For decades, Alex Salmond was the face of the SNP, the politician who very nearly led this country into independence. And, from 2007 to 2014, he was Scotland’s democratically elected leader.
It will, therefore, come as a profound shock to many that he has been accused of sexually harassing two female members of staff during his time in Bute House.
As his successor Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday, the situation will be “upsetting” for the SNP’s members; she admitted she found the situation an “extremely difficult” one.
While saying he was “no saint”, Salmond described the claims as “patently ridiculous” and added: “I have not sexually harassed anyone and I certainly have not been engaged in criminality.”
He also claimed that Holyrood’s complaints procedure – introduced by the Scottish Government last year following the revelations about Harvey Weinstein, the film industry and political world amid the #MeToo movement – was “unfair and unjust”. The Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans, insisted it would “defend its position vigorously”. Separately, Police Scotland has confirmed it was assessing information about the case, with its enquiries at an early stage. So Salmond will have no doubt about the seriousness of his situation.
In this case, as with any other, the most important thing is to establish the truth and ensure justice for all involved.
Salmond is a divisive figure, but politics must not be allowed to pollute the investigations that are now underway.
As Sturgeon said in her statement: “The over-riding priority must be to ensure fair and due process.” The Scotsman wholeheartedly supports this sentiment. Both Salmond and the complainants must be given a fair hearing and we should all try to dissuade those who rush to judgement.
But, regardless of the facts of this particular case, it demonstrates a significant cultural shift. Once, such claims would have never seen the light of day. Men in positions of power in various different walks of life abused that power and their victims were often unable to do anything about it. They may well have been forced out of their jobs, ending what could have been promising careers and blighting lives.
Today, that is no longer the case. And that is undoubtedly a huge step forward