BY EFFIE DEANS
I talked to someone who lives in England the other day who wanted to know about the latest developments in Scottish politics. I mentioned the scandal surrounding the Alex Salmond Inquiry and the possibility that Nicola Sturgeon was involved in a conspiracy against Mr Salmond. This was the first time my friend had heard anything about it.
Sturgeon remains popular in Scotland also because of ignorance. Her domestic record is not questioned. If you dislike Tories, Boris Johnson and Brexit and think independence solves all problems then you may have already made up your mind to dismiss all complaints about Scottish Government performance and all revelations about Sturgeon.
But this is where the story becomes interesting because the revelations are primarily coming from independence supporters. Somehow these people have been able to see through Sturgeon even though they still want independence.
Craig Murray’s My Sworn Evidence on the Sturgeon Affair is compelling precisely because he is an independence supporter. There is little doubt that at least in the short term the loss of Nicola Sturgeon would be a set back for independence supporters. There is no one obvious to take over and little chance of the SNP getting someone as talented in the future. Some independence supporters might prefer a more fundamentalist leader, willing to do whatever is necessary to win, but it isn’t accidental that Pro UK people have been reading Mr Murray’s revelations with such interest. We correctly see the removal of Sturgeon as the best way of damaging both the SNP and the chances of independence.
A witness who is willing to act contrary to his own political interest is prima facie both principled and believable. But Mr Murray is still more credible, because his evidence is part of his trial for contempt of court. It is hardly likely that he would add to his legal difficulties by making statements that the court could prove to be untrue. Mr Murray must be very confident in his testimony or else it would be irrational for him to provide this evidence. The psychology of the situation suggests he must be a reliable witness or else reckless or else insane. His reliability is the best explanation for the situation.
Stuart Campbell whose blog Wings over Scotland has for many years been campaigning for independence has also been contributing to the revelations about Sturgeon. The credibility of these sources is likewise enhanced by the fact that they must be damaging to the cause that Mr Campbell has apparently been fighting for all these years. I understand that there is a sort of civil war going on in the SNP/independence movement. But still it is hard to believe that an independence supporter would strive to damage Sturgeon if the revelations about her were all untrue. If Mr Campbell knew that the evidence against Sturgeon was lies, why would he publish them? We must assume therefore that he believes these revelations sincerely. This is a good reason for us to believe them too.
Gordon Dangerfield is a Scottish independence supporter, socialist and Solicitor Advocate. He argues persuasively that the evidence of Leslie Evans and Judith MacKinnon is contrary to the facts.
His argument is all the more persuasive because it comes from an independence supporter who must know that it damages the argument for independence. How could a Scottish Government that has been proved to be corrupt lead Scotland to anything let alone Scottish independence? What’s more, if the Scottish Government and the SNP are corrupt that is one very good reason not to have them in sole charge of Scotland by giving Scotland independence.
Tommy Sheridan who was defended by Mr Dangerfield talks with him about the Scottish Government’s conspiracy against Alex Salmond. But Mr Sheridan must know that such a scandal coming to light would mean that neither the SNP nor the Scottish Government would have any credibility whatsoever for the foreseeable future. But if the Scottish Government and the SNP have their reputation destroyed, who else would bring about Scottish independence?
If Pro UK people were making the argument it might be dismissed as dirty tricks, but it is harder to dismiss long standing independence supporters. What motivation do they have to say and write what they do if it were untrue?
Robin McAlpine was the director of Common Weal a Pro independence think tank. He had to resign after publishing an article highly critical of Sturgeon. It is clear that he too believes that Sturgeon was involved in a conspiracy against Salmond.
The credibility of Mr McAlpine is enhanced by his acting against his own interest not merely in potentially damaging the chances of independence but also in losing his job.
Kenny MacAskill not only obtained embarrassing messages sent by Peter Murrell (Sturgeon’s husband) about Salmond but has now revealed a WhatsApp Group called Vietnam where SNP staffers and members of the Government exchanged messages about Mr Salmond. Mr MacAskill mentions a message where pressure was put on one of the alleged victims who was becoming reluctant to testify. Records of these conversations are now being sought.
Mr MacAskill’s revelations would suggest that he too believes that there was a conspiracy and that it was widespread. He has nothing to gain from his actions but risks the revenge of the Murrells. He must know that the cause of independence that he has long fought for will be damaged by what he has revealed, which makes him all the more trustworthy to an outsider.
At the battle of Điện Biên Phủ (1954) the French tried to cut off the supply lines of the Viet Minh but were themselves surrounded and cut off. The French supposed that the Vietnamese did not have anti-aircraft weapons, but they misjudged the weakness of their opponent. The French like Sturgeon were under siege. But her predicament is worse. She is besieged by former friends who have turned on her and are proving much more dangerous than she calculated precisely because the fact that they were on her side makes them all the more believable.
The revelations are coming thick and fast now, and we still have not heard from Alex Salmond. Sturgeon may be able to fend off one attack, but the siege cannot be broken because as she puts out one fire two burst into flame behind her.
It would be odd if at the height of her popularity, an unknowing Scottish public woke up one morning to find her already gone. The French public too were unprepared for defeat. The surprise as much as anything else brought down the French Government.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.