Thursday, 30 April 2020

Salmond's QC Deploys the 'Manuel' Defence

Now here's a remarkable story from The Times in which Alex Salmond's QC claims he was the victim of a 'set-up' before going on to say: 

“I can’t remember the conversation. I’m clearly talking to someone I knew and who knew me but they have never come forward. If it was a pal you would expect them to say, ‘That was me’.”

So let me see if I've got this straight - Gordon Jackson does not deny speaking these words, but he can't remember what he actually did say, where and when the conversation (on a commuter train) took place or the identity of the other person involved.

Just about the only thing Gordon does remember is that he wasn't drunk which is a very strange thing to say, as I don't see what his sobriety, or otherwise, would have to do with anything.

So what this all adds up to, if you ask me, is the classic 'I know nothing' defence made famous by Manuel in Fawlty Towers.

Alex Salmond’s lawyer claims recording of him discussing case was a set-up

Gordon Jackson, QC, will step down as the dean of the Faculty of Advocates in June - JANE BARLOW/PA

By Margaret Taylor - The Times

The leading lawyer who represented Alex Salmond at the former first minister’s sex assault trial has told colleagues that he was the victim of a “deliberate set-up” after being caught on video discussing private details of the case.

Gordon Jackson, QC, who led the successful defence of Mr Salmond against a series of sexual offence allegations, was recorded on a busy Edinburgh to Glasgow train saying that he would put “a smell” on the politician’s accusers. He later announced his intention to step down as head of the Scottish Bar.

In an email sent to all members of the Faculty of Advocates, Mr Jackson, who appeared to name two of Mr Salmond’s accusers in the video despite a court order protecting their identities, said that he had fallen victim to a plot.

Mr Jackson wrote: “It is as yet far from clear what happened on the train. I strongly suspect this was a deliberate set-up but for now it is not clear what was actually said and to whom and in what circumstances. I very much hope this will be established in due course.”

This week Kenny MacAskill, the East Lothian MP who served as justice secretary during Mr Salmond’s tenure in Bute House, said it was “more than accidental” the QC had been caught talking about the case, adding that his “real crime” had been to represent the politician.

In the new issue of the Scottish Left Review, Mr MacAskill wrote: “It certainly seems that, as well as the poison and prejudice of a few, there were other ‘dark forces’ operating.”

The video of Mr Jackson, which was recorded while the case against Mr Salmond was ongoing, was published in The Sunday Times after the trial.

Yesterday Mr Jackson, 71, said that he had no recollection of having the conversation on the train or of who it was with, adding: “I know I wasn’t drunk.”

He acknowledged that he had been discussing Mr Salmond’s accusers by name but said this “wouldn’t be that abnormal” and repeated the claim that he had been set up. “I wasn’t speaking to a stranger on a train but I don’t know who it was,” he said. “I can’t remember the conversation. I’m clearly talking to someone I knew and who knew me but they have never come forward. If it was a pal you would expect them to say, ‘That was me’.”

He added: “I could have been unlucky and it could just have been someone [on the train] but you’d think they would take it to a tabloid, not The Sunday Times. Maybe I’m clutching at straws but I think there’s more to it.”

After the publication of the recording Mr Jackson asked Ruth Crawford, QC, treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates, to refer the matter to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) to determine whether he had committed a disciplinary offence. The SLCC investigation is expected to take up to six months. Mr Jackson, who was once a Labour MSP for Glasgow Govan, has said that he will stand down as dean of the Faculty of Advocates at the end of June.

In his summing up at Mr Salmond’s trial last month Mr Jackson told the jury the charges emanated from within the “political bubble”. The lawyer added: “I can’t prove it but I can smell it”, and concluded that whatever “it” was, it “absolutely stinks”.

Mr Salmond, 65, was cleared of sexually assaulting nine women while he was first minister.

60,207 Dead = "A Great Success Story"

Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is reported in today's press characterising the American Government's response to the Coronavirus pandemic as "a great success story".

Now I can think of lots of ways of describing what's happened in recent months, some good and some bad, but to portray  60,207 deaths as a big success takes some nerve.

More Americans have now died from Covid-19 than the total who lost their lives (58,220) during the 19 years of the Vietnam War. 

