The Craig Whyte trial finally got underway yesterday and the prosecution prepared to roll out the big guns, with a widely trailed witness list that if accurate is also astonishingly weak.
I find it hard to imagine what evidence any one of those who are on it can introduce to support the prosecution case.
I may be wrong. Perhaps one of them will have the crucial “smoking gun.”
But to me, right now, it looks like they are there to settle their own personal scores.
You could be forgiven for thinking their actual task was simply to blow as much smoke as possible, and to convince anyone who still needs it that Whyte is not a trustworthy guy.
Most of the folk on that supposed list are ludicrously compromised by an inherent bias that runs deep.
They are the Real Rangers Men par excellance, and that’s the problem.
All have a vested interest in seeing Whyte found guilty of something, anything, which further blackens his name and torches his already shredded reputation.
If it’s true that the prospective jurors were asked about the football allegiances before being sworn in then what to say of the loyalty of the witnesses? Not a one of them has any reason at all to wish Whyte well and if the prosecutors are worried about bias in the jury box then it will have nothing on the certainty of getting it in the witness box.
Whyte has, from the start, been nothing more than the convenient scapegoat for mistakes made by those who were at Ibrox before and after him. As King gets by using the bogeyman of Mike Ashley, there are people who will be hiding their own failures behind the Motherwell Born Billionaire far into the future, and it’s well past time for calling them out.
These guys all want to see Whyte fall. His innocence or guilt notwithstanding, he is the whipping boy for the club going under when he was there.
And if what happened there was his fault then it’s not, in any way, their fault, is it?
What possible insight can he offer? None. Why’s he going to be there?
Was he on the board?
Was he involved in the takeover deal?
What can he offer? What evidence can he provide?
Well, he can burnish his own reputation, for a start, which has taken a tanking since he was “put on gardening leave” by the club.
McCoist ran the team into the ground. His failure to qualify for Europe was like putting a noose round the neck of a condemned man.
In Whyte he has a figure to blame for it all.
He can blame the atmosphere inside the club for his failures in that first season in charge, and say that it negatively impacted on everything that came later. McCoist is a major subscriber to the Victim Myth in all its toxic glory; he can play that card for everything its worth, casting himself in the leading role.
This is to say nothing for today’s opening witness, Walter Smith.
He’s another guy who’s reputation took a battering over the course of the last few years. He knows even less about the Whyte situation than McCoist does because he made damned sure that he was well outside of the club when the roof came in on them in 2012.
He has never been a fool, and he knew the writing was on the wall the second the banks started running the show.
When unable to buy success, Smith has been found out as a fraud every bit as bad as Whyte himself. Whyte only pretended to be a legit businessman; Smith masqueraded as a football manager for years and got away with it.
He knows this as well as anyone, which is why he abandoned Ibrox and allowed his protégé to take over, in full knowledge of what it would mean to the club if they were eliminated from Europe early or denied Champions League football.
He’s admitted this much today in his testimony, but he’s also repeated the assertion that the club reduced “bank debt” whilst he was there. That’s laudable, except for the obvious; they did that under loud protest, mostly his, and were still spending far too much.
I believe Smith bears more of the responsibility for what happened to Rangers than anyone with the exception of David Murray himself. Those who came before him, they have the alibi of not managing the club when the Big Tax Case story broke. Smith was there.
He knew that bill was not only legit but that it was potentially deadly. He resisted cuts at every turn and he didn’t do it out of love for the club. He put his own reputation as the Great Man before the safety and security of the institution itself; I can put it no other way.
He has more reason than most to want to see Whyte branded the wrecker who brought it all down.
He knows that history will judge him far more harshly than the sycophancy which surrounds him in the present day. The Whyte trial offers him one last chance to dump the blame onto someone else’s shoulders. He should not be allowed to succeed.
A trlo of Horribles may line up from the Ibrox boardroom; Alastair Johnson, Dave King and perhaps, if we’re all lucky, Murray himself.
Johnson will certainly be appearing; he has confirmed this on social media and seems almost keen to get into it. I don’t know why. He held in his hands a document which clearly identified Whyte as the charlatan we all knew him to be, and yet did nothing about it. Raising objections to the board? Big deal. Expressing private disquiet? So what? Those are colossal failures in governance he should have to answer for.
That applies in spades to King. Johnson can at least cover himself with the fig leaf of his eventually being kicked out of the boardroom by Whyte. The South African tax crook was there right to the end, and his only defence is that he knew nothing, saw nothing and did nothing, which is as gross an abrogation of directorial responsibility as you are ever likely to hear of.
All of this is to say nothing of Murray, a man who should probably consider himself lucky not to be appearing as a co-conspirator.
These guys are kidding themselves on.
They aren’t there to provide the prosecution with the tools to put Whyte away, they are there to salve their own consciences about the wreckage they left behind. Smith went on to serve on the board of Charles Green, for God’s sake, who was even easier to read, in his way, than Whyte.
For these folks this is an exercise in personal vanity and the settling of scores.
If the CPS fails to get a conviction this will be why.