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.

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