Jared Kushner is married to Ivanka Trump who has also been appointed as one of her dad's 'special advisers'.


Unwanted Ivanka (04/07/20)

More great entries to Twittersphere and its 'Unwanted Ivanka' campaign - what a great hoot and so richly deserved!


Unwanted Ivanka (02/07/19)

Twitter is having lots of fun mocking Donald Trump after the President took his daughter Ivanka to the G20 summit of world leaders in Osaka.

Ivanka was filmed trying to 'butt in' to a conversation involving French President Emmanuel Macron, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and IMF Director Christine Lagarde.

Twitter responded magnificently with images of Ivanka 'photo-bombing' lots of other historic occasions - many of which are hilariously funny.

More to follow.


Conspiracies and Dark Forces

Another rumbling SNP volcano suggests that the 13 sexual assault charges brought against Alex Salmond were part of an "orchestrated campaign" by senior people in the Scottish Government and the SNP who wanted the former First Minister's "head on a plate".

Needless to say no names are named in this interview with The Herald, nor is any explanation offered as to which 'dark forces' were operating on the Edinburgh to Glasgow train when Mr Salmond's QC (Gordon Jackson) was caught on video talking about the trail.

Now I thought Kenny McAskill had retired soon after he stood down as a Holyrood MSP, but no - the former justice minster has reinvented himself as a Westminster MP for the seat of East Lothian.

But either way it's a shame to see him joining the ranks of the SNP's cranks and conspiracy theorists.

MacAskill says ‘dark forces’ were at work in Salmond trial

Exclusive by Tom Gordon - The Herald

EXCLUSIVE - Alex Salmond and Gordon Jackson QC

KENNY MacAskill has claimed that “dark forces” were involved in the trial of Alex Salmond.

The former Justice Secretary said there was an “orchestrated campaign” by senior people in the Scottish Government and SNP who wanted Mr Salmond’s head “on a platter”.

He accused prosecutors of pursuing charges that were “utter bunkum”, and the police of mounting an inquiry of “gargantuan proportions” while complaining about tight budgets.

The East Lothian SNP MP also claimed the downfall of Mr Salmond’s lead lawyer, Gordon Jackson QC, may have been part of a wider conspiracy against the former First Minister.

Mr Jackson resigned as Dean of the Faculty of Advocates barely a week after the trial when a video emerged of him reportedly naming two of Mr Salmond’s accusers on a train, despite a court order granting them anonymity for life.

Writing in the new issue of the Scottish Left Review, Mr MacAskill said what happened to the QC seemed “more than accidental” and his “real crime” was representing Mr Salmond.

“It certainly seems that, as well as the poison and prejudice of a few, there were other ‘dark forces’ operating.”

READ MORE: Jim Sillars says SNP may have to be replaced by new independence party

The phrase ‘dark forces’ is sometimes used about the state security services.

It was made famous by former royal butler Paul Burrell, who falsely claimed the Queen said it to him after Princess Diana’s death in 1997.

Labour and the Tories accused Mr MacAskill of paranoia.

Despite releasing Abdelbaset al-Megrahi from jail in 2009, Mr MacAskill claimed Mr Salmond’s trial had a higher profile than the prosecution of the Lockerbie bomber.

He said: “The Alex Salmond case was entirely unprecedented. For sure there have been major Scottish criminal trials from Oscar Slater through Lockerbie to numerous recent ones. But despite the notoriety of many and the horror of their crimes, none had the profile of Alex Salmond.”

Mr MacAskill then compared Mr Salmond to Charles Stewart Parnell, the great Irish nationalist leader felled by an adultery scandal in 1890.

Not since Parnell “had there been the chance to bring down a major figure in an independence movement and no doubt with it to damage the cause.

“The fall-out from it is going to reverberate for some time within the SNP and - as a result - in both the independence movement and Scottish politics as a whole.”

Mr Salmond, 65, was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault after a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh last month, and later suggested he was the victim of a politically motivated plot.

He is now writing a book about the case to reveal evidence which was disallowed in court for legal reasons.

One of his supporters, his former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars, has said the book will be like a “volcanic eruption” for the SNP, and the “rot” in the party may be so bad that the independence movement may need to set up a new party in it place.

