Sturgeon accused of 'misfeasance' in Salmond's legal action against Government

The former first minister is understood to be seeking millions in damages and loss of earnings.

Nicola Sturgeon is among senior figures accused of “misfeasance” in Alex Salmond’s legal action against the Scottish Government.

The former first minister is seeking damages and loss of earnings over the Government’s botched probe into complaints against him.

Misfeasance is a form of misconduct in which a public official knowingly misuses or abuses their power to cause harm.

In a statement on Friday, Salmond said “not one single person has been held accountable” for what he described as “tawdry business”.

Humza Yousaf reacts to Salmond’s government legal challenge
The First Minister was speaking at a meeting of the British-Irish council

“Despite Lord Pentland’s findings in the Court of Session that the behaviour of the former Permanent Secretary and her officials was ‘unlawful, ‘unfair’ and ‘tainted by apparent bias’, despite the ongoing police and crown office enquiries into the criminal leaks and potential perjury at the criminal trial, despite the astonishing revelations of misfeasance contained in the eventual publication of the government’s own legal advice, and despite the specific findings of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the conduct of the former Permanent Secretary and the former First Minister, not one single person has been held accountable,” the former first minister said.

“With this court action that evasion of responsibility ends.”

Salmond’s lawyer, Gordon Dangerfield, said the challenge launched at the Court of Session on Friday was an “action of misfeasance” in which he claims Scottish Government officials conducted themselves “improperly, in bad faith and beyond their powers” with the intention of injuring the former first minister.

Then-first minister Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond on March 3, 2021.

The officials and ministers named in Salmond’s action include former Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans and former first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Responding to the case, a spokesperson for Sturgeon said: “Nicola utterly refutes Salmond’s claims, as she has always done.

“She answered questions before a parliamentary committee for eight hours in 2021, and was also investigated and cleared by the independent advisor on the ministerial code.

“Salmond’s actions are a matter for him, and the conduct of the case is a matter for the Scottish Government.”

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government will “robustly” defend itself in the case.

Speaking at a press conference at the British-Irish Council in Dublin on Friday, Yousaf initially refused to be drawn on the case, but added: “Unsurprisingly to anyone listening or watching, the Scottish Government will defend its position robustly, but I’ll say no more because that’s a live case.”

Salmond’s action claims that senior figures “decided at an early stage that Mr Salmond was to be found guilty of allegations against him, regardless of the actual facts”.

It further accuses them of leaking confidential documents, concealing of documents in defiance of court orders and a criminal warrant, misleading the court during judicial review proceedings, soliciting of false criminal complaints, and the commission of perjury at a parliamentary inquiry.

Leslie Evans, then-Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, giving evidence at Holyrood to a Scottish Parliament committee examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond on August 18, 2020.

“All of this, we aver, was done for political reasons, and specifically to injure Mr Salmond,” Mr Dangerfield said.

“A major aim of Mr Salmond in bringing this action is to obtain disclosure of this vital evidence and to blow apart the Scottish Government cover-up which has gone on now for far too long.”

It comes after he took the Government to court in 2019 over its mishandling of an investigation into claims of sexual harassment by him.

The Scottish Government paid out £512,250 in legal costs to Salmond after the Court of Session ruled its handling of complaints against him was “unlawful”.

Salmond was cleared of sexually assaulting nine women while he was first minister in a separate criminal trial in 2020.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It would not be appropriate to comment on live litigation.”

Last year, the Government appointed a group of external investigators to handle complaints about current and former ministers

Following a review of its complaints procedure, new rules around formal complaints of bullying, harassment and discrimination made by civil servants were introduced in February 2022.

It came after a lengthy Holyrood inquiry into the original complaints against Salmond that saw both him and then-first minister Nicola Sturgeon called to give evidence.

During the inquiry, Salmond attacked Scotland’s former top civil servant – then permanent secretary Leslie Evans – accusing her of having a “bias” against him and calling for her resignation.

In March 2021 – just days before he announced he was the leader of the fledgling Alba Party – Salmond confirmed his intention to take legal action against Ms Evans.

The inquiry, which worsened an already sour relationship between Salmond and Sturgeon – who had previously been close – found Sturgeon misled MSPs in her evidence, but she was cleared of any breaches of the ministerial code.

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