Ron McKay’s Diary: Why have we heard nary a dicky-bird squawk over what we’ll call the ‘Rangers Debacle’?

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While there’s been justifiable fury and furore over the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond investigation, with witnesses refusing to appear, revising their testimony, or having it kept secret, we haven’t heard a dicky-bird squawk over what we’ll call the Rangers Debacle.

Not the club, but the unlawful banging up and malicious prosecution of two of the then administrators of the old club.

The £500,000 payout and some pocket change to Salmond was over the Sottish Government’s mishandling of the complaint by two women against him, which was“tainted by bias”.

On this one it’s £21 million and the meter is still running with other cases still in the pipeline.

The taxpayer will have to fund the final bill.

A brief recap. The prosecution of David Whitehouse and Paul Clark was instigated by the then Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland.

It used to be the case that the Lord Advocate was immune from prosecution.

He certainly was in 1992 over the so-called Fettesgate affair when I was arrested at dawn in London, dragged back to an Edinburgh cell and charged with handling stolen documents, although subsequently exonerated.

If the Human Rights Act had been in force then I’d be writing this from a tax exile.

There’s a slew of questions this epic disaster raises but one issue that does not need to be turned over is how a Lord Advocate can sit in Cabinet as the Government’s senior legal adviser while also being state prosecutor.

It’s an affront to democracy, which does not happen in grown-up ones, where the two roles are separate and clearly independent.

Holyrood’s internal Salmond inquiry has descended into farce, and through no fault of the inquirers.

This much more serious affair needs a totally independent investigatory process with powers to compel witnesses to give evidence and to

seize whatever material is thought germane.

It won’t happen, of course.

Man from Auntie

If there’s a single reason to stop paying your BBC licence fee it’s John Nicolson. No, not the MP for Ochil and South Perthshire popping up on the telly, but what he has revealed – that the Beeb spent more than £1million in legal fees fighting equal pay for women and minority groups.

He’s a good lad, is John. I spent time with him in Israel for that very organisation reporting on the Gulf War.

What his work here has done is further widen the gulf in the BBC’s credibility.

Copping lots of data

I’VE had three visits from the police over the last month about a missing person. I was happy to help – up to a point. Looking in my tumbledown shed and thereabouts was fine, but it was on the second and third visits that I became slightly uneasy. These were ostensibly follow-ups but what they were really about was to collect dates of birth, from not just me and my small household, but everyone in the local area. It was a blanket data collection, the purpose of which, although not admitted, was obviously to run the names and dates of birth through their computers to search for any previous offences which might be relevant to perhaps a violent disappearance.

Of course, I gave the details, not because I thought it would be suspicious if I didn’t but because I want the guy found. It’s what happens to the data from all those hundreds of people they’ve harvested? I have no confidence in it being destroyed subsequently, or that their computers are immune from hackers. Call me paranoid but …!

French revelation

THE Netflix show Call My Agent (or 10% in the original French) is an absolute joy with a brilliant script, a captivating ensemble of actors – each one superb – and great humour, plus you get to see Paris at its best, which is a sight presently withheld from us in reality. It also has a famous French actor in each episode happy to play their fictional self – pompous, demanding, precious, insecure, self-obsessed, sexually voracious or downright manipulative and unpleasant.

Apparently there is a slew of indigenous versions in the pipeline, including a British one although just why is a mystery because as Dobie Gray sang, the original is still the greatest.

Sigourney Weaver is the first non-French star to appear, in what could be the last but one episode. She says that she loved the show so much that for the first time in her career she didn’t ask to see the script before accepting. True to form as her fictional self – spoiler alert – she starts off as a diva, demanding one of the agency staff cut up her meat, to coming through in the end, although only after flouncing off to the airport in a huff.

It’s just the kind of show we need in these bleak times. Warm, engaging and you get to laugh at stars getting their comeuppance. The only downside is you don’t want to get to the end of the last episode.

Internet lies take root

I KNOW that social media is the digital Wild West and is regulated only as much as Facebook and Twitter want it to be, so that while they’ll ignore appeals to take out the name of one of the women identified in the Salmond imbroglio, despite a Scottish court ruling, they’ll censor what they consider to be politically provocative, legal or not. So it’s optimistic to think they’d act on the advertisements that pop up on sites they host.

The Advertising Standards Authority is supposed to vet and govern what’s permissible in ads, but it clearly doesn’t online. There are the digital equivalents of snake oil salesmen jostling in cyberspace. An example is the grandiose claims by something called the Institut Actiscience, a French company, and its product hepaphenol. The advert pops up on numerous sites.

The product, which is made up of tiny plant extracts, I’m pretty sure is harmless. I’m positive it does not live up to the claims made. It won’t “cleanse your liver and your whole body at the same time”. Nor is it likely to be “pain relieving” and it certainly doesn’t regenerate cells. Avoid shelling out.

Vaccine nationalism?

There should be no jingoism or naked politicking in selecting and providing vaccines to combat Covid. The Oxford University/AstraZeneca one, the one you’re most likely to get in your arm, was supposed to be provided at cost to all countries while the pandemic raged. But now it seems Africa’s worst hit country and one of the poorest, South Africa – also incubator of a new strain – is having to pay two and a half times what rich European countries do. Because South Africa didn’t contribute to the cost of research and development, although some 2000 of the country’s citizens took part in the trial.

This vaccine nationalism is abhorrent. Then there’s the murky politics of it all. It’s likely China seeded the coronavirus, although the jury’s out on that, but it was one of the first to develop vaccines, Sinopharm and Sinovac. The first was the Russian Sputnik V, registered in August last year and gradually rolled out to the population.

I’m not qualified to comment on their efficacy but, if the UK government scientists tested them, then I haven’t heard about it. Any suggestion of considering them last summer would have been drowned in orchestrated hoots of derision from ministers and the media, the sub-text being that we couldn’t take lessons from Johnny Foreigner, particularly ones with antithetical political regimes.

The Russian Sputnik V is a hybrid, using two adenoviruses, common ones which infect us, in its two doses.The Gamaleya Center, the lab that made Sputnik V, claims after the two doses the efficacy of the vaccine is over 90% (though it has yet to publish full results).

It was a mistake by the Oxford team which led to the present dosing regime, half strength followed by full, after the initial two full shots only gave 60% protection. But guess what? AstraZeneca is now testing a hybrid vaccine – the Oxford one together with Sputnik V – to find out whether it makes their vaccine more effective.

Britain, Scotland, has handled this pandemic disastrously, as tens of thousands of grieving widows, widowers and families can testify. We refused to take lessons from other countries (or their vaccines) such as China, New Zealand, Australia and others who imposed full lockdowns and we’ve seen the efficacy of that. My money is on us belatedly – criminally belatedly – following shortly. It won’t just be the right thing to do, it will also be an admission of guilt.

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