In his article, Mr MacAskill claims the criminal case against Mr Salmond was whipped up by government and SNP figures after the former FM humiliated the Scottish Government by winning a civil action against it in 2019, related to a botched sexual misconduct inquiry.

“And so it came to be that it morphed from a civil case into a criminal trial.”

Mr MacAskill said the actions of the Crown and Police Scotland “seemed to offer assistance to one side only rather than acting in the public interest for all”.

He said much of the case against Mr Salmond seemed to be “offered up to Police Scotland on a platter by senior government and SNP sources; a prelude for the head they ultimately wanted to see placed upon it.

READ MORE: The Alex Salmond trial is over but backlash yet to come

“Senior government and SNP sources sought to offer up, if not conjure up, even more evidence.

“Despite all these super sleuths assisting a police investigation before and during it, that seemed never to be questioned by Police. They seemed to treat it as the Gospel truth rather than evidence that required to be investigated given its source.

“Nor did they put any constraints upon the resources expended. Despite occurring at a time when that organisation was pleading potential financial ruin, reducing officers and complaining of insufficient resource to do the day job, an enquiry of gargantuan proportions was unleashed.

“The country was scoured from top to bottom, hundreds were interviewed. His entire adult life of over 40 years seemed trawled over.

“As a defence agent of 20 years standing and a former Justice Secretary in the Scottish Government, I’ve known major police enquiries but never of such magnitude other than for the most heinous of crimes and dangerous of offenders. Despite all that, what they turned up was pretty flimsy, indeed, and so it was ultimately seen by the jury.

“I also had chats along the way with very senior police sources who told me how poor they thought the case was. Yet despite that and in all those circumstances, on Police Scotland plodded still.

“Some charges were utter bunkum and the likes of which I’ve never seen in 40 years involvement in the courts; and certainly not in the High Court.”

He went on: “The poison that had flowed before and even during the trial has continued unabated. Amongst their victims was Gordon Jackson QC whose real ‘crime’ seems to have been to have represented Salmond.

“Moreover, the manner in which he was brought down seems more than accidental, and yet was matched by a few other incidents during the case. It certainly seems that, as well as the poison and prejudice of a few, there were other ‘dark forces’ operating.”

The phrase ‘dark forces’ was used by Paul Burrell in 2002.

He told a tabloid newspaper that the Queen had looked him in the eye and said: “There are powers at work in this country about which we have no knowledge.”

The claim fuelled conspiracy theories about foul play in the Paris car crash that killed Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed.

Mr Burrell later said the Queen had never used the phrase “dark forces” after all.

Mr MacAskill is scathing about the press, who he says relished a criminal case that provided “a bounty never before been seen by the Scottish media”.

Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray said: “Those who believe in ‘dark forces’ are usually found in the murky depths of social media promoting conspiracy theories, not on the green benches of the Commons.

“Kenny MacAskill is a former Justice Secretary and sitting MP and should remember that was elected to champion the people of East Lothian, not his former party leader.”

Tory MSP Annie Wells said: “The former justice secretary’s intervention in this case is particularly unwelcome. The paranoid reference to ‘dark forces’ is hardly befitting of a former Justice Secretary and sitting MP.

“Quite what Mr MacAskill’s motivation is for this relentless and embarrassing defence of his former boss remains a mystery.

“It certainly shows that the rift within the SNP is deeper than ever.”

The Scottish Government and SNP were asked for comment.

Barks, Bites and Volcanoes (29/04/20)

The leadership of the SNP must be trembling in their boots at the bellicose language used by Jim Sillars (86) who is warning that the fall-out from the Alex Salmond affair might result in a new independence party. 

Apparently, Mr Salmond is writing an explosive book about  the circumstances surrounding his trial in the High Court on 13 sexual assault charges.

According to Mr Sillars (86) this will result in a "volcanic eruption", "a tempest of scorn" and will pave the way "for a complete clear-out of the highest levels of the party before it is again fit to lead".

I have to say I'll believe it when I see it, but warming to his theme, in an exclusive interview with The Herald, Mr Sillars explained how the SNP has lost its way: 

“The cult of personality, the obsessive desire of leaders for complete control of the membership and parliamentarians, the growth of a clique of acolytes, one-person rule - there has been a rot growing at the heart of this organisation for years.”

