Recent events reminded me of a blog piece I wrote just over two years ago, where I documented some of the evils visited on us by the then May Tory government (you can read it here) and pleaded for the Scottish Government to do something, anything, to get us out of this useless union before it was too late. Naturally, my pleas, and those of many others, went completely unheeded by Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government.
Since then, things have only got worse, Johnson’s government making May’s look like a model of political integrity, but what hasn’t changed is the lack of any action by the Scottish Government in response to what the UK government are doing. However, there has been one change in their reaction to the UK Government’s insults. Not only do the Scottish Government do nothing, they now even say nothing. Take Johnson’s latest pronouncement that the word ‘Scotland’ be added to the UK civil service list of words never to be used in government documents or correspondence and no mention ever to be made of phrases like ‘the four countries of the union’. Not a tweet (deliberate pun) from Nicola Sturgeon or any of her ministers at this further attempt by Johnson and the UK government to reduce Scotland to be simply a part of North Britain.
Though I highlighted in my earlier posting what I saw as the danger to the Scottish nation, what I didn’t foresee was the danger to individual Scots who disagreed with the Scottish government or who were simply seen as being a risk to the government’s total control of the message. It now appears that the ruling party will stop at nothing to silence anyone who is the least critical of their actions.
Here are some names you may have heard of. Alex Salmond, Craig Murray, Dave Llewellyn, Mark Hirst, Marion Millar, Manny Singh and Gary Kelly. All of them were perceived as a threat to Nicola Sturgeon, the New SNP and the Scottish Government, all of them against whom action was taken by Police Scotland, COPFS (the Scottish prosecutions body) and the SNP led Scottish Government, mainly using made up or grossly exaggerated charges. All these people found out the hard way that supporting Alex Salmond, supporting Scottish independence or supporting women’s rights was the quick route to the full force of the law being applied against them.
Let’s look at what happened to them.
Alex Salmond trial
You must know about the Alex Salmond case. Following a failed internal attempt to label him as a sex pest, the Scottish Government (in particular, Leslie Evans and Nicola Sturgeon) referred the case to the COPFS. Following an exhaustive police investigation interviewing more than 400 women (and costing millions of pounds), no one could be found to make complaints against Salmond except 10 women, all connected to the SNP and/or the Scottish Government. COPFS eventually proceeded with 13 charges. Most were so flimsy they wouldn’t have seen the light of day if they hadn’t been against Alex Salmond. Nevertheless the trial went ahead, but to the chagrin of the authorities, Salmond was cleared on all counts.
I’ll mention only one charge, that of attempted rape. The woman who made the complaint was shown in court not to have been present at the dinner where the alleged incident took place. Despite that, no investigation into possible perjury by this witness was made by Police Scotland or COPFS and no charges have been brought against her. Is it possible that the exhaustive police investigation could have discovered this flaw in advance of the trial? Perhaps it would have done if the investigation hadn’t just concentrated on trying to strengthen the case against Salmond. Does this seem like a slightly one-sided view of what merits prosecution?
Reporting the defence
Craig Murray’s case is ongoing. Craig took it upon himself to report on the Alex Salmond criminal trial, but unlike the mainstream press and television, Craig reported the defence case as well as the prosecution. Those who depended only on the mainstream media for their view of the case were shocked when Salmond was acquitted as they had only heard the prosecution evidence. I say evidence, but most of what the prosecution said was closer to fairytale than evidence. When the defence case was presented, that’s when you were able to see how flimsy the prosecution case was. It’s amazing how you can get a one-sided view of a case when you only hear the one side.
Something had to be done to punish Murray for his temerity in showing up the COPFS for bringing such a flimsy case to court. Bring on jigsaw identification. Jigsaw identification is pretty much the perfect crime.to charge an opponent with. It alleges that something you publish, when taken with any other information already in the public domain, allows a member of the public to identify someone who has been granted anonymity by the court.
But several questions remain. How can anyone know everything that’s already in the public domain about the trial? How can it be certain that it was this specific piece of information that allowed identification of an anonymous person? If several pieces of information have to be taken together to allow identification, how can only one person be charged? And finally, is it simply coincidence that the only person charged is the one who reported all the facts and not one whose reporting was biased and one-sided?
Murray’s trial was held in January, but it took 4 months before the judge, the now infamous Lady Dorian, was able to give a decision. Murray was sentenced to 8 months, a draconian sentence for a crime that had never before attracted anything other than a small fine. She later tried to justify her decision by saying that bloggers should be held to stricter rules than mainstream journalists because they weren’t subject to the same regulation. She then refused Murray leave to appeal, perhaps fearing censure from the Appeal Court for her very biased behaviour during Murray’s trial. Will Murray be jailed?
Reaping the whirlwind
Following complaints from two anonymous people who were also complainants in the Alex Salmond trial (wow! what a coincidence), Mark Hirst was raided by the police at 5am, had all his computer and communication equipment seized and was charged with acting in a “threatening and abusive manner” for using the phrase “reap the whirlwind” in a vlog about the trial of Alex Salmond. This is a commonly used phrase in journalism meaning serious consequences could follow from something said or done.
