Don't blame MSPs who try to get at the Sturgeon-Salmond truth - Brian Wilson

With a little help from Lady Dorrian in the Court of Session, and the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer, the barriers of obstructiveness might finally be broken down.

It is often said that this affair is too complicated for the hoi-polloi to understand, so it does not “break through” to popular awareness. However, it is only complicated because those with a vested interest in obfuscation have made it so.

Perhaps that barrier will now be cracked. What should have happened months ago will, it seems – though nothing can be taken at face value - be permitted. Salmond will be heard. Sturgeon will be heard. A view will be formed.

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What could be simpler? There has never been any prospect of complainants in the criminal case against Mr Salmond being identified and it remains a criminal offence to do so. That was always a straw argument, as various legal eminences pointed out.

The Committee on the Scottish Government’s Handling of Harassment Complaints was not set up to re-try the criminal case or impinge upon the rights of complainants. Conflating the two – as somebody might tell BBC Scotland – is a ruse, with the complainants used as shields against other questions.

More prosaically, the committee was established because the Scottish Government squandered large sums of money defending an application for judicial review of its processes, which it had allegedly been told in advance it could not win.

The reason it could not win was that it had employed methods of internal investigation that were, in Lord Pentland’s words which merit a place in the lexicon of Scots Law, “tainted by apparent bias”. The committee therefore had two questions to address.

First, not whether (unless Lord Pentland’s judgment was being questioned), but why that tainted process was deployed. Second, at what point ministers were told they could not win the case and should therefore cut their losses.

It is crucial to note that both could have been answered with ease months ago. The civil servants could have given credible evidence and admitted to the flawed process. Counsel’s opinion could have been released, as twice instructed by the Scottish Parliament. The committee could have reported.

None of these things happened. Dates were changed. Incredible evidence was amended. Counsel’s opinion was (and continues to be) withheld. For anyone in these circumstances to blame the minority MSPs on the committee for pursuing the task allotted to them is shameful and self-serving.

Which takes me to BBC Scotland’s much-trumpeted “exclusive” last weekend in which one of the complainants in the criminal case attacked, not very obliquely, the said MSPs for “politicising” the committee’s work which was “more traumatic than the criminal trial”.

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Emotive stuff but, in my view, this was a seriously misjudged piece of broadcasting which played into a narrative set by Ms Sturgeon in advance of her appearance before the committee. That had been due to take place last Monday - the day after the broadcast.

This gives rise to two questions I would like to hear BBC Scotland answer. First, what was the provenance of this interview – did they approach the individual, did she volunteer or was she offered up by the spin doctorate surrounding the First Minister? No breach of confidentiality would be involved in a straight answer.

Second, is she independent of current political shenanigans within the SNP? If so, fine. If not, viewers should have been told. And if that was not possible on grounds of self- identification, then it was another reason why there should have been no such highly pejorative broadcast.

This whole affair has long since gone beyond the bounds of Salmond versus Sturgeon, a conflict in which I am entirely neutral. Rather, it is about the whole way in which Scotland is run, with every tentacle of power and control intertwined.

Neither should we lose sight of the fact that an individual’s freedom was at stake – which should only be determined in a court of law. If the identity of a person ever matters more than that basic principle, we really are being run from within a moral vacuum.