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Committee strayed from its remit during Alex Salmond questioning

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I WATCHED Alex Salmond providing the Scottish Parliament harassment committee with his evidence. It was a marathon session and I sat there riveted for the 5.5 hours.

I reminded myself that the former FM was there to provide evidence to allow the committee investigating the claim that the government, as employer, had pursued claims of harassment brought by a number of employees against the former FM but had done so with not only flawed procedures but illegally.

The former FM’s evidence to some degree would go a long way in not only proving that the whole process was flawed but would provide the committee with the opportunity to ensure that a more robust, legitimate set of harassment procedures and protocols would be identified and put in place for the future. Clearly the investigation would not only reveal why £630.000 of taxpayers’ money was the consequence of the flawed process but also identify possible poor decisions by some of the players involved.

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Well what did we get? Well, we got a very calm, well prepared, step by step delivery by the former FM. It was quite clear that he had “done his homework”, had all his answers ready and only on a small number of occasions looked remotely nervous. Step by step he took centre stage with a rather “in awe” committee membership looking on, not only silent but clearly aware of the occasion and the eyes of the public on their performance.

As the former FM progressed it dawned on me – and this is my opinion – that the silence of the committee and its chair provided the former FM with not only the opportunity to grandstand but to start providing advice on how to improve procedures and deal with clear breaches of parliamentary process, and how the ministerial code should be interpreted, supplemented by advice on effective harassment procedures for the future.

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As time went on, certain members of the committee started to ask the former FM about what actions should be taken against certain individuals, hypothetical questions about “what if “, “what would you do?”, eg If you were the FM what would you do? Some members even asked what should happen to certain individuals if the evidence justified it.

After five hours it became clear to me that the delivery and content of the former FM’s evidence strayed from evidence-gathering, into the provision of advice to the committee and being asked to respond to questions by members which he should have never been asked and may have been prejudicial to people identified with no right of reply. I do hope there is much reflection on Friday’s proceedings.

Dan Wood
Kirriemuir

FOLLOWING on from A Salmond’s appearance before the committee, I wanted to find a dark corner and hide away, since I felt independence was receding having come within a whisper. It felt even worse than the morning after the count in Ingleston 2014. But common sense took over, reinforced by yet another excellent article from Ruth Wishart on Sunday (Independence supporters deserve better than political soap opera, February 28).

The majority of us don’t belong to any political party. So when we vote for the SNP, we vote pro-independence. No matter the hunger for indy, would we have continued to do so, after 10 years and counting, if they weren’t up to doing the day job of governing Scotland? That the SNP seemed capable of both was therefore a bonus!

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We still require a leader to lead us, and since I firmly believe that some power is better than no power, I want that leader to be both leading on indy and leading the Scottish Government. Those two positions are not incompatible, as we have seen over the years. And let’s face it, being in opposition can be the long road to nowhere. Just ask Labour and LibDems.

But what is often incompatible is a conflict of interest in working pairings and groupings. Is it time for Murrell to resign? For someone on the outside, trying to peer through the fug of confusion and possibly deliberate obfuscation from press, media and pundits, perhaps now is the time. And with the permanent secretary’s contract not having long to run, wouldn’t post May – with the election won, the government re-elected – be a good time for a new appointment to be made there? Would such shuffling, reshuffling include the Lord Advocate? But without that post clearly cleaved from government, would “new” be sufficient? These points I’m going to have to leave to others to ponder and decide.

But without the grassroots Indy /Yes/movement, we’re scuppered. The choice is clear: independence or London.

The Tories’ determination to weaken us further via the power grab that is the Internal Market Act, in an attempt to kill off all demands for indy, is so obvious.

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Staying at home, not voting, or denying the SNP first votes is exactly what Unionists want us to do. Appropriate messaging, as part of campaigning, especially around money matters – pensions, currency, how we could have vaccines and vaccine rollouts without the rUK – should be just some of main messaging required.

Irrespective of messaging, the grassroots, and the Yes movement rising to the challenge yet again, it is the SNP, their leadership, politicians, hierarchy, groupings, and how they respond this week and leading to May that will determine our future.

Selma Rahman
Edinburgh

I AGREE with Nick Boyle (Letters, March 1) when he asserts that Boris has been a great asset for independence. And now we hear via our own Scottish Secretary Alister (Union) Jack that we are soon to be inundated with Union flags around our country. (I wonder which Crony will get the contract?) Again, I feel, a boost for independence. Most people, especially in Scotland, associate the flag with the “Empire”, rather than a modern, diverse, welcoming country. So carry on I say, but with the added directive from Holyrood, to fly the flag upside down!

Robin MacLean
Fort Augustus

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