Bill Aitken Must Go

As this goes up the Facebook page Bill Aitken Must Go’ has over 500 people supporting it. The title of this page is not ‘Bill Aitken is abhorrent’ or ‘Bill Aitken is wrong’ – it calls for Aitken to resign, it expresses a desire for action.

And action in this circumstance is what is needed.

Not routine chastisement from other politicians, vague disappointment from those who previously got on with him, or blame of the nature of the interview which Annabel Goldie has so far done.

As Burdzeyeview writes:

“There is no excuse and no justification for Bill Aitken’s comments, made in a telephone conversation with a Sunday Herald journalist.  They are unacceptable and he must resign from his convenorship of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee.  By these comments he has proven himself unfit to hold the post.  It does not matter that he is about to retire nor that there are only a few weeks of parliamentary activity left.  If the institution itself is not to be brought into disrepute, he must resign.  If he fails to do so, then other committee members must effect his removal.”

As can now be seen from the full transcripts of the interview in the Sunday Herald this is not a case of a journalist trapping a politician into making a blunder. This is not a misunderstanding. Aitken’s views are clear and unashamed for all to see in the original transcript of his words.

His are not the repugnantly sexist comments recently made by misogyny double act Gray and Keys. Nor are they akin to Frank McAveety’s lecherous drawls made last year.

They transcend sexism and lechery and assert a view about rape that is both repulsive and wrong. That any woman ever has responsibility to take for her rape fundamentally goes against its very definition and must not be tolerated. Attitudes towards rape, banishing views that a woman is ever ‘asking for it’ are one of the greatest hurdles left for female equality in the West, and these comments by Aitken demonstrate that we still have a way to go. Such views are ingrained in patriarchy, and with Aitken remaining in his role clearly these views sit easily with the modern Tory party.

Is it because he will only be in the job for another few weeks? He doesn’t need to jump or be pushed, because Parliament is soon to dissolve and he isn’t standing again so won’t be around for much longer… No need to make a fuss. Let him finish his job.

Aitken is not a dying cat who sicked up on the carpet and who it would be unfair and unnecessary to punish. He has expressed truly abhorrent views, and in not resigning or being forced to resign he will leave his role as Convenor of the Justice Committee with a degree of dignity that is not deserving.

The Facebook group is not called ‘It’s ok because Bill Aitken won’t be Convenor of the Justice Committee for much longer, thank God, wasn’t he misplaced in that role eh?!’ It is called ‘Bill Aitken must go’, and go he must.

We are calling on all women’s rights groups to sign an open letter to the Justice Committee to demand Aitken’s resignation.

If you are in support of this please leave a comment below and we will forward on Friday to the national press and to the committee as they return from recess on Monday. This is a cross-party / non-party issue. The letter simply reads:

Dear Justice Committee, Bill Aitken’s comments about violence against women in Glasgow are repugnant. He is not fit to stand in office and his continued presence as your representative demeans the committee’s good work and the whole parliament. We demand his immediate resignation as a mark of respect for women everywhere.

Yours the Undersigned…

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  1. Iain Wallace says:

    I fully support your article and letter.

  2. Aitkin must be sacked if he doesn’t resign and Goldie should be ashamed of herself for not denouncing Aitkin immediately. To allow him to cling on until the bitter end brings the Scottish parliament and our justice system into disrepute.

  3. Nick Lyon says:

    It doesn’t matter how long is left of parliamentary term – his comments are a disgrace and he should resign now. How anyone who has read the full text of his comments and still supports him continuing in his role is beyond me.

  4. Claire Black says:

    Bill Aitken’s comments are indefensible. They betray an attitude towards violence against women that not only rule him entirely unsuitable for his role as Convenor of the Justice Committee but that also beg questions of his suitability for public office. He must go now.

  5. karencampbell says:

    It’s throwaway comments that expose the truth of a person. And the truth is, Mr Aitken appears to differentiate between women that are ‘deserving’ of rape, and women that are not.

  6. bellacaledonia says:

    Well worth reading Lallands Peat Worrier on the subject:
    http://lallandspeatworrier.blogspot.com/2011/02/aitken-out.html

  7. Dave Taylor says:

    I agree. Aitken can no longer continue as convenor of the committee.

