Former Ambassador, Human Rights Activist
Lady Dorrian in the High Court this morning described a position taken by the Scottish Parliament’s legal advisers, on the publication and inclusion of Geoff Aberdein’s and Alex Salmond’s evidence, as “an absurd interpretation of the court order”. She also stated that “The answer is for the committee to take a robust attitude to the question of publication and redaction. But this is not the place for that. It is not my job to tell them that.”
To recap briefly. The Fabiani Inquiry has all but collapsed as it has refused to publish or consider evidence from Geoff Aberdein and Alex Salmond. These are the most important pieces of evidence in the entire inquiry. The Committee has refused to accept them because the evidence names a person who made accusations against Alex Salmond, on which he was found not guilty.
Here is the important point. The evidence of Salmond and Aberdein being refused by the Committee has no relation at all to the accusations that person made against Alex Salmond. She is mentioned in a different role. As I have repeatedly tried to explain, the accusers come from a very small coterie close to Nicola Sturgeon. Those closest to Sturgeon were at the heart of the orchestration of the plot. The Committee which has been pretending to investigate, has been doing so on the basis that the protection of identities of complainers precludes it from hearing any evidence that refers to these people – even if it refers to other actions not connected to the accusation they made in court.
Geoff Aberdein’s evidence proves conclusively that Nicola Sturgeon lied to Parliament over when she first knew of the allegations about Alex Salmond, not just by the difference between her meeting with Aberdein on 29 March and her meeting with Salmond on 2 April, but by weeks, because it was Sturgeon’s office which had set up the meeting over three weeks earlier and the subject had been specified then. Aberdein’s evidence is not the whole story – actually Sturgeon initiated the whole effort to set Salmond up months earlier – but Aberdein’s evidence is the smoking gun that would force Sturgeon’s resignation for lying to Parliament.
So the SNP and Green majority Fabiani Committee has ruled that Aberdein’s evidence must be excluded, and it is being excluded at all costs. Their figleaf is legal advice that the Court Order precluding identifying individuals applies to identifying them in any circumstances, not just as accusers in the Salmond case – this is the interpretation that Lady Dorrian said in court was “absurd” (though it was put to her as a hypothetical interpretation, not with specific reference to the Aberdein evidence, though in the context of being able to publish that evidence.)
The Fabiani Committee is hiding behind its legal advice. The source of this advice is mysterious. There is a Solicitor to the Scottish Parliament, but my information is that this specific “absurd” advice actually comes at source from a large US commercial law firm. As legal advice so often is, especially advice from firms wanting their contract renewed next time, it is very friendly to what the client wants to hear.
Geoff Aberdein’s evidence is therefore excluded because somebody was involved in the discussion and organisation of the meetings with Nicola Sturgeon, who also later added her own accusations against Alex Salmond – something of which she made no mention at the time, as Geoff Aberdein testified at the Alex Salmond criminal trial. I always found it passing strange that someone would go through literally scores of meetings about the Salmond accusations before finally adding the claim that they had been sexually abused too, which claim the jury found against as with all the other accusations. What that manoeuvre did however obtain was the court order protection of her identity, and the Scottish government argument that it means all the actions of this person in her entire role in the plot may not be discussed.
Alex Salmond’s statement to the Hamilton Inquiry is excluded by the Fabiani Inquiry on precisely the same grounds. But this statement has been published, with just one paragraph redacted, by the Spectator magazine. This has led to the absurd situation where the Fabiani Inquiry is refusing to consider Salmond’s statement to the Hamilton Inquiry, causing him to withdraw from the Fabiani Inquiry, even though the Spectator has published the statement. The Committee is absurdly arguing that it would be illegal to publish it or consider this statement, even though the Spectator has published it without being prosecuted.
That is how we ended up in court today, with the Spectator asking Lady Dorrian to amend her court order to make clear that the publication and consideration of the Aberdein and Salmond evidence would not be in breach. Lady Dorrian has been highly resistant, taking the view that it is for the Committee to interpret the order, that is pretty plain, in a sensible way – while making perfectly clear that she finds the Committee’s strange interpretation somewhat baffling.
Just before lunch Lady Dorrian had suggested an amendment to the order to state that complainers must not be identified “as complainers in those proceedings”. She suggested that this would clear up any “misconception” that they might not be named in other contexts. As I write, the court has just concluded with all parties agreed on this.
Lady Dorrian’s amendment certainly should sweep out the legs from under the Committee’s ludicrous excuse for not publishing the Aberdein and Salmond evidence, and thus pave the way for Salmond to appear before the committee. But my intelligence from a committee member is that, whatever today’s ruling, the SNP members will continue to refuse to publish, and they are confident that their lawyers will be able to argue the Spectator case has increased the risk of jigsaw identification.
So the mad charade of an “Inquiry” continues. It is, I think, the most shameless cover-up that could possibly be imagined. Wings Over Scotland have listed some 60 separate instances of the Scottish Government directly obstructing the work of the Inquiry. What has changed in the last fortnight is the SNP members of the Inquiry are no longer feigning that they too are looking for the truth.
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