It really can’t be overstated what extraordinary tweets these are.
That’s the editor of the conservative, ultra-establishment Spectator openly linking to a document that the Crown Office – the agent of the Queen herself – has threatened to prosecute the Scottish Parliament for publishing, and which has officially been deleted but is for some reason actually still available on the Parliament’s website.
The Spectator is giving the Queen the finger. And that’s not even the mad bit.
The magazine’s chairman got in on the act too.
This, of course, is the second time that publishers of Salmond’s evidence on breaches of the Ministerial Code by the First Minister have been threatened with prosecution and potential imprisonment by the Crown Office.
The first time was six weeks ago, when this site had exclusively published Salmond’s original submission to the Hamilton inquiry (as vetted by his lawyers), The Spectator stole it off Wings and put it on their own site, and a week later the Crown Office sent us both very menacing letters demanding it be removed.
The Spectator redacted only a single paragraph. We pulled the whole thing, because the Crown Office has a substantial track record of only prosecuting supporters of Alex Salmond on contempt-of-court charges.
Wings is also in an extremely difficult position in such matters. The Spectator is a large magazine and could easily brush off having a couple of its office computers seized by the police. But we know from previous experience that if the police come round to Wings HQ – my home – they’ll take everything in sight.
In 2018 that was a surmountable problem – we just went out and bought more. But how do you do that in the middle of a lockdown when Currys and the Apple Store are closed? You can only shop online, and how do you get online when you don’t have any computers? A prosecution would close Wings down completely and indefinitely, so we can’t take any chances.
But we digress. The Spectator has published almost the entirety of Salmond’s original submission for six weeks without being prosecuted, having gone to the High Court to establish what was and wasn’t a breach of Lady Dorrian’s anonymity order, and now it’s very actively and publicly directing people to the new version – which is essentially the full original NON-redacted one but with the paragraphs in a different order.
It’s even gone to the trouble of archiving it just in case someone at the Parliament DOES wake up and remove it from the inquiry website – a clearly deliberate, to the point of being provocative, further publication of a “prohibited” document.
Nelson’s tweet linking to the supposedly-deleted, supposedly-contemptuous version from last night has been up, as we write this, for five and a half hours and yet the Scottish Parliament has STILL not removed the document from its website and as far as we’re aware the Crown Office has made no attempt to make it do so, or to tell Nelson to delete his tweet.
But what does that tell us? It tells us this: the hasty last-minute redaction of Salmond’s evidence has absolutely nothing to do with protecting the identity of the complainers against him. Its sole purpose is to make it impossible for Salmond to give evidence in person to the inquiry tomorrow.
Indeed, we know this doubly, because it’s only the redaction that suggests the identity of of one of the complainers at all.
The evidence itself – which had once more been extensively vetted beforehand by lawyers – made no discernible reference to anyone being a complainer. But redacting passages which all refer to a particular person on the specific grounds that they might identify a complainer, while ensuring that people can still see the original version and observe by comparison which names have been removed, is like putting up a big flashing neon sign with giant arrows pointing directly at them.
So let’s just spell that out again: the Crown Office has effectively directly identified a complainer to anyone who wants to find out, and has then ensured that that identification stays in the public domain, with no possible other purpose than making it impossible for Alex Salmond to give any useful evidence to the inquiry about Nicola Sturgeon’s breaches of the Ministerial Code, on pain of his being prosecuted by… the Crown Office… for… identifying complainers.
We’ve just read that sentence back to ourselves three times and it doesn’t get any less crazy with repetition.
The Crown Office – led by the Lord Advocate, who is also a minister of the Scottish Government which is the subject of the inquiry – is a catastrophically corrupt and broken entity which now seems to be totally, rabidly out of control.
It’s rampaging around Scotland burning literally tens of millions of pounds of public money on malicious prosecutions (which for anyone else, incidentally, would be a criminal act), and repeatedly interfering with an inquiry of the Scottish Parliament by helping the First Minister and her associates conceal a potential criminal conspiracy.
The Crown Office has Scottish democracy and accountability in a deadly, apparently inescapable neckhold, and it doesn’t appear to be answerable to anyone for anything.
If that doesn’t scare the living daylights out of you, readers, we’d suggest you might need to open your eyes a bit. Because it sure scares hell out of us.