Inquiry sides with Salmond over release of court documents

Holyrood's Salmond inquiry said it does not want to see files the former FM complained would 'malign his reputation'.

Inquiry sides with Salmond over release of court documents Getty Images
Alex Salmond: Lawyer brands Scottish Government's conduct 'extraordinary'.

Holyrood’s Salmond inquiry has sided with the former First Minister against the release of court documents he says would “malign his reputation”.

The committee on the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints has instructed ministers it does not want to see reports of the original complaints against Alex Salmond.

The government’s botched investigation of the sexual misconduct claims was ruled “unlawful”, “unfair” and “tainted with apparent bias” by the Court of Session last January, with material related to the probe deemed defective and “set aside”.

The legal defeat resulted in the Scottish Government paying more than £512,000 in legal damages to Salmond.

Last week, his lawyers accused Scottish ministers of attempting to dredge up the material through a request to the courts.

Salmond’s solicitor David McKie branded the move to produce “material that has been reduced as unlawful by court order” as “extraordinary”.

He added: “The only possible explanation for seeking to take such a step appear to our client to be a desire unjustifiably to malign his reputation, rather than account for their own unlawful actions.”

Salmond was cleared of all charges of sexual offences at a High Court trial in March.

In a letter to deputy first minister John Swinney, published on Monday, the inquiry’s convener Linda Fabiani reminded him of its remit, including a pledge not to “revisit the criminal trial nor reinvestigate the substance of the complaints originally made to the Scottish Government”.

As a result, the special committee of MSPs is “not seeking, nor does it require the government to seek” court documents which relate to the specifics of the 2018 internal investigation into Salmond’s conduct.

The SNP MSP continued: “The committee is not requesting the investigating officer’s report, or any statements or other material taken or prepared by her in the course of preparing the same, which we understand is covered
by an undertaking to the Court of Session.”

The Scottish Government’s harassment procedure relating to the Salmond case was struck down in a court of law due to the fact the investigating officer had previous contact with the accusers.

It comes as the row between First Minister and her predecessor went public over the weekend, with Nicola Sturgeon suggesting her former mentor was “angry” with her for refusing to “collude” with him to make the 2018 allegations “go away”.

Salmond wants to convince people the investigations against him are “all a big conspiracy” to deflect from poor conduct he admitted to during his trial, Sturgeon implied.

A source close to the former First Minister hit back: “Alex Salmond is not ‘angry’ with the first minister; just astonished at the ever shifting sands of her story.

“Her claims of an attempted ‘collusion’ are not only untrue but unsupported by the written evidence and directly contradicted by her own previous parliamentary statements.”

Sturgeon previously told MSPs in January 2019 that she had never felt “under any pressure” to intervene in the government’s probe on Salmond’s behalf.