THE political smart-set have coined a phrase for these types of events which conveys both spectacle and a heightened sense of their own chic luminance. Thus, we are being invited to witness a psycho-drama and to bring our own popcorn. For, this is what the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair has become: a Tartan Noir production for the titillation of the political and media elite.

Following Alex Salmond’s evidence to the Committee of Inquiry yesterday and ahead of Nicola Sturgeon’s next week we are also being asked to consider whether or not the affair will damage the entire campaign for Scottish independence.

Perhaps it should, but it won’t. The Scottish public may be the most politicised on the entire planet but there’s a limit to our appetite for this stuff. “I’m appalled at how the crucial boundaries separating the judicial and the legislative have become blurred in this unpleasant stand-off,” will not be uttered by any wearied voter in the weeks ahead.

Alex Salmond, of course, was found to be innocent of all 13 charges levelled at him last year by a jury of his fellow citizens. Yet, by his own admission, his conduct towards several junior employees in Bute House was tawdry and seedy. “It’s all back to mine” seems to have been the most common, late-night refrain in a residence provided for him by the Scottish public. This alone rendered him unfit to hold this office.

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Hard evidence of a vast conspiracy may emerge in due course (it remains circumstantial) but in all of the factors responsible for putting him in the dock last year his own conduct was first among equals.

And don’t give me any of this sanctimonious mince that his participation in this inquiry is all about exposing malfeasance in high places and the blurring of those judicial and legislative lines. This is about vengeance and the purest approximation of a personal vendetta we’ll ever see.

As for Ms Sturgeon; her performative theatrics have been lamentable. Throughout this entire affair she expects us to believe that some meetings arranged to discuss misconduct allegations involving her predecessor slipped her mind. Furthermore, her husband, the chief executive of her party, seems to wander about their home in a permanent state of innocent curiosity. “Oh look; I wonder why the Pope’s chatting to Nicola on the verandah. Ah weel; best not ask any questions. I grow old … I grow old … I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

Documents the First Minister had promised to make available are now as hard to access as the Third Secret of Fatima. The others have so many straight black lines running through them we could be witnessing the birth of a Scottish ecole of cubism. Meanwhile, the country’s most senior civil servant, whose department’s incompetence stiffed Scottish tax-payers with a bill for half a million pounds, is afflicted by what must now be known as Holyrood Amnesia, a malady to which only the most highly-paid and the brightest in the political firmament seem vulnerable.

Scotland’s chief prosecutor, the Lord Advocate, has much cause to be thankful for this grim pantomime. As it reaches its conclusion it has deflected from his department which wrongfully prosecuted two men during a fraud probe relating to the sale of Rangers. This malicious prosecution cost Scottish tax-payers tens of millions of pounds.

That these two are still in their jobs is proof that the dismal managerial class which flourishes at Holyrood holds the rest of us in contempt.

The most profoundly depressing aspect of it all, though, is how the female complainants at the centre of this have been exploited by each side. And I’m not having any of the dangerous nonsense from Salmond loyalists that his acquittal means they were lying and points to their collusion in a conspiracy. The online naming of some, accompanied by vile sexual innuendo is justification alone for maintaining the anonymity of complainers in cases such as these.


The Lord Advocate, above.

Almost as wretched is the way they have been weaponised by Ms Sturgeon’s chief lickspittles. “It’s all about the women,” they say. “Women’s voices must be heard.” Curiously, their desire to support women in crisis doesn’t extend to offering an ounce of support to females in their own party who’ve been threatened with violent assault online.

The failure of these political elites to reach basic levels of competence or observe rudimentary norms of decency means that women currently experiencing sexual harassment at Holyrood and beyond are now much less likely to seek support.

Meanwhile, in the real world beyond this house of smoke and mirrors real people are suffering the economic effects of crippling inequality, made worse by the pandemic. At Westminster this week the UK Prime Minister was told that many in our poorest communities are reluctant to take a covid test because they simply can’t afford to self-isolate for two weeks.

And on Thursday, Public Health Scotland published a study which carries profound and deeply worrying implications for the country’s recovery from coronavirus. As business-owners whinge about the lack of certainty in Scotland’s route out of the pandemic the study shows how the contagion has affected young children. It tells us that for the poorest, this road-map will continue for an entire generation. They found that the psychological and emotional wellbeing of poorer children was significantly worse than that of children in affluent households and that parents in lower-income groups reported greater deterioration in sleeping, behaviour and eating.

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The list of covid iniquities disproportionately visited upon poorer households reaches into all aspects of their lives: parents in these households experienced poorer mental health and were more likely to be living with a long-term physical or mental health condition; they were less likely to have accessed medical facilities than those in high-income households and a greater proportion of them – already poor – lost a greater proportion of their income because of lockdown.

These families are entitled to know how the Holyrood elites plan to address their increasing economic isolation. Instead, they’re seeing a failed political class playing pass-the-parcel in a swamp.

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