Friday, 22 October 2021

About a telephone call

 In the course of today I had cause to speak to Brian Monteith on the phone. Terrible Tory Bastard that he is, he is also a good pal. Actually he is no longer a terrible Tory Bastard for he has defected to UKIP. Not sure that's an improvement. 

Anyway, he initially phoned me for my thoughts on a piece regarding the internal workings of the legal establishment which had been submitted for the Think Scotland website, which Brian runs, and I was happy to share my opinion on its strong and not so strong points.

But as you do in such occasions our conversation thereafter went on to wider issues and to the parallels between the early eighties, when we first became acquainted, and today.

Throughout my lifetime, the Scottish Tories have always been more on the liberal wing of their Party. As I moved on from student to "real" politics their dominant figures: George Younger; Malcolm Rifkind: Ian Lang and indeed my old boss Ross Harper were happy to metaphorically shake their heads at the wider excesses of Thatcherism without openly breaking ranks. Brian however was, actually still is, a true devotee of the Iron Lady and his Secretary of State of choice undoubtedly Michael Forsyth.

But on one matter the whole of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party from 1979 to 1997 were united upon. That there was not to be a Scottish Assembly, let alone a Scottish Parliament. 

Brian was one of the strongesr proponents of that view. 

But I was on the exact opposite side of the argument. Furious at the failure in 1979 and even more furious of the Tory strategy in that'year's referendum; that people should vote No in the hope of something better, only then to announce, in government, that something better was actually nothing at all. 

I was thus "determined" that there had to be a parliament. So, personally and with others, I did many of the things that the Nats are doing today. I advocated cross Party and non-Party working, I supported the formation of the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly (later the Campaign for a Scottish Parliament), I was instrumental in the formation of Scottish Labour Action after the 1987 General Election and in the campaign thereafter for Labour to enter the Constitutional Convention. I nodded enthusiastically when (as it later turned out loose) Canon Kenyon Wright declaimed that even if the UK Government said "We are the Establishment and we say No" , we would respond "We are the people and we say Yes". I argued that Scottish Labour should disrupt, possibly selectively boycott, Westminster to force home our point. I even went on a number of marches. The Labour leadership:: big Donald, wee George and briefly inbetween Tom Clarke, made tub thumping speeches to the Scottish Labour Party Conference about "democratic outrages" and I cheered them to the echo. 

Now all of this did have its achievements. At the 1987 General Election, the Tories lost half their, previously significant number of, seats in Scotland, The Consitutional Convention did agree on a much more attractive devolution scheme than that on offer in 1979 but most of all it succeeded in making a Scottish Parliament the "settled will" of the Scottish people. It had not just a marginal majority across Scottish public life but the support of almost all civil society, excepting perhaps big business. Every significant church, every Trade Union, almost all local authorities, every major third sector organisation, every Political Party* except the Tories, and even then, within their ranks, the support of more than a few dissidents. Most importantly of all it had the consistent support of an overwhelming majority of Scottish public opinion as demonstrated by the 74% Yes vote in the eventual referendum.

But did any of this actually achieve a Scottish Parliament? The answer is no, A Scottish Parliament was only eventually established as a result of the election of UK Government who, subject to an affirmative referendum, promised to establish one.

Now this is exactly the position the Nats are in today. You will have a distinct sense of deja vu about their suggested ways "forward", even up to the proposal for a new Constitutional Convention. But they also  do not have two things we then had. They do not have that consensus. The occasional marginal 51/49 poll is nothing like 74%,  never mind that 51/49 only ever being occasional in to the bargain.  And they do not have the deus ex machina that was the New Labour landslide. Or ever will have. The Tories will always say no. And the Tories will always be in Government unless Scotland returns to voting Labour. And if Scotland returns to voting Labour there is not going to be an Independence Referendum either. Because QED the electorate wouldn't have voted for one. 

I've been saying for ages that this was effectively over on 19th September 2014, reiterated in spades on 12th December 2019. Indeed, I've said before that I stopped blogging for fear that the thought it was worth blogging about at all helped fuel the fiction that the issue was not resolved. 

I say to my Nat readers however this: Organise; discuss; conference; disrupt; march; cheer.  Do what you like. I don't mind.  It won't make any difference. I've been there, I've got the T-Shirt. 

