The most remarkable — and chilling — day in the history of Scottish devolution ends the only way it could: Alex Salmond has pulled out of an appearance before the Holyrood inquiry. The road to his withdrawal began on Monday evening with the publication of a key document in the long-running inquiry. The submission, in which Salmond alleges that Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, was uploaded to the Scottish parliament website ahead of an evidence session by Salmond on Wednesday. However, the Crown Office contacted Holyrood authorities and demanded they remove or redact the submissions. The parliament complied, replacing it with a further-redacted version.
When The Spectator published this very document in January, it was in defiance of a Holyrood inquiry that refused even to admit it into evidence. When the magazine went to court to ensure as much of Salmond’s evidence as possible could be seen by the public, it was against a backdrop of secrecy and obstruction that has come to define the inquiry’s attempts to reach the truth. When the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) decided that Lady Dorrian’s ruling allowed the committee to accept and publish Salmond’s submission, it was accused by the SNP of imperilling the anonymity of women who had alleged sexual misconduct by Salmond, even though no one was proposing to name or otherwise identify the complainers.
This pattern of behaviour — of believing that the Salmond affair could be dealt with ‘in house’ — has led where it was always going to: smack-bang into the middle of a trap laid by the former first minister himself. For Salmond’s contention is that he is the victim of a grand scheme orchestrated by his own former government to brand him a sexual predator and even have him jailed. Rejecting, then accepting, then censoring a parliamentary document, whatever the merits and motivations behind each individual decision, only plays into Salmond’s narrative.