Inquiry in to Nicola Sturgeon's Government has descended into a farcical, Kafkaesque game of rigged Cluedo
The so-called Salmond Inquiry’s descending from the simply failing to the utterly farcical.
When an institution priding itself on openness, accountability and transparency finds itself in a situation where a witness swearing “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” could find themselves facing prosecution for doing so, it’s “Kafkaesque”, not democracy in action.
Yet that’s the absurdity that the committee convener and the Crown Office have managed to create.
Now I know Linda Fabiani, who’s the convener, and I like her and she’s been kind to me over the years. But this is certainly not her finest moment, resulting in her parliamentary career ending with a whimper not a bang, as she retires this year.
It’s often argued that Scottish Parliament committees aren’t as effective or forceful as Westminster counterparts. It grieves me to say it, but this is proof positive that it’s so. Maybe this could prove a catalyst for long overdue action to ensure that conveners are elected by Parliament, not appointed by party whips.
Likewise this hasn’t been those most edifying week for the Crown Office in Scotland, with the Lord Advocate admitting to over £24 million and potentially more in costs and pay-outs for a malicious prosecution of figures involved in Rangers FC.
That’s not just unprecedented in its occurrence but equally in its extent. There’s mistakes made in all walks of life but few in government have lately been as costly as this or been as calamitous in reputational harm to an institution.
The concern among current, let alone past, senior legal figures is massive and rightly so. People have dedicated their lives and still do to public service in the Crown Office and Prosecutor Fiscal’s Office. They’re dedicated staff who adhere to civil service codes and legal ethics. The Lord Advocate’s actions and those of a coterie surrounding him in both the Rangers case and the Salmond Inquiry require an explanation.
Over 400 witnesses and 700 statements is usually for a serial killer, not flimsy and failed charges comprehensively rejected by a jury.
Since then, the Crown seems to have been on a slash-and-burn, prosecuting and threatening with abandon across the land and closing down evidence essential for the inquiry.
There’s something seriously amiss in Crown Office and it needs sorted. I doubt that either this Lord Advocate or anyone carrying out the current dual role of government legal adviser and top prosecutor can do it.
I recall the game Cluedo from childhood. Someone got it one Xmas and it was played incessantly for a fortnight, before being put in a cupboard till a rainy summer week. But at least in that game you were given some clues to let you play. With this inquiry, its Colonel Mustard in the Drawing Room but you’re not to know who, what, when or where.
If this had happened when we were laddies, we’d have refused to play. If I were on the committee, I‘d be wondering what’s the point.