An in-depth interview with First Minister Alex Salmond in the latest issue of Holyrood has provoked a strong reaction in the Scottish media, with his comments also drawing criticism from political rivals.
In an open and frank interview with Editor Mandy Rhodes, Salmond offered a robust defence of the Scottish Government’s conduct in the wake of the quashing of the conviction of Nat Fraser and the ongoing row about the role of the Supreme Court.
In comments described as an “extraordinary broadside” by the Daily Telegraph, Salmond was highly critical of Lord Hope, the Scottish judge who sits on the Supreme Court bench, Tony Kelly, a prominent human rights lawyer and Lord Wallace of Tankerness, the Advocate General for Scotland and a former Justice Minister in the Scottish Government.
The Scotsman, which came in for severe criticism from Salmond during the interview, said the First Minister’s, “wide-ranging diatribe likely to attract further criticism of senior Scottish Government ministers’ choice of language in the on-going row”.
While on the Daily Telegraph site, Scottish Political Editor Simon Johnson said Salmond has made “an unprecedented personal attack on one of Scotland’s most senior judges.”
The BBC quotes reaction from the First Minister’s spokesman, who said the Holyrood article “speaks for itself” and that he had “nothing to add”.
In a blog posting titled ‘Fighting the law’, the BBC’s political editor, Scotland, Brian Taylor offered three explanations as to why the First Minister is, “plainly ill-tempered with regard to the issue”.
Firstly, Taylor argued, “Mr Salmond genuinely believes that he is standing up for Scottish rights – which he feels have been betrayed following assurances which were given when the UK Supreme Court was established. It is, in short, a fundamental grievance.”
Second, Taylor said Salmond’s position was reflective of a, “Nationalism (that) has been about defending and promulgating the fundamental, distinctive facets of Scots life”.
He continued: “In such circumstances, an attack on Scots Law – even the relatively minimal derogation of power which this particular issue represents – is translated into an attack upon the existence of Scotland itself.”
Thirdly, Taylor argued, “it is perhaps understandable that Mr Salmond experiences a certain feeling of superiority when he surveys public life in Scotland” following the SNP’s landslide election win last month.
Salmond’s comments have also drawn criticism from political rivals. Scottish Labour’s justice spokeswomen Johann Lamont said that while there are “issues to be resolved over the role of the UK Supreme Court”, it could be done through “mature diplomacy, negotiation and proper debate”.
“Alex Salmond’s foghorn approach and intemperate language demean the dignity of the office of First Minister,” she added.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie told Reporting Scotland: “Alex Salmond is making himself look a fool with these deeply personal and blistering attacks on one of Scotland’s most senior judges. Scotland does not want a First Minister who uses such tawdry and childish language, leaving Scotland looking blinkered and insular.
“As the crisis between the Scottish Judiciary and the Scottish Government deepens, it leaves serious questions for the future. The First Minister needs to do some serious damage control before the decay in this relationship becomes irreversible.”
Conservative leader Annabel Goldie added that the First Minister’s rant had “backfired spectacularly”.
She continued: “Judges apply the law and lawyers advise on the law – that is their professional obligation.
“Alex Salmond has ignored the key issues and chosen to be subsumed by rhetorical bile. He has also ignored that the SNP are enthusiastic advocates of ECHR and its incorporation into Scots Law.
“This ‘little Scotlander’ mentality is introspective, restrictive and wrong and Alex Salmond does a disservice to the real underlying issue of how ECHR appeals in Scotland should be heard.”
You can read Mandy Rhodes column on the row here.