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By Jason Michael

LEGALLY SPEAKING, the most Alex Salmond’s opponents can level against him with any credibility is that his behaviour – with his own admission – was ‘inappropriate.’ Now, before any critique of this nebulous term, it is important to acknowledge that there is such a thing as inappropriate behaviour and that people are affected by the inappropriate behaviour of others in the workplace, in public, and even in their private homes. It is in no one’s interests, then, to dismiss such behaviour as mere hijinks or good fun and those affected by it as poor sports and killjoys. Yet, and especially in a case like this, when an innocent person’s reputation is on the line, we cannot escape either the breadth or the fuzziness of the definition of this language.

What is inappropriate depends almost entirely on context, and over the course of a day or a week the contexts each person inhabits change. The company we are in determines what language is appropriate and what behaviours are acceptable, and these are always subject to change. Behaviours that are never acceptable, regardless of company and setting, are both inappropriate and criminal – as a general rule of thumb. But when we are dealing with inappropriate behaviour ‘not amounting to criminality’ – such as the behaviour of Alex Salmond – we find ourselves in a strange territory of shifting social and behavioural norms often involving the same people and environments. The task of determining appropriateness therefore becomes extraordinarily difficult.

The company we are in determines what language is appropriate and what behaviours are acceptable, and these are always subject to change.

This vague charge of inappropriateness not amounting to criminality has allowed for people online, even activists in the independence movement, to reach the conclusion that ‘Salmond is a dirty wee [expletive], but not a rapist’ – a highly subjective and partisan moral assessment which effectively removes any possibility of innocence even after a Not Proven verdict. Such reductionist tabloidization can be viewed as nothing but an injustice. In this piece, I would like to explore just why this is so. By examining the known facts, it should become clear that – unless we were there, which we were not – nothing is clear, and so the only judgement we can give, in all honesty, is that we do not know.

Regardless of Ms Sturgeon’s ill-advised remark that just because the court found Mr Salmond Not Guilty of twelve charges it does not mean that the events did not happen, we have to trust the verdict of the court. A jury of five men and eight women arrived at a Not Guilty verdict; meaning, in the strictest sense, Mr Salmond did not commit the offences of which he was charged. There is no further scope here for speculation and conjecture – he is innocent of the charges. Owning, however, to the peculiarity of the Scottish legal system, the jury can decide a case Not Proven, and this was the verdict in Alex Salmond’s case in reference to the accusation made by ‘Woman F.’

Given that the accusation of Woman F is the only basis on which people feel they can continue to cast aspersions on Alex Salmond, we must take a closer look at this event. According to the testimony of Woman F, a civil servant, she and the then First Minister were drinking alone in a private sitting room on the second floor of Bute House, the residence of the Scottish First Minister. At around eleven o’clock in the evening, she says, she and Mr Salmond went to his bedroom on the third floor. There the First Minister ‘ordered’ her on to the bed, whereupon he began to sexually assault her. It is entirely possible that this happened exactly as reported by the complainant, but there are clear grounds to doubt this account as well.

It is entirely possible that this happened exactly as reported by the complainant, but there are clear grounds to doubt this account as well.

It is not always inappropriate for a man to be alone with a woman. It is not always inappropriate for a man and women to be drinking alcohol alone. It is not always inappropriate for a man to invite a woman to his bedroom or to come to his bed. In a classic case of he said/she said, Mr Salmond’s version is that Woman F had drank about the same amount as he had and that what happened on the bed was a ‘sleepy cuddle’ – an entirely plausible account. The jury determined there was not enough evidence to prove the prosecution’s case, and Mr Salmond apologised to Woman F shortly after the incident. So, while both accounts are plausible, certain facts will always serve to cast doubt on the allegations: Woman F was alone and drinking with Alex Salmond, she voluntarily went with him to his bedroom, and ended up next to him on his bed.

At any point in the course of the evening Woman F could have extracted herself from the situation. Was it, for example, appropriate or even professional for a female civil servant and the First Minister, a man, to be drinking alone in a private room? Was it appropriate or professional for her to go with him to his bedroom? It is certainly not unreasonable for this behaviour on her part to be read as willing participation and even consent. Both versions of what happened are equally plausible, but to assume the veracity of one over the other would be prejudicial. Without more evidence the charge of attempted rape has to remain Not Proven.