Now I don't know how many years Jim believes this 'cult of personality' has been around, but as an interested observer of Scottish politics for some time I would say that, if anything, this was worse during Alex Salmond's time as party leader.

If you ask me, these dire threats sound a bit like Rangers FC and their 'secret dossier' of alleged wrongdoing at the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) - in that its bark is likely to be much worse than its bite.

Jim Sillars says SNP may have to be replaced by new independence party

By Tom Gordon - The Herald

EXCLUSIVE - Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon

THE SNP is so rotten it may have to be replaced by a new independence party, its former deputy leader has said.

Jim Sillars said Alex Salmond’s recent trial and acquittal had shown there was a need “for a complete clear-out of the highest levels of the party before it is again fit to lead”.

However the extent of this “rot” could require the independence movement “to set up something new, untainted, in its place”, he said.

Mr Salmond was cleared of 13 sexual assault charges at the High Court in Edinburgh last month, and suggested he had been the victim of a politically-motivated conspiracy.

His backers blame people at the top of the Scottish Government and SNP.

In the forthcoming issue of the Scottish Left Review, Mr Sillars says the book which Mr Salmond is now writing about his case will be like a “volcanic eruption” for the SNP.

Its revelations “will gladden unionist hearts”, and “a tempest of scorn will sweep down on and over on the independence movement”.

However he also predicts the tempest will run its course, and the movement will endure and triumph.

Mr Sillars was deputy to Mr Salmond when he was SNP leader in the 1990s.

He has previously said Mr Salmond shared informatiion about his case with him in advance of the trial which pointed to a conspiracy against him.

Although this was not produced in court for legal reasons - the judge ruled it could lead to the trial straying off course - the former First Minister now intends to make it public in his book.

Mr Sillars said: “The criminal trial of Alex Salmond may be over, but the trial of the SNP both at party and parliamentary level is yet to begin.

“It is unavoidable.

“The book he is writing, with the material he was not allowed to produce at trial, but which has all the authenticity of Scottish government and SNP party documents, will be like a volcano going off underneath some people. Some whose identities I and others know, but cannot name, must tremble at the prospect of what is to come.

“There could be another police investigation, this time not into Alex Salmond.”

Turning to the political consequences, he goes on: “For the rest of us, it is the effect of that coming volcanic eruption on the SNP as a party, as the electoral wing of the independence movement, that matters.

“Not being in the Salmond camp, but in the SNP, and having devoted the major part of my political life to the cause of independence, I see a need for a complete clear-out of the highest levels of the party before it is again fit to lead.

“The cult of personality, the obsessive desire of leaders for complete control of the membership and parliamentarians, the growth of a clique of acolytes, one-person rule - there has been a rot growing at the heart of this organisation for years.”

In the most extraordinary passage in his article, Mr Sillars suggests the 86-year-old SNP may no longer be fit for purpose and have to be replaced.

He wrote: “The independence movement is not just the SNP, but the movement as a whole has much invested in the party as the instrument to achieve democratic success.

READ MORE: Opinion: Tom Gordon: What is left of the prospectus for independence after Covid?

“As the rot is uncovered, the temptation - already being thought of by some - will be to set up something new, untainted, in its place.

“That might need to be done if the damage to come proves fatal. I hope not, because it is not easy to replace and fill the electoral space of a long established organisation.

“I speak from experience of an attempt to do so in the mid- to late 1970s with the Scottish Labour Party.

“It is better to cleanse a sword than to discard it, in the hope of finding another. But if the sword cannot be cleansed enough … well … we shall see.

“There is enormous strength, and ability, in the independence movement.

“Whatever direction is taken, it will eventually succeed.”

Labour MP Ian Murray, the shadow Scottish Secretary, said: “The SNP civil war is a ticking timebomb that puts the interests of Scotland last.

“The nationalists have spent so long trying to divide the people of Scotland, it appears they now want to divide themselves as well.

“When the coronavirus crisis is over, the idea that people in Scotland will want to go back to the business-as-usual politics of constitutional division is laughable.

“As we all seek to deal with the long-term impact of coronavirus, we need to work together to focus on what matters: our NHS; our communities; people’s incomes; and the economy.”

A Scottish Tory spokesman said: “While Scotland struggles to fight a terrifying public health crisis, the SNP is in the grip of a bitter and acrimonious feud among its biggest egos.