Meanwhile Brian and I will be having a pint in Edinburgh next month. He will not succeed in persuading me of the merits of Brexit and I will not succeed in persuading him that devolution remains a project worth persevering with, But we will part on good terms, both getting on with our lives thereafter. Time others got on with theirs. 





* A pedant will no doubt observe that pre 97 the SNP were nominally opposed to a "mere" devolved institution but that was a ludicrous position not understood by most of those voting for them and abandoned virtually overnight after the 1997 General Election.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

September

 I am writing from Italy. From Passignano on the shore of Lake Trasimeno to be precise. It is brilliant here in early September. The absolutely searing heat of the high Summer is gone but in daylight it is still far warmer than in Scotland just about ever. In the evenings it is a bit cooler but all the better for that for it helps you sleep and discourages at least some of the mosquitoes.

THe only slight downer is a slightly elegaic atmosphere. A month ago the place would have been buzzing but now you don't need to worry about booking a retaurant or wait for the opportunity if you want to have a proper swim in the comunal pool. Summer is over already for the Italians. It aleays is on the 31st of Augusr but it is increasingly also over for the middle aged foreigners, such as ourselves, who flock here as well. To match the mood I am writing this to the strains of Bruckner's 7th Symphony. If you know that work you will appreciate its resonance. 

So, anyway, what has any of this got to do with politics, for it is that about which I normally write? 

Well, sometimes you just have to accept things are over. Like Summer. And like Independence referendums. 

One of the big things that has changed in the more than thirty years I have been coming to Italy is that you can still keep in touch with events at home. No more trying to find a day old British broadsheet newspaper on a visit to a big city. The frst time big Donald was ill Maureen and I were away and indeed were back several weeks before a reference to "acting First Minister Jim Wallace" on Reporting Scotland alerted us to something having happened. Yesterday evening Andi and I listened to wee Emma winning on 5Live before going for dinner as easily as we could have done in our own front room.

So, by that improved communication,  I know about every twist and turn over the coalition and the Programme for Government. Including the ludicrous commitment to there being another referendum in 2023. Nobody, nobody believes this to be the remotest possibilty. Even as the words passed Nicola's lips she knew that herself. In 2011 Salmond committed himself to a referendum. For good or ill, David Cameron agreed to such a happening, subject to agreement on the detail. Even then it took three and a half years for the actual event. Now, no matter what you think of Boris, he is not going to agree this time. He has a manifesto commitment to not having a referendum (I know, I know but he has no reason to break this one) and he also has a majority of 80 in the only Parliament which matters on this one. 

So, there won't be a referendum by agreement. But there will also be no meaningful referendum without agreement. It is common territory that a binding referendum would require the consent of Westminster. Don't ask me, ask Alex Salmond. He didn't go to all that trouble to get his s.30 agreement (important word here "agreement") if he thought it unneccesary. But the Nats think they might have a way around that. They are not proposing a binding referendum, just an "advisory" one. Indeed, that appears the only basis that Dorothy Bain, The Lord Advocate, was prepared to take the gig. Since she has to sign off on the legal competencd of this exercise. Now, I have considerable doubr about that competence  but put that aside. WE HAVE HAD A REFERENDUM where 1.6 million people voted for independence. It was just unfortunate, from a nationalist perspective,  that far more voted against. Yet that is an incontestible fact. 

So what is the point of an advisory referendum? We wouldnt play so the Nats only objective would be to get more votes than they got in 2014, But 2014 was an exceptional event, with blanket media coverage and an 85% turnout. To think you could still get 1.6 Million votes in an advisory vote, never mind the 2.1 Million of the winning side in 2014 is a "bold" assumption. And to go through the exercise knowing it might leave you having scored the most spectacular of own goals by getting fewer vtes than 2014 assumes a degree of stupidity on tthe part of Sturgeon and her inner circle which even I think would be undeserved.

So there is not going to be a second "advisory" or any other sort of referendum ever but, even if there was proposed to be one, given even Nicola does not, even nominally, propose legislation before the Autumn of 2022, given Parliamentary process,  the inevitable legal challenges that would follow and the almost certainty of a UK General Electiion in that year, it could not conceivably happen within that timing. And yet that gets reported without that absurdity being pointed out in the press. I've  written before as to why that latter omission might be the case. 