What this means, in law, is that Mr Salmond’s account of the evening is as valid as Woman F’s. It is perfectly possible that they were drinking alone together, enjoying one another’s company, and made the mutual decision to go to bed together – and this, while more than likely unprofessional in the context, is not always inappropriate. When Nicola Sturgeon, then, says that Mr Salmond’s inappropriate behaviour has let her and her party down, she is being prejudicial – as she, like the rest of us, does not know what actually happened. And her prejudice in this matter says, in effect, that it must always be inappropriate for a woman and man to drink alone together and retire to a bedroom together. But this is absurd. It will always be context dependent, and no one but Woman F and Alex Salmond know the truth of how they ended up on his bed together.

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Are you innocent until proven guilty?


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14 thoughts on “Inappropriate?

  1. ‘Innapropriate’ covers so much ground that it is a meaningless word in this context.

    It is inappropriate for a senior to become intimate with their subordinate (except that it happens all the time & often leads to long, happy marriages).
    It is inappropriate to drink alcohol at work (in some workplaces that is an instant sacking offence but clearly that is not the case in politics).
    It is inappropriate for a married man to become intimate with another woman or man (unless he has a private understanding with his wife/husband that allows this & it is none of our business anyway).
    It is inappropriate for a woman to become intimate with a man she knows to be involved with/married to another woman (unless, see above).
    Etc. Etc.

    When we look back to the early 90s & the bed swapping that was going on at the highest levels in British politics we really need to get a grip. If John Major & Edwina Curry could be ‘inappropriate’ with each other (the mind still boggles), AS having a drunken fumble is nothing, providing there was consent. And as you point out, Jason, it is impossible to establish whether consent was given or withheld hence the jury delivering a not proven verdict. (Scots law being the only legal system to have this verdict, I believe. In any other jurisdiction AS would have been not guilty on all counts.)

    If there was consent then there is nothing inappropriate for us to concern ourselves with with even if AS & his wife may have different thoughts on the matter.

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  2. Not everyone has the same measurement of behaviour, I keep it simple. If someone behaves differently to a woman, especially if you are their superior, then it is not appropriate. A person cannot define themselves what amounts to being inappropriate, not even us, it is the people receiving the attention which we need to ask, have they felt belittled or humiliated. Employers then need to see if any behaviour is outwith their company policy, all companies have them, the one I worked for made it an instant sacking if you were found drinking in the premises and on duty (unless you were management because they were allowed a drinks cabinet).

    I disagree that all these events didn’t happen because the verdict was not guilty, AS admitted some of them happened it is just they were not criminal, in fact some were just ludicrous to be included as charges. There is a question as to why these were included, most likely they went for quantity over quality in the misguided idea it strengthened the case, after all it can be embarrassing for the prosecution to mount such a high profile case were all your charges fail.

    My personal opinion is he should have behaved better, with respect to the things he admitted, he was the FM not the guy running the local chippie, so I have judged him harshly. I haven’t defined him as a sex pest but a man, like many, that let their boundaries slip (I don’t mean sexual here but just behavioural). Many of us have done it, probably even myself in my younger days, but I was never really in a position of any relevance (just to clarify, nobody ever complained about me, I just know I’m not perfect).

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  3. I think you have rightly highlighted the incident where animosity to AS is still festering. All the other charges were made-up nonsense and rightly seen as that by the jury. This incident was a private matter between the two adults and not in any way a matter of criminality. However there is still a problem with it in my mind.

    AS was a prominent politician, First Minister of Scotland, and a married man. He was always under intense scrutiny and now must bitterly rue this one minor lapse. Although it was a private moment and a very minor one, but I just cannot help but think it was inappropriate. His detractors will always focus on this and unfortunately he will have to live with it. The media can always hold this over him however unjust, and if he was thinking of a political return, I think it would be a very bad idea for him and the cause.

