The plot to destroy Alex Salmond wasn’t a conspiracy theory
When the most savage power struggle since the dawn of devolution was fully raging, the Daily Record referred to “Salmond’s SNP Government conspiracy theories”. But gradually more and more irrefutable evidence is mounting that there was a dark conspiracy at the heart of the Scottish Government to destroy the former first minister. Recently the Record’s sister title, the Sunday Mail, published one of the biggest scoops since Salmondgate first erupted: the senior civil servant in charge of the internal investigation into alleged misconduct by the ex-FM had to apologise to Police Scotland for her “cloak and dagger” behaviour.
Judith Mackinnon, Head of People Advice at the Scottish Government, contacted officers to enquire whether criminal charges could still be brought against Mr Salmond even if his accusers did not wish to talk to them. According to the Mail, she was told “this is not how Police Scotland ordinarily interact with victims” and reprimanded over “the levels of discussions taking place” about this matter in emails. This is the same Ms Mackinnon who, it came out in the Court of Session, met and counselled two women who levelled the initial accusations against Mr Salmond. The latest revelation about her is not just another dark stain on the HR chief’s personal employment record, it is further proof (if any were needed) that the longtime SNP leader was, as he told the subsequent Holyrood inquiry, the victim of “a malicious and concerted attempt” to damage his reputation and remove him from public life – even to the point of imprisonment.
If she were to be properly challenged about this latest revelation – which she won’t be – Nicola Sturgeon would no doubt snort and dismiss it as just adding to the “heap of nonsense” under such she has had to toil whilst single-handedly saving us all from Coronavirus. But no one needs to don a tartan tinfoil hat to see a disturbing pattern developing here. Recall how the SNP’s chief executive, Peter Murrell, was found to have sent WhatsApp messages to party minions about how it was a “good time to be pressurising” the police into their investigation of Alex Salmond’s (proven to be perfectly lawful) conduct. Detectives, according to Mr Murrell, were “twiddling their thumbs” whilst a report was working its way through the state prosecutors’ system. Actually, it seems, they were having to advise the Scottish Government’s Head of People Advice to stop pestering them. I wonder if they had to do the same to Mr Murrell, who just happens to be Nicola Sturgeon’s husband.
Neither of the Murrells are likely to make that mistake again. Earlier this week, it emerged that more than half the Scottish Cabinet have downloaded a new app which allows encrypted conversations to be wiped automatically. Signal is now being used by John Swinney, Humza Yousaf, Angus Robertson, Shona Robison and Marie Gougeon. No mention of Ms Sturgeon among those, you will observe. Even if there were, we know how careful the First Minister would be not to leave any electronic footprints in cyberspace. As for Mr Murrell, the Scottish Government is under no obligation to tell us anything about him since he isn’t a member of it. Plus freedom of information doesn’t apply to political parties.
The assurance by the Scottish Government’s ever-expanding spin machine that the aforementioned ministerial quintet won’t be using Signal to conduct state business might have reassured a few folk. Personally, I’d like it to be not only in England that action is expected to begin next week into governmental failure to ban the use of such apps to conduct official business. The legal challenge in London stems from the disclosure that Signal’s subscribers in Whitehall include Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel, Michael Gove, Grant Shapps, Robert Jenrick, Gavin Williamson, Robert Buckland and Brandon Lewis. Of course, whether this challenge succeeds or not, it would be naive to imagine that would entirely stop ministers (or senior mandarins) engaging in conspiracies. My preferred definition of conspiracy is the one usually attributed to Mark Twain (although it was probably coined by his son-in-law, a prominent musician named Ossip Gabrilowitsch):
A conspiracy is nothing but a secret agreement of a number of men for the pursuance of policies which they dare not admit in public.
Personally, I’d say policies and agendas. I’d also expand this definition beyond only men. In strict accordance with current equality legislation, and in anticipation of reforms to the Gender Recognition Act being railroaded through, I’d add women, transgenders and all other forms of self-identification. As we’ve seen only too well in Scotland in recent times, not only men are capable of engaging in the sort of clandestine conspiracies of which the aforementioned American author (or a relative) spoke.
Repeated surveys have shown that Americans lead the world in belief in conspiracy theories. In 1964 a political scientist called Richard Hofstadter suggested this syndrome stems from the “paranoid style in American politics.” But, far more recently, that argument has been forcefully challenged by another member of the same academic discipline. In his book Conspiracy Theory in America, Lance deHaven-Smith wrote:
Those who now dismiss conspiracy theories as groundless paranoia have apparently forgotten that the United States was founded on a conspiracy theory. The Declaration of Independence claimed that “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations” by King George proved the king was plotting to establish “an absolute tyranny over these states.”