All this will, nonetheless, be sufficient to get the FM through the imminent SNP Conference but that says nothing except as to the gullibilty of her audience and, less admirably,as to her willingness to surf on that gullibility.Yet she undertands  a more honest approach woukd only lead to her being booed off the stage and invited to fuck off back to England. She knows her audience. They have put her where she is. So she has to play to it. Or more precisely play with it. 

To return to my opening mtaphor, there is nothing weong with promising that Summer will come again, But it is dishonest at the least to suggest it is going to be in November or even February. For you risk simply bouncing off the ice on the swimming pool, breaking a few bones and then freezing to death. And, believe me, Sturgeon has no intention of doing that


September

I haven't blogged for ages. For nearly two months in fact. That was partly because I appreciated that even blogging about why there was not going to be a second independence referendum sort of fed the narrative that there might. 

But slowly others are also pointing that out, most immediately Euan McColm in today's Sunday Times. So long as Westminster says no it will not happen and so long as a majority, or even a narrow minority, of Scottish residents agree with that veto then that's that.

SNP Conferences might eventually lose patience with Nicola over this but that would only be a cause of rejoicing on our side. Her opponents have no better idea of the way forward (or more correctly backward) than she has. Even the Albanians demand "something must be done" without being able to say what that "something" might be. to many pre  existing conditions. It is terrible for those affected but how many are they in truth?

Two weeks ago, Andi and I went to Bristol and then Bath for a long weekend. As I waited in a pub to come up the roasd, Andi having taken herself off to see the Bath Costume Museum, an expedition on which I passed, I got a text message that "Track and Trace" had determined I needed to isolsate fot ten days as I had been in contact with someone who had tested postive, I interpreted the contradictory messages that I should "go home immediately" and "avoid public transport" in favour of not walking from Bath to Scotland but instead on getting home. But on getting home I felt required to follow the rules. These rules might be absurd but I had no desire to be potentially making that poinr before the Scottish Solicitirs Discipline Tribunal.

Except my being stuck in the house had knock on effects for other people. On the Monday I had a deferred sentence for a guy who, having done the crime, might well ultimately have to do the time. Hell mend him, you might say, but he was surely entitled to know. He won't now until August. On the Wednesday a trial for a guy who, eighteen months after he left his ex, found himself  facing an allegation he had assaulted their child while they were still together. An allegation not even made until he acquired a new girlfriend but proved sufficient for him only allowed to see that child under social work supervision. Again, if it is true, Hell mend him. But whether it is or not, nobody will now know until September. And in another case, it could be "covered" by somebody else.  Normally fine but occasionally not with adverse consequence for the client. 

And during all this, there was literally nothing wrong with me! I have had Coronavirus, I'd had had my two jags, I'd even had  my required negative test. But I still couldnt go to my work! 

Now, I'd also make this point. If these cases I refer to had concluded I would also have got paid. .That is how the Legal Aid Scheme works. You get paid when it is finished. To be fair, the Scottish Government has made exeptiotions to that when Coronavirus has affected the accused or the witnesses but not the lawyer. And on any view I am not starvung as a result. 

But  still, let's assume I was a tradesman, expecting  a cheque on finishing a  job and then booked out well  beyond the  week ahead?  I'm not getting my money and the client is not getting their new kitchen because.....?  Or a restarant owner required  to shut down because the boy employed to wash dishes on a Saturday night has  tested positive but interacted in the process with pretty much everybody else? 

This is getting beyond absurd, 

But it is driven by a public sector agenda. Nothing can ever be safe enough for those who get paid in full nonetheless



Sunday, 9 May 2021

Section 29.

One of the things common to activists of all Parties is a forlorn hope that public engagement with politics during an election period  will continue beyond it. It won't.

