A question of judgement

Alex Salmond delivered his testimony to the Parliamentary Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints with a calm, statesmanlike dignity which contrasts sharply with the often shrill, intemperate and inappropriate denunciations heaped upon him by Nicola Sturgeon and her fan club. That dignified, self-possessed demeanour has been maintained by throughout the course of events that have been a festering sore on Scotland’s public life and a personal nightmare for Alex Salmond for nearly three years. If those following these events can all agree on one thing – and they surely can agree on no more than that – it is the hope that this matter is drawing to some kind of a close. But will matters be resolved? Will there be effective closure? That is less certain.

I never thought of this as a Salmond versus Sturgeon affair. I try to resist such simplifications. But there is now no denying that two camps a firmly established. When that happens, minds seldom change. People tend to adhere to their chosen camp regardless of even the most persuasive evidence indicating that they may have chosen unwisely. Minds are made up and closed down – firmly shuttered against the ravages of cognitive dissonance. However impressive Alex Salmond’s performance, it is unlikely to have significantly swayed the jury in the court of public opinion. His detractors will have found in the dignity only the egoism of which they accuse him. The self-possession will appear to them as arrogance; because it is arrogance they seek. The calmness will translate in their minds as smugness. They will see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear and it will all conform to their preconceptions and confirm their previous judgement. They will feel right and righteous. They will feel good about themselves.

The same is certainly true of those who have placed themselves in Salmond’s camp. It would have taken a seriously bad performance on Salmond’s part to make them admire him less. Just as it will require something quite extraordinary from Nicola Sturgeon when her turn comes to cause that admiration to falter. Why dig a trench to house your views if your views not going to be entrenched?

There being two such solidly entrenched camps it is likely that the Salmond versus Sturgeon formulation will become an established part of our political discourse for some time to come. The legends of both ‘combatants’ will grow as required to keep respective camp-followers on board. History may well tell a tale of current events that will be barely recognisable to those of us living through them.

It is questionable whether even the most incontrovertible evidence would dissolve the barriers of mutual antipathy separating the Salmond and Sturgeon camps. People have a remarkable facility for favouring their prejudices over evident reality. Conspiracy theorists tend to exhibit a bewildering ability to fold contradictory evidence into their theories. The only thing they find more persuasive than an absence of evidence is an abundance of contrary evidence. Several levels of dementedness below the committed conspiracy theorist the mythical ‘average person’ is nonetheless still very reluctant to part with their ‘truth’ when prompted to do so by some unchallengeable proof. Judgements are made even before any evidence is in and become treasured possessions which can’t be prised from the grasp of the judgemental by mere objective truth.

Even if the Fabiani Committee’s findings are not the insipid fudge I think most expect, it all but certainly won’t settle the matter. As Alex Salmond noted in his opening statement,

The failures of leadership are many and obvious, and yet not a single person has taken responsibility. Not a single resignation, not a single sacking, not even an admonition. Instead we have promotions or extensions of contracts and self-serving defences. 

The findings of the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints are unlikely to change that. There may be a sacrificial scapegoat. But I anticipate no stable-cleaning such as the situation would seem to demand. Even that sacrificial scapegoat seems only barely possible. The players on the Sturgeon side of the thing are all so closely interlinked that it’s hard to see how one might be taken out without a Jenga-like collapse ensuing. It’s human nature to want to spread the blame in the hope of lessening one’s own burden. I look at the people involved from the administration’s side and I struggle to see anybody who might be inclined to an act of noble sacrifice. There are no heroes among the leading participants in the relentless hounding of Alex Salmond. There is nothing of nobility about them. In that regard if no other the hunters are less than their quarry.

People will be left to make their own judgements. Many – perhaps most – did that a long time ago. The Fabiani farce will change nothing. A nation will have suffered this embarrassment for nothing. The loved will be loved with the same passion. The loathed will be loathed with the same fervour. The sometimes vanishingly small part of all our minds which acts as a disinterested observer will wonder what was the point of it all.

The inquiry being conducted by James Hamilton QC may be a very different matter. He is is one of the independent advisers on the Scottish Ministerial Code and is investigation alleged breach(es) of the Ministerial Code by Nicola Sturgeon. If the Fabiani farce is as damp a squib as I expect then the outcome of the Hamilton inquiry is likely to be explosive. We wait and watch with great interest.

For the present the best that can be said of the Parliamentary inquiry is that while it has done nothing to enhance the reputations of either committee members or the bulk of witnesses, it has provided an opportunity for Alex Salmond to confirm himself as a towering figure in Scottish politics. He may even have done this so effectively as to to prompt some to except themselves from the rule and revise their earlier judgement. A certain individual may be more than slightly miffed about this.

