Friday, August 31, 2018

On the subject of faith, wealth, and personal choice

It's with great trepidation that I even think of writing a little more about the current Alex Salmond story, because no matter what I say, some unionist journalist will doubtless interpret it as a sign that I am taking a side in their fictitious "SNP civil war".  But a few general points that I feel need to be made -

1) It's deeply offensive to suggest that people who have donated to Alex Salmond's crowdfunder have done something wrong by not donating to Women's Aid instead.  That portrays the issue as a zero-sum conflict between the perpetrators and the victims of violence against women, and is self-evidently inconsistent with the principle that Mr Salmond is innocent until proven guilty.  There is obviously a division of opinion within the SNP on the wisdom of Mr Salmond's legal challenge, but the fact is that at the moment he is challenging the complaints process he has been subject to, and therefore any funds raised will not be used for his defence against the complaints themselves.  As has been pointed out multiple times, any deficiencies the judicial review may identify in the complaints process (for example the very obvious lack of confidentiality) could well have negatively affected both Mr Salmond and the complainants, so contributors to the fundraiser are perfectly entitled to say that they are acting in the best interests of both sides.  Not that people have to justify what they choose to spend their own money on, of course.  Every penny ever spent by anyone could always be challenged by a third party as not going to the most worthy cause.  Labour membership fees could perhaps be more usefully spent on expanding access to clean water in Africa, for example.  Rather than playing that moronic game, it's probably best to let people choose to support the causes they personally feel most strongly about.  If someone like Danielle Rowley feels that Women's Aid is an underfunded cause, by all means she should start donating a bigger portion of her own salary to that charity.

2) The people who are saying that Mr Salmond is an independently wealthy man and therefore has no need to run a fundraiser don't appear to have a clue what they are talking about.  Do they know: a) the current state of his bank balance, and b) how much the legal challenge will cost?  If not, they should have the courtesy to allow a fellow citizen to get on with funding legitimate access to the legal system by any legitimate means.  (Oh, and memo to Suzanne Moore: Mr Salmond does not have income from a "Kremlin-backed TV show".  His own production company makes a TV show which is screened on an Ofcom-licensed station that happens to be funded by the Russian state - an important distinction.)

3) There has been a lot of sneering commentary about how the widespread backing for Mr Salmond is "faith-based".  And yes, some of the people who have contributed to the crowdfunder do have fairly wild, unproven theories about the sexual harassment complaints being a dirty tricks operation by the British state (theories that Mr Salmond is not responsible for and does not need to assume responsibility for).  But how is that any different from the faith-based convictions held by Mr Salmond's critics that the complaints would never have been made unless they were probably true?  The reality is that only the people present when the alleged incidents were supposed to have taken place know the truth of what did or didn't happen.  Anyone else passing comment on the facts at this stage (other than to say "I don't know") is guilty of faith-based assumptions.  It would be better for us all to keep an entirely open mind on what any investigation will uncover - and to adhere to the principle that until then, Mr Salmond is entitled to a presumption of innocence, just as anyone else would be in the same situation.

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