Saturday, 9 October 2010

Swingergate Day 2: Tommy and Gail Sheridan on Trial

On 4 October 2010, Tommy and Gail Sheridan arrived at the Glasgow High Court to be tried for perjury. Details of the case and its cast can be found on several excellent places on the Scottish blogosphere. I recommend for starters 
and the estimable Lallands Peat Worrier (who includes the full indictment)
There is also a very useful daily blog by an observer of the trial -
The trial is expected to last 10 weeks and thus become Scotland's longest ever perjury trial. To the tabloids' delight and the mortification of the puritanical Left, the affair springs from disputed and very uncomradely memories as to whether or not Tommy Sheridan admitted to visiting a 'swinger's' club.

What remains baffling to some of us is not the question of who lied in court about what (most observers are comfortably clear on the basics) but the fact that the Sheridans have been brought to trial at all - as the Scots Tory Alan Cochrane says in this fine piece in the Telegraph (back in February 2008 - this case is the veritable Glacier of Doom) -
'. . .Scottish justice is getting a bad name from the Sheridan case. It may not have the trappings of a show trial, but Mr Sheridan's treatment thus far is beginning to look like cruel and unnatural punishment.'
Others are not so sure; the first link above makes the point that the charge sheet pertains 'to the specifics of the original trial itself'.
So what's going on? My take is that you can discount the state-conspiracy-to-destroy-left-of-Labour-in-Scotland theory. Even the British secret service could surely work out that the best way to destroy the Scottish left at present would be simply to stand by and watch it self-destruct. Putting the Sheridans on trial was always going to carry the risk of making martyrs of a couple with a young child. The exuberance with which the police went for the Sheridans seems to me to be part of the ancient Scottish tradition of seeking out the heretic (proportionately, Scotland was one of the worst witchunting nations in Europe). 
Sheridan wants to overthrow the state and the cops probably see that as a threat to themselves. But as any fule know a socialist state means more, not less, cops. Perhaps some cops haven't realised this yet.
Enough conjecture. I went along to nosey at the High Court on the 5th.

We are on the Bridgegate, an old part of Glasgow, approaching the High Court which is down the road on the right past the bridge. Up until May 2009, the Glasgow High Court coexisted with Paddy's Market in Shipbank Lane running alongside - an embarrassing conjunction of parallel lines for Glasgow Council: so the council closed it - the market that is, not the High Court.
For the day Paddy's Market closed, see

As we turn the corner we see the media clustered outside the court - less than yesterday, for sure. The road sign says Turn Right'. Amusing,
Looking back at the Bridgegate
I'm not sure what the enormous balls outside the High Court signify. Probably not what you think. It seems an odd thing to say given the huge media coverage, but on the evidence of this wee group on the second day of the trial, there seems to be very little public interest in the Sheridan case. Apart from the press there are only a handful of us civilians and a very few Sherryfans. If this trial was about some X Factor person lifting a bun from Greggs you would not be able to move around here.
Fine homage to Rosie the Riveter on the left. Third from the left is Carolyn Leckie, one of the 6 Scottish Socialist party MSPs  who lost their seats in the 2007 election for the Scottish parliament. The SSP page proudly lists Carolyn and another 3 of those MSPs - 
The other MSPs  were Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne (the latter has backed the Sheridan version of Swingergate)

The lady second from the left with the dark hair is Barbara Scott, the person the photographers were most interested in. She took the minutes for the November 2004 SSP meeting. See

Second from left is Colin Fox,  the man who replaced Sherry as leader of the SSP. see
Incidentally,  this wiki entry includes among its 'References' a website - - which turns out to be a site on  'All types of womens [sic] bras'. (This is perhaps what passes for guerilla war on the left these days.)
Intermission mode for the media

The Sherry party will be coming in this way, it seems
False alarm
Waiting. . .
. . .Still waiting
And here they come

On Sheridan's left is his solicitor Aamer Anwar, a fascinating character himself, with some remarkable achievements. See
Anwar's name also pops up regularly on the fierce little battlegrounds of left-wing fratricide which mark the boundaries of such groups as the SWP, Respect, Stop the War Coalition  and Scotland United, but I don't recommend googling this stuff unless you really need to. I've just wasted an hour of my life doing it.

