We couldn't help but note the Bill Walker story floating back to the top of the media agenda again this weekend like – well, you can finish that metaphor for yourself.
After an embarrassing week in which Labour had scoured Twitter and Facebook with a fine tooth comb trying to find obscure SNP councillors/candidates saying anything mildly contentious that they could fake some pious outrage about (of which this surely represented the pitiful, embarrassing nadir, as a fully-grown man tried pathetically to manufacture some kind of offence at a handful of primary-school-playground jokes that wouldn't have upset even the primmest Victorian maiden aunt), the beleagured party and its increasingly-desperate activists went back to some safer ground.
As we've said previously, we don't think the MSP for Dunfermline has any place in the SNP, on account of his prejudiced views about gay marriage. And the party is well within its rights to expel him purely for not telling them that there were allegations of domestic abuse in his past. But that remains all they are – allegations. Walker has denied the claims, and no court has ever been asked to reach a verdict on them.
In this country, however inconvenient it may be for the Unionist parties and the nationalist bloggers who have jumped on the bandwagon, a person is innocent in the eyes of the law until proven guilty. The "court of public opinion" has no legal weight, and just as well – if it did, Christopher Jefferies would have been hanged from a Bristol tree long before he was ever found innocent of any connection with the brutal murder of Joanna Yeates, as would a great many more of the country's numerous victims of infamous miscarriages of justice.
And yet despite this blindingly obvious basic principle of any civilised society, everyone's decided that Bill Walker is guilty anyway, and must resign from the position to which he was democratically elected. The Herald has openly demanded it, as has a Conservative spokesman, while Labour have bizarrely insisted that the SNP must determine Walker's guilt rather than a court of law. Neither party, seemingly, is aware of the beams in their own eyes.
Eric Joyce (Labour) and Jeffrey Archer (Conservative) both still sit in the UK Parliament despite having actually been found guilty of crimes. Joyce was left to resign from Labour – rather than being expelled – even after being convicted of multiple violent drunken assaults, while as far as we're aware Archer remains a member of the Conservative Party (as well as a peer in the House Of Lords) despite serving jail time for the serious offence of perjury. Indeed, he's continued to enjoy close relationships with party officials both after and during his imprisonment.
We will, yet again, make our position absolutely clear: as supporters of independence we don't want Bill Walker in the SNP, we're glad he's been expelled (even if it's only for reasons of convenient expediency), we would be delighted from a political viewpoint if he did resign and bring about a by-election, and if he's guilty of domestic abuse we want to see him charged, convicted and severely punished under the law. But we will NOT be part of a lynch mob of screeching witch-hunters gleefully ripping up the most fundamental foundations of British justice at the drop of a hat.
Without a trial or admission of guilt, the demands for Walker's resignation are inappropriate, unseemly, hypocritical and wrong, and all those making them – whether for party political or kneejerk ideological reasons – should be ashamed of themselves. One day it might be you, or someone you care about, that the tabloid-reading public has judged in the absence of facts, just because they don't like the look of their face or because they've assumed that all allegations of vile crimes are automatically true because "there's no smoke without fire". And if it does happen, don't be surprised if there's nobody left to give a damn about your rights any more.