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’s “victory”. “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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