Salmond won’t appear at Holyrood committee on Wednesday

Former first minister informs Scottish Parliament he won't appear following decision to redact some of his evidence.

Salmond won’t appear at Holyrood committee on Wednesday Getty Images
Salmond has offered to give evidence on Friday.

Alex Salmond will not appear at the Scottish Parliament committee investigating the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against him on Wednesday.

Scotland’s former first minister had been expected to give evidence about the botched investigation and face questions about his claims that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon misled parliament and breached the ministerial code.

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said on Tuesday evening: “Mr Salmond has informed the committee that he will not be attending tomorrow’s meeting to give evidence.

“The committee will instead meet in private to discuss the implications of Mr Salmond’s response and the next steps for its work.”

Salmond has offered to give evidence on Friday instead.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Scottish Parliament took down evidence from its website in which Salmond alleged Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, after concerns about possible contempt of court were raised by the Crown Office.

It was replaced with a redacted version of the written submission with five sections censored.

The former first minister’s lawyers have now written to parliament asking to see the legal advice it received about redacting the evidence.

In a letter to the committee, Salmond’s lawyer David McKie stated that the former first minister is “entitled” to have his evidence published and added: “If any aspect of it is removed, it compromises his oral evidence.”

He described the decision to subsequently redact evidence as a “significant surprise and concern” and said the Crown Office’s intervention “only serves to reinforce” Salmond’s fears about the prosecution body’s actions.

Mr Mckie added: “We, therefore, require to see urgently the legal basis for the proposed redactions in order that we can properly advise our client and make further representations. These could have a material bearing on whether he is able to attend tomorrow.

“As matters stand, we have advised him that the apparent intervention from the Crown suggests that there has to be a material risk to him in speaking to his submission. He cannot be placed in legal jeopardy.”

In his written submission, Salmond named people he claims were involved in a “malicious and concerted” attempt to see him removed from public life, including Ms Sturgeon’s husband and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, and her chief of staff Liz Lloyd.

He also described the Crown Office, the body responsible for prosecuting crimes in Scotland, as “unfit for purpose” under its current leadership.

But after the evidence was published and in the public domain, the Crown Office wrote to the parliament and purportedly raised concerns about possible contempt of court.

The Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body (SPCB) agreed to remove the submission and replace it with a redacted version with five sections censored.

The Government’s investigation of the allegations against Salmond was found to be “tainted by apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had prior contact with two of the women who made complaints.

Salmond, who was later acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault in a criminal trial, was awarded a £512,250 payout after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the government investigation.

A parliamentary inquiry, the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, was established to look into the Government’s actions.

A separate investigation is looking specifically at a potential breach of the ministerial ethics code by Sturgeon, who has repeatedly denied misleading parliament.

Sturgeon is still due to give evidence next week.