Full disclosure: Despite our fundamental disagreement on the Scottish National Question, I have maintained friendly relations with Alex Salmond for nearly 35 years. For those puzzled, I admire excellence, even in my opponents.
I served for decades with him in the British Parliament, including some very long nights. I have travelled with him, shared platforms with him, sat in studios with him without number. I have eaten with him, drank with him (soft for me, definitely not for him - alcohol helped put him in the dock, about which more later). And of course, more recently he joined me as a colleague as a presenter on RT.
And so I can say now what I have said to anyone who would listen for the last two years: I was not only completely unsurprised at his acquittal on all charges in the High Court in Edinburgh by a jury mainly comprised of women, I am outraged that such a farrago of a case was ever brought. It stinks like a barrel of rotten fish.
This was a trial of witness statements. There were no witnesses other than the complainants to any of the alleged crimes, many of which were alleged to have been committed in public! No physical evidence of any kind. Some of the complainants continued to carouse with Salmond years after the alleged events. Others looked forward - in writing - to doing so again, years later. In this, the alert amongst the readers will recognise strange echoes of the Julian Assange affair, another public man, another threat to the established order, similarly falsely accused of similar crimes.
Mr. Salmond addressed reporters outside the court after his acquittal and hinted darkly about this. He alluded to lines of evidence he had wished to introduce but which "for a variety of reasons" he had not been able to. He firmly stated though that this material would see the light of day, just not this day, on account of the unhealthy situation. He meant the coronavirus pandemic, but he could equally have been talking about the party he had led almost to the top of the mountain, almost to separation from the rest of the UK.
It had been easy to admire Alex Salmond through the last three decades and more. Some of my earliest parliamentary memories are of him, like a Jack-in-the-box, interrupting the Thatcher government's flag-ship events, like the Budget and other things. He powerfully opposed the wars against which I too fought, he stood up against the demonization of Russia, most notably when he joined RT against a cat's chorus of naysayers including, perhaps especially, in his own party.
For this is not the SNP that was led by Alex Salmond. And Nicola Sturgeon is no Alex Salmond.
It was said when the British political giant William Pitt was succeeded by the desiccated mediocrity Henry Addington that "Pitt is to Addington as London is to Paddington." In other words, small beer. Whatever the Scottish equivalent, it is applicable here. If Nicola Sturgeon has a role model, it is surely Tony Blair, for she has created a New SNP exactly as he created New Labour.
The anti-imperialist, anti-war SNP is replaced with a desiccated calculating machine with little apparent purpose than staying in absolute power in Scotland. And make no mistake - Scotland is a one-party state, albeit one based on not even half of the Scottish people's votes. Ruthless control of Scotland's national and local institutions and never-ending centralisation. Is he/she "one of us" is the most FAQ in Scottish politics.
And increasingly, Alex Salmond was not one of them. His very presence illustrated the flatness of the surrounding landscape. He had to be removed from the political scene.
We must await Mr. Salmond's evidence to be sure what exactly has gone on. But Alex Salmond was framed; the only question, the most rhetorical question in the country, is framed by whom?
Of wider significance perhaps - though the Scottish legal system is separate from the rest of the UK - is the way alleged sex crimes are handled. Salmond's accusers, who were not believed by the court, have of course a lifetime anonymity. No one will ever know who, years after the events in question, came forward with these allegations or why they now specifically did so. But the common practice of referring to complainants or accusers as ‘victims' is surely running out of time. Someone is NOT a victim until it is proven that a crime was committed against them. In this court, it was found that there was no crime.
Equally the rubric that ‘victims' must ‘be believed' - an innovation in England of the then-Sir Keir Starmer QC the Director of Public Prosecutions, shortly to be revealed as the new leader of the opposition Labour Party - was already mortally wounded by the Carl Beech affair. He, too, was once a ‘victim' who ‘had to be believed' until he turned out to be a rancid perjurer and fantasist spinning outlandish lies against all and sundry and sentenced to 18 years in prison. But not before he ruined many lives.
After the Alex Salmond affair, there can be no more presumptions of guilt - the very opposite of justice.
The victim here was Alex Salmond himself.
Salmond's lead counsel, Gordon Jackson QC, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, is also a former parliamentary colleague of mine - this time on my own, Labour side. During his masterful summing up, Mr. Jackson made the point that Mr. Salmond was not on trial because he could have been a better man. A better man he surely could have been. He might have put it this way.
There is no fool like an old fool, surrounded by adoring women, doling out slobbery kisses (on the lips, yeugh) and with a jug of free alcohol in his hand. The lesson for all public men (and women, though they are seldom so foolish) is that these women or men are there because of what, not who, you are. And maybe for the free Champagne. Keep your trousers up, your tongue in your own mouth, and your lips judiciously pursed.
Not that Salmond's horse-whip political tongue will be long-stilled, coronavirus or not. As Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon surely already knows...
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
was a member of the British Parliament for nearly 30 years. He presents TV and radio shows (including on RT). He is a film-maker, writer and a renowned orator. Follow him on Twitter @georgegalloway