Monday, March 1

In defence of Glenn Campbell

Okay, we’re trolling a bit with the title there. But fair’s fair.

Because some REALLY shonky, and very obviously co-ordinated, shenanigans went on this past weekend, but at least the above is the truth.

It all kicked off with a really weird tweet from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, inexplicably posted at almost half past seven on a Saturday night even though COPFS’ working hours are 8.30 to 4.30 Monday to Friday.

Now, that isn’t strictly technically false. “Complainer” IS the legal term for victims of crime. But it’s also the legal term for people who merely CLAIM to have been victims of crime. The unmistakeable implication of the tweet is that anyone who’s a complainer is also a victim of crime, but that isn’t necessarily the case.

But if anyone was wondering why COPFS had suddenly put in a few hours of overtime just to make an odd tweet apropos of nothing, the mystery was soon solved.

(We’re not even going to dignify Dani Garavelli’s shameful hatchet job in Scotland On Sunday with a link, because it was exactly the same as all her previous ones.)

Because yet again, as if with a single voice, the Scottish media had given another free platform to another unidentified accuser – one whose claims had all been rejected in court by a jury despite a multi-million-pound police evidence-gathering operation and a months-long media smear campaign – to subject Alex Salmond to a retrial.

We weren’t even told the pseudonym letter of the woman, whose appearance and voice were also disguised by the BBC. The interview allowed her to assert that the idea of a conspiracy was “utterly absurd”, and imply that the trial verdict (which has not been appealed) was wrong. When Campbell asked her why she’d been discussing the case in advance with the other complainers (which would normally be a crime), she was allowed to wave it away as “women supporting other women”.

The anonymous woman whose tales the jury hadn’t believed was then allowed to level an accusation that in attempting to investigate the false charges against Salmond the committee were involved in “exploitation”, without ever specifying or providing a scrap of evidence of who had supposedly done so and in what way.

When Campbell very slightly pressed the point, all she had for a complaint was that the inquiry had in some way been “believing first-hand without any real assessment that this is a conspiracy”, a gibberish sentence that doesn’t even make sense.

(How else could you possibly believe something other than “first-hand”, and what have the committee been doing for the past six months if not “assessing” evidence?)

But we haven’t seen ANY members of the committee, far less the committee as a whole, make any such allegation. (Which didn’t stop convener Linda Fabiani offering an abject grovelling apology, though it wasn’t at all clear what she was apologising for.)

The only cutting comments we’ve seen from committee members have been aimed not at the accusers but at the Scottish Government’s colossal and systematic obstruction of evidence and witnesses. Not a single shred of proof that anyone on the committee had accused her or the other eight complainers of conspiracy was heard.

Nor was there even a suggestion of anything to back up her claim that the committee had “strayed from its own remit” in any way, or what they should have done instead. The entire interview was nothing but empty assertions, completely free of any factual basis, which an ashen-faced Martin Geissler nevertheless dutifully described as having amounted to “tremendously powerful testimony”.

It was no such thing. It wasn’t even “testimony” at all in any normal usage of the word – it wasn’t a formal statement, it wasn’t said in a court of law, and it comprised no evidence or proof of anything. The only power it wielded was the power of vague and generalised bleating from a woman hiding behind anonymity after making serious and false allegations that had been heard and disbelieved by a judge and jury.

Perhaps that was what pricked Glenn Campbell’s conscience, leading him to belatedly remind viewers that Salmond had been tried and found innocent on all charges, and that the inquiry wasn’t into his behaviour at all, but the Scottish Government’s and in particular Nicola Sturgeon’s.

The entire circus was clearly a pre-planned one, arranged by COPFS and Woman X and Scotland’s news media together, aimed at preparing the ground for what was supposed to be Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence session at the committee tomorrow.

But let’s give Campbell credit for at least a token interjection of truth into the show trial. And now that that bolt’s been rather prematurely shot, let’s all spend a moment wondering what we’ll get the weekend before the First Minister finally actually DOES mount her defence.

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