A hard-nosed realism about the likelihood of elite political misconduct was displayed in the drafting of the US Constitution and its various amendments. The founding fathers demonstrated far more awareness of human nature than the dullards who drafted the Scotland Act establishing devolution. The US has a proper separation of powers (unlike Scotland) and a president who can be impeached (unlike a first minister).
In words every bit as applicable on this side of the Atlantic, Professor deHaven-Smith has questioned why suspicion of criminal wrongdoing at the highest levels of government is so often rejected out-of-hand as paranoid thinking akin to superstition:
This visceral reaction to conspiracy theories is understandable. However, it often results in blanket dismissals that treat all conspiracy theories as equally ludicrous and insulting. In fact, conspiracy beliefs vary widely in terms of their supporting evidence and plausibility. Some conspiratorial suspicions make sense and warrant investigation, while others do not.
This Florida-based political scientist points out that “conspiracy theory” only entered the American political lexicon in 1964, shortly after the Warren Commission concluded its investigation into JFK’s assassination by endorsing the clearly ludicrous “lone gunman” theory. The term was actively popularised by the Central Intelligence Agency in order to discredit allegations about the Deep State, of which the CIA is a major element:
Deployed as a pejorative putdown, the label is a verbal defence mechanism used by political elites to suppress mass suspicions that inevitably arise when shocking political crimes benefit top leaders or play into their agendas, especially when those same officials are in control of agencies responsible for preventing the events in question or for investigating them after they have occurred.
If there is a better summary of the Sturgeon cabal’s survival tactics throughout Salmondgate, I have yet to read it. Sadly, the vast majority of the Scottish electorate know little about any of the above. Our country is sorely lacking what Professor deHaven-Smith believes is essential to the maintenance of democracy – a suspicious, even radically suspicious, attitude toward government. I don’t believe that exists in Scotland to anywhere near a healthy degree. And Nicola Sturgeon exploited the sore absence of it to establish effectively an elected tyranny.
One of the main reasons she was able to do this is the sad condition of this Scotland’s legacy media Now propped up by her regime through taxpayer subsidies, our press failed – in stark contrast to the likes of the Sky News’ Scotland correspondent James Matthews – to convey to the public the full enormity and significance of what was inflicted upon Alex Salmond – and could have been done to any one of us. Most Scots will never have heard of the latest Sunday Mail revelation about the Scottish Government’s HR chief (alluded to at the start of this post). Scandalously, it was followed up by just one other publication in this land. The Times and its downmarket stablemate, the Scottish Sun, have also so far been alone in spotlighting the use of an automatically wiping messaging app by Scottish government ministers.
Say what you like about the Dirty Digger, at least Murdoch’s muckrakers have been digging into the dark undergrowth of Sturgeon’s Scotland. It seems at least a few of his Scottish journalists still follow the advice of the legendary foreign correspondent Louis Heren:
When a politician tells you something in confidence, always ask yourself ‘Why is this lying bastard lying to me?’
Not everyone covering Scottish politics at the Herald appears to hold to that maxim. Certainly not its most prolific pundit, Tom Gordon, who has written:
Conspiracies are in the eye of the beholder, and Mr Salmond has made a comfort blanket out of his. It’s easier being the victim than the villain.
Really Tam? Alex Salmond’s ordeal has been easy? Just carry on bowing and scraping to Nicola, Queen of Scots, and her sleekit courtiers. Keep downplaying their callousness and corruption by describing Salmondgate as a “debacle” rather than a dangerous descent from rule of law into rule by law. Go on referring to the Scottish Government’s investigation into the former FM’s conduct as “botched” rather than what it was deemed to be by judges in Scotland’s highest civil court – unlawful. Continue doing all of this and your employer won’t just have to relocate further and further away from Glasgow city centre, it’ll be wiped off the map of Scotland altogether.
It is not a conspiracy theory to say we now have a paranoid style of governance in Scotland. Whenever she feels politically vulnerable – which is frequently, according to inside sources – the Feart Minister becomes a dangerous threat to our basic rights and liberties, as well as to many Scots’ livelihoods. I’ll explain what I mean by that in an upcoming post.
Jaggy’s first post exposed the state of Scotland’s fourth-rate estate (link below). Comment on this one by scrolling down.