There is a fair bit to say nonetheless about where it leaves all Scotland's Parties. That however can wait for another blog. I have five years. Instead I want to look at a far more important and (relatively) imminent realisation for the newly elected SNP Government. All the legal attention so far has been on s.30 of the 1998 Scotland Act but, all along, people should have been looking at s.29. It provides:-

"29(1)  An Act of the Scottish Parliament  is not law so far as any provision of the Act is outside the legislative competence of the Parliament." (my emphasis)

Now, what does that mean? It means what it says. While Holyrood might pass legislation on anything it likes, if that legislation is outwith its legislative competence it is not law.  So not only can it be ignored by private citizens, it also cannot form a legal basis for Ministers to instruct third parties to act in accordance with its provisions. Even if they would be happy to do so. For it is not law.

Practical example  Come March 2023, further to the passage of a Scottish Independence Referendum Act on the basis of the draft Bill the Nats published in March this year, the Constitution Minister writes to the Chief Executive of Aberdeen City Council instructing him or her to locally organise an Independence referendum on 16th September 2023. The Chief Executive simply writes back stating they'll be doing no such thing for the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2023 is not law.   What happens then? The Scottish Government takes the said Chief Executive to court seeking an order for "specific implement" to instruct them to get on with their instructed task.  But the Courts would support the Chief Executive, for Ministers would be relying, for their instruction to him or her, on something which is not law.

Why am I prompted to point this out? Because it is what Michael Gove obliquely said on "Marr" this morning. Sturgeon's plan is to pass a Bill and then has assumed that the UK Government would use the provisions of s.33 of the Scotland Act to refer the matter to the Supreme Court. Even if she (almost inevitably) lost there, she would at least have (another) grievance. But Gove indicated the UK Government had no intention of taking anybody to court. Why need they? If something is not law it is not law. It is not "law until declared by a court not to be law". It is not law. That is what the actual law expressly says. 

And why would it not be law?

Well that's back to s.29. Subsection 2(b) this time:- [if]

"(b) it relates to reserved matters"

And reserved matters?

For that you need to go to Part 1of Schedule 5 of the 1998 Act.

"1. The following aspects of the constitution are reserved matters, that is—

(a)the Crown, including succession to the Crown and a regency,

(b)the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England,"..........



So that is that. Now there is never a point in ignoring an argument that the other sides lawyers might make in my hypothetical litigation The Scottish Ministers v Aberdeen City Council, so there is one. That would be for Scottish Ministers to argue that the referendum their Government proposed was only advisory. That it wouldn't actually make any difference whatever the result. That argument might even succeed (although I doubt it) but if it does? Why should anybody opposed to independence then bother to take part? After all, we already have had a binding referendum in the sense that both sides agreed to accept the result. Even if one side subsequently didn't. So the Scottish Government being "advised" that some people wanted Scotland to be independent (almost certainly by fewer than the 1.6 million who voted Yes in 2014) would be an exercise in the utmost futility. No matter how many flags (and newspapers) it sold in the process.





Sunday, 2 May 2021

Reasons to be cheerful

Well, on the face of it there is little reason to look forward to next Thursday's election with any great enthusiasm. 

The SNP are undoubtedly going to be the largest Party by a country mile and, assisted by their mini-mes, The Greens, gaming the system, it would appear unlikely that there will not be a majority for asking for a second referendum at Holyrood when all the votes are counted (ludicrously) next Saturday. Quantum valeat.

Anas needed more time but, thanks to the typical behaviour of my own Party since 2007, was not given it. I'll have more to say about that after the election.

But, of course, things are not quite as simple as that.

For, whether we like it or not, the Nats have managed to run this election as a referendum on whether to have a referendum. (Although interestingly that part of their message has been much downplayed externally in their later campaign literature, no matter what their private messaging might be to their activists sent out to deliver these leaflets). 

However if we are having a referendum about a referendum then who wins most seats is less important than who wins most votes.

And that is the first reason to be optimistic.

There is a clear pattern for Scottish opinion polls to over estimate the nationalist vote. In 2016 the last ten polls gave an average vote share for the SNP in the constituency ballot of 50.8%. They actually got 46.5%. A smaller share than predicted in even a single poll. On the list it was the same. Ten poll average, 44.4%, actual 41.7%.  And then look at who came second, the Tories. Not one poll on the constituencies gave them a constituency share beyond the teens, not one: they actually got 22%. In fairness one single list poll gave them 20% (exactly). A high point until....eh....polling day, when they got 22.9%.

