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Alex Salmond, former First Minister of Scotland and ex-leader of the SNP, has quit the Scottish National Party. He is facing allegations of sexual harassment, which he denies.
It is, to say the least, somewhat unorthodox for a former party leader to walk out of the party he led for so long. He says he will return, once he has cleared his name but the warfare in the SNP right now is so vicious, with former Salmond allies caught between their former hero and the current leadership, and others having privately denounced him, that a formal breakaway of fundamentalist pro-Salmondites cannot be ruled out.
Bizarrely, Salmond has also launched a crowdfunding appeal in support of his legal action – a Judicial Review in the Court of Session – over the Scottish government’s handling of the complaints made against him. He rapidly raised more than £80,000 and rising.
Below is Salmond’s full statement issued on Thursday evening. I have added some observations:
“I have been a member of the Scottish National Party for 45 years, 20 of them as party leader and seven as First Minister of Scotland. I hope I have done the party and the broader cause of independence some service.”
He’s done the party some service. False modesty – you’ll all miss me when I’m gone, sniff – there.
Apart from a political spat back in the 1980s, that has been a period of continuous membership. I truly love the SNP and the wider independence movement in Scotland. They have been the defining commitment of my life. But today I have written to the National Secretary of the Party resigning my membership.
I read carefully Nicola Sturgeon’s statement on Sunday and watched her television interview of a couple of days ago.
She made it clear that the SNP have never received a single complaint about my personal conduct in my many decades of membership. And the Scottish Government have confirmed that they did not have any such complaint before this January, more than three years after I left office as First Minister. That is the record of 30 years of public service. So let me be clear again. I refute these two complaints of harassment and I absolutely reject any suggestion of criminality.
I believe that all such issues must be treated seriously, confidentially and through a fair process. In this case confidentiality has been broken greatly to my detriment and in a way which puts at serious risk the anonymity of both complainants. It urgently needs to be established who breached that duty of confidence and why.
The implication is that Salmond thinks he knows who – perhaps even someone near the First Minister’s office – leaked the news. He is a determined man and he is determined to find out who spoke to the newspapers.
It seems obvious that Nicola feels under pressure from other political parties to suspend me from SNP membership, given recent party precedents. For my part I have always thought it a very poor idea to suspend any party member on the basis of complaints and allegations. Innocent until proven guilty is central to our concept of justice.
Fair point that, well presented.
However, I did not come into politics to facilitate opposition attacks on the SNP and, with Parliament returning next week, I have tendered my resignation to remove this line of opposition attack. Most of all I am conscious that if the Party felt forced into suspending me it would cause substantial internal division.
Party man speaking, even though he’s leaving. But blaming the opposition for asking questions is a bit rich, and it is unlikely to quell the legitimate call for answers about who in the SNP knew what and when.
In my letter to the National Secretary I state that it is my absolute intention to reapply for SNP membership just as soon as I have had the opportunity to clear my name. I hope that is by the end of this year. In the meantime I would urge no one else to relinquish their SNP membership.
I’ll be back…
My entire focus for the next few weeks is preparing for Judicial Review, against the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, the initial stages of which began yesterday. My intention is to secure fairness because that is necessary to clear my name. I am enormously grateful for the messages of support and encouragement I have received, including from people of other political persuasions. I can assure them all that I will keep on going.
Despite his atrocious, graceless handling of his crushing defeat in the 2014 referendum, Salmond has retained some of the friends he made down the decades in other parties at Westminster, I stress at Westminster, where some of them will probably see the Salmond case in the context of other similar cases involving senior politicians tried in public.
The costs of a Judicial Review in the highest court in the land are huge. Many have asked how they can help directly. Therefore I have established a crowd funder to assist with costs. All sums received will contribute exclusively to progressing the Judicial Review and any money left over will be used to support good causes in Scotland and beyond.
Launching a Judicial Review is expensive. Who knew?!
Finally, I will continue to serve the independence movement in whatever role and whatever capacity I can. It is a rare thing to be devoted to a cause more important than any individual, it is a precious thing to cherish it and my intention now -as it has always been – is to protect and sustain that cause.
I exist humbly only to serve, etc…
What a strangely tin-eared choice of words though – rare thing, devoted, more important than any individual – considering that this is at root about two women who have decided to come forward to make serious complaints.