We must, of course, respect the decision of the court in the Carmichael case. While we may disagree with the verdict, there can, I think, be no suggestion of any impropriety such as might render the decision invalid.
But there is no reason whatever to respect Alistair Carmichael. He has not been declared innocent. By his own admission and the assessment of the judges, he is guilty of some truly deplorable conduct. By his own account, he is a rather despicable individual. His offences and his offensiveness are compounded by the manner in which he vilifies those who have done no more than seek to make him answerable for the offences he admits to having committed.
There is nobility to be found here. Not in a law so contrived as to ensure that even unquestionable guilt may not entail culpability. Certainly not in a man so crass as to mistake a prideful and petulant sense of entitlement for dignified defiance in the face of adversity. Such nobility as is to be found here belongs entirely to the four fine and decent people who, refusing to respond with regulation apathy to Carmichael’s outrageous slanders and lies, risked all they have in a quest for simple justice.
The court may have cleared Carmichael. But the court has also passed judgement on the British political system. And what a dire judgement it is. The judges have effectively acknowledged that Carmichael is a scumbag, while declaring that, in the context of British politics, being a scumbag doesn’t matter. Carmichael’s behaviour may have been an affront to democracy and basic human decency, but we now have it on sound legal authority that this behaviour is not inappropriate for a British politician.
Like I say, we have to accept the decision of the court. But if we accept its verdict on the man then we must also accept its damning verdict on the political system which nurtured him, elevated him, and now celebrates his success in evading the consequences of gross misdeeds.
I want no part of such a political system. I want better for Scotland.