MSPs rule Alex Salmond inquiry submission can be published

Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body conclusion paves the way for ex-first minister to give evidence to Holyrood committee.

MSPs rule Alex Salmond inquiry submission can be published PA Media
Alex Salmond alleges that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code in his submission.

A submission from former first minister Alex Salmond in which he alleges his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code can be published, a key Holyrood body has ruled.

The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) concluded “on balance” it would be “possible” for the document to be published.

The move could clear the way for the former first minister to give evidence to the Holyrood committee which is probing the Scottish Government’s botched handling of harassment allegations against him – which saw Salmond win a £512,000 payout following a case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

MSPs on the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints have previously decided against publishing the submission Salmond made to a separate inquiry, which is considering whether Sturgeon breached the ministerial code.

Holyrood Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, in a letter to committee convener Linda Fabiani, said that the SPCB, which met twice to discuss the issue on Thursday, had “collectively agreed that on balance it is possible to publish the submission by Alex Salmond on the ministerial code”.

Macintosh, who was responding on behalf of the SPCB, said however that the “decision in principle to publish must now be followed by the processing of the submission in line with the committee’s evidence handling statement”.

On Wednesday evening, MSPs on the committee narrowly voted against publishing, because of legal concerns over the identity of complainers in a separate criminal trial against Salmond last year, where he was cleared of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh.

While the former first minister’s submission to the Hamilton Inquiry has not been published as yet by the committee it has been made public online, with the former SNP leader claiming in it that the “Parliament has been repeatedly misled on a number of occasions about the nature of the meeting” he had with Sturgeon at her home on April 2 2018.

Sturgeon has insisted throughout that she did not breach the ministerial code which sets out how government ministers should behave.

Salmond claimed that while Ms Sturgeon had told MSPs that she first learned of allegations against him at that meeting this was “untrue and is a breach of the ministerial code”.

Instead, Salmond claimed his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein had “personally discussed the existence of the complaints, and summarised the substance of the complaints” in a meeting with Sturgeon in Holyrood on March 29.

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, a member of the committee, welcomed the decision from the SPCB.

He said: “This is the right decision.

“The public deserve to know how £500,000 of taxpayers’ money was lost and why women were so badly let down.

“We must hear Alex Salmond’s side of the story to uncover what really happened.

“This welcome decision makes that possible.”

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: “The Committee notes the decision of the SPCB. Mr Salmond’s submission will now be processed in line with the Committee’s statement on the handling of information, ahead of publication early next week.

“The Committee will be writing to Mr Salmond to invite him to give evidence to the Committee on February 24.”

A spokesman for the First Minister said: “The publication of this submission changes nothing as far as the First Minister is concerned, as she has always expected to be questioned on its contents.

“The only frustration is that she has still not had the chance to rebut the claims and conspiracy stories that have been levelled at her – and has lost count of how many times she has agreed to appear before the committee, only for the date to be postponed.”