Salmond inquiry saw John Swinney became as big a twister as his SNP colleagues – Brian Wilson

The defeat of the no-confidence motion in John Swinney told us nothing about Mr Swinney but quite a lot about the Scottish Greens, who saved his bacon (if they will pardon the expression).

Deputy First Minister John Swinney survived a vote of no-confidence with backing from SNP and Scottish Green MSPs (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

It set me wondering about the dilemma facing a caring Scottish environmentalist who does not want to break up the UK, believes votes in Parliament should be respected and has more interest in women’s rights than fashionable political correctness.

But let us look at Mr Swinney and what a Holyrood majority (including all SNP MSPs serving on the Harassment Committee) has confidence in. For many months, crucial legal advice to the Scottish government was withheld from the committee.

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The (bogus) argument that governments do not disclose their legal advice was elevated to the point of high principle, repeated ad infinitum. It is true governments do not like disclosing advice and sometimes have good reasons not to. But public interest over-rides that preference.

In this case and by any standards, the circumstances were exceptional; a contest of truth between a political leader and her immediate predecessor of the same party – largely capable of being resolved through the release of such advice. The interests of wronged women and a man’s liberty had been at stake.

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That is the natural justice which Swinney denied over and over again – including in response to two votes in Parliament. And he only retreated in part when his own job was at stake – an imperative to which, in fairness, the Greens contributed.

Even then, Swinney held back what he did not want to reveal in advance of his boss giving evidence which was supposed to display her as a beacon of truth. In succeeding days, more withheld evidence dripped out – none of it causing difficulty to anyone other than Swinney and his associates.

In any other context this would be called out as withholding and tampering with evidence. In Scotland, it commands the approval of a Parliamentary majority.

For a long time, I was prepared to give John Swinney’s much vaunted honesty the benefit of many doubts. I now regard him as at least as big a twister as those around him.

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