Alex Salmond, SNP Justice and the Moorov Doctrine

Some Thoughts from former SNP MSP Bill Walker


Over the last couple of weeks I have been trying to articulate my thoughts on the outcome of the Alex Salmond trial and his acquittal and, in light of my own experience, consider what implications this could have for the SNP and the historic and unique Moorov Doctrine in Scots Law.


Alex was charged with 13 counts of sexual assault against nine women and, after a two-week trial by a female-majority jury in the Edinburgh High Court, the verdict was quite clear: Salmond was found not guilty of any “criminality” in 12 charges, with the last charge determined as being not proven.  A jury had cleared him of all charges.  Although Salmond’s defence team admitted some “inappropriate” behaviour with female staff and colleagues, they were successful in convincing the jury that nothing was criminal or illegal in his actions.


The Salmond trial has occurred at the time when I am currently engaged in completing Volume Two of my memoirs, entitled “Politics in My Life”, and it has caused me to re-consider the behaviour of the SNP hierarchy in the lead-up to my own nine-day trial in 2013. My own trial was conducted in the lower Edinburgh Sheriff Court with no jury. I was found guilty of 23 charges of domestic abuse against three women by a sheriff sitting alone.


Prior to my trial, the behaviour of the leadership of the SNP, which I had joined in 1974, caused me great distress in 2011, not long after I had been elected as SNP MSP for Dunfermline.  In my case, the SNP leadership were made aware of accusations against me in 2008.  Instead of informing me at that time of these complaints, they secretly retained this information, allegedly conducted a covert investigation without my knowledge and only subsequently advised me in 2011.


It is incredulous to believe that when my my former wife’s former brother-in-law, Robin Armstrong, walked into the Constituency Office of the then Deputy Leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, to make complaints against me, that she was unaware of these complaints.  Indeed, I suspect most people would suggest that it be inconceivable, given Nicola’s close relationships with Mhairi Hunter, her Constituency Office Manager who received these complaints, and Peter Murrell, SNP Chief Executive and Nicola’s soon-to-be husband at SNP HQ, who received Mhairi’s Complaint Report that same day.


When in 2010 I took steps to get on the SNP’s “List of Approved Potential Parliamentary Candidates” for the upcoming Scottish Elections in May 2011, at no stage of the very inquisitorial vetting process was any reference made to any complaint about me. I did, however, confirm in my application my appearance in the civil court as part of previous divorce proceedings.


It wasn’t until September 2011 that I was called in to SNP HQ by Ian McCann, Corporate Governance and Compliance Manager, to tell me that “a complaint had been received about me” – some three and a half years previously! I was flabbergasted. At my request, I was given a copy of the Complaint Report to Peter Murrell, although McCann had no explanation of why this complaint had not been disclosed to me sooner. I responded to these allegations in writing, all with relevant references. When I submitted this documentation and asked what would be done with my responses, he answered: “Nothing at present. We’ll just keep it on file, in case it’s ever needed”. His parting words to me were along the lines of: “I suggest you destroy/burn your copy of the Complaint Report on this matter”. I didn’t, of course, do that.


Nevertheless, having been previously suspended from the Party in March 2012 following a Sunday newspaper report, I was then expelled the following month for apparently not completing an application form “correctly”.  I was treated as persona non grata by the Party.  I had been well and truly “dumped”, albeit this did not extend to most members in my constituency and many MSPs in Parliament. In fact, I was widely encouraged to fight the suspension and appeal the later expulsion.


I notice that Alex Salmond said after his acquittal that he had wished to the raise certain issues in his defence during his trial, but was legally unable to do so. Now that he has been acquitted of all charges, I await with interest his disclosure of the evidence he believes demonstrates the ‘political conspiracy’ against him by the SNP and the Scottish Government. It is deeply disturbing and ominous to think that the SNP may be sitting on dossiers on ordinary activists and elected members to potentially use against them at a later date. However, as my own and Salmond’s more recent treatment indicate, these dangerous tactics appear to be embedded practice in my former party. I await a thorough cleaning out of the SNP at the top. The Salmond disclosures promise to be revealing, to say the least.


Of course, both in my case and in Salmond’s, the prosecution in court sought to deploy the Moorov Doctrine.  Indeed before asking the jury to retire to consider their verdict, the judge in the Salmond trial, Lady Dorrian, reminded members of the jury of the existence of the historic and unique Moorov Doctrine in Scots Law, under which all or some charges in an alleged pattern of behaviour could be judged to corroborate each other, even though none could be proved in their own right.  Happily for Alex Salmond, the jury appear to have decided that, certainly in 12 of the charges, there was a “non-pattern” of accusations from eight of the complainers.


In my own trial in 2013, the sheriff, Mrs Mackie, was “judge, jury and executioner” and did not have the encumbrance of a jury to deal with. She alone decided that the Moorov Doctrine (intended originally to apply over a short term for sexual charges) could apply for all 23 historic domestic abuse charges over the 27 years period from 1967 to 1993/5, without any individual allegation being specifically proved.  Indeed, I believe objective documented defence evidence submitted disproved several of the prosecution claims but, apparently under the Moorov Doctrine this could be disregarded.


A number of judicial writers have questioned the operation of the Moorov Doctrine over the years. It may have been acceptable, indeed appropriate, in Glasgow for a sexual assaults case when it came into existence in 1930 but, nowadays, with so much electronic, documentary and other forensic evidence available from a multitude of sources, the days of the Moorov Doctrine, should be numbered.  Its use has now spread widely to many branches of the criminal law.  I look forward to a serious judicial review of the Moorov Doctrine and its applicability today in Scots Law.  It does not exist elsewhere in the UK.




1. “Bill Walker: My Story – Vol. 1 A Private and Professional Life”, Amazon Books, September 2017


2. “Bill Walker: My Story – Vol. 2 Politics in My Life”, Amazon Books, due to be published later in 2020


All correspondence to