“Salmond’s backers have made themselves known from the start - it’s no surprise to see they are now out for what they see as revenge.

“With senior SNP figures now questioning the existence of the party, the SNP is irrevocably split from top to bottom.”

LibDem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: said: “The SNP are clearly plumbing new depths of internal turmoil when their own former deputy leader is suggesting that a new party may be necessary.” The SNP was asked for comment yesterday.

400-Year-Old Bonsai Tree

Apparently this bonsai tree in the United States National Arboretum in Washington DC was planted in 1625 which means the tree is now 395 years old.

Here's a link to the US National Arboretum.


Dad and Uncle Bob

Here's an old photo of my dad and his brother Bob holding a new puppy - alongside their mum and dad, I suspect.

I never met my paternal grandmother, as far as I know, so I'm just guessing although there's no mistaking my dad and his young brother Bob with whom he left Scotland in the 1950s to make a new life in North America.


Glasgow's 'Essential' Fishermen

Here's a group of four 'youngish' Glasgow men on the banks of the River Clyde just a stone' throw from Police Scotland's headquarters at Riverside East.

I'm sure under questioning from Scotland's finest these four would insist they are essential workers although at  the time I have to admit there was a surprising absence of fishing gear.


Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Masks On, Masks Off vs 'Do What You Want'

The Scottish Government's advice on face masks is now essentially the same as Donald Trump's: officially we are in favour of 'Masks On', but also everyone is free to do what they Goddam well please.

Now I know that wearing face masks is not a substitute for hand washing, or social distancing (where possible) and that the availability of mass testing might be a game changer going forward (though not now).

But in the meantime I can't see people putting up with such a 'facing both ways' policy as public transport gets underway again, for example on busy commuter trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh or on the London Tube.

Masks are at their most effective when worn by people who are already infected because they prevent the virus being spread by unprotected coughing and sneezing.

But some people who have the virus have no symptoms, so how is anyone meant to know who's who?  

Another more practical issue is where do people get these masks from because at the moment non-surgical, re-usable, washable masks made from cloth are not easy to buy?


Coronavirus in Scotland: Face coverings recommended in shops and public transport

Coronavirus in Scotland: Face coverings recommended in shops and public transport

SCOTS should consider wearing face coverings when they visit shops or use public transport to protect against coronavirus, the Scottish Government has said.

New guidance suggests "there may be some benefit" to coverings such as scarves in enclosed spaces.

But Nicola Sturgeon said the coverings were not being made mandatory due to the relatively weak evidence around them.

At Westminster, the UK Government's expert advisory group SAGE has come to its recommendation on the use of face masks and coverings and has handed it to Boris Johnson and his colleagues but as yet there has been no announcement of a decision. One could come later this week.

The guidance, published on the Scottish Government website, says: "Physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, are the most important and effective measures we can all adopt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"Therefore the wearing of facial coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions.

"The evidence on the use of face coverings is limited but there may be some benefit in wearing a facial covering when you leave the house and enter enclosed spaces, especially where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people you do not usually meet.

"Examples include, traveling on public transport or entering a food shop where it is not always possible to maintain a two metre distance from another customer.

"There is no evidence to suggest there might be a benefit outdoors, unless in an unavoidable crowded situation, where there may be some benefit

"As some people can have the virus but experience no symptoms (asymptomatic infection), wearing a face covering in the situations outlined above may provide some level of protection against transmission to other people in close proximity.

"However, it remains the case that anyone with symptoms and all members of their household (whether they have symptoms or not), must self-isolate and adhere to the guidance on individual and household isolation on NHS Inform.

"By face coverings we do not mean the wearing of a surgical or other medical grade mask but a facial covering of the mouth and nose, that is made of cloth or other textiles and through which you can breathe, for example a scarf.

"When applying or removing the covering, it is important that you wash your hands first and avoid touching your face.

"After each use, you must wash the face covering at 60 degrees centigrade or dispose of safely.

"Face coverings should not be used for children under the age of two years.

"We are recommending that you consider using face coverings in the limited circumstances described above as a precautionary measure.

"Given that the evidence of impact on transmission is relatively weak, the public use of facial coverings is not being made mandatory and will not be enforced at this stage.

