‘Banana republic without the bananas!’ Andrew Neil eviscerates Sturgeon chaos

Nicola Sturgeon says she is 'happy to answer' Salmond questions

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The Scottish veteran broadcaster is a vocal critic of First Minister Ms Sturgeon, and has been left infuriated amid a row over an inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints against her predecessor Alex Salmond. The former First Minister had been due to give evidence in person on Wednesday to the parliamentary inquiry into the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment claims against him.

Mr Salmond had asked to delay his appearance after his already-published written evidence was redacted by parliament just 24 hours earlier following an intervention from the Crown Office.

The former first minister said their decision to write to the Scottish parliament, purportedly seeking redactions over contempt of court fears – was “astonishing” and asked his lawyers to seek answers about the “unprecedented and highly irregular actions”.

Ms Sturgeon has insisted it is “downright wrong” to suggest the intervention from the Crown Office was politically influenced, and has questioned Mr Salmond’s reason for pulling out of the planned Holyrood appearance.

But writing for MailOnline, Mr Neil warned the current situation is a “clear and present danger to democratic accountability, the impartial rule of law and a free Press”.

He added: “These are dark, even dangerous days in Scotland.”

Mr Neil outlined the ongoing situation, in which Mr Salmond is accusing Ms Sturgeon of lying to and/or misleading the Scottish Parliament, claiming the First Minister is looking increasingly “flustered” as she insists there is not a “shred of evidence” to support the accusations from her predecessor.

He said since the Crown Office had warned the Scottish Parliament not to publish the evidence, it was a “wee bit difficult to put either his or her statement to the test”.

He echoed a tweet he sent out earlier this week in which he questioned why “crucial parts” of Mr Salmond’s evidence were redacted.

On Monday the veteran broadcaster tweeted: “Nicola Sturgeon says there’s not a shred of evidence to substantiate Alex Salmond’s accusations. Fair enough.

“But how can we tell since her Clown Office has just redacted most crucial parts of his evidence?”

Mr Neil in his column for the newspaper added: “It is no coincidence that the censored bits go to the heart of Salmond’s claims about Sturgeon’s honesty before Parliament.

“To mislead it is a resigning matter under the ministerial code.

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“What did she know and when did she know it? That was the crucial question in the Watergate hearings. The chances of the inquiry asking it are now slim.

“Salmond cannot now be questioned about these bits of his submission. Nor can Sturgeon when she appears. Nor can the inquiry take into account anything it has not published when coming to its conclusions.

“So, job done for the Sturgeon camp. The lengths to which they have gone to redact and censor would shame North Korea.”

The Scottish veteran broadcaster claimed the Crown Office is in “crisis” and argued Westminster is “powerless” because a number of rights that are meant to be UK-wide “are trammelled by the power of a near one-party state”.

He warned Scotland’s destiny is now starting to resemble a “banana republic – without the bananas”.

The veteran broadcaster concluded: “If Scotland was Texas, the Justice Department in Washington DC would have sent in the Feds by now to investigate the various breaches of first amendment rights, which guarantee free speech and protect a robust Press.

“But Westminster stands by powerless as rights meant to be UK-wide – independent law officers, a parliament prepared to hold government to account, a press strong enough to speak truth to power – are trammelled by the power of a near one-party state.”

Speaking during the daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon insisted it is “downright wrong” to suggest the Crown Office’s intervention in the redaction of Mr Salmond’s evidence was influenced by political means.

She said: “Any suggestion at all that these decisions are in any way politically influenced are downright wrong.

“I would suggest that they go further than that; that they actually start to buy into what is a false and quite dangerous conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact.”

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