Sunday, October 17, 2021
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Is the SNP about to fall apart?

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Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand . . .

From W B Yeats, The Second Coming

I DON’T know if David Davis is a poetry fan, but I am, and his speech in Parliament earlier this week reminded me of the work of the genius W B Yeats, cited above.

Davis, the former Brexit Secretary, and now more of an eminence grise of the Conservative Party, has intervened in the Alex Salmond affair. In the House of Commons, he read out a series of texts that he claims show that Nicola Sturgeon’s chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, acted improperly, interfering in the Scottish Government’s inquiry into the previous First Minister’s alleged sexual misconduct.

Davis was using Parliamentary privilege, the right to speak without the risk of legal action for defamation. Such a protection does not exist in the Scottish Parliament, which many now recognise is a democratic deficit.  

Critics have accused Davis of being both partisan and naïve, while others suggest that he may have been manipulated by Salmond, described by the BBC over many years as ‘one of the most talented politicians of his generation’.

Davis says he has evidence that Ms Lloyd’s investigation into the Salmond affair started much earlier than the dates she gave on oath to the Scottish committee of inquiry. He claims that the more junior Scottish civil servants investigating the complaints in February 2018 were worried about Liz Lloyd ‘interfering’.

He cast doubt on Ms Sturgeon’s account of when she first learnt of the allegations against her old mentor and ‘close friend’. The First Minister has told the Scottish Parliament three times that she first heard of the complaints on April 2, 2018, although she later remembered that she had forgotten an earlier meeting in March, until she was reminded (still with me?)

Davis’s material could bring the date of her knowledge even further back to February 6, 2018, which he suggests shows that both Sturgeon and Lloyd have repeatedly lied to the Scottish Parliament and the investigating committee. If this is true, Sturgeon has broken the Ministerial Code on numerous counts and Lloyd faces serious disciplinary charges.

The Holyrood committee’s final report on the Scottish Government’s corrosive handling of complaints against Salmond is due next week. On Tuesday, an independent report by Laura Dunlop, QC, proposed changes to strengthen the process for handling future complaints involving current or former ministers, prime among them being the setting up of a new body independent of political party interference.

Sturgeon has put on her best ‘not bothered’ face, dismissing Davis’s challenge as part of Salmond’s ‘conspiracy theories’. But as we say up here in Bonnie Scotland, it looks as though her ‘jaiket’s oan a shoogly peg’ at long last.   

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Kate Dunlop
Kate Dunlop is a mediator.

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