22 February 2011

Penfold folds, Aitken goes.

"I deeply regret allowing myself to be misrepresented by resorting to crude linguistic constructions to express my opinion on this case, and lament that there are people in our media who will, without conscience, maliciously employ the definitions and general sense of the so-called "words" which I used, viciously to distort my real unexpressed position. The dogs." ~ Bill Aitken, condensed.

Blame it on my legal education, but I've little patience with unsubstantiated allegations of distortion and misrepresentation.  It strikes me that if one had a good argument that a statement had been decontextualised so as to rob it of its intended meaning - for example, by omitting a particularly odd question which solicited it, or qualifying introductory or surrounding phrases - one should be able clearly to identify the relevant passages, and the sleekit trimming. Perception categorically isn't all. Bill Aitken disagrees and determined to resign his convenorship of Holyrood Justice Committee yesterday afternoon with as little grace as possible. Aitken pulled a "poor me" pachyderm farewell, arguing that he had been stitched up by the meeja. In his statement, he suggested that:

“... by asking a journalist by way of background during his inquiry to me, about the circumstances of a particular case I left myself open to misrepresentation. That is my fault and that is why I immediately issued a full and unreserved apology for any misunderstanding or distress it caused.

“Unfortunately, the newspaper chose not to publish my full statement. It also decided not to publish any quotes from my second telephone call from the journalist during which I made my position clear. I leave it to others to comment on these facts and the reporting of a background conversation.

“But, however unfairly, an impression has been created that I hold certain views about rape...”

Certainly, the Sunday Herald didn't quote the whole transcript, but if we assume the document acquired and published by the New Statesman last week was accurate - which I note Aitken artificially ignores and does not dispute - their selectivity hardly exculpates the Everlasting Baillie. The impression left by his remarks, contextualised in a casual conversation, is arguably much more damning than than floating text of the original Herald article. Aitken clearly feels that to pose a question signifies nothing. It is simply a solicitation for information. Since he cannot recognise the views being imputed to himself, he concludes that he has been a victim of distortion. Clearly, the significance of his immediate, unilateral scepticism about and emphasis upon complainer is entirely lost on him.


  1. AS ever the Worrier puts it best. Three further questions are left unanswered. 1) The Sunday Herald should be congratulated, it remains, even threabare and reduced to an odd format, the best we have of its ilk. As Edd McCracken noted through the week tho the rest of the media was strangely silent on this issue, I'm sure the result of the cosy & lazy relations (often merger and mingling) between our political and media elite. 2) The issue of conviction rates for rate and the actual person involved in this attack shouldnt be allowed to dip below the headlines 3) the Tory party in Scotland, such as it is are culpable and complicit in all of this, it is not just about one wayward rogue MSP

  2. Bella,

    The press approach to Aitken's remarks has been decidedly underheated, to say the least. One might suspect inter-publication jealousies somewhat muted the Hootsmon, as such "exclusives" tend to. I take your point about the underlying phenomenon of rape in Scotland. It is clearly deeply, deeply concerning that Glasgow has seen a series of serious sexual assaults in public, apparently perpetrated by people unknown to the victims. Equally, we shouldn't lose sight of the broader reality that most of these violations occur in domestic situations, where the complainer and the accused are known to one another. To my mind, it seems unlikely that the new Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 will have a significant impact on overall rates of conviction, as some folk hope. Equally, while abolishing the corroboration rule may allow more cases to be put before a jury, that does not immediately equate to a higher rate of convictions. It is an exceedingly difficult issue - one I've discussed at greater length before - but to give it due attention, one for another day.