Wednesday 7 September 2022
The rent freeze in Scotland is welcome. The SNP and the Greens had previously voted against it, placing them to the right even of the Scottish Labour Party, but the campaign has made it in the end.
Nicola Sturgeon waited until after the Conservative Leadership Election before deciding that the money had been there all along, just as she had waited to ride in on her white charger before deciding that the money had always been there to settle the bin strike. But let's not be churlish. Instead, let's keep fighting for a rent freeze, and for the victory of workers in struggle, throughout the United Kingdom and beyond.
Rather more worryingly, Sturgeon has revived the old dispute over the Scots Law verdict of not proven. There are heavyweight arguments on either side of that one, but they have nothing to do with this. This is because one of the verdicts on Alex Salmond was of not proven, and whereas his 12 verdicts of not guilty remain in Scotland the enduring verdicts that they used to be and ought to be in England, protecting him for life from double jeopardy, not proven offers no such protection.
If the not proven verdict were abolished, then expect a spate of second prosecutions of people against whom the Crown's case had been found not proven. Beginning with Salmond. And expect a move to abolish the protection against double jeopardy in Scotland, since plenty of people who had had verdicts of not proven will have been found not guilty of other charges by the same juries. For example, Alex Salmond.
The existence of the not proven verdict has never obliged any jury to use it. On either side of the Border, if the jury were not unanimously convinced beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused, then it ought to deliver a verdict of not guilty, which ought to be an enduring verdict, affording lifelong protection from double jeopardy. That should have happened in the case of Ryan Giggs.
But if England ever was that country for most people, then it is certainly not now. I myself was convicted after a judge had specifically instructed a jury to "disregard" the concept of conviction beyond reasonable doubt, and then imprisoned because my enemies had been politically well enough connected to have me charged with an offence to which there was no defence, so that all that mattered was to be well enough in with the highly politicised Crown Prosecution Service.