Former SNP staffer says anonymity of Alex Salmond trial witnesses ‘will not be continued’

A former SNP staff member has claimed the legal anonymity granted to complainers in the Alex Salmond trial “will not be continued” and they will “reap a whirlwind”.

Former SNP staffer Mark Hirst made the comments in a video posted online

Mark Hirst, who worked for several Nationalist MSPs in the past, warned there would be a “reckoning” within the pro-independence movement once the coronavirus pandemic was over.

Mr Salmond was charged with 13 counts of sexual assault, including one of intent to rape, but was cleared of all charges at the High Court in Edinburgh last Monday following a two-week trial.

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The nine women who gave evidence for the prosecution are entitled to remain anonymous under Scots law, meaning their names cannot be reported.

“In sexual offence cases, complainers are provided anonymity by the media and this should be respected,” the Crown Office said in a statement today.

“Failure to respect anonymity may discourage others from telling the police if they have been a victim of sexual crime.”

In a video shared online in the wake of the verdicts, Mr Hirst said: “I suspect very strongly that as this rumbles on, that precious anonymity that they’ve sought will not be continued.

“Because these women, and not just these women, some of the people involved in this, are senior members of the Scottish Government, senior members of the SNP.

“And they’ve been involved in this active collusion to try and destroy Alex Salmond’s reputation and there’s not a cat’s chance in hell that they’re going to get away with that.

“So they’re going to reap a whirlwind, no question about it.

“As soon as this virus emergency is out the way, then there’s going to be a bit of reckoning takes place. We’ll clear out the soft independence supporters which are currently leading the party, that’s why we’ve seen no movement in nearly six years.”

Sandy Brindley of charity Rape Crisis Scotland told STV News: “These comments are sinister, threatening and to identify the women would be illegal.

“This behaviour should be condemned in the strongest possible terms by all parties — it serves no-one and damages an already fractured and fraught public conversation.”

The SNP said today that Mr Hirst was no longer a member of the party.

In 2006, he was at the centre of a brief political row after the then researcher was blamed for sending a press release that attacked the Union flag.

The release - in which Britain’s flag was described as a “butcher’s apron” - came from the office of SNP MSP Sandra White.

But when it became public the MSP insisted the press release did not have her approval.

Mr Hirst quit as Ms White’s researcher and but later released correspondence suggesting she had approved the statement.

When asked for comment by The Scotsman, Mr Hirst suggested that Rape Crisis was directed by the Labour party.

He added the “charity would be better advised defending actual victims of abuse and not protecting those who have placed real victims at risk.”

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