Inquiry MSPs target Salmond appearance after court ruling

Labour and Tories call for emergency meeting of the Alex Salmond inquiry committee.

Inquiry MSPs target Salmond appearance after court ruling Getty Images

Scottish Labour and Scottish Conservative politicians have called for an emergency meeting of the Alex Salmond inquiry committee, claiming a court ruling means the former First Minister can now appear to give evidence.

Salmond was expected to appear before the Holyrood committee investigating the Scottish Government’s botched handling of sexual harassment complaints against him on Tuesday, but he declined to do so after it failed to publish evidence he submitted.

The committee voted not to publish the submission or a redacted version of it, citing legal concerns over orders to protect the anonymity of complainers.

But a judge has now amended a court order which prevents the publication of information likely to identify any of the accusers in the Salmond trial to clarify its scope.

The Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour claim this paves the way for Salmond to testify before the committee.

Salmond’s legal team has now written to the committee saying he intends to resubmit his evidence after the judge releases the reasoning for her decision, with a view to appearing in front of MSPs next week.

The committee was set up after he received a £512,000 pay-out following the Court of Session civil ruling that the Scottish Government’s handling of the complaints was “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias”.

Judge Lady Dorrian told a hearing at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday she would add “as such complainers in those proceedings” to the contempt order relating to the criminal trial.

The former First Minister was cleared of 13 charges, including sexual assault, indecent assault and attempted rape, following a trial at the same court last year.

The Spectator magazine applied to the court to vary the terms of the order.

Scottish Conservative spokesman on the Salmond inquiry, Murdo Fraser, said: “We have been saying from the outset that our committee will not be able to do its job properly unless we are able to question Alex Salmond in person.

“While we await the full details of the revised order and what implications it will have, I am satisfied that we now have grounds to compel Salmond to attend.”

Fellow committee member Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s interim leader, said: “This decision presents the committee with the opportunity to publish the evidence and question Mr Salmond – we must seize that opportunity with both hands.

“I have called for an emergency meeting of the committee tomorrow and I hope that colleagues will allow publication of the evidence and invite Mr Salmond to attend in person.

“Failure to seize this opportunity would be most unfortunate for the credibility of the committee and its work.”

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