BY EFFIE DEANS
Nicola Sturgeon thinks that Alex Salmond is a fantasist living in an alternative reality. It was his behaviour towards women that led to his going to court rather than a conspiracy orchestrated by her. She thinks there is no evidence whatsoever that she did anything wrong. It is quite clear that she believes that Salmond is a liar lucky to be acquitted as she fundamentally believes the women who accused him of wrongdoing.
I didn’t intend to watch all of Alex Salmond’s testimony before the Inquiry, but even though it started slowly, I found something compelling about it and watched to the end. I had forgotten what an impressive figure Alex Salmond could be. For six hours he answered every question in detail. He was never flustered. He provided detailed answers and logical arguments. He was moderate and far from vengeful. His criticism of Sturgeon was measured and restrained. He was able to put everything he said into a moral context that went beyond politics. He was massively impressive, and I believed every word he said.
The Committee that questioned him was less than impressive. Only Murdo Fraser and Jackie Baillie provided useful questions. The SNP members were more interested in protecting Sturgeon than finding out the truth. The others struggled to organise their own thoughts and sentences. Ludicrously the Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton appeared to be intent on coming to the rescue of Sturgeon as if he couldn’t bear to see a fellow Remainer damaged. Linda Fabiani the Convener allowed much waffle and tried to prevent some truth from emerging but was fairer to Salmond than might have been expected.
Alex Salmond lives not far from me and I know him very slightly. I have always found him to be agreeable on the rare occasions that we have met by chance in a supermarket queue or on the street. I have always disliked his politics, but I have never disliked the man. He has something of the Rob Roy about him. A gambler. A rogue. But a human being too. I hear he has a bit of temper, but he is not a man I fear. If Scotland had become independent in 2014 and Salmond had emerged as its first leader, it would not be like now. I campaigned against Salmond with everything I had in 2014, but not because I feared him, not because I questioned his intentions or his morality. I fear Nicola Sturgeon.
Sturgeon is a better politician than Salmond. She campaigns to those who initially disagree with her and has won over more of the Scottish electorate than Salmond ever did or perhaps could, but it is not for this reason that I fear her. What worries me is that I see no limit to what she is capable of doing. On the surface she has an appealing manner that can win over a large TV audience who believe her to be capable and kind, but under this, glimpses of the real Sturgeon sometimes emerge. When thwarted her anger is without limit. This plus her unlimited ambition made her capable of trying to send Salmond to jail. This scares me.
Alex Salmond like Jim Sillars is basically a decent man. I disagree with Scottish independence, but under the leadership of either we would not have to fear what we fear now under Sturgeon. Salmond and Sillars would be decent, moral beings. It might turn out, as I believe, that independence would be a mistake, but it wouldn’t be because of their intentions. What I fear about Sturgeon is that her head has been turned by the adulation she has received. She has begun to believe that anything is justified for the cause of independence and her mission to deliver it. I believe that she is capable of trying to put an innocent man in jail and if she is capable of doing this, she is capable of doing anything. This I fear above everything else.
A new policy was designed by civil servants to investigate former ministers, but the only one that it was designed to get was Alex Salmond. We are supposed to believe that Sturgeon knew nothing about this because it happened months before she was supposed to have found out about allegations about Salmond’s behaviour. Can you imagine an investigation into Salmond happening without Sturgeon’s consent? Would a civil servant risk it without asking?
The allegations against Mr Salmond increase. There is something of a recruitment drive. But they don’t want to go to the police. They are forced to go despite their wishes. But somehow, we are supposed to believe that there is no conspiracy against Mr Salmond. Perhaps it all happened by chance.
There is a court case and nine witnesses testify that Mr Salmond assaulted them, but the jury disbelieves them. It is unreasonable for a jury to reject the testimony of nine women unless it finds they lack credibility. The defence must have provided something that made the jury doubt the testimony. One explanation is that the jury thought there was a conspiracy against Mr Salmond.
I found Mr Salmond’s testimony to be convincing. He was not a fantasist living in an alternative reality. He did not come across as a liar. Or at least he came across as a human being who tells the occasional lie as we all do.
I’ve seen through Sturgeon. When threatened as she has lately been by Mr Salmond, she has shown herself to be willing to lash out. We don’t know what happened in 2017 or 2018, but I am left to wonder whether Sturgeon felt herself threatened by Salmond then too. Will no one rid me of this turbulent Salmond, I can imagine her crying out in the presence of certain people loyal to her. From there it escalated. Witnesses came forward. Alex Salmond did this. They all gossiped together – the witnesses and those who encouraged them. It began to resemble the Crucible. Witches were discovered in Bute House. A stake was readied. But Nicola Sturgeon knew nothing, even though she knew everyone involved and even though the witch was the man who had put her where she was. She had seen nothing when Salmond was supposed to have been assaulting women, though she was in Bute House every day. No whisper of gossip had reached her about the events or the investigation. But this is the same Nicola Sturgeon who is so in control that she and she alone appears on TV daily for the Covid briefing and who barely allows a deputy to eclipse her spot in the limelight.
The Salmond trial was Hamlet without Ophelia. Where was Sturgeon? It had nothing to do with her. But when Salmond was acquitted it gradually got closer and the mood changed from cooperation with the Inquiry to cover up. But why go to desperate lengths to prevent the Inquiry getting all the evidence, if there is nothing to hide? If there were no conspiracy and if Sturgeon were not involved in it, the Scottish Government and the civil servant witnesses who appeared before it would have been candid and open about their mistakes. But everyone connected with Sturgeon including the SNP MSPs on the Committee fear the truth coming out. This is why portions of the evidence that has been redacted are about Sturgeon. It is she who is being protected not the anonymity of the trial witnesses.
As her popularity has increased with daily briefings the evidence against Sturgeon has been building up. The greatest evidence of all has been her apparent fight to prevent this evidence being evaluated by the Committee. If you have nothing to hide Nicola Sturgeon, why are you hiding? It is the act of hiding that is the evidence of the conspiracy.
Convincing as he is, Mr Salmond is saying I will convince you even more if you let me present all of the evidence. This is neither the action of a liar nor a fantasist. It is the action of someone convinced that he is in possession of the truth, willing and able to show it. This no doubt is what convinced the jury too.
Sturgeon is hiding, not Salmond. It is this that convinces me that it is she that is the liar. Liars must resign. Resign Sturgeon.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.