  8. Whatsinaname says:

    fully support it

  9. Eric Falconer says:

    Repulsive. How can rape victims possibly get justice when people like Bill Aitken come out with comments as crass as this?

  10. Tom Hastings says:

    He should not resign, he should be removed. Don’t give him an easy way out make it plain to him and to everyone just how repugnant his viewpoint is.

  11. cynicalHighlander says:

    Count me in.

  12. Aislinn Haszeldine says:

    It beggars belief to even contemplate that this Mr Aitken should be allowed to hold any judicial influence after his shocking statement of opinion on the matter of Rape.
    Article 10 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of expression”, however with this right comes responsibility. Article 10 (2) states that the excercise of these freedoms carries “carries duties and responsibilities” for “the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the RIGHTS of others…”
    Mr Aitken knows this, but clearly does not extend such rights to rape victims. He has no choice but to resign and admit to his grave error.
    I fully support this letter calling for his immediate resignation.

  13. Edward Andrews says:

    I completely agree, in what he said, Aitken made his position untenable.

  14. John Ferguson says:

    Aitken knows what is right and should do the right thing without needing a push. Honourable?

  15. Andi Rossetter says:

    I fully support this. Bill Aitken is a disgrace, he must be removed from office immediatley

  16. Linsey Young says:

    The attitudes and opinions shown by Mr Aitken are abhorrent to civilised society. He must be removed from his position as convener of the justice committee immediately. Allowing him to remain in place until he retires would be an endorsement of those repugnant attitudes and opinions.

  17. ewan morrison says:

    I would like you to add my name to this.

  18. David MacGille-Mhuire says:

    Add my name, please. The man is a lout.

  19. Andrew Pointer says:

    Add my name also. But I would prefer that he was not given the opportunity to resign; he should have been sacked by Goldie already. Questions also need to asked about why BBC Scotland are not covering this, I am sure they would have had Aitken been an SNP MSP.

  20. MacShimidh says:

    Yep. The fact that he wasn’t sacked on the spot just shows what a horrible little gentlemans club the Tories STILL are…

  21. Helen Kay says:

    What shameful comments from somebody who has been entrusted by fello MSP’s to make wise decisions on the laws of Scotland. What are they thinking of? They must admit they have made an error of judgement about this man and insist on his immediate resignation.

  22. Iba Hart says:

    Add my name please! Also, I think we should be stepping up the pressure on Annabel Goldie – she’s the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, and her lack of response and refusal to condemn Aitken’s remarks are utterly unacceptable.

  23. Rob says:

    Absolutely disgusting behaviour, he should resign, count me in.

  24. In 2009/2010 Scottish police recorded 884 rapes by this resulted in 92 prosecutions and finally a mere 41 convictions. That was an increase from 26 convictions in 2008/2009.

    Bill Aitken’s views are abhorrent and will discourage victims of rape overcoming their valid fears and reporting the crime to the police.

    Please include my name in the open letter.

    PS BBC Scotland News now have a facebook page, make your views known there too.

    http://www.facebook.com/?sk=lf#!/bbcscotlandnews

  25. Pamela Page says:

    Odious eijit.

  26. Iain Wallace says:

    Not sure if previous attempt to comment has to be moderated so apologies if this comes through twice.

    Just a reminder about the Facebook group mentioned above. You can also show your support for his removal there and keep up to date with latest plans and developments. Currently there are almost 850 ‘likes’. Thanks.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bill-Aitken-Must-Go-Campaign-for-a-New-Scottish-Justice-Convener/194959127189544

  27. Rosalind Hardie says:

    My thoughts are with the victim of this horrendous assault and hope she is getting the support she needs to survive. Coping with sexual assault is bad enough without having to deal with ridicule and victim blaming – especially from people who are supposed to be community leaders. It is heartening to see how many men are adding their voices publicly to the call for Bill Aitken to go as go he must.

  28. Absolutely – he should resign, or be pushed.

  29. Add my name too, please.

  30. Vicky McCann says:

    Count me in. He’s a disgrace.

  31. Aileen Kane says:

    This man’s comments are truly disgusting and utterly misogynistic. He must be despatched in the disgrace that he deserves.

  32. Chitra Ramaswamy says:

    I would like my name to be included in the open letter. Bill Aitken must go. That he said what he said is in itself a disgrace. That he continues to convene the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee makes his position both morally wrong and untenable.

