On pain of a grisly death, we’re not allowed to tell our splendid cartoonist Chris Cairns what to draw cartoons about. Artists are funny that way. And it’s a shame, because if we were we’d have a great idea for this weekend’s toon.
Because what’s being demanded of Alex Salmond right now is extraordinary.
Two separate inquiries are currently being conducted into the actions of the Scottish Government. Depending on the outcomes of those inquiries, the government could fall and its ministers and officers could face prosecution. It is the gravest of matters.
Mr Salmond has been ordered to give evidence to the inquiries, under a sworn oath to Almighty God that he will tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.
And yet at the same time, a minister of that same Scottish Government, answerable to Nicola Sturgeon – for that’s what the Lord Advocate, who is also head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, is – is crouching in plain sight behind Salmond in the committee room, with a gun pressed into his spine, whispering menacingly in his ear “If you tell the whole truth I’m putting you in jail”.
This site suggests a compromise to break the impasse – hand Mr Salmond a bible and a piece of card with the following on it:
“I swear by Almighty God to tell the truth, but only those bits of the truth that aren’t inconvenient, embarrassing or incriminating to the Scottish Government.”
Because otherwise, the Scottish Government is very rapidly running out of excuses and distractions. Leslie Evans’ union leader Dave Penman was wheeled out yesterday to issue a “defence” of her that carefully avoided any specifics and sounded like it was being read out in a hostage video:
Today’s Daily Record, meanwhile, contains yet another anonymous statement from Mr Salmond’s accusers presented by Scottish Government mouthpiece quango Rape Crisis Scotland. Although on this occasion, we at least agree with the headline:
It’s a quite remarkable piece of hypocrisy from the Record. The only reason the case became public in the first place was because someone (almost certainly from within the Scottish Government) leaked it to the Record in order to enable a months-long smear campaign against Salmond ahead of the trial.
(The Scottish public, we should recall, overwhelmingly believes that people accused of rape, as well as the alleged victims, should have their identities protected until the trial is over and only revealed if they’re found guilty, so that innocent people don’t have to endure having their reputations destroyed over false allegations.)
But anonymity doesn’t sell papers or generate clicks.
The article itself is a deeply strange one.
Having watched almost all of the inquiry hearings, we cannot for the life of us think of any such “aspersions”. The committee members have at all times acted with the utmost sensitivity when talking about the accusers – and some might think excessively so, since their accusations were found to be false – and we can’t even think of any occasions when the committee members have actually been critical of the witnesses appearing in front of them, because everything is framed very politely as questions.
Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland is never one to let a total lack of substance get in the way of a deranged and frothing rant, though.
And the basic premise of the whole thing is weird. You’d think the accusers, of all people, would want the inquiry to get to the bottom of why their complaints were so catastrophically badly handled by the Scottish Government, and why complaints which they’d insisted they didn’t want taken to the police were taken to the police anyway by Leslie Evans without their permission.
Yet according to Sandy Brindley they’re furious NOT at Leslie Evans – who rode roughshod over their wishes and exposed them to a trial at which their claims were rejected by the jury, leading to a widespread public view that they were malicious liars – but at the inquiry investigating Leslie Evans’ conduct. How very peculiar.
The sole example offered by Brindley to justify the article is comically feeble:
Because Fraser’s tweet, and the Herald article it linked to, clearly cast aspersion on the actions of Nicola Sturgeon, Leslie Evans and the Scottish Government, not the accusers. Neither contain even the slightest implication of criticism of the accusers.
Something the Scottish Tories made very plain:
But the net is closing so tightly around the Scottish Government and the First Minister now that they have to flail around blindly with even the flimsiest of weapons in an attempt to distract attention from their own misdeeds.
Brindley saved the best for last, though.
Because the only people who have made things more difficult for abused women to get a fair hearing for their complaints in future are Nicola Sturgeon, Leslie Evans, Judith Mackinnon, the Lord Advocate and Sandy Brindley.
In forcing a ludicrously weak case to court in the most public way possible, and then screaming that the verdict of the mostly-female jury was somehow crooked, they’ve drawn disproportionate attention to the extremely rare phenomenon of false rape claims AND implied that women who do get assaulted won’t get justice – even if they get to court with the support of an absolutely massive police evidence-fishing operation far more extensive than any normal victim can expect.
They, not the inquiry into their actions, have brought the integrity and honesty of both accusers and the investigative process into question. And they, not the committee or Alex Salmond, are the ones now massively bolstering the impression of conspiracy by trying to suppress all the evidence and threatening an innocent man with prison if he tells the truth about it.