"However, we will keep this guidance under ongoing review as we consider any easing of lockdown restrictions in the weeks ahead."

Meanwhile, Downing St hinted that the UK Government might soon follow suit south of the border on guidance on face coverings in public places.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said SAGE, the expert group advising Whitehall on the pandemic, had drawn up advice and this had been given to UK ministers. “Once any decision has been reached, we will announce it publicly.”

Asked if the First Minister’s announcement was helpful to the four-nation strategy to the outbreak and if it signalled a growing divergence of approach to it between Scotland and England, the spokesman said: “There have been points in the response so far where announcements have been made at ever so slightly different times but by and large we have moved forward with a single four-nations’ approach.

“The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all said this seems to be the case and we would agree with that and we continue to work closely with them.”

It was pointed out how Ms Sturgeon had been a few hours ahead of London when she announced school closures, did that mean the UK Government would be following suit later today on the issue of wearing face coverings in public places, the spokesman was asked.

“I’m not expecting anything today, no,” he replied.

Trump Is A Terrible President (06/04/20)

Donald Trump is a giant dumbass, as everyone knows, but that's still no excuse for him to be defying the advice about wearing a face mask from his own Government and medical advisers.

Coronavirus: Trump to defy 'voluntary' advice for Americans to wear masks

Media caption - Trump doesn't see face mask necessary behind 'the great Resolute desk'

US President Donald Trump has said he will not wear a face mask despite new medical guidance advising Americans to do so.

He could not see himself greeting "presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens" in the Oval Office while wearing one, he said. 

He stressed that the guidance released on Friday was "voluntary".

"You do not have to do it," he said. "I don't think I'm going to be doing it."

The guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government's public health advisory agency, came as the US reported more than 1,100 deaths in a single day - the highest total for a 24-hour period anywhere in the world.

The US has so far confirmed 278,458 cases of Covid-19 and more than 7,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

New York state remains the worst affected area, with nearly 3,000 deaths, and state governor Andrew Cuomo has appealed for help from other parts of the country.

Image copyright - GETTY IMAGES Image caption - New York CIty Mayor Bill de Blasio has already recommended all New Yorkers wear facial coverings

Until now, US health authorities had said that only the sick, or those caring for patients of coronavirus, should wear masks, but newer studies suggest that covering up one's face is important to prevent inadvertent transmission.

"From recent studies we know that the transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood," Mr Trump said on Friday.

However, he told reporters after announcing the CDC's new guidance: "I just don't want to do it myself."

"Sitting in the Oval Office... I somehow don't see it for myself."

Americans are now advised to use clean cloth or fabric to cover their faces whilst in public. Officials have stressed that medical masks remain in short supply, and should be left for healthcare workers.

The guidance comes as the number of cases globally climbs past one million.

Media caption - How Trump's attitude toward coronavirus has shifted

What else did the president say?

Mr Trump announced the CDC's guidance at the White House daily coronavirus briefing, but repeatedly emphasised that the advisory was "voluntary".

"You don't have to do it," he said. "I'm choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it and that's OK. It may be good. Probably will."

Asked why, he said: "I just don't want to be doing [that], somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful resolute desk, the great Resolute Desk."

"I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know somehow I don't see it for myself. I just don't. Maybe I'll change my mind."

The president was pressed on US disease readiness, the federal government stimulus package, and whether the pandemic will disrupt the 2020 presidential election on 3 November.

Mr Trump insisted that his government's response has saved lives, and that the election will not be delayed.

The president - without a mask

Why won't the president wear a mask?

That's what I wanted to know - especially after he had laid out new guidelines by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials during a briefing: people should wear cloth masks when they go outside. The CDC recommendations, a list that ranges from social distancing to hand-washing, help flatten the curve, according to members of the White House task force on coronavirus.

Yet the president said he would not put on a mask: he said it would not look right for him to wear one in the Oval Office.

I thought that sounded vain, and I pressed him on the matter, asking him to explain more fully why he would not wear a mask in the midst of a pandemic.

He smiled. "I was just tested," he said. "I assume I don't have the virus so I don't have to worry about spreading it."

For him, the matter has been resolved. For many others, it has not been. They want to do everything they can to stop the disease and, unlike the president, they will put on masks.

What's the debate over masks? 

