What's going on with Alex Salmond and the SNP?
March 3, 2021 6:05 AM   Subscribe

Ok, I'm trying to follow what is going on with Alex Salmond and the SNP, but I'm not sure I'm getting it right. Can someone Scottish explain to me if this is as dodgy as it seems to be?

From what I can gather, Salmond was accused of sexual harassment. There was a trial. He wasn't convicted. He is now reaping revenge by making a conspiracy out of a technical mistake made during the trial. He may bring down the SNP and jeopardize a future Independence vote in the process.

This seems... mad. Am I missing something important? How do people in Scotland view it? Is there actually something serious that Nicola Sturgeon has done, or is this a Scottish version of missing emails?

I'd almost like to learn that there is some crucial part of the puzzle I'm missing.
posted by EllaEm to Law & Government (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Best answer: As a person in Scotland, I view it as petty political sniping trying to take down Sturgeon and I am infuriated they are wasting time and space on this nonsense in the middle of a pandemic.

I know zero other people who give any fucks at all, even the people who don't actually like sturgeon don't care.
posted by stillnocturnal at 6:39 AM on March 3, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Also in Scotland, also tired of the whole thing, not really following (or much interested in) the minutiae. Never could stand Alex Salmond and have no doubt he's a creep, who genuinely thinks he's a vastly important individual who must fight to the death to defend his public reputation, even at the expense of the independence cause he devoted most of his life to.

I think - though wouldn't swear by it - that your summary is roughly accurate, except he's not even quibbling about a mistake during the trial, it's a mistake made during a Parliamentary investigation. Could be wrong on that, though, it's just picked up from the bits I have to sit through on Reporting Scotland every day to get to the actual news. The big deal being that if Nicola Sturgeon is found to have breached the ministerial code, she'd generally be expected to resign.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, we’re getting a brain-dead unionist attempt to follow the US Republican “Benghazi!/But Her Emails!” playbook without any actual corpses or incriminating emails (pay no attention to the unconvicted possible-rapist the BBC and Tory media are defending).

Not sure what the unionists have got to do with it, this seems very much like the SNP eating the SNP. But then I've also never heard of Charles Stross, so can't really put that tweet in context. A quick glance at his feed suggests he's an Indy supporter who's busy criticising the Tories for carping from the sidelines as if this is all their fault, while conveniently ignoring the fact that this is absolutely an SNP vs SNP fight.
posted by penguin pie at 7:10 AM on March 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

I asked some Scottish friends a similar question, and one said "well the media might be trying to undermine them?". I'm not sure there's much spin the media could put on this, though - it does very much seem to be the SNP airing their grievances with one another in public, jeopardising the best chance at independence, their main goal, they've had in years. Like the OP, if I'm missing something I'd be interested to hear it.
posted by altolinguistic at 8:24 AM on March 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

The latest episode of The Guardian's Today in Focus podcast covers this, and it made things *much* clearer for me!
posted by thetarium at 8:54 AM on March 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

My perception is that while the unionist parties may not be responsible for the crisis/scandal/storm-in-a-teacup, they are doing their absolute level best to amplify it, aided by the right-wing press, mainly to boost their dismal chances in the Scottish elections coming up in May.

This is especially galling because there have been dozens of examples of ministers down south breaking the ministerial code, including the Prime Minister, but not a single one of them has resigned. So it's rank hypocrisy, opportunism and chutzpah.

I have no idea what Salmond or any of his backers think they're doing though. As far as I can tell it's a mixture of quivering indignation at being called to account at all, misogyny and ego. I was never his biggest fan but respected his commitment to his cause. But that's gone by the board now. He seems determined to turn himself into a slightly less hateful version of George Galloway.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:00 AM on March 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is also (partly) a fight between Old SNP and New SNP. Old SNP was blokey and exclusionary. New SNP is diverse and welcoming. Although Salmond ushered in the New SNP era, he's a product of the old SNP, has a colossal ego, wants to be the one remembered for getting Indy, but was subject to an informal protocol where he shouldn't have been left alone with women in govt buildings. So he fears cancellation.

The UK press and Westminster loves this because the only thing they want to see is the SNP fail.
posted by scruss at 9:52 AM on March 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

British, but not Scottish, here.

