There never has been a clearer case made out for the utility of law and lawyers than the so-called Salmond Inquiry in the Scottish Parliament. The ‘Committee on the Scottish government handling of harassment complaints’ to give it its correct title, has thus far failed to unearth the truth about the machinations within the Scottish government quite simply because it isn’t equipped to do so. Inevitably there is strong suspicion that this Committee was given the job precisely because it would have insufficient expertise or powers to investigate adequately.
Committee members appear to have worked extremely hard at carrying out their task. But without counsel to their inquiry, indeed not even a legal assessor assisting them, they have no chance of digging to the bottom of this murky affair. The revolving door system for many witnesses is just pathetic. The witness gives evidence; the Committee subsequently discovers that it’s nonsensical and so recall that witness – in some cases more than once.
In Glasgow Sheriff Court where I used to practise as a boy lawyer, these witnesses would have been locked up for prevarication at best. Some might be facing perjury prosecutions. The fact that people in very senior positions are advancing at best amnesia and at worst idiocy as explanations for questionable aspects of their evidence makes one wonder if we have in Scotland a ‘team of total diddies’ at the top.
The discovery that £50,000 of public money was spent by the Scottish Government on ‘coaching’ these witnesses before they appeared before the Committee is hugely suspicious.
Perhaps the biggest hint that this whole inquiry was to be a farce was the arrangement whereby it only sits on Tuesday afternoons. How effective can it be if it can only sits in such a bizarre intermittent fashion? Undoubtedly this government-imposed schedule is aimed at making sure that its Report is much delayed.
The First Minister’s assurance at the outset that her government would do all they could to assist the inquiry has proved to be an empty promise.