The news that Alex Salmond had been charged with numerous counts of alleged rape and sexual assault came as a bombshell to many of us in the independence movement in Scotland. Alex Salmond was the driving force behind our campaign in 2014 and inspired many of us who previously weren’t involved to get active in Scottish politics. There has been a long history of British Nationalists in Scotland attempting to smear the former First Minister while in office by sharing smears and innuendo, none of which bear repeating. The charges he now faces are serious and the nature of these alleged offences will come to light in court. At present he is, in the eyes of the law, guilty of nothing, and maintains that he is not guilty. As a friend and inspiration to the pro-Scottish independence movement it is our hope that Mr Salmond is indeed not guilty of the charges brought against him. This is not to say we have chosen his side of the story over the allegations of the complainants; neither side has had their chance to produce their evidence in court, and until such time no judgement can or should be made.
What we do find utterly distasteful is the sheer hypocrisy of the British Nationalists across Scotland who have reacted with glee at these allegations while celebrating the predicament of a man they clearly revile. The sickening triumphalism displayed by these ‘Holy Willie’s’ is horrifying, and made all the more so by their trolling of the pro-Scottish community online, rounding on words of support for Mr Salmond with the retort of “have you no sympathy for the (alleged) victims?”. The idea would never of course enter their heads that they themselves were tastelessly exploiting these women for political and ideological gain.
Mr Salmond will at some point in the future face a trial which will involve a jury and this raises a number of issues. Mr Salmond is undoubtedly a divisive figure. No Scot doesn’t know him, and few will have no opinion of his character in one way or another. We genuinely would like to think that the serious nature of the allegations would be weighed up by the jury on the merits of the evidence and the evidence alone. If the evidence warranted a guilty verdict who in the pro-Scottish independence community would be willing to give Mr Salmond a free pass merely because he is Alex Salmond? Gey few we would hope. Would the converse be as clear cut? That’s debatable. There is a significant community who have already found Mr Salmond guilty before a word of evidence has been introduced and would like nothing more than to assist in putting the rubber stamp on his conviction, even if the evidence indicates otherwise. The actions of the jury in this case will be scrutinised at a level greater than any trial which has ever taken place in Scotland, but the simple question is this; can Alex Salmond receive a fair trial in Scotland, having already been found guilty by the vast majority of the press and a significant proportion of the electorate of whom the jury will be drawn? Probably not.
What should not be overlooked is that whether Alex Salmond is innocent or guilty of the charges laid against him, this has no bearing on whether Scotland is big enough, smart enough and rich enough to be an independent nation. The gutter press might like to believe that to be the case, and they will tell those who still buy their tawdry rags that this is the case, but it’s as far from the truth as any of the lies they have printed in the past. File it under wishful thinking on their part.