So, if that pattern is repeated, the chances of the Nats and their miscellaneous allies or supposed allies crossing the 50% barrier looks pretty small on either ballot.  And in terms of the moral, as opposed, in truth, to the undisputed legal, authority of  the Westminster Parliament just to say no, that will be important.

The second thing giving cause for optimism is turnout. In two senses. Firstly, I suspect it was part of the Nationalist calculation in opting to hold a vote while the pandemic was ongoing that their far larger activist base would enable them to disproportionately mobilise a postal vote from their established supporters. But this does not seem to have worked. The take up of postal votes has been less than all Parties anticipated and there seems no particular pattern as to who has secured one. So a lot of people are going to have to vote on the day. A day my phone predicts to be very cold and very wet; in an election with an apparently forgone conclusion and, lets not forget, still during a pandemic. Now, it may just be my impression but lower turnouts continue, I think, to favour those disproportionately interested in politics, certainly, but also those more able to travel to the polling stations in relative comfort. Neither of these factors assist the SNP.  I would also encourage those glued to Nicola's daily admonitions not to leave the house to listen to her message. 

But there is another way in which turnout it important and that is where I come back to my moral authority point. Any result arising from a very low turnout lacks legitimacy in making wider "demands". It is too easily not exactly forgotten but not exactly utilised either by the "unionist" side that when we won in 2014 the losing side still got 1.7 Million votes. If they perhaps fail to get even 1 million on Thursday (they got just 1,059,898 on a 56% turnout in 2016,)  it might provide evidence to the  flag waving marchers that this demonstrates a country in a state of outraged constitutional fervour but I doubt it would convince any reasonably objective external (or even internal)  observer. Let alone Boris Johnson. 

But there is a a third and final reason to be optimistic. Much attention has focused on the unfunded promises in the SNP manifesto. Free this, that and the other; massive supposed increases in health spending etc. etc. etc. But when little of this is delivered they will at least have their usual excuse. That they were denied the resources to do this by "Westminster", never pointing out "Westminster" was not consulted on whether they were prepared to raise taxes beyond Scotland to fund it. But on another matter they won't have that excuse for a lack of delivery, at least internally. The very raison d'etre of the SNP. Independence.

There is not going to be a section 30. There is not going to be a referendum on a proposition that would survive challenge in the Supreme Court. There are not going to be Mr Salmond's ludicrous "negotiations", for nobody  would be interested in being on the other side of these negotiations. International opinion is not going to be interested, let alone mobilised. The EU is inconceivably going to intervene in the affairs of a non member state, even in the face of 200 people writing a letter to the Guardian. Don't forget that Holyrood voted to have a second referendum in March 2017. Did anything happen? 

Sturgeon has been lucky by events since. The 2017 UK General Election cast doubt on whether Brexit would happen and, when that was conclusively determined in December 2019, before anyone had time to draw breath, the pandemic arrived. 

But, crucially, even during the pandemic, in the face of no external demand at all, solely for the purpose of pacifying their own activists, the SNP leadership felt obliged to maintain that a second vote was imminent, pace Mike Russell and Angus Robertson that it could happen this year! And they then even published a "draft referendum Bill", sought by nobody at all who did not hold an SNP membership card. 

You can run but you can't hide from the deranged rabble that make up much of the SNP rank and file. By no means all of them have yet departed for ALBA, for they believe than can yet seize control of the Party they are currently in. Albeit for no more obvious purpose than it serves to have that under the stewardship of Ms Sturgeon. A reckoning is coming. I think that we can thus be confident that, not thanks to Thursday but to events in its aftermath, this is the last time we'll see Nicola Sturgeon standing for First Minister.  Or the last time she is daft enough to standing on the promise of a referendum.  For you should never make promises you know you can't keep. And by 2026 the issue might not just be a divided unionist vote but a divided nationalist one. And not just on the list. 

P.S. I'm not doing a prediction but seats to watch? Constituencies. Caithness; Perth North and South; Rutherglen; Coatbridge; Kirkcaldy; Motherwell and Wishaw. I predict Labour will take all of these. (For those missing the sarcasm, I don't) 

And on the list?  I think the Libs may do a bit better than expected. And the Greens not quite as well. And, much as it would delight me, I can't see Andy Wightman being elected



Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Douglas Ross is comprehensively wrong.