Covid-19 is carried in airborne droplets from people coughing or sneezing, but there is some dispute over how far people should distance themselves from each other, and whether masks are useful when used by the public.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that ordinary face masks are only effective if combined with careful hand-washing and social distancing, and so far it does not recommend them generally for healthy people.

However, more and more health experts now say there are benefits. They argue that the public use of masks can primarily help by preventing asymptomatic patients - people who have been infected with Covid-19 but are not aware, and not displaying any symptoms - from unknowingly spreading the virus to others.

Masks may also help lower the risk of individuals catching the virus through the droplets from another person's sneeze or a cough - and people can be taught how put masks on and take them off correctly, they argue.

Speaking at Friday's briefing, Surgeon General Jerome Adams acknowledged that the US guidance had changed, based on growing awareness that Covid-19 can be transmitted by asymptomatic people "coughing, sneezing or speaking".

Local officials in New York City and Los Angeles had already urged residents to cover their faces when outside and near others.

And on Thursday, officials in Laredo, Texas, issued an emergency ordinance which means residents will face a $1,000 (£815) fine if they fail to cover their noses and mouths while outside.

However, there is also disagreement among experts over the benefits of using cloth masks. European advisers say reusable cloth masks are not recommended and may even increase the chance of infection.

Court for Salmond Cheerleader

One of Alex Salmond's biggest cheerleaders on social media, a chap called Craig Murray, has been charged with contempt of court,

I can't say I'm surprised, but I wonder if Craig will attempt to crowdfund his legal costs given previous efforts at crowdfunding his own blog - see post below dated 05 April 2020.

I suppose Alex Salmond himself might step into the breach since the legal costs of his appearance at the Court of Session were reimbursed, so presumably the 'Alex Salmond Defence Fund' raised by crowdfunded donations remains intact.  

Ex-diplomat Craig Murray charged over Alex Salmond trial

Alex Salmond, the former first minister, was cleared of all charges at the High Court in Edinburgh - Photo 

By Kieran Andrews - The Times

A former British diplomat has been charged with contempt of court after writing blogs about the trial of Alex Salmond. Proceedings had started against Craig Murray, a former ambassador to Uzbekistan, the Crown Office confirmed.

Mr Salmond, the former first minister, was cleared of all charges at the High Court in Edinburgh after nine women accused him of sexual assault, including an attempted rape.

It is a criminal offence to publish the identities of the women after a court order was made by Lady Dorrian during the trial. Mr Murray attended two days of the trial in the public gallery and on each day produced blogs of the proceedings. He had been declined access as a member of the media.

Alex Salmond and Conspiracy Theorists (05/04/20)

One of Alex Salmond's biggest cheerleaders on social media is a chap called Craig Murray who seems to have taken a leaf out of his hero's book with a new crowdfunding initiative - in Craig's case to fund his blog.

But the Daily Record's Paul Hutcheon can spot a good story when he sees one and in the piece below Paul explains that while Craig has put out the 'begging bowl' to finance his seemingly endless conspiracy theories - the former UK diplomat bought a nine-bedroomed mansion just two years ago without the need for a mortgage.

Blogger who believes state tried to frame Alex Salmond asking for donations after buying £600k mansion

Craig Murray, a former UK diplomat, splashed out on the nine-bedroom pad in Edinburgh two years ago.

By Paul Hutcheon - Daily Record

A notorious blogger who is asking punters for donations bought a £600,000 gated mansion without needing a mortgage.  

Craig Murray, who believes the state tried to frame Alex Salmond, splashed out on the nine-bedroom pad in Edinburgh two years ago. 

However, the 61-year-old is now asking readers for £100 a month to keep his “conspiracy” blog going.  

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “There are people in the wackier reaches of the Nationalist movement who see the footsoldiers as folk who can fund their hare-brained conspiracy theories.  


A house purchased by Craig Murray in Edinburgh two years ago (Image: Daily Record)

Murray has claimed “corrupt” institutions conspired against the former First Minister and insists the former First Minister's female accusers lied.

He also wrote about having “definite good source information” about MI5’s involvement in the Salmond allegations - a claim that led to him being mocked.

On his website, he flagged up a “change of policy” for his blog which involves seeking donations.

