaints about Alex Salmond were passed to e police, but not forgotten by Gillian Russell herself who is still in the role!

      A comparison between her oral evidence and Judith Mackinnon’s, well, it shows they are nowhere on par, despite Mackinnon being the ‘more qualified’. Maybe I’m biased though!

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  42. Now if I had know that Sam was going to turn out to be an apologist ( although I had feeling that might be the case ) for the alphabet women I would not have proposed that I do not comment on his posts and he does not comment on mine but as he didn’t have the courtesy to respond to my suggestion – hey hoe- here goes:

    Sam that post is not just so wrong it is utter bollocks and I suspect you know it is.

    Sam says – ” and she seems, on the face of it, to have the resilience to put those particular past events behind her.” How exactly do you to come to that particular conclusion – are you her brother?- have you spoken to her?

    Sam says – ” Her concern is that a serious matter, possibly criminal, was not well enough addressed but was, she felt swept under the carpet.” How exactly do you know that? Mind reader? Spoken to her. She was not believed at the criminal trial and quite right as her concern was to get Salmond.

    These people are not innocent victims they are perjurers who colluded with Scotgov personnel and SNP personnel in a malicious and evil plot.

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  43. Sam says: ” I don’t know how anything can be known about the detail of Miss A first raising her complaint, which was settled informally wasn’t it.” It was covered in the reporting of the trial. It was settled using the previous process.

    Sam says: I don’t know how anyone can know the details of the second complaint. Again it was in the media coverage of the trial.

    Sam says: “Given the remit of the committee I think the Judicial review should be the focus of attention.”

    Given how little you seem to know about the matters at hand I am surprised you feel confident enough to say what the Committee should be focusing on. Rest assured I will not focus just on the Judicial Review.

    Note: I refer to Sam as a he but I guess he could be a she so sorry Sam if I got your gender wrong or is it sex?

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  44. Cubby,

    I read Sam’s post differently – and I ‘know’ Sam from another blog (which has become very toxic) – so please don’t pick on him because he’s perhaps taking a different view and may not be,,, quite as condemning as us.

    Sam can of course defend himself, but his, let’s say, ways of expression could sometimes be misunderstood by the commenters on that other blog – and seeing as how those commenters seem to be the zoomers late of the wings parish, it wasn’t always open minded or particularly kind. I’ve always found sam open minded and fair, and quite supporting, despite my increasingly diversifying opinions to those expressed on the other blog. Sam is no apologist, and will not condemn us for our views, even if not ready to accept the full brunt of the rot within, and outwith, the SG.

    Sam’s reflections are assuming a wholly reasonable complaint and complainer – and if that was the case, did the way in which the officials behaved and the way they applied – and created – the procedure help, did they really do the right thing? Well no. That’s how I understood it, and I find it useful.

    I really value different viewpoints to help with examining the detail, and I really would not like to see Sam hounded away – I know this isn’t my blog of course, but I’d still like things to remain civil. You are way off base with the gender stuff. On a different planet off-base.

    Sam: Sorry about talking for you, and please just correct anything I’ve got wrong.

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  45. Contrary – you say ” Sams reflections are assuming a wholly reasonable complaint and complainer. ” But he doesn’t say that does he. He is talking about a specific person. If you are both carrying out some theoretical academic analysis perhaps you should make that clear because it doesn’t read like that to me. It reads very specifically Miss A. And of course the whole article is about the very specific Salmond scandal as have all the previous articles on this blog. And evidence is available that Miss A is not a wholly reasonable complainer with a wholly reasonable complaint.

    Of course the fact that both of you continually refer to MissA in your posts does not suggest, I would think, to most reasonable people that you are carrying out an academic exercise.

    To avoid any future confusion perhaps you and Sam should consider a heads up at the top of a post saying Academic exercise only to distinguish it from the real thing. Otherwise people might think Sam is smearing Salmond.

    To me it is not an academic exercise – I am 100% convinced as to what has been going on.

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  46. Contrary,

    Having been aware of the defence evidence led in Mr Salmond’s trial I supported the jury’s decision to find him not guilty on all charges and was hugely pleased. I was also concerned to hear of a FM having drunken cuddles on a bed with an employee of the government.

    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?

    Why should one not take Ms A at her word when she says her reason for bringing her complaint forward again is because she does not want others to have her experience? (When I ask that question I am doing no more than trying for empathy, not taking sides.) When she says that and says also that she does not want police involvement, is it not a reasonable inference to draw that she has moved on from her own experience whatever it was – her concern now is others.

    Is it not a reasonable inference to draw that Ms A was not satisfied (“sweeping it under the carpet” may well have been inapt) with the outcome of an informal procedure? Perhaps she felt it was acceptable initially but changer her mind over time.

    An informal resolution of a complaint is outside a formal grievance hearing. I’ll give an example of informal resolution. A woman finds herself frequently upset by remarks a work colleague is making about her. She judges that these remarks arise from insensitivity on the part of the speaker rather than from a deliberate intention to cause hurt. She agrees an approach with her representative. It is to write to the man’s line manager raising the situation raising the situation in a constructive manner and inviting the line manager to intervene to make the man aware of her concern. It was successful.

    A formal grievance procedure sets out the steps to be followed as I guess you know. It requires evidence to be given and questions to be asked. One or more people are involved in making a decision about the outcome and in hearing any appeal. Things can and do get opened up to scrutiny much more than is likely in an informal settlement.

    Online rudeness on a blog is pretty much par for the course. I tend not to engage with it. Often, it is no more than trolling.

    It is always pleasant to engage with you. Hope to see you around somewher.

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