Motion of No Confidence

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 10th March 2021.

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Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

The Scottish Greens supported the creation of the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints and wanted to see it focus on that important issue in order to understand the challenges, identify what went wrong and ensure that improvements were made for the future, because addressing the failings—both real and perceived—in that process is vital for giving people who wish to complain about inappropriate behaviour the confidence to do so and the reassurance that they will be treated with respect. However, what should have been an inquiry strictly focused on that issue of how allegations are handled was allowed to become nothing more than shabby political theatre.

In my view, members who should have been focused on the interests of complainants in the past and in the future have clearly been more obsessed with the idea of winning a political scalp. The effect of that has been to set back the objectives that we should all share. Emma Ritch of Engender said:

“One of the things women are most attuned to when making complaints is the prospect of losing control over the process. What has happened with the Salmond inquiry has magnified this: that you could find yourself at the centre of a national scandal, where people feel free to impugn your motives and everything you want to talk about becomes about party politics or the constitution.”

Many of us have expressed similar concerns.

Despite those concerns, when the Parliament was asked, towards the end of last year, to vote on the need for legal advice to be provided to the committee, the Scottish Greens backed that position, and we were right to do so. If John Swinney had dug in his heels and continued to refuse, his position would have been untenable. Equally untenable is the position of those who demanded the First Minister’s resignation before even hearing her evidence and that of those who, last week, described the published legal advice as “damning” and a “crushing blow” but who now say that it is insufficient to draw conclusions from.

The Conservatives, in particular, have allowed a committee inquiry that should be focused on serious matters to descend into political farce. Why? Because they have nothing else to offer the people of Scotland. They have no positive vision of the country’s future; all they have is a desperate attempt to weave conspiracy theories. In appearing to take every word that came from the lips of Alex Salmond as unquestionable truth, they have ended up sounding exactly the same as the StuAnon cultists of Mr Salmond’s own fanbase. Both the behaviour of the former First Minister and the Government’s attitude throughout the inquiry have played a large part in this debacle. However, those using conspiracy theories to attack their opponents or promoting delusional ideas of Scotland being some sort of corrupt failed state must ask themselves how on earth they ever expect to lift Scottish politics up from the low point that they have brought us to.

When the committee finally produces its long-overdue report, I will be looking only at the issues of substance that address the question of why complainants raising allegations of harassment were failed and how we can ensure that that never happens again. I sincerely hope that the committee will choose—even at this late stage—to focus on that. The shallow game of winning political scalps should not be anyone’s priority, and the Greens will have no part in it.