No one in the history of journalism has ever been charged, or even warned, for using that phrase. When the case finally came to court, following a submission from the defence, the Sheriff dismissed the charge as ‘no case to answer’. Does this seem like a slightly one-sided view of what merits prosecution?
I could murder a pint
Dave Llewellyn’s case is very similar to Mark Hirst’s above. A known Alex Salmond supporter, he expressed a critical opinion on his Facebook page about a senior SNP candidate and his wife. Apparently, I’m not allowed to tell you what he said because it might embarrass the police and COPFS. However, the SNP pair chose to interpret his comment as a threat to their safety and contacted the police, who conducted one of their now famous 5am raids, seized all Llewellyn’s computer equipment, handcuffed him and questioned him on a charge of conspiracy to murder. He has now been charged with a lesser offence which is still liable to see him imprisoned if found guilty. Llewellyn’s case comes up in December. Why Police Scotland and the COPFS chose to treat a critical, though commonplace remark as a threat to safety is a bit of a mystery, but when compared with the Mark Hirst case above, seems to follow a pattern. Is this another example of selective prosecution?
Women Won’t Wheesht
Unlike the others, Marion Millar fell foul of the desire, apparently shared by many in the SNP leadership, to modify our understanding of the meaning of the word ‘woman’ to include men wearing a dress. An organiser of the #WomenWon’tWheesht campaign, she has been subject to huge amounts of abuse on social media, mainly organised by the SNP wokerati. It is ironic that one of her main abusers (insert your chosen name here) was so upset by one of Marion’s tweets that they (note clever use of non-specific pronoun) felt obliged to report it to the police, describing a photo of a Suffragette ribbon attached to a fence as a noose and the tweet as a threat to their personal safety.
Despite the obviously flimsy accusation, Marion has now been charged under the Malicious Communications Act (MCA), a UK wide law, as the Scottish Government’s own, home-grown Hate Crimes Act is not quite ready for its first public outing. She faces two charges, but the police have apparently refused to tell her what the second charge is. Marion’s case will be heard in July. None of those who have abused her on social media have been charged with any offence. Does this seem like a slightly one-sided view of what merits prosecution?
Manni Singh and Gary Kelly were respectively organisers of independence marches in Glasgow and Aberdeen. Both had submitted and had agreed all necessary applications to their local council. The route and the timing of each march was widely publicised in advance and in both cases independence supporters from all over Scotland were expected to attend. Both marches were the subject of last minute changes by the local authority, but both went ahead peacefully.
In the Glasgow case, the local SNP run council insisted on a last minute change of start time from 1330 to 1100, knowing that such an early start time would disrupt existing travel arrangements and would make it impossible for many supporters coming from the North of Scotland to attend. With police co-operation, the march went ahead as originally planned, with no problems reported, but subsequently, the SNP council pushed the police into charging Singh with holding a march which didn’t adhere to the conditions imposed by the local authority. At his trial, he was sentenced to 72 days in jail.
Why would the Glasgow SNP council want to limit the numbers on an independence march? Well, I suppose that’s a question for them, but I wonder if the council’s close relationship to Nicola Sturgeon gives any clue to the answer.
In the Aberdeen case, a last minute change of route was imposed by the council. The march went ahead using the new route, with no problems reported, but subsequently, Kelly was charged with not having a Temporary Traffic Management order in place and not having proper public liability insurance. Whether these issues are connected to the change of route is not known. Kelly’s case comes up in November, more than two years after the march.
The comparison between the treatment of the independence marches and the treatment of Rangers FC fans marching to George Square from Ibrox, complete with a police escort, just so they could ‘celebrate’ by trashing the place and fighting with each other is bizarre. Does this seem like a slightly one-sided view of what merits prosecution?
What links them all?
The relationship between all of these people is they were a threat to the SNP. They all disagreed with some aspect of SNP policy and it seems that the reaction of the party was to eliminate them as opponents. As the SNP were unable to win the arguments through force of logic, they attempted to win through force of law.
Of course, being the state, the authorities have an enormous financial advantage. They have virtually unlimited resources at their disposal. None of the complainants and none of the police or legal personnel are at any risk financially, but those they take action against face jail if they lose and bankruptcy even if they win. The whole cost of defence falls on the defendant, which is why many have resorted to crowdfunding to support their case.
However, there are questions that need to be answered about how SNP annoyance gets translated into action taken by the Scottish Government, by Police Scotland and by the COPFS? What precisely is the relationship between the party, the government, the police and the prosecuting authority? How come, when the party is threatened with embarrassment, the state authorities ride to the rescue and how come it doesn’t seem to happen the other way round? Is there not supposed to be a rule that prevents state authorities working on behalf of one political party? Are state authorities not supposed to be independent and unbiased?
Whether we’re talking about women’s rights or independence, the Scottish Government have found it increasingly difficult to kill the counter message coming from those opposed to SNP policy and so, because they can’t kill the message, they have resorted to trying to kill the messenger. (Note that no physical violence is implied by this statement). Be careful what you say or it may be you that the authorities are coming for next.
Beat the censorship
Continue reading “And then they came for the dissenters”