Brian Montieth: Salmond claims reveal a hint of double standards

Alex Salmond is innocent until proven guilty, says Brian Monteith
Alex Salmond is innocent until proven guilty, says Brian Monteith
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It needs to be said, and it ­cannot be said often enough. Alex Salmond is innocent of any charges of sexual ­misconduct until proven guilty. Just as we should expect the law to give ­protection to those with no ­exalted ­titles and positions, past or present, so the same presumption of ­innocence must be given to those who hold them.

Likewise, those who have accused Alex Salmond of impropriety must be protected by the law until such time as any claims are shown to be groundless, for were they not, genuine ­victims would always fear revealing how they had suffered for fear of being persecuted and humiliated ­further.

For anyone to endure a sexual assault is traumatic enough, to endure the reporting and sensationalising of it in public, and have it questioned, is to repeat the suffering, but more so.

Surely there can be no one who doubts such protections are required for both accusers and the accused?

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Yet there is much surrounding the telling of the complaints against Alex Salmond that cause doubt about it being fair and ­balanced for all parties concerned – and consistent with past instances of a similar nature. There are now more questions being generated than answers and this will only cause speculation and rumour-mongering to mount.

There are questions about procedure. For instance, why did it take so long – four years after the alleged events in December 2013 – for the complaints against Mr Salmond to be made in January 2017? Is it the case that it was the introduction of new ­complaint procedures within the ­Scottish ­Government that allowed the ­complaint to be made?

If that is the case we should be thankful that the procedures have been strengthened to give any alleged victims the confidence to come ­forward and be heard without ridicule or subsequent persecution. Or does it mean there have been complaints levelled before which were too easily dismissed and denied justice?

Such questions need to be asked to ensure no favouritism has been given to those in authority who have the opportunity to abuse their position if procedures are inadequate. Then there is the question of confidentiality. Just as Salmond’s accusers are entitled to anonymity, so too is the former First Minister. That explicit details of the accusations have appeared in a newspaper – based on the alleged sight of the complaint – means there has been an intentional breach of confidence.

Yet no inquiry into the leaking of information has yet been commissioned. This needs to be corrected.

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There is also the question of ­consistency. The First Minister states the SNP cannot suspend Alex ­Salmond because the party has not received direct complaints to give it legal grounds to do so; and yet her party was not slow to act when Police Scotland announced enquiries were being made into financial dealings of former SNP MP Michelle Thomson.

Thomson resigned the SNP whip but later claimed she had been forced by the party to do so. Subsequently, prosecutors never brought charges, stating there was insufficient reliable evidence, but she was not reselected to contest the constituency in the 2017 election.

When Mark McDonald MSP resigned as a minister due to inappropriate behaviour the SNP suspended him pending its own inquiry. He ­subsequently resigned from the party and remains an independent MSP.

The exact nature of the complaints against McDonald were never made public by the party, but surfaced from a Parliament inquiry – fuelling ­concerns the SNP attempts to prevent public knowledge of unsavoury behaviour rather than be transparent.

Is that the case with Alex Salmond? Why has he not been suspended when the police are making their own enquiries? There is more than a hint of double standards that throws doubt on the whole process – causing the SNP, either as a party or the Government, to come out of this, for now, worse than Alex Salmond.