I’ve said many times that Kenny MacAskill is the wrong person to be justice secretary. He can’t dine out on doing the right thing once, five years ago. Under his watch, women prisoners have suffered, local policing smashed and one of the very pillars of our legal system is perilously close to being discarded.
It seems that even Alex Salmond is now scraping around to find ways to avoid giving a public vote of confidence to MacAskill. Does he realise that this man is toxifying his Government?
Anyway, at First Minister’s Questions yesterday, Willie Rennie took Salmond to task over MacAskill’s failings and this earned him a very positive write-up from the Herald’s Tom Gordon:
But it was LibDem Willie Rennie, fast becoming a world expert on MacAskill baiting, who really sank his teeth into Keystone Kenny.
His jumping off point was an already infamous speech – sour as pickled grapefruit, paranoid as the NSA – in which the Justice Secretary had implied the Better Together parties were ganging up to wreck his corroboration bill, despite the change being needed by rape victims.
Guff about an uncaring “unionist cabal” let parliament down,” Mr Rennie said, adding: “I know that deep down the First Minister was not proud of his Justice Secretary” last week.
Dropping his voice and slowing his pace to broadcast his sensitivity at top volume, the FM said ending corroboration was vital for victims.
Besides, Lord Bonomy’s review group was on hand to mop up whatever the mess the bill produced.
Mr Rennie reminded the FM he had once said that while he had a majority in parliament, he had no monopoly on wisdom, “and there’s little wisdom in the Justice Department just now”.
Was he really proud of the work of the Justice Secretary on this bill?
The FM got flannelling. He accused Mr Rennie of being party political, slagged off the English justice system under the Coalition and a bunch of other flapdoodle, but tellingly never actually backed Mr MacAskill.
Instead, he merely expressed “confidence in the pursuit of justice in Scotland”.
When even your boss takes a passive-aggressive swipe, maybe it’s time to throw in the towel.
I now, by the way, have a new favourite word. How brilliant is flapdoodle?
We might only have 5 MSPs in this Parliament, but look what we’ve managed to achieve – Willie has had Salmond on the ropes over his associations with Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump, he’s achieved extra funding for colleges, childcare and free school meals by taking an issue and pursuing it relentlessly over many months.
Whenever I’ve been in groups of people from other parties, they have all praised Alison McInnes to the heights for her work on justice. I never thought anyone could be as good as Robert Brown, but she is.
Alison had this take on yesterday’s FMQs, coming as it did as yet another lawyer condemned the removal of corroboration:
The First Minister, when given numerous opportunities by Willie Rennie, sidestepped, refusing to put on record his unequivocal support for the justice secretary.
And today we learnt that more voices in the legal profession have publicly noted their concerns over Kenny MacAskill’s partisan and unnecessarily divisive approach towards his justice reforms. This follows the public disapproval from SNP member and justice committee convenor Christine Grahame. Kenny MacAskill is becoming increasingly isolated.
Instead of burning his bridges, it is time he started building bridges. He should listen to the wise counsel being offered from those around him, remove his plans to scrap corroboration from the Criminal Justice bill and allow it the full and proper review it deserves.
If you want to see Willie’s exchange with Salmond, you can do so here from about 14:48.