He explained: “I am no longer in a position to devote my time to it without income – the need to earn a living caused the blog to go dark for almost five months last year, and the last six weeks this journalism has stopped me doing anything else to pay the rent.”

Readers have the option of subscribing to his blog, with contributions of between £2 and £100 a month accepted.

However, despite Murray’s cash plea, official documents confirm he is asset rich.

Official documents show he bought a huge house in the south of Edinburgh in 2018. No mortgage is on the property, which was purchased for £607,500.

It was described online in 2018 as an “impressive 8/9 bedroom detached house”, which has been the subject of a “substantial extension”.

Alex Salmond was cleared at the High Court in Edinburgh (Image: PA)

Four of the bedrooms were listed as en-suite and the property also boasted a gym, “gated driveway” and an “integral double garage”.

After being contacted by this newspaper, Murray said he bought the “uninhabitable” property in Edinburgh after selling a home in England.

He said his blog is his only source of current income.

He added: “I have continually stressed that I do not want anybody to subscribe if it causes them the slightest financial difficulty.

"You do not have to subscribe - the site is free to read.”

We Need To Talk About Alex 7 (01/04/20)

Paul Hutcheon, the Daily Record's political editor, takes a well-deserved swipe at the absurd conspiracy theories being promoted by Alex Salmond's supporters.   

"If SNP politicians can find time to tweet about ducks and football, it should be possible to find a few seconds to comment on the biggest crisis facing the party in decades.'

I agree, I have to say, because in my experience SNP politicians tend to keep their heads down out on controversial or divisive issues, equal pay for example, instead of standing up and speaking their minds.

Just the other day Glasgow City Council announced  plans for yet another round of redundancies which was met with complete silence by Glasgow's constituency MSPs and MPs - all of whom represent the SNP in either the Holyrood and Westminster parliaments.


Alex Salmond trial witnesses deserve better from the SNP

Daily Record Political Editor Paul Hutcheon says the lack of public support for the female complainants by SNP parliamentarians is startling

By Paul Hutcheon - Daily Record

THE statement from the nine female complainants in the Alex Salmond trial was powerful and timely. 

After he was acquitted of sexual offences charges, Salmond made a series of comments outside the High Court that were widely reported in the media. 

No such platform was realistically available to the women, who had to endure endless post-trial coverage in what would have been the worst week of their lives.

Their collective statement addressed the troubling behaviour Salmond’s defence admitted to in court, but which did not lead to a conviction.

It also repeated the view there had been no credible way of complaining at the time about a “powerful figure” like Salmond.

The press release was a reminder of how the days after the trial were portrayed through the lens of Salmond, not the women.

Public debate was dominated by SNP politicians congratulating Salmond, calling for him to be readmitted to the party, and airing the claim he had been the victim of a political conspiracy.

I, like many others in my trade, reported on these comments. SNP divisions are a legitimate story.

However, during these turbulent days I also spoke to SNP figures who were gutted for the women.

They know how hard it is to put yourself through the vagaries of the criminal justice system. They realise the anguish involved in giving evidence in a courtroom.

They are nauseated by the nature of Salmond’s defence and agree with former special adviser Alex Bell’s description of the former First Minister as a “creep”.

Yet, despite their private sympathy for the female witnesses, very few expressed public solidarity. The number of MSPs and MPs who have said anything is startlingly small.

In a lawyerly statement, Nicola Sturgeon restricted herself to saying the verdict "must be respected".

Dealing with the Coronavirus crisis is understandably the top priority, but it should not preclude commenting on other issues of vital public importance.

If SNP politicians can find time to tweet about ducks and football, it should be possible to find a few seconds to comment on the biggest crisis facing the party in decades.

Debunking the absurd notion of an internal SNP conspiracy against Salmond would be a noble place to start.

According to Salmond’s allies, some of the allegations were cooked up by SNP figures who were trying to thwart a political comeback.

This is baloney. In 2018 - when police started their investigation - Salmond was a former politician who had tarnished himself by fronting a show on the Putin-linked RT.

He was, to put it charitably, a spent political force. The chances of this damaged figure returning to Holyrood were nil.

It should also be noted that some of the complainants do not know each other’s identities. Not exactly a robust basis for a conspiracy.

If SNP politicians feel uneasy about the trial, now is the time to speak out.