The Integrity of a Nation

This time almost exactly two years ago I sat in a cafe close to Holyrood in a state of what I can only call shock. The enormity of what I’d just heard was sinking in; over the preceding nearly three hours I’d been introduced to all the gory detail of the plot against Alex Salmond. The last two years has at times been surreal for me as a result.

The Integrity of a Nation
Photo courtesy of Ronnie MacDonald

To explain what I am going to write next I need to tell you something about my fundamental beliefs. I have worked close to the power of government my whole life. I have studied and read widely on power. I am also a strong believer in social change.

Everything I have seen has driven me to the same conclusion; nothing is more important than integrity in public life. That may seem anachronistic to some (given modern political culture) and not particularly left-wing. But the positive change I want cannot be built on anything but the firmest of foundations; when corruption or misuse of power creeps into those foundations, nothing good can be built on them.

Some on the right of politics are anti-state and for them a discredited public realm has its uses. For the left, nothing good ever, ever comes from it.

There is no doubt in my mind that there was and is a coordinated plan of action created by a powerful group of people, developed and executed in secret but using public resources, all with the sole purpose of forcing a perceived opponent out of public life in Scotland.

I then have no doubt that when this plan was at risk of collapsing and exposing those who perpetrated it, they instigated a wide-ranging cover up. My suspicion is that it was not initially the intention to seek to jail Salmond, and that this was a result of an escalation to distract attention as part of the cover-up operation. Yet that is the direction in which this plan proceeded, nonetheless.

There is no greater abuse of power than to use it arbitrarily to remove someone’s liberty. This is absolutely not the “rough and tumble” of politics. It has no place in Scotland. None.

At this stage I need to make some more things clear. This is no longer anything to do with Alex Salmond, his reputation, his career or his future. He was investigated thoroughly, tried in a court of law and acquitted of all charges. It is worth adding that he was not acquitted because his actions were ‘dodgy’ yet failed to meet the threshold of criminality but because the jury believed his defence that none of them happened.

It is not about contentious political issues such as independence or the Gender Reform Act. It is not about crucial social and cultural debates such as the Me Too movement. I am open that I believe Nicola Sturgeon has run a poor administration and has repeatedly misled the independence movement in a way that has harmed our chances of independence. But it’s not about that either.

Nor am I any kind of Alex Salmond fanboy. This is not about a personal squabble or some “psychodrama”. It certainly isn’t some spurious debate about “civic” versus “populist” nationalism. The sheer volume of dust being thrown up to obscure what this is really about is in itself telling...

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