For a Labour man, I am not that ill disposed towards the Scottish Tories. They are generally much more towards the centre of their Party than those in the wider UK. They were pretty unanimously Remainers. Unlike their Welsh comrades (if that's a word you can use for Tories) they contain no significant anti-devolutionist element. It can at least be argued that on some issues they are more liberal than the SNP and on no issues less so.

If I wouldn't get expelled from my own Party for saying so, I might suggest you could happily vote for them in any constituency where they are the principal challenger to the SNP.

I say that as a preface because I want to go on to say that I think they have got their tactics in this election comprehensively wrong.

This is an election which is about who runs Scotland, and how it is run, over the next five years. What happens in health policy, in education policy, in transport, justice, local government and the various other devolved competencies. But at this time in particular it is principally about how quickly and how well we recover from the Coronavirus pandemic. It is not a referendum about whether we should have a referendum.

Of course it suits the SNP to argue that these actual functions of the Scottish Parliament are secondary considerations for, in respect of past performance of these responsibilities they have little, some might say nothing, to point to as worthwhile achievements. While, in respect of the way forward they have, it appears, if we don't vote for independence, no clue. And to be honest not much even then.  But I have no idea why this focusing on one matter suits the Tories. Not least because it is their position both at Holyrood but more imporantly at Westminster, where power lies on this matter, that irrespective of the outcome on May 6th, there is not going to be another referendum.

And, despite the claims of the SNP that this is "indefensible", it is in fact perfectly defensible.

We had a referendum in 2014. Over two million people voted to remain in the UK. 

No matter what the outcome on May 6th, if more than one half of that number vote for parties, in whatever combination, wishing a re-run, it will be a close call on that half. It will certainly be nowhere near the 1.7 million votes even the losing side got in 2014. And that is that. Even conceding nationalist parties 51% of the vote on a 55% turnout, just about as good as it can possibly get for the nationalists, that is a mandate for nothing beyond exercising the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament. 

But it does give the Nats something to campaign on. In the hope, to be fair, to date, reasonably successful hope, that this obscures their utter failure in actual government. 

But why are the Tories going along with this? Why are they allowing the election to be framed precisely as the nationalists want?

I get that they think it appeals to ultra unionist voters but surely only to really stupid ones. For the self same Tories are, at one and the same time, promising to stop that referendum at Westminster. So it amounts to: "Vote for us and we will stop a referendum at Holyrood but, if we don't succeed in that then we'll stop it anyway. So vote for us."

The Tory message should be the precise opposite. "We are not talking about another referendum at all for it is not going to happen. So let's talk about what should be happening."

And there they have a pitch to make. Not least on tax. It should surely be Tory policy that personal taxes should be no higher in Scotland than in the rest of the UK? Indeed presumably it is, although, as a close follower of politics, I have no recollection of that being said. 

It is surely also  Tory policy that public service delivery in Scotland is, how shall I put this politely, not always a model of efficiency? Despite the larger sums of money spent per capita and the much larger proportion of of our workforce being in the public sector. Never mind those engaged in the significantly publicly funded third sector. Labour shares the criticism on delivery but has no real solutions, wedded as we are to the public service trade unions. The Tories have no such obligation.

On transport. Scotrail is a disaster but there is no evidence to suggest taking it into direct public ownership (SNP and Labour policy) is likely to do much except turn a private sector monopoly disaster into a public sector monopooly one. The solution might credibly come from suggesting that it is not the ownership bit but the monopoly bit that might provide a solution. That would be a stereotypical Tory approach. Instead, silence.

When I was a wee boy, my dad explained the reason so many people (then) voted Tory was because they believed that while Labour Politicians knew how to spend money, Tory Politicians knew how to make money. He dismissed this without disputing that it was a common perception. It is a perception that the Scottish Tories themselves seem to be wilfully spurning. They are the Party of business. Not just big business but small business as well. They would be well placed to argue that, for that very reason, they are best placed to manage the Pandemiuc recovery. Are they doing so? Not that I've heard.

I could go on but the point is this. It is the interests of all unionist Parties to get this election off the diversionary issue of an independence referendum. My Party gets that. So do the Lib Dems. It is time the Tories did as well.


