Instead, he called it a “malicious scheme or plan or campaign over a prolonged period of time”, making a distinction that may be lost on many members of the public.
The former First Minister said he had evidence to support his claims, pointing to text messages sent by SNP figures, including one by Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon’s husband and the party’s chief executive, in which, the day after Salmond was charged, he said it was a “good time to be pressurising” the police.
But he also made clear that he believes there is evidence that the committee has not been allowed to see that would provide further backing for his allegations.
Given what we know about Salmond’s admitted behaviour, his reputation will be forever tarnished and so he should not be regarded the most upstanding of citizens.
However, his evidence will be fuel to the fire of conspiracy theorists who have not been quite so circumspect as him and that poses a danger to the reputation of Scotland’s democratic and legal institutions. It is most unsatisfactory that this shadow of suspicion should be allowed to hang over them in this way.
The committee is examining the Scottish government’s handling of the complaints against Salmond and MSPs have stressed that he is not on trial. However, the conflicting accounts of Salmond and Sturgeon must be properly tested and so both are on trial if only in the court of public opinion.
The credibility and integrity of the current First Minister and other senior figures in the SNP and government have been called into question. The people of Scotland need to know whether or not Salmond’s claims are true or not and have confidence in the process of establishing this.
All pertinent evidence – including the Scottish government’s legal advice about its position in the judicial review of the complaints process brought by Salmond – that can be made public, should be.
The anonymity of the women who complained about Salmond’s actions must be preserved and if the Salmond inquiry committee must sit in private in order for this to be achieved, then so be it, but it does need to get to the bottom of whether there was a “malicious plan” or a conspiracy, call it what you will, or not.