Nicola Sturgeon stands accused of breaking the ministerial code by lying to the Scottish parliament about what she did and didn't know about the sexual assault and rape accusations against Alex Salmond. That lying is the bit that might force her to resign. It is roughly analogous to Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman" - her supporters will play it down, her enemies will play it up. Is it serious enough for make her resign? That depends on which political party's spin doctor you listen to. Technically yes, it is a serious breach and she (or anyone else in her position) should resign, but the chances of her (or anyone else in her position) doing that are remote.

However, this has nothing to do with unionists, the Torys, Labour, or anyone else; it is SNP vs SNP, and part of that is airing their dirty laundry in public. The dirty laundry part, which also has legal ramifications but is primarily the "eating popcorn and enjoying if you like this sort of thing" part, is what her and the SNP Chief Executive, Peter Murrell, have done to potentially ensure that Alex Salmond was either convicted or at least smeared enough that he couldn't be a threat to her. This is made more salacious by the fact that Murrell is Nicola Sturgeon's husband.

It doesn't hurt that (outside of Scotland at least) Salmond is seen as a sleaze, and Sturgeon's visceral hatred of the English is inspiring to the centre left but is seen as xenophobia and racism by the centre right, so there's plenty of material for journos to work with. (I'm not making a judgement on either of them when I say this, just explaining how and why it's being covered so gleefully by the press - it's an absolute soap opera full of very big characters.)

No matter what, the SNP will walk the next Holyrood elections because neither the Tories or Labour have got much traction in Scotland, so it won't make much difference even in the unlikely event that Sturgeon resigns. But it's a proper Shakespearean war within basically the only party in Scottish politics.
posted by underclocked at 10:15 AM on March 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

TLDR did a good review of the facts behind the scandal. British resident, not living in Scotland, but I have been following Scottish politics for years - personally I can't believe Salmond is doing what he is doing, I have no idea what he thinks he can gain by this other than revenge. I used to have a lot of respect for him, it is all gone now, clearly he cares more for himself than the cause he supposedly championed for so long
posted by foleypt at 10:52 AM on March 3, 2021

As you may have gathered from the range of responses here, a lot of this depends on the lens you view the world through.

To some, Nicola Sturgeon is a dangerous ethnonationalist with a ‘visceral hatred of the English’ trying to set up a Neo-Maoist one party state.

To others, she’s a decent centre left politician with a refreshingly human style who is getting dogpiled by the media and some fairly desperate opposition politicians.

The truth is probably somewhere between those two points but it is likely closer to the latter than the former.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:52 AM on March 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

if Nicola Sturgeon is found to have breached the ministerial code, she'd generally be expected to resign.

Meanwhile the PM lies to us on the daily and was happy to break international law over brexit but somehow nobody is expecting him to resign.
posted by Lanark at 1:14 PM on March 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

There are elections for the Scottish Parliament coming up in May ; the SNP are standing on a platform of a majority equals a mandate for a 2nd Referendum ,the unionist block of parties looking like they are on a bit of a hiding and the First Minister's reputation is golden due to the way she has handled at least the PR aspects of C19. In the context of all this , there seems to be a bit of a push to take the SNP down a peg or 2 in the unionist media and play politics with the Salmond situation.

There are those in the Conservative (Scottish Branch) who are happy to call for the FM's resignation while ignoring the fiasco that is happening in the Conservative (English Branch) around the questionable issuing of contracts and the apparent untouchability of the mediocre.

Anyway , its a drama in a political bubble as far as my experience here goes , Salmond's ego is bruised and he's lashing out , there may be a case for the FM to answer , but realistically its being seized on for political ends by the opponents of the SNP while everyone i have spoken to and the mood in my Scottish orbit is "who cares" ...

Disclaimer* I am not a huge fan of the SNP , but I am supportive of independence
posted by burr1545 at 1:27 PM on March 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am Scottish and living in Edinburgh and I know it's not useful but can I just chime in with an AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!

I voted no to independance in the last referendum, largely because, at the time, there were some strong arguments that we (Scotland) would not be able to be in the EU. Well, look how that worked out (sob). I was wrong. I also thought some of the economic outlooks were a bit wobbly (based on real data from my work in the energy sector). I also like my MP at a local level (the sole Labour MP left in Scotland!). There's an interesting point here in that my partner was proved right - she always said that she never liked Salmond, and although she liked Sturgeon in principle, who would come after?

