The pity of David Davis’s speech in the House of Commons was it was too short, on the adjournment, not a full scale debate. It is worth revisiting for several reasons, including an error.
He had, from a whistle blower, a substantial number of WhatsApp messages between senior officials of the SNP, but time allowed him to quote only a few, but enough to confirm that Alex Salmond was the victim of a plot to get him into the arms of the police, court, and jail. That was the “game” Sue Ruddock described and was intent on playing.
We now have an English Tory MP with a store of vital information about which the Scottish people are denied knowledge. How come? While Davis pointed out the lack of Westminster type privilege in our Holyrood parliament, it is wrong to conclude that its committee of inquiry into the Salmond-Judicial Review case has not sufficient powers to command the same information.
S23 (now S24) of the Scotland Act gives parliament and its committees the following power: “The Parliament may require any person – (a) to attend its proceedings for the purpose of giving evidence, or (b) to produce documents in his custody or under his control, concerning any subject for which any member of the Scottish Executive has general responsibility.”
The members of the committee of inquiry have wrung their hands in public about how they have not been given this evidence and that evidence, either at all or piecemeal, or late. Yet they have had S24, compulsion powers, right from the start. Did the majority not want to use them? Or didn’t they know how to sue them?
In case it was the latter, Alex Salmond showed them how: deliver a S24 notice to his solicitor and he would have been bound to do so, and thereby be free of threats of prosecution by the Crown Office. Although the committee was reported as initially being in favour of this action, somehow it never happened. One version for inactivity was that they were still not sure the parliament, and they, had enough power.
Enough power? This is the parliament that has wielded power of a range and depth never seen before, even under divine right Monarchs. Power to lock us up at home, take away civil liberties that were taken for granted for centuries, fine us for having parties, close schools and universities, and make thousands of businesses shut their doors. Unprecedented power. Yet the committee did not use the statutory power of S24 to get the information, and publish it. We are left to thank an English MP for telling us he has it, and providing us with a few devastating excerpts.
What kind of people sit in that committee? Is it that there is no backbone? Or is it that the majority do not want to know, or, more importantly, do not want us to know?
David Davis referred to the first minister’s chief of staff, and her interference in the Scottish government’s internal investigation into the allegations against Alex Salmond. Has she been recalled to give evidence? No. This is where we come to the error in the Davis speech, when he mentions Liz Lloyd having been under oath. She never has been under oath in the inquiry, because she has never been required to give anything but written evidence.
Her two pieces of written evidence, especially the second piece where she makes assertions is no more than words on a sheet of paper. It has no claim to accuracy or truth until she is examined on it under oath. How is it possible that the committee has never examined her under oath? She has been mentioned in evidence the committee received before David Davis referred to her. She is the chief of staff to the first minister, so was bound to have had a role in the fiasco.
Well, they did try to get her to come and be examined under oath. I am told from a good source that she laid down conditions: that she could have two lawyers with her, that they could not question her on the critical March date when Geoff Aberdein, as well as arranging the April 2nd meeting in Nicola Sturgeon’s home, was also told the identify of one of the two career civil servant complainers – and that the members had to sign their agreement to her conditions– if not, she would not appear. To their shame a number did sign. To their credit a number did not.
The arrogance is staggering. “I will come but only on my conditions, and you lot better sign in agreement.” What kind of MSPs were those who would sign up to that?
Here’s a question – why is Liz Lloyd such a privileged person, that she feels able to lay down conditions to a parliamentary committee for her appearance?
The only legally privileged persons in the Judicial Review case being examined by the parliamentary committee are the two career civil servants who made the complaint against Alex Salmond, the complaint having been made originally in 2013/14 and resolved then, but re-made when the new sexual harassment policy was being created in 2017/18. Note: it was Alex Salmond who instructed his lawyers to get a court order to guarantee both of them anonymity. Was the Scottish Government so involved in hiding material from the Court, as it was found out doing, that it forgot about its duty of care to these two women?
David Davis lifted the lid a bit on the conspiracy to set-up a citizen, send him to jail and ruin him and his wife (no one thought of her did they?). We must hope that another MP was the recipient of the whistle blower’s material, and that in a fuller debate in the House of Commons he or she, along with Davis, will the lid will be lifted on everything.
Our institutions have not only failed, but have become the very instruments of subverting the public’s right to know about the gross misuse of power by themselves. The Crown Office has sunk so low that Charlie Falconer QC, in the Holyrood magazine, can describe its head, our Lord Advocate, and his role in the Judicial Review case thus: “It is interesting to see the whole thing set out like this because you can see the way that Wolffe has been corrupted by politics, I don’t mean corrupted in any financial sense. I mean corrupted by the need to say whatever your boss or your client wants to hear.” Who is his boss? The first minister.
The latest madness by Wolffe’s Crown Office is to threaten The Spectator with unlimited fines unless it takes down Alex Salmond’s evidence which it published ages ago, and which has been in the public domain. This is insane over reach. But it hasn’t stopped there: It even went as far as to demand that The Spectator not tell is readers that it had received that threat. This is a government department that has forgotten it operates in a democracy where the freedom of the press is sacrosanct because, for all its faults, without a free press our freedoms would soon vanish.
The proper function of the Crown Office is the administration of criminal justice, not quashing information the people are entitled to have about those who rule them. The SNP, once the most open and democratic political party in Scotland, has morphed into an organisation set upon subversion of our law and justice.
Once again I am grateful to Jim for this article that again widens our knowledge of the extent of the measures that are in place to stop you and me ever finding out the truth on these issues. I particularly welcome his exposure of the special rights and conditions Liz Lloyd thought she was entitled to and the fact that the Spectator were warned to not advise their readers of the measures being forced on them by the Crown Office. Make no mistake important powers are being misused and our freedoms are under attack.
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