The strange case of Julian Assange

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By Alex Robertson
 
Does it really require a statement from the UK Foreign Secretary and a threat to rescind the diplomatic immunity granted to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to secure the extradition to Sweden of a man not even charged of an offence in that country?
 
Does it not strike anyone else as a mite over the top?  Even a tad suspicious?  After all the scandal of UK complicity in extraordinary rendition by the US, what exactly is the UK government afraid of?

These questions all popped into my head when I read the news about the latest bizarre twist in the Assange story.  To be sure, Wikileaks must be an infernal nuisance to governments, who have a singular aversion to being caught out in naughty business.

But we the people may have a different view.  Some of us are mighty grateful to them for revealing what governments have been up to.  And to be fair, nobody is asking Mr Hague to issue a statement applauding Mr Assange’s being granted asylum by a foreign state.  But he could have stayed silent and let diplomatic immunity alone.  Instead he has started a process that might well blow up in his face.  Except it will not be his face, it will be ours.  And Ecuador’s President has obliged already.

What has this to do with Scotland and Scots?

It is perhaps asking a bit much of the Scottish government to try to intervene, although whether they would be right to endorse the Westminster view is more interesting and might be worth hearing, but I sense there is sufficient concern, to put it mildly, among Scots that the UK government is once again adopting the role of Washington’s poodle in pursuing the line they are.

Diplomatic immunity works both ways, and I can imagine with no difficulty at all what the Westminster reaction would be if the boot were on the other foot.  Once breeched, it will be next to impossible, and take a great deal of time and effort to remove or mitigate the bad effects any breech by the UK would bring down on our heads.

The one thing that must not be allowed to happen is that the work of Wikileaks is inhibited or impaired.  The revelations they have made, the uncovering of murky deeds by governments, our own included have been genuinely shocking.  We must not allow those who govern us to once more drag a cloak over what they get up to.

As a Scot, brought up and tutored to be open and honest, I am unwilling to see the State change the rules whenever it suits them.  If there is one thing an independent Scotland must enshrine in our constitution, it is protection for those who disclose what dirty business is got up to in our name, the whistleblowers.

Openness and transparency must mean more than just words uttered in a pious voice with an expression of saintly innocence.  Perhaps the best thing we Scots can do right now is to donate supporting funds to Wikileaks, and urge our parliamentarians to have a debate on Wikileaks and a motion to compel any Scottish government to conducts its business in an ethical way and safeguard whistleblowers.

And then to start work right now on drafting a Constitution for an independent Scotland which will require Scotland to behave in an exemplary manner when it comes to the conduct of its affairs.