Amid Alex Salmond's triumph and SNP civil war, accusers are forgotten '“ Susan Dalgety

I can only guess at how desolate those two women must now feel after watching '˜no angel' Alex Salmond on TV following his civil court victory over the Scottish Government, writes Susan Dalgety

Alex Salmond arrives at the Court of Session in Edinburgh earlier this week (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Alex Salmond arrives at the Court of Session in Edinburgh earlier this week (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

There has been so much misogyny flying around this week that it was a relief when an email headed with that other “m” word popped into my in-box. But more of the menopause later.

First, I want to confront Alex Salmond. Not in person I hasten to add. I am not that brave. But, here, from the safety of my column.

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The former First Minister is back where he believes he belongs, centre-stage of Scottish politics, thanks to accusations of sexual harassment. Such an allegation would have floored lesser, more modest men. It appears to have energised Mr Salmond and his supporters.

The allegation, if Twitter and some media reports are to be believed, was cooked up by his arch political enemy, aka Nicola Sturgeon, to undermine the king over the water.

I have no idea whether the current First Minister conspired against her once-close colleague and mentor. Nor do I care. Amid the chaos that is Brexit, I have lost my appetite for Scottish politics. It suddenly seems very parochial, incestuous even.

But I do care that the heart of this sleazy matter, the accusation by two women that the most powerful man in the country sexually harassed them, has become lost in the bloody battle for the soul of the SNP.

For the absence of doubt, Police Scotland is still investigating the women’s claims. A court hearing on Tuesday, which has sparked civil war among the nationalists, only found that the Scottish Government had botched their internal investigation.

I once worked in St Andrews House, leaving by the back door as Mr Salmond entered triumphantly by the front in 2007. I know the Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans. I know how much deference civil servants afford even the most obnoxious of ministers.

I know how much courage it must have taken for those two women to make their initial complaint. How their testimony will have been tested to breaking point. The months of anguish as civil servants wrestled with the prospect of accusing Salmond of abuse.

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But I can only guess at how desolate those two women must now feel as they watch Alex Salmond on television, desperately trying to hide his trademark smirk, while claiming his innocence of all charges. “I am certainly not guilty of any criminality,” he asserts bullishly, while mysteriously conceding, “I’m no angel ...”

As the Scottish political class salivate at the prospect of Salmond’s return to the forefront of the independence cause, it is as if the MeToo movement had never happened.

“So, he has been accused of sexual harassment,” they cry, to a man. “Who cares! We want Nicola Sturgeon investigated. She must be guilty of something!”

No-one seems to care, either, about the abuse that women MPs, like the indomitable Anna Soubry, have to endure on their way to work.

Live on television this week, burly men, testosterone oozing through their hi-viz vests, spat hate into Ms Soubry’s face, as across the road, police officers watched, seemingly unperturbed by this display of male violence.

For make no mistake, this was violent, threatening behaviour. Violence against women, it seems, is acceptable if the perpetrators disagree with their victim’s politics.

Is it really only three years since a young woman MP, Jo Cox, was murdered outside her office in a sleepy Yorkshire town?

Do we not care that Soubry, a 62-year-old woman, has to wear “Brexit bovver boots” so she can run when confronted by a screaming mob of men? That she always keeps her back to the wall when waiting for a train on the Tube, because she fears “that someone could push me on the line”. It seems we don’t. Not enough anyway.

This week was livened slightly by the revelation that French author Yaan Moix, famous only in his homeland, but now infamous across the globe, finds women aged over 50 “invisible” to him.

Apparently, the 50-year-old Lothario is “incapable’ of being attracted to older women.

They are “... too, too old. I prefer younger women’s bodies, that’s all,” he dribbled, with all the charm of a French slug.

I have news for Monsieur Moix. We all prefer younger women’s bodies, especially us older ones, but like the best French wine, we all age, yes even you Mr Moix. I doubt if your pectoral muscles are as taut as they once were. I know mine aren’t.

Ageing, for all us, is a challenge. Sometimes exhilarating. Often bleak. But thanks to the wonders of our reproductive system, women have an extra trial to endure as they move from middle age through to their golden years.

The menopause is miserable. Your once reliable body suddenly loses its way. You forget who you once were. “It changes your life in ways you can never imagine,” said the face of BBC Scotland, Jackie Bird, in a recent interview.

She went on: “You’re not warned about it, which is another worrying aspect of this. You’re not warned that slowly and insidiously you can lose all of your confidence. You don’t feel like you ... everyone should stand up and talk about it.”

Ms Bird says she faced “sniggers” from BBC Radio Scotland bosses – male, of course – when she suggested a series on the menopause. How very predictable. And depressing.

Too often it seems that issues affecting women – the menopause, sexual abuse, violence against women or female sexuality, to name but a few – are only relevant when defined by men.

So I cheered when I got an invitation this week to a conference on the menopause, organised by the Scottish Women’s Convention.

The email declared: “It became clear that [the] menopause is a hugely important issue for women, which is under-represented at policy and decision-making levels.”

Hear, hear sisters. It has taken hundreds of years for (male) society to be able to talk about periods without throwing up, or sniggering, so I don’t expect that the menopause will suddenly become the next item on the boardroom agenda. But we are making progress.

This conference is a small step towards recognising the menopause as a significant public health issue, as is the Menopause Café movement, which started life in Perth in June 2017, and is now UK-wide.

Now if we could only make some headway in tackling the misogyny that stills stains Scottish civic life, that really would be a revolution.