[Content Warning: sexual assault]
Alex Salmond is one of Scotland’s most recognisable politicians. He stood at the helm of the Scottish Nationalist Party for a total of twenty years. First between 1990 and 2000, and, perhaps more notably, between 2004 and 2014. It was during his second stint as leader where Salmond had his greatest impact on Scotland’s political sphere. He was, above all, the nationalist First Minister who very nearly led Scotland to independence. Since then, Salmond has passed the First Ministerial baton to Nicola Sturgeon and has spent his time on The Alex Salmond Show on Russia Today after losing his seat as an MP. Despite this, Salmond is still very much on the front pages. Not for his outspoken position on the Union, or his alliance and involvement with controversial Russian state-funded television. On the 23rd of August, The Daily Record published an article that accused former First Minister Alex Salmond of serious sexual misconduct.
The allegations against Salmond had been made in January. Details were only made public after Mr Salmond indicated he would apply for a formal interdict that would prevent the Scottish Government from making the allegations public. Undoubtedly, we must ask questions regarding confidentiality. Counter to that, in my opinion, there is a more important point to be made about freedom of information. Salmond’s response to these allegations and his effort to keep every detail of them away from the public perhaps suggests he does not believe the people of Scotland deserve to know about allegations that had been made against such an important political figure. Would we have ever found out if it was not for Leslie Evans completing her investigation, and responding directly to Salmond’s threat of an application for an interdict? These questions are perhaps too difficult to answer in legal terms, but on a basic level, surely the handling of this case has been very wrong. Surely if allegations have been made against someone, there is a moral argument to be made that their colleagues and acquaintances should be made aware. In Salmond’s case, this certainly means there is a moral duty to also let the electorate know.
However, what troubles me the most is the use of crowdfunding by Salmond to fund his legal challenge. Within 3 days, over £100,000 was raised in order to pay his legal fees against the Scottish government. He has used his political reputation, position of power, and the esteem of many to, fundamentally, challenge the right of possible victims of come forward. That is the reality of victims. If a man in any position of power abuses you, then your voice will be silenced as he crowdfunds his way out of trouble. It is also important that we remember that Alex Salmond is an extremely wealthy man. The wage he earned for over a decade, as First Minister was £135,605. On top of that, Salmond retired with five separate pensions. If his only aim of the crowd funder was to pay his legal fees, make absolutely no mistake about it: he could do that with the change in his back pocket. The crowd funder raises separate issues. From Salmond asking for money from his primarily working class support base, to how a move like this deters victims of abuse to come forward. Every penny donated to his cause is a penny that undermines the voices of victims of sexual assault. Salmond’s crowdfunder is nothing more than a gross abuse of his power. A fact he is very aware of, and a fact that we cannot ignore.
Further to this, there a seemingly ever-growing number of supporters of Salmond who have claimed the allegations are nothing but a Westminster conspiracy. SNP MP Angus MacNeil has suggested that the British establishment was behind the accusations; MSP Richard Lyle has followed suit. Firstly, Salmond receives over £100,000 from people who do not believe the victims. On top of this, elected men, in positions of great power, join his side and openly undermine the voices of women. Apparently, victim blaming is not reserved for social media trolls. It would seem that open and aggressive victim blaming is a tactic adopted by our elected officials.
I have asked myself what I think we can all learn from this horrific situation. I think, unfortunately, nothing. This has been, and will continue to be the reality for victims unless there is a major change in how people view victims and their experiences. We must move away from forcing a woman to prove her trauma and instead put the onus on men to prove their innocence. Victims are valid and need to be listened to. I cannot imagine anything worse than coming forward with such an allegations, and to be treated like this. However, sadly, this is the reality for these victims, and we are all simply letting it happen.
[Florrie O’Donnell – @fimbles_]
[Image credit: ScottishGovernment/Flickr.com]