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Thursday 25 February 2021

Spectator Scots Legal Triumph WASN’T

Fraser Nelson, editor of the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine, appeared before the inquisition of Emily Maitlis on BBC Newsnight to proclaim the importance of his publication’s appearance at the High Court of Justiciary last week. Ms Maitlis did not appear convinced by Nelson’s creative reinterpretation of events. She was right not to be.

This is how the Speccy set the scene in the retelling: “Last week, The Spectator went to the High Court in Edinburgh to seek clarification on the publication of Alex Salmond's written testimony to the Parliamentary Inquiry into how the Scottish Government handled complaints against him. We published his evidence on our website in January as a public service. By contrast, and to our surprise, the Inquiry decided that it was unable to consider this evidence, apparently due to a court order protecting the anonymity of complainers”.

After judgment was handed down, the magazine declared that “We welcome Lady Dorrian’s written judgment today which confirms that - as we always believed - the court had no intention of obstructing a legitimate parliamentary inquiry established to investigate government behaviour and hold it to account. We believe there is no reason why all key and relevant evidence should not now be published”. But this is a mildly selective take.

What the judgment notes, and the Speccy manages to miss, is this: “The application arises following the publication by the applicant on 9 January 2020 of an article entitled: Full text; Alex Salmond’s submission to the Hamilton inquiry … The Crown Office has written to the applicant suggesting that the publication of the article may constitute contempt of court, in that if read along with other evidence which has already been published by the committee, it creates a risk of jigsaw identification of a complainer”. Whoops!

And as James Doleman, who reported on the hearing, later noted, “The second part of the Spectator's submission was to ask the judge to rule out that possibility, an issue they dropped after the morning session of the hearing not going well for them … Nothing in this judgment rules out that possibility”. Fraser Nelson didn’t mention that on Newsnight.

He was also scathing about the Speccy’svictory”. “Lady Dorrian is pretty clear that counsel for the Spectator's interpretation of the order was, as she said at the time ‘absurd’, but has added a clarification just to be sure … So bit of a waste of money for Andrew Neil and the gang. Can't see it affecting the Holyrood enquiries proceedings very much either”.

So was it any kind of win for the Spectator? “It's not, it's a judge saying 'the order is very clear, but as you seem incapable of understanding it, I'll add a sentence for you’”.

Those less charitably disposed towards the Speccy and its management might be more inclined to conclude that Nelson and Neil are SNP haters eyeing a chance to put the boot in on the Rotten Lefties™, desperately trying to keep their crusade in the public eye in the face of being forced to pull their initial article for fear of being in contempt of court.

The court judgment clearly says that it is for the Parliamentary Inquiry to decide how to proceed” sniffs the Speccy, without telling readers the obvious corollary - that this was already the case, and that their court appearance has changed nothing.

I said Fraser Nelson was a creative reinterpreter of events. Now you know what I meant.

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Anonymous said...

"...the Speccy manages to miss..."

Yeah, right. Like it manages to miss truth as a matter of policy.

Unsurprising with that bucket of rancid melting tory fat, Neil, in charge. And marionette Nelson with a voice like a case of permanent strangulated double hernia. Those two lying neofascist cunts "miss" everything that matters.

Mike said...

Quite right to be deeply suspicious of anything emerging from the Spec; the best write up of the Dorrian judgement I can find is here. on Scotish Legal News (link below). It also misses the withdrawal of the element of the Spectator case highlighted ATL, the disclosure of which is useful. However the judgement is directed to the limitation of the complainants identity AS A COMPLAINER (eg through jigsaw identification) and implicitly not their identity for other purposes. The Spectator had felt threatened by the threat of prosecution by the Crown Office/Scottish DPP. The grounds for such a prosecution, it was made clear, could not go beyond jigsaw identification as a complainer. Hence Andrew Neil would be able to assure his owners he hadn't really fucked up by signing off on publication. In the event there has been no prosecution by the Scottish authoritities. Interesting that in England the Spectatator has sufficient political cover to make such defensive legal actions a rare necessity. Which may explain why the political right is so anxious about Scottish Independence.