13 thoughts on “A question of judgement

  1. The only winner here is the British State.
    We have to find a way through this that can unite everyone behind the cause of independence.
    I’ve no doubt that the sticky fingers of the British State have been at play here, and i wonder if certain folk have been played, and they don’t realise it has happened.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I believe that is how it would be deployed. A few train crashes of events set in motion by a few operatives who then feed information at the right time to the right people to maintain the preferred narrative and to manufacture plausible deniability for all who wittingly or otherwise become involved. In theory at any rate.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My reaction in response to seeing a number of Facebook connections and good friends who have either swallowed one of the lies, bought into the Unionist version of events or simply fall back on the old argument: I think he’s an arse so he must be guilty/being paid by Westminster/a vicious vindictive old man/unapologetic sex fiend/whatever.

    There will be times when we will all have to be very careful about what we say in public. Everybody will look out for the slightest sign in another of allegiance to a flag or a party or a faction, so they will be able to know in advance what they will have to exclude or conceal. Nobody will feel entirely safe, except those who run up flags, join parties and dissipate into sects. Sectarian conflict will become normal. Nobody will listen to what others say, only shouting out with ever louder voices their own realities while denouncing all others as false, delusional and projections of some agent of a foreign power. Power will congeal and ossify into impenetrable cathedrals to whatever ideology it espouses, or wants the powerless to consume. Truth will become only an undiscovered lie. Actual events will move on. And we will become even more damaged.
    Love and compassion.
    Simple listening.
    Refusing to react.
    Holding every opinion in suspension – especially your own – and solidifying none.
    Good luck.

    Meanwhile my essay on Bruce from a while back seems now to be horribly prescient:


    Liked by 2 people

  3. As Alex Salmond said, he has kept his powder dry until a proper platform. He has not name called and has simply provided facts backed up with evidence. On the other hand, Nicola Sturgeon has behaved very badly for some time and has obstructed without a shred of care as to how that is viewed. But this last week she reached a new low. Alex Salmond did not start this, was proved not guilty of the charges against him, and did not initiate inquiries. How that somehow transpires to be therefore his ‘ego’ that has caused all of this makes no sense, and I wish Ruth Davidson had asked Nicola Sturgeon to define exactly how it is Alex Salmond’s ego that appears to now be the problem.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. A few weeks ago I was in the ‘don’t look too closely’ camp.

    But that was morally dishonest. To look away is to collaborate, even if there is a bigger picture of Independence to provide context and a coveted prize to be eyed.

    Alex Salmond coolly delivered his oral evidence in a step by step forensic manner full of detail of content and timeline backed by written documentary proof. In so doing he, apart from many other things about his systematic presentation, reminded us all of what the SNP, Independence movement and Scotland has been missing since he stepped down as FM over 6 years ago: dignity, bravery, facts, honesty, candour, clarity, cooperation and many other traits beside.

    I have read broadly and deeply on the subject and have come to the conclusion that there is doubt that a grave injustice has been perpetrated against this man. A man whose case has been upheld, as he repeatedly reminded everyone yesterday, by two judges and a jury.

    The reason for the court judgments is that his evidence proved more compelling that his adversaries. That evidence, or a substantial part of it, is in his written submissions posted on the website of the SGCHH Committee.

    However, just like those people during the Independence referendum who asked for evidence of Scotland’s economic sustainability and then ignored it when it was presented as it did not fit with their predetermined view, those who have blind faith in the current SNP leadership request proof to support the former First Minister’s claims whilst simultaneously choosing not to read his written (even though redacted) submissions.

    When the facts change, so does my opinions. A lot of folk disagree with that notion.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Peter, I believe a small typographical correction is due in the quoted opening statement. Should it rather be “admonition” not “admission”?
    Another incisive blog.


    1. I think you may be right. The text was copied and pasted directly from The Spectator’s transcript. From other errors I found I had already figured out that it was machine transcription. For obvious reasons I am reluctant to alter quoted text. But I think it’s justified in the instance. Thanks for the heads-up.


  6. TBH it is one thing to say that both sets of supporters have entrenched feelings of who is right and who is wrong , again TBH I am on the side of Alex Salmond I watched the 6 hours of his appearance at the HR inquiry yesterday and I am outraged and disgusted at the depth of lies and corruption being not only perpetrated against Alex Salmond which is reprehensible in itself , but also against the dreams and aspirations of ALL independence supporters, the abject failure of Sturgeon to have advanced independence in any positive manner in the last 6 years is to me indicative that independence falls a long way back in her priorities for Scotland . Her total focus and those who form her inner clique is pushing and implementing policies which are reviled and objected to by a vast swathe of voters and when the MSM start their exposures her credibility will suffer

    I fervently hope that Sturgeon’s appearance on Wednesday outs her for the amoral narcissist that she is and the members ask deep probing questions and DEMAND answers

    Liked by 2 people

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