  33. Vile man. Please include me if it’s not to late.

  34. Lexi Barnett says:

    Please include me in this call for Bill Aitken to stand down. As he “represents” me as my regional MSP, I have already written to him directly to express my disgust and call for him to stand down. I recommend everyone else in his region do the same immediately.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Will do Lexi, thanks for this – we have a great deal of support now. Hopefully see some of you at the demo at 10 outside the parliament

  35. Melanie Marshall says:

    Please include my name in the open letter. This is disgraceful. It’s ridiculous that someone with such little understanding of the justice system is in charge of it.

  36. Chris MacLullich says:

    Bill Aitken’s comments are entirely unacceptable and make his position as an MSP untenable. The public can not have confidence in an individual who has demonstrated such a flagrant ignorance in relation to how the law and society has to ensure justice for victims of sexual violence. This is especially urgent as he continues to hold a decisive position in the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee. He needs to apologise and resign. The Scottish Conservatives also need to ensure that a clear and unequivocal condemnation is issued.

  37. Melanie Marshall says:

    * Sorry, he’s not in charge of the justice system, he convenes the Justice Committee. It’s still shocking.

  38. Anna Cook says:

    Please include my name in this open letter. His comments are shocking and indicative of a deeply problematic attitude towards women, rape and prostitution. I do not want this man representing my constituency in Europe.

  39. Too late now,as heard he has resigned,but I would gladly have my name added.

    What a disgusting man.What makes it worse is him and some others who make excuses for what he said,implying what he said was taken out of context.How so? He said what he said,amongst sneering and ridicule.Hardly surprising coming from a Tory.

  40. bellacaledonia says:

    Since the resignation there has been numerous attempts to smear the Sunday Herald journalist involved particularly by Hamish Macdonell of Caledonian Mercury. Here is Richard walkers response:

    Response from the Editor of the Sunday Herald
    Your article ‘The Tory MSP, the resignation and journalistic ethics’ by Hamish Macdonell is based on a number of false assertions and dubious conclusions.

    Mr Macdonell suggests that Bill Aitken’s comments to a Sunday Herald reporter regarding the victim of a gang-rape in Glasgow were off the record. They were not. At no time were the words ‘off the record’ uttered during the course of the conversation.

    Mr Macdonell then goes further – suggesting that we should have realised the remarks were off the record from the context of the conversation. In other words, journalists should assume that everything is off the record until an interviewee specifically says that he or she is going on the record. We don’t know of any journalist who works under that assumption. Does Mr Macdonell?

    It would be a dangerous development if journalists begin to edit quotes on the basis that they believe them to be off the record, even when the interviewee has not said so.

    Mr Macdonell also suggests entrapment by the Sunday Herald and its reporter. Again, this is an enirely baseless suggestion. Our reporter telephoned for a routine quote on a series of rape allegations. Mr Aitken brought up the suggestion that the area where the alleged rape took place was a popular one for prostitutes. We had not asked him about prostitution and certainly had not set out to take the interview in that direction. Mr Aitken raised the matter with no prompting by us. Mr Macdonell seems to believe we should simply have ignored his comments, or treated them as off the record. Why? It is no part of our job to edit politcians’ quotes to save them embarrassment. It would be dangerous for journalism if that were the case.

    There is another interesting journalistic and ethical dilemma posed by Mr Macdonell. Let’s say that Mr Aitken had gone off the record in a conversation with our reporter and made the comments he did about rape and prostitutes. What would Mr Macdonnell have done? Collaborate with his political contact and protect them from public opprobrium? Thankfully, we did not have to grapple with that dilemma. As we have said, Mr Aitken made his comments on the record.

    Mr Macdonell goes on to make the rather confusing point that the Sunday Herald has somehow damaged the ability of the press to scrutinise politicians on behalf of the public. It is hard to understand why hiding Mr Aitken’s comments could in any way further the public interest. Indeed there is a stronger argument that doing so runs contrary to the public interest.

    The relationship between journalists and politicians described by Macdonell is dangerously cosy and does a disservice to readers. We could go on to question why the Aitken story was picked up by so few newspapers and broadcasters and why even now so many commentators are bending over backwards to support Mr Aitken’s nonsensical suggestion that his comments do not reflect his true views. But perhaps it is best not to go there …

    Richard Walker, Editor
    Sunday Herald

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