However, given the absolute shower of sh*tes that make up the current Westminter government I am personally moving towards Scottish independance, and, like many above, I think Sturgeon is a principled, decent person. I have certainly trusted her much more during the pandemic, as have many others.

I feel like this whole thing is a distraction and so typical of political infighting when there is, are MUCH BIGGER PROBLEMS - i.e. the death of 120 000 people in the UK under the Tories in England and the gutting of the UK because of the absolute insanity of Brexit. I used to think SNP supporters were overdoing it when they claimed bias by the media, but, honestly, Tories have been found ACTUALLY guilty of breaking the law and there was barely a blip. And the Scottish Tories have lept on it as a blatant way to try and gain power.

And of course, that doesn't even touch on the sexual assualt accusations and powerful men like Salmond.

It feels very disheartening and depressing but I hold out some hope that, as mentioned above in the thread, that most folk don't really care and that perhaps this whole thing won't mess up our future. I grew up in the NE of Scotland when that was the homeland of the SNP and there was a fair amount of anti-English sentiment. However, I would honestly say that most Scots I know (bubble of middle-class academic/public servant/English and Europeans ) largely prefer the SNP because of their stance on the EU and general left of centre policies (lots of caveats I know).

So yeah, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH, but thanks for asking the question. The other answers have been useful too.
posted by sedimentary_deer at 1:57 PM on March 3, 2021 [9 favorites]

Sturgeon's visceral hatred of the English

… uh, what?
posted by scruss at 5:09 PM on March 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The SNP and wider Yes movement have a nasty transphobic, social conservative, anti-MeToo, pro-Putinist fringe who are an out-of-touch minority of yesterday's men and women, and they are very Trump-like with their liking for conspiracy theory. Unfortunately Alex Salmond (now an ex-SNP member) and his ally Joanna Cherry plus the well-known hate blogger who lives in Bath belong to it. After it became clear that Nicola Sturgeon wouldn't help Salmond get off, it seems he turned on her and used a couple of cock-ups in procedure to go after her.

It is indeed a Scottish 'but her emails!'

Salmond and his supporters claimed the women who brought the accusations were part of a conspiracy against him. His supporters keep trying to out them.

Despite the dangers of the faction behind it, the Scottish unionist parties have jumped on the bandwagon, not caring about the damage they do by siding with toxic social conservative misogynists. It's now weirdly impossible to tell the old "cybernats" of this faction from extreme unionist posters online except by looking at the flags in their handles. They are all consumed with hatred of Nicola Sturgeon who is basically a very competent female centre left progressive politician. That the TERFs have sided with Salmond tells you what is going on here. It's social conservatives plus opportunists trying to bring her down.

In conclusion, misogyny is one hell of a drug.
posted by Flitcraft at 5:22 PM on March 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

>Not sure what the unionists have got to do with it, this seems very much like the SNP eating the SNP. But then I've also never heard of Charles Stross, so can't really put that tweet in context. A quick glance at his feed suggests he's an Indy supporter who's busy criticising the Tories for carping from the sidelines as if this is all their fault, while conveniently ignoring the fact that this is absolutely an SNP vs SNP fight.
That's MetaFilter's own cstross, a noted Scottish author. From the south side of the border the Unionists' angle looks a lot like "let's you and them fight" hoping to say some time "a house divided against itself can't stand."
posted by k3ninho at 12:43 AM on March 4, 2021

Best answer: So I currently live in England but I grew up in Aberdeen, heart of Alex Salmond's political power base. I was too young but my parents certainly knew Alex Salmond at the time.

I have the advantage of seeing UK politics without getting the brain rot that comes from caring too much about them but also... the disadvantage that I don't care about them enough. Make of that what you will.

First, while Alex Salmond was accused or sexual assault, not just harassment. These were really very serious allegations.

In 2018 he resigned following the accusations coming out. As the accusations dated to the period when he was first minister, the Scottish Government investigated. There were some serious mistakes made in how this investigation was conducted which led to the government having to pay his legal expenses. In particular appointing an investigating officer who had prior knowledge was not appropriate.

