KEVIN McKenna talks of the need for Alex Salmond to show some contrition ("This is not a time for vengeance, Mr Salmond, but a time for contrition", The Herald, March 28), while Tom Gordon talks of the "Salmond camp" attacking Nicola Sturgeon ("Sturgeon dare not stay silent as the Salmond camp attacks", The Herald, March 28). Both are responding to a court case in which Mr Salmond was found not guilty or not proven of criminality with regard to conduct towards younger women over whom he had authority or power, but which his own defence conceded was, in the modern euphemism, "inappropriate". No doubt, before we older men were made aware of what was appropriate, younger women over whom we had some authority were "fair game". When I attended university in the 1960s and 1970s such behaviour by tutors was, I regret to say, if not widespread, known and seen as run-of-the-mill. But it is decades since such attitudes were accepted in higher education, or public life in general. It is still, however, as we have observed in the very different Weinstein case, hard for women to have their evidence of mistreatment taken seriously without their being attacked, and certainly not without their sharing their experience with their sisters in a similar position.

Faced with profound embarrassment, we often indulge in displacement activity, defence mechanisms, often unconscious, whereby the mind substitutes another object of attention for an original felt now to be dangerous or unacceptable. In politics this tactic, as developed by the strategist Lynton Crosby, has been described as throwing a dead cat on the table, an action certainly likely to distract attention from something a politician doesn’t want the public to focus on.

While we await revelations of how well or badly the investigation of Mr Salmond’s behaviour was handled in personnel terms by the Civil Service or his party, we really must not forget that at the core of these events are issues of failure of respect and decency shown towards women by a man in authority over them. In such a context, issues of consent are so confused that intimate relations in most modern professional contexts are forbidden by disciplinary codes.

The brouhaha being created by the "Salmond camp" has all the appearances of an attempt at dead cat distraction from the core issue, which despite his acquittal of criminality remains Mr Salmond’s conduct. We can accept it was not seen by a majority on a jury as criminal. We must accept his defence advocate’s characterisation of it as inappropriate. The instinct of older male colleagues to stand with their friend faced with such accusations associates them with his shame. It is painful to see figures who have done great public service like Kenny MacAskill and Alex Neil (“("SNP rivals set to ‘tear each other apart’ in wake of Alex Salmond trial", The Herald, March 27) associating themselves with the dead cat tactic of blaming those who sought to protect the women and the latter, in particular, throwing dust in the eyes with claims there’s mebbe aye and mebbe no been a conspiracy on behalf of victims of what is agreed is "inappropriate" behaviour.

Professor Ian Brown, Giffnock.