BY EFFIE DEANS
Nicola Sturgeon compared the legal case which the Scottish Government lost to Alex Salmond paying him more than half a million, with the case about minimum unit pricing for alcohol. She said that in every such case there is negative legal advice and if a Government ceased every case whenever a lawyer suggested it might lose it would never be able to win a case as it eventually did with minimum unit pricing. The implication was that the lawyers in the case about Salmond were just being lawyers and that the Government was right to proceed.
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Unfortunately for Sturgeon we can now read the legal advice in this case. I would be surprised if the Scottish Government received similar advice on alcohol pricing. The lawyers involved state in section 31 that they are perilously close to not being even able to mount a defence:
[We] are not in a position where we are professionally unable to mount a defence (because, for example, there is no stateable defence). We are, however, perilously close to such a situation.
Yet still Sturgeon’s Government continued. But why were they so close to being unable to defend the Scottish Government. The reason becomes clear from the text. The investigation into Mr Salmond was biased. In section 10 we find:
It was intended that the disclosure should be made at the same time as a small number of additional documents, identified in the course of further searches and including an email that we had not previously seen from Ms A to the Permanent Secretary of 3 November 2018 indicating support for the Permanent Secretary’s announcement of the review of harassment policies and expressing views on the content of that review, were also to be disclosed.
What this means is that the Scottish Government’s own lawyer had discovered an email between one of the eventual complainers in the Salmond trial discussing the review of harassment policies that eventually led to Salmond being investigated and charged with sexual offences. This is obviously unfair and biased.
It is an email chain in which Gillian Russell asks questions of Judith Mackinnon about the circumstances in which complaints of harassment should be reported to the Police and is in the context of wider exchanges about the developing policy for handling complaints against ministers and former ministers. We were (and remain) concerned that it will add fuel to the fire of the petitioner’s ‘conspiracy theory’.
It is clear from this that the Scottish Government’s own lawyers thought that there might be evidence of Salmond’s conspiracy theory. What can adding fuel to the fire in this context mean other than that Salmond would believe his conspiracy theory more likely to be true by the email chain and that he would believe it because the email amounted to evidence.
Sturgeon’s Government wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds continuing a case when its own lawyers made absolutely clear that there was no chance, they would win. But the reason they wasted this money was that there was evidence that Salmond’s claim that the investigation was unfair and biased and amounted to a conspiracy was true.
Sturgeon herself weeps at the idea that she might have conspired against her friend and mentor, but her own lawyer sees the behaviour of those developing the harassment policy as adding fuel to Salmond’s belief that there was a conspiracy. Why? We are forced to conclude because there was a conspiracy. If there had not been a conspiracy, if witnesses had not contacted investigators and had not contacted those devising the changes to the policy, it would have been fair and unbiassed. What made it unfair and biased was contacts that amount to the conspiracy that Sturgeon denies. We are supposed to believe that Sturgeon knew nothing about what her own permanent secretary and that an investigation into Salmond that court would eventually decide was tainted with bias took place without her knowledge. Imagine if the investigation had been against Peter Murrell, would Sturgeon have known nothing then too?
If these events had happened anywhere in Europe apart from Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon would not merely have to resign, she would also be in danger of being sent to jail for misuse of public funds and attempting to pervert the course of justice. But this is Scotland and Nicola Sturgeon is a non-stick pan covered in Teflon.
Teflon Nicola has survived up until now, partly because most of the Committee questioning her last Wednesday were either incompetent or desperately trying to protect her from telling the truth. The eventual verdict will most likely be decided by the MSP’s position on independence rather than their position on truth. There is an independence supporting majority in the Scottish Parliament, so unless something surprising happens any future vote of no-confidence in Sturgeon will fail.
But Sturgeon and the SNP have been weakened. We know that the Scottish Greens merely prop up the SNP. The Greens are a party that has nothing to do with concern about the environment. Its only concern is independence. It is SNP yellow rather than genuinely Green. What has independence to do with the environment. The UK Greens don’t want independence for Wessex.
We must take advantage of Sturgeon’s weakness by using our votes in the upcoming Scottish Parliament election cleverly. You have two votes. Using both of them for the same party obviously defeats the purpose of having two votes. The most advantageous situation would arise if you use your constituency vote for whichever of Labour, the Lib Dems or Conservatives have the best chance of winning where you live, and then vote for All for Unity in the list seats. This is our best chance of depriving the SNP of an overall majority.
If Sturgeon suffers an electoral setback in May, we can expect the men in grey kilts to scratch off all her Teflon. It is vital for this reason that all Pro UK parties work with All for Unity. If we don’t get Sturgeon with the Inquiry, let us at least get her at the polls.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.