On 23 March 2020, Mr Salmond walked out of court after a jury found him not guilty of twelve charges, one charge had been found not proven, and one other had been dropped by the prosecution earlier in the trial. Alex Salmond had sat in court for two weeks as his future and his freedom were weighed on the scales of justice. In the end he walked out of the Edinburgh court a free man; not one of the two charges of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, and one of a breach of the peace had been proven. Regardless, then, of anyone’s opinion or their feelings on the matter...
At long last, after having his innocence upheld in the Scottish courts, Alex Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish National Party and First Minister of Scotland, gets his day in parliament. Here at the Random Public Journal we will be following the events in Holyrood live and reporting things as they happen. This promises to be an exciting day in Scottish politics, and – as some commenters have suggested – what is revealed today might just be the game changer we have been looking for.
The set-to over Sturgeon and Salmond is not only about Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, this is a proxy for two very different visions of an independent Scotland. We’re divided down other lines too, wrangling between factions with distinct visions of their own. And this idea of vision is, we can be sure, the key to understanding why we are in this maul. Perhaps without realising it, we have moved to the next stage of the independence campaign; the stage at which we have accepted the defeat of the union and have begun thinking about politics beyond independence.
Given that the constitution is a reserved matter under the Scotland Act (1998), only an act of the Westminster British parliament in London can grant a Section 30 order. It cannot be legislated for under any circumstances in the devolved British parliament in Scotland. And precisely because Westminster – and Westminster alone – is sovereign, no set of conditions or political realities in Scotland can compel the British government in London to grant a Section 30 order. What does this mean?
This question is important because it expresses rather succinctly the sense of uncertainty and worry which is right now spreading like wildfire over the independence movement. While support for independence and the Scottish National Party remain high, a growing number of independentistas are arriving at the conclusion that something stinks in the SNP. Most, as yet, can’t quite put their finger on exactly what it is, but something is wrong. Something is rotten, and the rot is spreading.
If the Scottish National Party succumbs to this crisis – as it may well do – then we are looking at independence being cast a considerable distance into the future. Either the SNP will have to rebuild and regain trust or – having untangled independence from this one party – we will have to start afresh from the beginning with a new party or parties and work ourselves back up to the level we are now at. During all this time the British state will be constantly at work against us.
Progressive politics is a package deal. It is a political set menu with cult-like or at least communitarian characteristics. It is a tribal political identity rather than a series of beliefs and policy ideas people can weigh up and decide on based on their individual merits. Defending the rights of racial and ethnic minorities is both progressive and objectively right. The same is true of cutting carbon emissions and seeking greater economic justice for the poorest people in society, but the same cannot necessarily be said of other complex legal and social issues.
The conditions that prevailed in 2011 are no more. The 2014 referendum and the ongoing constitutional war of attrition have fundamentally changed the dynamics of how we do politics, of how we think politics. Unionist support is continuing to rally behind the Conservatives, and this, along with the continued success of the SNP in the constituency vote, will now always work against the SNP. Yet, Stewart McDonald is right. The SNP strategy in 2011 has been the only one that has worked, and it has won an SNP majority. It can win that majority again – theoretically, at least.