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Scotland is in a woeful mess – it must be ready to govern itself

Tom Peck
·4-min read
<p>Former first minister Alex Salmond before giving evidence to a Scottish parliament ‘harassment committee’ on Friday</p> (PA)

Former first minister Alex Salmond before giving evidence to a Scottish parliament ‘harassment committee’ on Friday


Let no one be in doubt anymore: Scotland is ready to govern itself.

For quite a while back there, with its impressive sounding leader, its belief in fairness and social justice, it just wasn’t ready for the big time. It had even drummed up a normal, likeable Tory (don’t worry, she didn’t last).

Bragging about sexually assaulting women while wearing a microphone, taking one of your casual shags away on government trade missions, as other politicians have done – that’s the sort of thing you’ve got to do if you want to roll with the big dogs and Scotland, frankly, just never seemed up to it. But not anymore.

Now, at the end of four long hours of almost permanently dry-boak-inducing evidence from former first minister Alex Salmond, it can’t be out-embarrassed by anyone.

No article on the Salmond/Sturgeon all-out war that is not so much eating up as exploding the SNP from the inside can get as far as the fourth paragraph without mentioning its impossible complexity. But on the evidence finally put forward, at great length by Alex Salmond, to the Scottish parliament’s “harassment committee”, it all seemed rather simple.

There he had been, back in 2017, minding his own business, when along came the #MeToo movement and some dastardly people, Nicola Sturgeon chief among them, saw it as an opportunity to attack him.

Salmond, by his own admission, is “no angel” but he’s “no criminal”, either. And he’s not, he’s been found innocent by a jury of 13 separate charges, including “attempted rape”.

Now, he is apparently the victim of a complete stitch-up. He would, as it happens, be a very hard man to stitch up, in the literal sense. All politicians are thick skinned, but Salmond is a medical miracle. They may not look it but, as of now, those tremulous jowls have usurped the humble diamond at the top of the Mohs scale of hardness. Salmond’s skin is the toughest naturally occurring substance in nature.

He had been through “a nightmare”, he wanted to “move on”; he just wanted to do his little bit first, to detonate those who had dared to cross him. And if it meant weaponising his own behaviour on live TV for four straight hours then that was absolutely fine.

The contention, in a nutshell, is that Sturgeon and co – the “co” being a Line of Duty-style network of corrupt government and judiciary officials – went too far, over-egged the allegations against him, got rumbled and then had to cover their tracks, which unfortunately would involve Sturgeon having to mislead parliament about the dates of certain meetings when certain explosive things were said that she subsequently couldn’t remember.

Knowingly misleading parliament is, after all, a resignation issue, as a breathtakingly long queue of Tories down in Westminster are pointing out on rotation, even while the High Court, no less, finds Matt Hancock “acted unlawfully” in, among other things, giving a massive PPE-related contract to his mate from the local pub.

The #MeToo movement, on the whole, had mixed success. Harvey Weinstein went to prison. The comedian Louis CK had to postpone almost three whole sold-out stadium shows while the fuss died down from his having taken his clothes off and masturbated in front of female comics waiting to go on stage, which didn’t take long.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that, as things stand, Nicola Sturgeon could well get not so much #MeToo’d as #YouToo’d.

Somewhere, lost in all this, of course, there is the trifling matter of Scottish independence. If all this costs Sturgeon her job, well, that will be a devastating blow, and it will have been very deliberately inflicted by her predecessor, who spoke in hushed reverence several times on Friday afternoon, about himself, naturally, and the cause for which he has fought “all my political life”.

But no cause, naturally, is as important to a politician as the restoration of ego. It is regularly pointed out that Ronald Reagan kept a small plaque on his desk in the White House on which was written the well-known quote: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he does not mind who gets the credit.”

Reagan was not merely a politician but an actual Hollywood actor, too, so we like to imagine the plaque was there not so much as a guiding philosophy but a reminder. Don’t worry if someone else gets praised for something. Also, take the bins out. That kind of thing.

It is so widely speculated as to being irrefutable that back in 2017, until the #MeToo movement so unfairly came along, Salmond was considering a comeback, and nor does anyone in Sturgeon’s inner circle ever bother to contest the notion that she was not so happy about it.

It is hardly a new turn of events, in the rarefied causes of independence, that the closer the prize comes to within reach, the more bitter the fight becomes over who should get to pick up the trophy.

Scotland, congratulations. You’re every bit as woeful as the rest of us. So now we know you’re serious.

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