SNP activist cleared of threatening witnesses at Salmond trial

A Scottish Independence activist from the Borders has been cleared of threatening behaviour towards female witnesses called during former Holyrood first minister Alex Salmond's sexual assault trial last year.

Friday, 8th January 2021, 11:44 am
Updated Friday, 8th January 2021, 12:04 pm
Mark Hirst, SNP activist.

Mark Hirst posted a video on his blog in which it was claimed he made threatening remarks directed at the women involved in the prosecution at the ex-SNP leader's trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

The video was played at Mr Hirst's trial at Jedburgh Sheriff Court, during which he said he suspected the “precious anonymity” of Mr Salmond's accusers “would not be continued”.

He alleged the women involved were senior members of the Scottish Government and the SNP.

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The 51-year-old continued: “And they’ve been involved in this active collusion to try and destroy Alex Salmond’s reputation and there’s not a cat’s chance in hell that they’re going to get away with that.

“So they’re going to reap a whirlwind, no question about it.

“As soon as this virus emergency is out the way, then there’s going to be a bit of reckoning takes place. We’ll clear out the soft independence supporters which are currently leading the party, that’s why we’ve seen no movement in nearly six years.”

The comments were described at the time as “sinister” by Rape Crisis Scotland and Mr Hirst was charged with threatening or abusive behaviour after his home near Jedburgh, was visited by police.

But after the video was shown in court advocate Mark Moir moved there was no case to answer, saying the blog was posted on a closed link and was not available to the wider community on the internet.

He said the phrases used had been regularly used in political and journalistic circles and “were said in the context of what part the SNP was not moving fast enough towards Independence.”

Mr Moir said that at no time did his client threaten to disclose the anonymity of the female witnesses highlighting legislation was in place to prevent that from happening.

He added: “At no time does he make a threat that would happen. It was more an observation that anonymity may not be maintained.”

Opposing the no case to answer submission, procurator fiscal Fraser Matheson said it was the comments and choice of language contained in the video which could be construed as threatening.

He added: “There is the implied threat that the identity of the complainers will not last and they will be identified."

However, Sheriff Peter Paterson ruled there was no case to answer, saying Mr Hirst was only giving his opinion on the situation within the SNP "and no more than that."

He said: “I do not accept it would cause a reasonable person fear and alarm and accordingly I find you not guilty.”

Mr Hirst has worked for several SNP MSPs over the years and also broadcast for Russian state news Sputnik.

Mr Salmond, the Scottish Government first minister from 2007 to 2014, was cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault against nine women following his trial at the High Court in Edinburgh in March.

Outside the court Mr Hirst expressed “relief” at the sheriff's verdict.

He said: “It was not very pleasant having this hanging over me.

“But it is a good day for free speech.”