UK

Alex Salmond committee appearance in doubt as Holyrood pulls inquiry dossier

ALEX Salmond’s appearance in front of Holyrood’s harassment inquiry is in doubt after the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body pulled some of his evidence from the website. 

The six MSPs on the governing body U-turned on their bombshell decision last week after the Crown Office wrote to say they had “grave concerns” over the sharing of the former First Minister’s testimony. 

READ MORE: Crown Office demands Holyrood harassment inquiry remove Alex Salmond submission

In the document – which is Salmond’s submission to the prosecutor led inquiry into whether or not Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code – he accuses his successor of misleading MSPs and flouting strict rules on transparency and accountability.

Salmond has previously tied his appearance to the publication of the document. 

Information redacted or not published cannot be considered by the committee for their final report, which ultimately means it cannot be raised during the evidence session with Salmond or Sturgeon.

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said there had been agreement that further redactions would need to be made.

He said: “Following representations from the Crown Office on Monday evening, the SPCB agreed collectively this morning that it will remove the Alex Salmond submission on the Ministerial Code from its website with immediate effect and republish it later today in a redacted form.  The SPCB will respond formally to the Crown Office shortly.”

It’s not clear if those further redactions will deter Salmond from appearing. He has previously said the document needs to be published to allow him to tell the whole truth.

Just last week, the SPCB effectively overruled the harassment inquiry, who had twice, by a slim majority, voted against publishing the dossier. 

Parliament’s lawyers had previously advised MSPs on the committee against sharing the document – even though much of it is already in the public domain – over concerns it could lead to the women involved in Salmond’s criminal trial being named, breaching a contempt of court order.

The committee’s unwillingness to publish, saw the Spectator magazine going to the High Court, asking for the order to be amended.

While Lady Dorrian agreed to tweak, there were legal arguments over the impact of the change. 

Nevertheless, at a crunch meeting of the SPCB last Thursday, they decided that “on balance” it is “possible to publish” the dossier accusing Nicola Sturgeon of breaking the ministerial code.

The cross-party harassment committee is investigating the Scottish Government’s flawed probe into allegations of misconduct made against Salmond by two civil servants.

He had the exercise set aside in January 2019, with a judicial review declaring it “unlawful” and “tainted by bias”.

The Government’s botched handling ultimately cost the taxpayer half a million pounds.

At a later criminal case, the former SNP leader was cleared on 13 counts of sexual assault.

After the Scottish Government conceded the judicial review, Nicola Sturgeon referred herself to the independent advisers on the Ministerial Code over claims she had broken strict rules when meeting with Salmond about the complaints.

James Hamilton, a former director of public prosecutions in Ireland, has been tasked with investigating the First Minister’s actions.

In his submission to Hamilton, Salmond said the First Minister had repeatedly broken the ministerial code and had misled MSPs about meetings between the two at Sturgeon’s home.

The SNP leader has always denied her predecessor’s claims.

A Crown Office spokesperson said they wouldn’t confirm what they may have done about concerns they may have.

They said giving detail could worsen the potential impact of any breach.

Last week’s decision to publish provoked an angry response from the SNP and from a number of women who work on the parliamentary estate. 

On Monday, a number of MSPs’ staff members took to Twitter urging the SPCB to reconsider.

Salmond has been approached for comment.



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