There was subsequently a prosecution, he was acquitted. Many of the things that came out during the trial, acquittal or not were very unpleasant. The very best that could perhaps be believed by a reasonable person about him is that he isn't a rapist, just a serial sexual harasser, abuser of authority, and nasty sex pest. Of course one is also free to believe that at least some of those women were telling the truth and he is a rapist. That's probably my inclination. Things like there being informal policies to not leave him alone with young women. Not a great guy it's clear.

He is clearly a deeply spiteful man who is furious that Sturgeon didn't try and protect him. Scruss said it upthread, the old SNP was a very blokey party that was in some ways not inaccurately called the Tartan Tories. A party that thought the way Scotland was run was just fine, except for the fact that they wanted to be doing the running. There are elements of this faction (which does not include Joanna Cherry? Don't know where the idea of her as part of this comes from) who had and have a proprietorial view of the SNP and to some extent of Scotland as a whole. Alex Salmond therefore feels personally aggrieved and betrayed by "his" party and is determined to do as much damage as possible to Sturgeon and to the party on his way out of politics forever.

It should be noted that the only credible allegations against Sturgeon are that she mis-stated when she first knew about the allegations. That's not great, maybe it should be a resigning matter but it actually falls very much into the same category of Clinton's emails as above (as incidentally does the DHSC's failure to publish its contracts in a timely manner). It's a breach of the procedural rules by people who know better being aggressively pursued by a mixture of people who believe that the procedural violation covers up a much worse substantive violation and people who know better but are making political hay of it. Plenty of ministers over a very long time have done considerably worse and not resigned. (I'm anyway not a huge fan of this type of ministerial code since they usually codify rules for resigning over procedural matters much more clearly than over incompetence and turn politics into something like American corporate law where companies engaging in horrific abuses end up going down for misleading their shareholders rather than the substantive matter in question)

Alex Salmond's claims of a vast conspiracy against him are nonsense. Personally I think that in their attempts to manage a politically very damaging situation, a number of people in the SNP made procedural errors but to jump from there to the full conspiracy is lunacy.

Oh and yes obviously political opponents will make the most of it. That needn't influence our thoughts about either Salmond's behaviour, the Scottish government's bungled investigation, or Nicola Sturgeon's statements about it and how honest they were.

It doesn't hurt that (outside of Scotland at least) Salmond is seen as a sleaze, and Sturgeon's visceral hatred of the English is inspiring to the centre left but is seen as xenophobia and racism by the centre right, so there's plenty of material for journos to work with. (I'm not making a judgement on either of them when I say this, just explaining how and why it's being covered so gleefully by the press - it's an absolute soap opera full of very big characters.)

That's not really credible. Is it? I think reasonable opinion may well be divided on Nicola Sturgeon. Personally I think that the unstable and not-long-for-this-world structure of the current UK gives her latitude to look a lot more effective than she is by being selective at what is perceived as being within and without the control of the Scottish government and that almost anyone would look more in control than Boris Johnson. Her government is an adequate government within the bandwidth of contemporary European governments. Mainstream opinion ranges from "moderate effective centrist leader" to "adequately effective centre-left leader" and variations on those themes.

I think outside the barely read pages of the Telegraph, nobody believes that Sturgeon has a visceral hatred of the English.

and yes in terms of political context, there will be elections soon, the SNP will do well partially because of their better handling around the PR aspects of the pandemic. (In terms of actual performance both England and Scotland are somewhere in the pathetic pack of European incompetence, Scotland marginally better). Salmond knows this and is going out of his way to burn the house down around him. It's unlikely to have much effect and Scotland will remain SNP dominated until either some kind of federalism or complete independence at which point it will splinter apart like most independence parties after they get their way.
posted by atrazine at 1:36 PM on March 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Joanna Cherry is a determined Salmondite who backed him being rehabilitated into the party after his trial. She sold out the women targeted by his behaviour by doing so. Meanwhile Alex Salmond is platforming a Trumpist racist Missouri Republican on his Russia Today show. You know the old saw about when people show you who they are, believe them...
posted by Flitcraft at 2:42 PM on March 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Interesting. I would have thought she was too new to be from Salmond-world but I guess not.
posted by atrazine at 1:21 AM on March 5, 2021

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