Alex Salmond ‘displayed bullying and intimidatory behaviour’

But former permanent secretary Sir Peter Housden said there were 'no indication at any stage' of sexual misconduct.

Alex Salmond ‘displayed bullying and intimidatory behaviour’ Getty Images
Alex Salmond: Cleared of all criminal charges in the spring.

MSPs have heard of how Alex Salmond was known to display “bullying and intimidatory behaviour” during his time as First Minister.

Giving evidence to a special Holyrood committee, Salmond’s former permanent secretary Sir Peter Housden said he was aware of “concerns” about the ex-FM’s conduct.

But Sir Peter stressed there had been no indications or suggestions of sexual misconduct from Salmond.

He added that no formal complaints had been made against any Scottish ministers during his time as permanent secretary from 2010 to 2015.

Sir Peter served as the Scottish Government’s top civil servant for four years under Salmond, who resigned after the 2014 independence referendum.

He was speaking under oath to the committee on the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against the former first minister.

Sir Peter told the inquiry: “I knew that the former first minister could display bullying and intimidatory behaviour.

“I’m not sure how exactly you would define harassment, but bullying and intimidatory behaviour, I knew he could display those behaviours…

“I knew the situation we were dealing with.”

But he declined to say if he spoke to Nicola Sturgeon, then the deputy first minister, about these issues, arguing the civil service code of confidentiality meant he could not disclose who he discussed with.

He did, however, add that usual protocol would have seen him discuss any such concerns with a senior member of the administration.

Pressed repeatedly by Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton on if he had ever personally witnessed bullying behaviour or shouting at staff from Salmond, Sir Peter eventually replied: “No.”

He continued: “I was well aware in the way that I’ve described that those behaviours took place.

“I had a number of conversations with people who had been on the receiving end of that and as I indicated, many conversations as to what we could do to prevent their occurrence.”

“There was no indication at any stage in my time in the Scottish Government, or indeed before, no suggestions of sexual misconduct,” Sir Peter added.

He said he had worked in close proximity to the former first minister’s during his time as the country’s top civil servant, and said in the main it ran well, with staff motivated and excited to be there.

Sir Peter said this positive atmosphere was occasionally “punctuated” by issues with Salmond’s behaviour.

The special inquiry was set up in 2019 to examine how the claims were dealt with after Salmond successfully sued the Scottish Government over its handling of them.

The Court of Session ruled the way the government investigated the two complaints was “unlawful”, “procedurally unfair” and “tainted with apparent bias”.

The SNP administration was forced to pay the former first minister more than £512,000 in damages.

The complaints were made in 2018 – shortly after the Scottish Government changed its complaints procedure – but dated back to Salmond’s time in Bute House in 2013.

While not directly related, the claims triggered Police Scotland’s separate investigation into the former first minister.

This then led to a High Court trial earlier this year where Salmond was cleared of all sexual offence charges.

Cole-Hamilton’s line of questioning of Sir Peter around Salmond’s behaviour was eventually curtailed by the special committee convener, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani.

She told the Lib Dem MSP: “We are not putting Mr Salmond on trial here.”

Salmond himself, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, deputy first minister John Swinney and a swathe of past and present officials are to give evidence under oath to the special Scottish Parliament committee.