Mandy Rhodes: Alex Salmond saga could take down the party he worked hard to shape

Alex Salmond (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Alex Salmond (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

BY any measure, Alex Salmond is a political colossus. He shaped the modern-day SNP into a political fighting machine and took Scotland to the brink of independence.

He is embedded in our history. It is no wonder then that emotions run high because at the heart of the furore over allegations of sexual misconduct rests the hopes and the dreams of the thousands that believed in him and want to continue doing so.

But amid the circus, with its ill-advised crowdfunding spectacle, its Twitter tit for tat and the fevered speculation about the actions of the former First Minister and how the current FM has dealt with the whole saga, are two women that regardless of the truth in the matter, must feel very vulnerable right now, and that is not how this is meant to work.

This is not a column railing about power, patriarchy and the obscenity of the various manifestations of abuse. They have been well rehearsed.

Nor is this a column about whether the allegations have any veracity because, like most of you, I am not qualified for that job.

But it is also not an obituary, because Salmond, the SNP and the independence movement are far from over.

This for me is a column about tragedy.

For, putting aside the insane rantings of a minority of so-called Cyber Nats who, cocooned in their own conspiracy theories of MI5 plots and Westminster skulduggery, can see no nationalist wrongs that can’t be explained away by Unionist dark forces, this is about the future of healthy discourse in Scotland.

There can be no bigger scandal than the one the current Scottish Government faces. To have a former First Minister accused of sexual assault is wretched enough.

But to have him then raise a legal action against the very government he once led knowing that along the way it will compromise his friend, political ally and able successor – and one that put gender parity at the fore and helped shape the complaints procedure that now has Salmond in its sights – is Machiavellian at its core.

There is much in this whole sorry saga that is hard to compute and yet the question I return to is not about whether this will destroy Salmond but whether he is willing to destroy the SNP?

And while, in my opinion, it is crass for a former First Minister to put out the digital begging bowl, I equally think he is right to defend his position, and so, to accuse him in the process of male aggression or of further exercising an abuse of patriarchal power, is to deny him justice.

He resigned from the party, to avoid, he says, it tearing apart but already the schism has begun. His crowdfunder hit the jackpot but regrettably shifted the dial away from accusations of sexual harassment and into a bitter political confrontation which reveals the huge swathe of support he still holds, giving Nicola Sturgeon something chilling to ponder.

For Salmond, the dream may never die but are the rest of us simply watching a nightmare unfold?

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