Monday, 30 March 2020

We Need To Talk About Alex (6)



Alex Bell, a former special adviser to the former First Minister, steps into the debate surrounding Alex Salmond's trial and acquittal with the following memorable lines:

"When your best defence is ‘I’m sleazy but not criminal’, it’s nothing to smile about

"A married, avowedly Christian man is revealed as a creep." 

The evidential test in a criminal trial is 'proof beyond a reasonable doubt' which normally places great weight on independent witnesses and third-party corroboration.

But that does not mean Alex Salmond has no civil case to answer for his behaviour as First Minister.  

   




Defence witness brands Alex Salmond an insecure 'creep'


By Tom Gordon - The Herald

UPDATED - Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon

ONE of Alex Salmond’s defence witnesses at his recent trial has described him as an insecure “creep”.

Alex Bell, who was a special adviser to the former First Minister, said Mr Salmond had been cleared of sexual assault charges by effectively arguing “I’m sleazy, but not criminal”.

Mr Bell said: “A married, avowedly Christian man is revealed as a creep.”

Meanwhile one of Mr Salmond’s supporters, the SNP MSP Alex Neil, has said he should be back at Holyrood where he would “enhance the reputation” of the parliament.

Writing in the Courier newspaper, Mr Bell suggested his old boss, driven by insecurity, was now hell-bent on proving he was the victim of a conspiracy, even if it damaged the SNP and Scotland.

He said the party was dividing into two camps, those who support Mr Salmond and those around Nicola Sturgeon, and “the two camps can only tear each other apart”.

He said: “Salmond’s character has already been smeared, by his own defence team. Sturgeon’s is about to be trashed, on a theme of ‘who knew what and when’.”

Mr Salmond was cleared of all 13 sexual assault charges he faced on Monday after a two-week trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

He signalled afterwards he would reveal evidence he could not present in court showing there was a concerted effort to discredit him.

He is now writing a book about what he called the ‘nightmare’ of the past two years.

One of the allegations Mr Salmond faced was that he assaulted a civil servant known as Woman B by grabbing her wrists and attempting to kiss her in Bute House.

Woman B told the court the alleged evening incident was “like wrestling with an octopus”.

Mr Bell, then Mr Salmond’s head of policy, said two other members of the First Minister’s staff asked him to go up to the drawing room as Woman B was alone with Mr Salmond.

Asked by prosecutor Alex Prentice QC why he had gone back upstairs, Mr Bell told the court: “To ensure that the welfare of my colleague was OK”.

The jury returned a not guilty verdict on the charge.

In his article, Mr Bell, a pungent critic of Mr Salmond’s political strategy in the past, said: “When your best defence is ‘I’m sleazy but not criminal’, it’s nothing to smile about.”

Arguing Mr Salmond would now be out for revenge on the Scottish Government, Ms Sturgeon and others he blamed for his situation, he said: “Salmond is driven by a core insecurity which is compensated for by a determination to defeat all comers.

“Why’s he insecure? I’m a writer, not a shrink. What I do know is that he will not step back.

“He’d rather win the argument than be right. Though the two may be confused in his mind.”

He said that as Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon’s respective camps slugged it out, the SNP would look divided.

“Already looking shaky on policy, and weak on independence, they will now be doubted on questions of character and judgement.

“If it weren’t for the unknown virus factor, you could begin to imagine that they won’t win the 2021 Holyrood election.

“That Labour under Keir Starmer might revive. That it’s all over now.

“Salmond’s fightback has begun.”

He added: “In his sights are the majority, governing party the SNP, the Scottish Government, who he may sue for the experience of being falsely accused, and the structure of the state.

“That mouth, so often the source of a barbed remark, or a cheeky grin, is set to start eating Scotland up. He’ll take bites out of everyone if it means he wins the argument.

“He won’t stop, because he can’t, his insecurity drives him to never stop.

“And much as Scotland once swallowed his lines, he now prepares to swallow Scotland.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “It’s a reasonable gauge of Alex Salmond’s character that even his own defence witnesses are laying into him.

“And it seems now the former First Minister is willing to tear the SNP apart simply because he likes the idea of winning.

“This very public civil war within the party of government is the last thing Scotland needs at this moment.”

In a separate development, Mr Neil, who has called for a judge-led inquiry into whether Mr Salmond was the victim of a state conspiracy, said the former FM should return to frontline politics.

Mr Salmond lost his Gordon seat at Westminster in 2017 and resigned from the SNP in August 2018.

Party rules say he must wait until August this year before he can reapply for membership, meaning he would miss the candidate selection process for the 2021 Holyrood election.

The rules also say that because he publicly announced his resignation, his application to rejoin would have to be approved by the SNP’s ruling National Executive Committee.

This is dominated by Ms Sturgeon and her supporters.

Mr Neil and another supporter of Mr Salmond, MP Joanna Cherry QC, have said Mr Salmond should be readmitted to the party he once led as soon as possible.

Mr Neil, a former health secretary, told the Daily Record: “I do not see why Alex should not be back in the party. He was acquitted of all charges. The SNP cannot ignore someone of his talents and achievements. I would be happy for Alex to be back at Holyrood.

“He nearly led Scotland to independence. He would absolutely enhance the reputation of the Parliament. He’s a heavyweight.”