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By Jason Michael
SHORTLY AFTER SEVEN o’clock in the evening last night, David Davis stood up in the House of Commons and read into the public record various pieces of evidence pertaining to an alleged conspiracy against Alex Salmond which the Scottish government had successfully fought in the courts to have suppressed and hidden from public scrutiny. After declaring that his intention was to strengthen the Scottish parliament and not bury it, he said that a few weeks ago he had been passed a number of papers from an anonymous whistleblower. These papers, he said, contained downloaded text messages from the mobile phone of Sue Ruddick, the Chief Operating Officer of the Scottish National Party.
Notwithstanding a point of order from the SNP’s Owen Thompson, reminding the house of the ‘court orders in place around the identities of individuals involved’ – intended no doubt to stop Davis in his tracks, he continued:
The download that I am talking about – Sue Ruddick’s telephone download – is held by the Scottish police, so the accuracy of this account can be checked if they need to. Alex Salmond has asserted that there has been, and I quote, ‘a malicious and concerted attempt to remove me from public life in Scotland’ by ‘a range of individuals within the Scottish government and the SNP,’ who set out to damage his reputation, even to the extent of having him imprisoned.Hansard
Once the Deputy Speaker had reassured the house of Davis’ competence, as an experienced parliamentarian, he went on to share the whistleblower’s testimony of a behaviour at the highest level of the Scottish government marked by ‘collusion and perjury up to criminal conspiracy.’ Without naming or otherwise identifying the complainants in the case against Alex Salmond, he read into the record the names of some of the key players in this alleged conspiracy. It was noted from the documents containing the text messages that there was a concerted effort by senior SNP members to encourage and recruit complaints against Mr Salmond, and that Peter Murrell, the Chief Executive Officer of the SNP, had instructed Ian McCann and Sue Ruddick to handle specific complainants – something they had neither the training nor the legal authority to do.
…senior members of the Scottish National Party were deliberately obfuscating the truth to cover up their potentially criminal behaviour.
Quite understandably, the effect of David Davis’ speech in Scotland was explosive. Supporters of Alex Salmond have spent the last number of months being vilified in the newspapers and online as conspiracy theorists, troublemakers, and upstarts – keen to disrupt the SNP’s May election plans and possibly even endanger the possibility of another independence referendum. Sturgeonists, knowing full well the Scottish government had suppressed the evidence, have relentlessly attacked Mr Salmond for being unable to provide evidence to the Holyrood inquiry; evidence he could not provide under threat of legal penalty. After tonight, however, there is no longer any doubt this evidence exists – that it always existed – and that senior members of the Scottish National Party were deliberately obfuscating the truth to cover up their potentially criminal behaviour.
So yes, this has caused a deep and painful rift in the Scottish independence movement. At one side of the divide there are the supporters of Nicola Sturgeon who have now been forced, in there blinkered race to independence, to defend the indefensible and argue the case that we should ignore the serious implications of this information and support Nicola Sturgeon and her party without question for the sake of independence. On the other side, there are those of us who feel that this is a bridge too far – people who sincerely believe in the cause of our nation’s independence who feel betrayed and let down by a party leadership which makes the claim to lead the whole of the independence movement that has so egregiously collaborated with the unionist media, with the British civil service, and with the crown judiciary in Scotland to attempt to destroy the reputation of and even imprison a man as symbolically important to the movement as Mr Salmond.
Over the past weeks and months I and a number of other bloggers have been under sustained attack from within the independence movement for our support of Mr Salmond. So, last night certainly feels like a vindication of our case. Yet, this vindication is not of the sweetest variety. We understand the pain this realisation has caused. We went through this painful process ourselves some time ago, and we understand the anger that is right now being directed towards us. It gives us no pleasure to see the independence movement divided as it is. It gives us no pleasure to feel as though the cause for independence has been set back. But it has been set back, and we are left with no alternative but to deal with reality. Ignoring these things, burying our heads in the sand, will make these realities no less real. Good politics – enlightened politics – is about dealing with reality.
Ignoring these things, burying our heads in the sand, will make these realities no less real. Good politics – enlightened politics – is about dealing with reality.
We have arrived at a crossroads, with roads leading to two very different ideas of independence. One road – the uncritical road – is simply carrying on as things are and ignoring the painful truths of the situation in which we find ourselves. The other road is the way that acknowledges that this just is not good enough, that Scotland and the people of Scotland deserve better than this – a road that sees both Scotland and its independence as something sacred, something worth protecting, and something infinitely reduced by lies and deceit and corruption.
In a heated online discussion, Lindsay Bruce, a great man and a great supporter of independence, suggested I was an ‘idealist’ for taking such a stance. Even after conceding the veracity of what Davis had said in the Commons, his position was that we should accept the imperfect nature of politics and continue to work with the Scottish government – as is – in the hope an SNP majority in the May elections will lead to a referendum and independence, and that ‘after independence’ we can deal with the mess in the Scottish government. Rather intemperately, I shot back that his position was the opposite to that of an idealist; that he lacked both idealism and integrity. I most definitely did not mean to insult with these words, but they accurately convey my opinion of such a position. And more to the point, ordinary voters – who are not as engaged or as passionate as we are about Scottish politics and about independence – have seen and heard what has been going on. When faced with such dishonesty, they are more likely than not to walk away and so damage the cause for independence. Ordinary voters do not like dishonesty in their politicians, and they do not like to feel as though they are being led down the garden path.
Ordinary voters have seen and heard what has been going on. When faced with such dishonesty, they are more likely than not to walk away and so damage the cause for independence.
So long as one of our chief criticisms of Westminster is that it is a corrupt and lying and deceitful institution, then, insofar as is possible, we should work tirelessly to ensure the honesty and integrity of our own politicians and our political system. In a word, it is a profound betrayal of our greatest political aspiration to continue towards independence in Scotland behaving in a manner indistinguishable from the behaviour of the system we hope to escape.
Lindsay Bruce was absolutely correct to describe me as an idealist. Like most everyone else familiar with British politics, I am perfectly aware of the complexities and confusions of politics in the real world. But this does not mean for a single moment that I should not be led by my conscience and by the highest ideals of the better angels of my nature. And I believe with all sincerity that our road to independence should be the road of righteous struggle; that on every step of that road we should distinguish ourselves as a nation, as a community, and as a people, guided and directed by a politics informed always by our highest values and ideals. How can we say our desire is for a better future for our children and grandchildren when we ourselves have not been prepared, have not been strong enough, to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be – in order to build the nation that we need and want?
So long as one of our chief criticisms of Westminster is that it is a corrupt and lying and deceitful institution, then, insofar as is possible, we should work tirelessly to ensure the honesty and integrity of our own politicians and our political system.
The behaviour we have seen from the Scottish government alienates ordinary voters; meaning that there may never be an ‘after independence.’ Therefore, if we are prepared to tolerate this bad political behaviour for the sake of an independence that is only further removed from us because of this bad behaviour, then all we are left with in perpetuity is bad behaviour from our government. And regardless of what happens in the coming years, we will still need a government that ‘gets on with the day job,’ and we simply cannot be left in a situation of our own creation where we are left with no alternative but to suffer the appalling behaviour of those we have elected to government in our country. This does not paint a pretty picture of Scotland in the present, and it certainly doesn’t paint a pretty picture of an independent Scotland in the future either.
David Davis & the Salmond inquiry