"Fair is foul and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air"
Read Part SIX here
In early 2021 Sturgeon’s is riding high. She has reasserted her authority in the party and the polls bode well for the upcoming Holyrood election. Sturgeon just has to get through the various inquiries into her government’s handling of complaints against Alex Salmond. There are three inquiries: the Holyrood Committee investigating the Sturgeon Government’s complaints procedure; an inquiry by James Hamilton QC into whether Sturgeon breached ministerial code; and a review of the complaints procedure by Laura Dunlop QC.
The strategy by Sturgeon’s government in relation to the inquiries is to suppress as much evidence as possible: she can’t have the full truth coming out. To do this they rely on several legal arguments:
The anonymity of the complainants, which is assisted by Lady Dorrian’s unprecedented anonymity ruling;
The confidentiality of government legal advice; and
A little-known law whereby materials obtained by the defence in the building of a legal case cannot be made public.
This last law means that, although Salmond and his lawyers have evidence of a conspiracy, this evidence cannot be released to the inquiry.
Such was the legal knots tying up the inquiry at one point it seemed that Salmond’s evidence could not be submitted at all, and Salmond would not be able to appear at the inquiry. The Spectator Magazine had to go to court to get a clarification on her anonymity ruling from Lady Dorrian before it was settled that Salmond could appear.
As it was an inquiry into Sturgeon’s government, Salmond would give evidence first and then Sturgeon.
The inquiry committee is chaired by Sturgeon’s close friend Linda Fabiani, a woman Salmond had sacked from her post as European affairs and culture minister in 2009. The rest of the committee consists of five members from opposition parties and three SNP MSPs utterly loyal to Sturgeon.
Salmond gives evidence in this lion’s den. Salmond’s evidence is accurate and factual - it is easy to remember the truth. It really is a measure of the man that he can walk into such a hostile environment and talk about what must be the most awful period of his life, unafraid, calm and reasonable. In his evidence Salmond is clear there had been a plot to remove him from public life.
In early March Sturgeon gives her evidence. Sturgeon dissembles, she can’t remember, she will need to check and she will get back to the committee. The main accusations against Sturgeon are: she was responsible for creating an unlawful and biased process; she knew about the complaints before she advised parliament she did; she told Salmond in April that she would intervene to ensure a fair complaints procedure, she did not and she denies she said she would; and that she ignored legal advice and wasted tax-payers money. Sturgeon’s defence is that she cannot recall.
Sturgeon’s performance is so poor that a few weeks later in their final report the inquiry finds Sturgeon misled parliament and gave an inaccurate account of her meetings with Salmond.
In any normal situation it would be expected that the MSM would focus on the fact that Sturgeon, the First Minister could not answer the questions. However, in a triumph of news management and spin that hasn’t been seen since the time of Thatcher, the news programs all gave a unified message. The message, coordinated across broadcasters and print press, was ‘Sturgeon is the victim’. Sturgeon is presented as a principled, woman who has lost a close friend because she stuck to her principles. Accompanied by footage of an emotional Sturgeon at the committee. This is the opposite of the truth. The question is why did the MSM cover for Sturgeon? We can only speculate.
In a heavily redacted report, Douglas Hamilton QC clears Sturgeon of breaches of ministerial code on the grounds that he cannot see any reason that Sturgeon would mislead parliament about when she was first informed of the complaints and so it must have been an “unintentional” breach
Laura Dunlop QC makes recommendations for improvements to the complaints procedure but to date, the complaints procedure has not been updated nor made lawful. It has never been used since. It was a complaints procedure for a specific time and purpose
As the leader of a nationalist party who is a danger to the British state it is incredible that Sturgeon could walk away from instituting an unlawful and biased process; ignoring legal advice and wasting a million or more of taxpayers’ money; and being found guilty of misleading parliament by a parliamentary inquiry. Any previous First Minister of any party would be gone. But Sturgeon not only survives but emerges with her reputation enhanced.
Sturgeon now has to think about the long-term. She cannot go on forever. But she has now put herself into a situation where her skeletons must stay in the cupboard. She has chosen Angus Robertson to be her successor. She can trust Angus Robertson to keep her secrets.
But Sturgeon cannot be sure Joanna Cherry would not win a post-Sturgeon SNP leadership contest. If Cherry becomes leader Sturgeon’s secrets will be revealed.
Joanna Cherry is a strong advocate for the sex-based rights of women and of lesbians, both are threatened by the gender policies of Sturgeon’s government.
In February 2021 Sturgeon asks the NEC to agree on a definition of transphobia. The Women’s Convener Caroline McAllister and Equalities Convener Lynne Anderson should be given this task, but Sturgeon shuns them and gives the task to a Sturgeon loyalist and recently defeated Equalities Convener Fiona Robertson. Robertson holds no elected position on the NEC, she owes her NEC position to her membership of various affiliated groups. Robertson is a self-described trans ally, she thinks the word female is a ‘transphobic dog whistle’ and can be guaranteed to deliver a definition of transphobia that would make advocating for sex-based rights almost impossible.
Robertson does not disappoint and delivers a definition of transphobia which includes referring to transwomen as being ‘male bodied’, and drawing attention to transwomen who have been convicted of sexual crimes. The definition is passed by the NEC. Neither McAllister nor Anderson have any input to the definition, and are not even allowed to speak at the meeting.
The transphobia definition cannot be added to the member's Code of Conduct without a vote of SNP conference, and Sturgeon will not risk this issue being aired on the conference floor. But the NEC has control of candidate vetting rules and the candidate's code of conduct. Therefore, although the definition does not bind the membership, the transphobia definition can be used to prevent a candidate such as Joanna Cherry from passing vetting.
Then just before parliament breaks for the Holyrood election campaign, three members of the SNP Finance and Audit Committee resign. Murrell, SNP CEO and Sturgeon’s husband has refused to give them access to the SNP accounts. There is speculation that the resignations may be linked to the missing ring-fenced independence referendum fund.
The missing ring-fenced fund is the one remaining problem for Sturgeon. Other than that she has survived the inquiries; she has a plan for dealing with Cherry; she is set fair for a Holyrood victory, and Salmond is banished from public life for good. Or is he?
Find out in Part 8
Fiona Robertson to a woman survivor of rape who waived anonymity to make a video in support of giving survivors of rape and sexual assault the right to request a female examiner
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