John McLellan: Salmond should have saved Sturgeon’s face

Alex Salmond has not been suspended by the SNP while unproven allegations against him are investigated. Picture: PA
Alex Salmond has not been suspended by the SNP while unproven allegations against him are investigated. Picture: PA
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On the face of it the SNP’s decision not to suspend ex-First Minster Alex Salmond while unproven allegations against him are investigated makes technical sense. The party has not received a complaint and the complainers are not party members, so the argument goes.

When Aberdeen MSP Mark McDonald was suspended in November last year following allegations of improper behaviour towards a woman, the complaints were made to the party and similarly when accusations were laid against Edinburgh Councillor Lewis Ritchie they were to the SNP from party members.

But there the justification ends. I doubt if an average, reasonable person would accept that when the implications are so serious an organisation which represents a large section of the general public can make a distinction based on whether the matter has been raised with the party or not.

In Cllr Ritchie’s case, the party was not able to conclude its investigations because he resigned and no complaint was ever made to the police. Mr Salmond protests his innocence, but the conclusion of the Scottish Government’s inquiry is that the matter deserves police scrutiny.

But contrast this with ex-Edinburgh West MP Michelle Thomson who, when facing a police investigation into alleged property fraud, voluntarily gave up the SNP whip and with it her party membership before being cleared. Similarly, Mr Salmond could have saved the First Minister the embarrassment of having to justify the party’s decision by suspending himself. Without admitting guilt, that would have shown real responsibility, humility and leadership.

City’s Economy Watch makes welcome return

The council-produced Edinburgh Economy Watch made a welcome return this week after an absence of nearly 18 months, but will now be published on a quarterly rather than monthly basis which should actually help demonstrate trends.

It shows that 3.6 per cent of “economically active” people are unemployed – some 10,000 people – compared to the Scottish (4.2 per cent), and UK (4.3 per cent) averages. It’s the lowest of the other UK cities in the survey, but is still a slight increase since the end of 2017. The number of people claiming benefits per ward is lowest in Morningside on 0.5 per cent, compared to the highest, Leith, on 2.3.

READ MORE: John McLellan: Carry on regardless is Labour councillors’ mantra

Worryingly, the rate of business “deaths” showed a sharp acceleration to the end of 2016, the most up-to-date figure, to virtually the same number of business “births” although the five-year survival rate of 44 per cent is amongst the UK’s best.

Duddingston birdie singing

Word is out in Duddingston about another scheme which is in the earliest stages of preparation but could prove as contentious as Leith Walk.

It involves the construction of a new clubhouse for Duddingston Golf Club in a deal it hopes will secure the 123-year-old institution’s financial future.

Members voted to develop a partnership with house builder McTaggart & Mickel and open up four sites for housing around the periphery of the course, including wooded areas along Duddingston Road West and Milton Road.

It’s a late addition to the agenda for tonight’s Northfield & Willowbrae community council meeting.

Mistaken identity

Sadly not recorded by the council webcast, but I hear there was a case of mistaken identity at the licensing board this week when Convener Cathy Fullerton apparently thought Portobello Councillor Callum Laidlaw was our Inverleith colleague Max Mitchell, which is surprising not least because it’s fair to say that Cllr Mitchell’s flamboyant interventions in the council chamber are a sketch-writer’s dream which memorably brighten up many a predictable debate. How to tell them apart? Well, Cllr Mitchell is taller….