The title of this piece echos the words used by Rev Stu Campbell on Wings Over Scotland to describe events surrounding the trial of Alex Salmond. Having remained sensibly silent about both the trial and the “events surrounding” it, now that the trial has ended with Salmond completely exonerated I can state openly that this is the verdict I both hoped for and expected. Alex Salmond is innocent of all charges other than that of being a human being with his own assortment of the flaws and frailties that this implies. The jury in a trial is required to have regard only for the evidence presented. But outside of that context and as individuals, we judge a person’s character not only by the defects and deficiencies our common humanity bequeaths us but by the manner in which they compensate for their weaknesses and failings. It has long been my personal judgement that Alex Salmond has amply earned the benefit of any doubt.
The charges against Alex Salmond never seemed credible to me. The behaviour of which he was accused is such that one would expect there to be a history which at least hinted at an inclination to inappropriateness in his dealing with females in his circle. That there was no such history I found perplexing. Especially so given the seriousness of some of the alleged offences. It is my understanding that examination of such offences with the benefit of hindsight tends to reveal a trail of lesser incidents leading back through the life of the perpetrator. In Salmond’s case, there was no such trail. Not evidence of innocence such as might qualify to be presented in court, perhaps. But sufficient to raise reasonable doubts in the mind of a disinterested observer.
Neither would my personal regard for Salmond count as evidence in a criminal trial. The fact that what I know of the former First Minister leads me to assume him to be a man of some integrity would not serve as admissible testimony in his defence. But, again, it sufficed to raise serious questions about how likely he was to be guilty as charged. I believe Alex Salmond to be possibly the most acute and adept political operator of our times. Not a great man, perhaps. But unarguably a great politician. Ironically, it is those characteristics which might be considered flaws which did most to persuade me that the charges against him were false. Salmond is, I think, a man who takes inordinate pride in his accomplishments. He sets great store by his political legacy. He values his reputation. That he would jeopardise his legacy and his reputation for momentary sexual gratification always struck me as being hugely unlikely.
One does not get to be a political operator of Alex Salmond’s rank without being an extraordinarily calculating individual. A well-developed capacity for Machiavellian scheming may be the overarching attribute of those most proficient in the art and science of politics. Salmond is known to enjoy a flutter. But he is, I believe, very far from being a reckless gambler. While betting on horses may satisfy some audacious facet of his make-up, he brings to his pastime the same shrewdness which serves him so well as a professional politician. I always wondered how someone so intuitively calculating could be as impetuously incautious as to do the things of which he was accused.
It is said that Salmond is a very tactile man. He is reputed to be given to contact which implies a certain casual, non-threatening, almost naive intimacy. My suspicion is that this behaviour is part conscious effort to win trust and part (over-?) compensation for the coldness which comes with a calculating nature. We live in a time when any physical contact is subject to scrutiny and analysis far beyond the instinctive understanding of gestures processed instantly and continuously as part of an act of communication. Touching can all too readily be regrettably misinterpreted – or maliciously misrepresented.
There is probably not a man in all of Scotland born before 1970 who could not be plausibly accused of some kind of sexual misconduct on the basis of behaviour towards women genuinely considered at the time to be no more than a bit forward at worst. There may be no man of my generation – born in 1950 – who, if he has any sensitivity at all, does not regret the gauche and even crass insensitivity of his youth. I trust and believe that many (most?) of us who are parents to boys have taught them to better respect women. I know that girls have been taught to demand the respect that they are due.
Alex Salmond walked free from court into a world in turmoil. This will not be unfamiliar territory for him. I am satisfied that justice has been done. I am certain that justice remains to be done in relation to the “murky and dirty and suspicious” events surrounding his trial. I am satisfied that it will be. I am certain that Alex Salmond has already calculated how he will help to ensure that it is.
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