    In the end AS will be seen as the winner here, but this “not proven” verdict will mean that it will not seem that way to many and him himself probably. I say all this as someone who thinks of him as the greatest Scottish politician ever and probably of all time. Only someone who actually leads us to independence could be greater, and I hope NS comes to realise this soon.

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  4. I am glad that you have provided this analysis of the evidence presented to the jury and explained why they were likely to have reach the verdict of not proven. Through the post case analysis the jury have been very unfairly treated with their verdicts questioned by people who should know better. For me this single not proven verdict shows that they were diligent in assessing the evidence for each charge.

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  5. I think that behaviour that is not criminal, can still be sufficiently unprofessional to result in dismissal, in many employment settings. It is important to take into account the power imbalance. There is no doubt that Alex was the more powerful party, and as such had a duty of care towards his staff. Anything approaching the scenario as described breached that duty. We do not have to have been there to judge by what was admitted. Was he drinking with a less powerful colleague? Yes. Did he invite her to his bed? Yes. That is totally unprofessional, particularly for a man in his position. As such, Nicola Sturgeon is correct.

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  6. Woman F was one of the original complainers whose antics had already been dealt with. She changed her story from a consensual but inappropriate cuddle to an attempted rape at the behest of the chief alphabetty. Woman H and wife of ***** ********* should anyone care.
    Her new story was obviously a lie. What woman would go into a man’s bedroom unwillingly just because he ordered her to do so, then lie on the bed as he stripped naked and threw himself on her. Bollocks from start to finish.
    The reason why it was not proven instead of not guilty is because the event had been admitted but only to the original extent and not the Nicola ordered us to kill Salmond exaggeration.

    Since you live in Dublin, why have you not published the full list of conspirators and their relationships to the Whore of Dreghorn and possibly even their new employment status and timely bonus awards?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One suspects that if Jason published the names of the Alphabet women Police Scotland would probably arrest him the next time he set foot in Scotland, irrespective of whether they had legal entitlement to do so.

      Look at Mark Hirst the journalist. Dawn raid on his house by six policemen from the Alex Salmond squad. All computers and phones seized from his home. And then after eight months of personal torture, great legal expense, up to court and case dismissed – ‘ no charge to answer ‘

      He lost his job through all of this, sustained heavy expense, and he’s now going to try and sue. With it all having taken a big bite out of his life you can see why people need to be very careful to avoid the knock on the door..

      Liked by 1 person

  7. AS was in his (official) home. He’d had a few drinks and went up to bed. A woman went up to his bed with him.

    Question: Who acted inappropriately? The man who went to his own bed? Or the woman who followed him?

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  8. Now Willie John that’s a bit of an argument you’ve raised there.

    Don’t want to be overthinking this but could she, of her own volition, followed him up to bed. I mean, its a kind of logical thing, either he carried her up, or she followed him up. But better not say that, its thinking like that that gets you into trouble

    But Willie John, you may be on to something!

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  9. Talking about inappropriate but how many have seen the absolutely huge coronavirus parties today in Glasgow.
    Thousands in George Square and thousands outside of Ibrox, singing, chanting, dancing and letting off fireworks and smoke flares disregarding utterly ;lock down and any form of social distancing – whilst the police stood idly by letting it happen.

    A real public health issue and a terrible slap in the face for all the frontline healthcare workers and members of the public who have fought and died to keep this virus under control.

    So who instructed the policing policy for the police to let it happen. Sturgeon needs to explain. People are outraged and medical opinion is that the tens of thousands will have reignited a spike and will delay the end of lock down.

    So was it –
    a) to delay the end of lockdown to till 6th May to prevent physical campaigning as the SNP are exclusively IT
    b) to keep the Proud Boys happy, let them make a sectarian show.
    c) to piss of catholic – celtic leaning SNP supporters
    d) an incompetent senor officer with no knowledge of the law and public safety.

    Maybe the First Minister will explain at tomorrows Covid briefing. Coronavirus has been her big thing so maybe she can tell. And in the meantime can we all stop wearing masks, socially distancing and staying at home on the grounds that we are Rangers supporters.

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