Kenny MacAskill vs the bodysnatchers.

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greykennymacaskill.jpgThe Justice Minister used to be a firebrand, a free speaker and a free thinker, intense and unafraid. That was a long time ago, obviously, and even in 2004 he entered the leadership race as "former nationalist firebrand Kenny MacAskill".

You can still see the odd hint of his past passion, like the ruins of a formerly impressive castle. A dull speech written by civil servants occasionally has a bit in the middle where his finger suddenly jabs at the Tory benches, the volume rises, and those civil servants watch between their fingers from the back of the chamber.

When it comes to Strathclyde Police's attempts to infiltrate Plane Stupid, though, the fire is well and truly out. The week before last, one of his minions told the Sunday Herald

"The justice secretary has discussed the matter with Strathclyde Police's assistant chief constable and is satisfied the force has acted proportionately and legitimately."

Patrick grilled him today in the Chamber on this issue. Does the Minister really believe that attempting to bribe and intimidate activists is an appropriate response? Are there not some tactics which are appropriate for attempting to detect serious crimes but which aren't suitable for peaceful protests?

Apparently not. The answer was protracted, circular, vague and bureaucratic. The police, in short, are doing just what they should be doing. They get scrutinised and reviewed. There's a balance. Blah blah blah.

It was all so different when the SNP themselves were being infiltrated by the secret service. According to fellow former firebrand Alex Neil, speaking less than two years ago, these tactics were "dirty tricks", being used "to undermine the democratic wishes of the Scottish people".

Listening to the Minister's answer today, I can hear the ghost of Kenny MacAskill (original edition) raging at the telly, bemoaning the response of a Minister so clearly gone native. Can anyone tell me the precise date when the Pod People arrived and took the original away?

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