Sunday, 21 March 2021

The most ignorant woman in Scotland

 

Years back, before we all fell out over the referendum, there used to be an event a couple of times a year called a “Twinner”. This was an evening where Scottish political bloggers of different persuasions would meet up for a meal and a drink (alright possibly more than one drink).

It was always a good night. A fair bit of good humoured political debate, a sharing of political intelligence and a lot of outright gossip.

In that context, back in 2012, a well connected Nat told me Alex Salmond was a groper. This was complete news to me. I had always thought of him as a man with a one track mind. But that was not the one track. I would have been as equally surprised if one of the Tories had confided that Ruth Davidson was a Satanist.

Anyway, some months later I was in exclusively Labour company when I thought to pass this juicy tit bit on to someone who had been very close to Jack McConnell’s Administration. Her reply surprised me. “Everybody knows that”.

Now, when you look back at the immediate aftermath of the infamous Daily Record leak that, following a previously secret Scottish Government investigation process, Salmond was to be referred to the Police, the interesting thing is that, within the Scottish political bubble:  politicians; their staff and numerous Scottish political journalists, while many were shocked matters had reached that degree of seriousness, no-one was entirely surprised.

And against that background let’s look at what we know today from what has come out as a result of the Holyrood Committee of Inquiry.

We know that the decision to allow retrospective complaints against former Ministers was a political rather than civil service decision.

We know that it was not retrospective against former civil servants as their Unions would never have agreed to that.

We know that it was however made retrospective in relation to former Ministers without consulting them or even informing them! 

We know it was put in place with unprecedented speed.

We know that this retrospectivity decision happened literally the same week as Sturgeon says she first learnt of the Edinburgh Airport allegations, despite them relating to events some ten years before and acted upon, of sorts, by Angus Robertson at that time.

We know that Sturgeon's husband is Chief Executive of the SNP and it is literally his job to know what's going on within the Party yet, if he is to be believed, he not know anything about the rumours about Salmond as anything other than (I rely on recollection here but I think this is right) "tittle tattle" and even then tittle tattle he saw no reason to pass on to his wife, even as tittle tattle. 

We know that the woman who alleged Salmond had attempted to rape her in Bute House told the senior SNP official Ian McCann of her alleged experience at the time (pre the 2014 referendum) and yet we are expected to believe he did not tell Mr Murrell, his boss, or, if he did, Mr Murrell not tell his wife.

We know that the civil servant who complained (at the time, again prior to the referendum) of what gave rise to the assault with intent to rape charge received an apology, again at the time, from Mr Salmond. 

We know that others were concerned as to the impact on the Yes campaign if her complaint became public. 

And today we also know something else. The two civil servants who made the original complaints gave evidence, quite properly behind closed doors, to the Holyrood Committee on Monday past. They said, and here I quote from the Sunday Times, that (again in 2013/14) concerns about Mr Salmond’s behaviour were an open secret.

Yet we are expected to believe all of this happened without the deputy leader of the SNP and Deputy First Minister, having the faintest sniff of anything. Despite me (me!!!) having been told of it in an Edinburgh Pub years before. Until, apparently, she learned of the Edinburgh Airport incident in November 2017 and, despite complete previous ignorance of the above other matters, Sturgeon felt this, which would by her account have been wholly out of character behaviour by Mr Salmond, and ten years before in to the bargain, might nonetheless be something she should be worrying about.

I have said nothing above which is not in the unchallenged public domain.

It is, and I use this word advisedly, inconceivable that the only person in Scottish politics who did not anticipate that a retrospective process of investigating sexual misconduct by Ministers would probably ensnare Alex Salmond was Nicola Sturgeon. Yet she went ahead anyway. That actually might be to her credit, if she would only admit it. But she can’t. Not because she ever approved of it but because, in pursuit of a bigger prize, she turned a blind eye to it at the time.

As did an awful lot of other people. Nationalism causes you to lose all moral compass. And, having lost it, you can’t get it back.  

Those who fly with the Craws will ultimately get shot with the Craws. Sturgeon will survive next week because a lot of other people who similarly lost their moral compass will rally round. But if she survives May 6th Scotland will no longer continue to be the Country I believe it still is..