Photographs can be misleading. The Sheridan facial expressions look quite grim  here,  but a few moments later they looked quite jolly. Photographs can lie even when they tell the truth. 
Chat with well-wishers

'Just the person to help'. 
Not long after Sherry was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, a prominent Scottish journalist wrote about how proud she was to be living in a country which had elected such a  man as Tommy Sheridan to its parliament. Indeed.
One of the emerging features of the trial (I am typing this on  9 October) is the close-knit nature of Scottish  politics and Scottish life. On Tuesday, the former Treasurer of the SSP, Alison Kane, had this exchange (taken from the Daily Record) with Gail Sheridan's advocate -

'Gail Sheridan's advocate Paul McBride QC - who has been tipped as a future Tory candidate - asked Miss Kane about whether there were "factions" in the SSP.
In a reply which prompted laughter in the courtroom, Miss Kane replied: "Yes - like your own."

Factionalism is a universal feature of all parties and religions, but one wonders if Scotland is particularly bad. I remember an English Tory saying to me after meeting his Scottish counterparts, 'These people aren't Conservatives - they are bigots'. Similarly, Scottish Presbyterian wrangles seem rather more  toxic than, say, equivalent  Anglican ones. 
Arguably, Scotland created the modern world through the Scottish Enlightenment, an Enlightenment driven from Glasgow as well as from Edinburgh. It is a phenomenal achievement, something we should all be vastly proud of. Yet here we are in 2010, with the Mr Hyde version of Scotland rising into view, and barely a few decades away from sectarian policies  that quietly kept Catholics out of  employment  in institutions  such as major banks and BBC Scotland.
The journalists and writers who  orgasmed over Tommy Sheridan in his early days were part of the problem  - we don't need heroes to exalt into  demigods to be  trampled when found out to have feet of clay. Whatever the outcome of this trial may be, it is not going to be pleasant.



  1. I remember when Tommy was yet another Socialist Worker ranter on Argyle St in the mid 80s.

  2. Hi Stewart - here he is on Argyle St earlier this year! -

  3. Thanks for another slice of Glaswegian life.

  4. You were right as it was the true sherry party coming along - that old dear in the purple coat had a wee bottle hidden under her top hat.
    Well, she interests me more than the Sheridans, who is she :-)

  5. She was endearingly oblivious to the media! I thought she must be a local but wondered also if she might not be the (heavily disguised) Solicitor General Elish Angiolini cone along for a wee recce.

  6. Edwin, surely not Solicitor General, but
    Lord Advocate. [I may be wrong, of course.]
    From Wikipedia:-

    Her Majesty's Advocate (or when the monarch is male His Majesty's Advocate), known as the Lord Advocate (Scottish Gaelic: Morair Tagraidh), is the chief legal officer of the Scottish Government and the Crown in Scotland for both civil and criminal matters that fall within the devolved powers of the Scottish Parliament. He or she is the chief public prosecutor for Scotland and all prosecutions on indictment are conducted by the Crown Office, nominally in his or her name.

    The officeholder is one of the Great Officers of State of Scotland. The current Lord Advocate is the Rt. Hon. Elish Angiolini, QC, appointed on 5 October 2006. She is the first woman, first Procurator Fiscal, and the first solicitor to be appointed to the post.

    Surely she should be fired for the Sheridan prosecution. Why should she be allowed to jump when she really, really should be pushed. Wee Alex has a lot to answer for here in allowing her continuing employment after he got to grab the Holyrood steering wheel.

    Another of your great blogs and foties, by the way. many thanks.

  7. ARGGH! Many thanks Anon you are absolutely right - Elish was appointed Solicitor General for Scotland in 2001 and became Lord Advocate in 2006. Mea Culpa! Am a dozy git.

    From Wiki -

    'Elish Frances Angiolini QC (born 24 June 1960 as Elish Frances McPhilomy)[1] is a Scottish lawyer who has served in the political role of Lord Advocate for Scotland since 2006. She was appointed to the post of Solicitor General for Scotland in November 2001, becoming the first woman, the first Procurator Fiscal, and the first solicitor to hold that post.'