What we know about the Alex Salmond Holyrood inquiry

Nicola Sturgeon is due to appear before the committee on Wednesday following Alex Salmond's appearance last week.

Inquiry: Former first minister Alex Salmond. Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Inquiry: Former first minister Alex Salmond.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will appear before the Holyrood inquiry into her government’s unlawful investigation of Alex Salmond on Wednesday.

She has said she is looking forward to challenging allegations made against her.

Why was the committee established?

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up to look into the Scottish Government investigation of the allegations against the former first minister.

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MSPs have so far taken evidence from civil servants, including repeated sessions from permanent secretary Leslie Evans, trade unions and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell – who is Sturgeon’s husband – and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.

Salmond himself gave evidence to the inquiry on Friday, February 26, when he claimed the Scottish Government hoped his criminal trial would “ride to the rescue” and prevent its unlawful investigation of him suffering a “cataclysmic” civil court defeat.

Why did Salmond take legal action?

The former first minister did not feel his treatment by the Scottish Government was fair.

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It was later found that the lead investigator of the complaints had prior contact with some of the female complainers, with Judge Lord Pentland saying the investigation was “tainted with apparent bias”.

How has the inquiry gone so far?

The committee has repeatedly voiced frustration with how slow the handing over of evidence has been from a number of parties.

The Scottish Government was accused of obstruction last year, with the committee saying it was “completely frustrated” with the lack of evidence.

Both the committee and the Scottish Government were at loggerheads over legal advice provided as part of the judicial review process.

MSPs wanted to know when the Scottish Government was advised it would likely lose the challenge raised by Salmond, but ministers said handing over the advice would breach the ministerial code.

On two occasions, MSPs voted for the evidence to be released, with a deal eventually being struck in December to disclose the advice only to MSPs on the committee.

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Didn’t Salmond face trial on sexual misconduct charges?

Yes. The former first minister was cleared of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh in March last year, after being arrested in January 2019.

What were the issues with Salmond’s evidence?

Salmond and the committee have been wrangling in recent weeks over evidence published by the inquiry.

Earlier this month the former first minister said he would not appear, after the committee decided not to publish his submission to a separate investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code, over fears it may identify some of the complainers in Salmond’s criminal trial last year.

However, an alteration made to a court order by Judge Lady Dorrian meant the evidence could potentially be made public.

While the committee voted against publication, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) made the decision to publish anyway.

The evidence, which was released last Monday evening, was online for less than 24 hours before the Crown Office raised concerns with Holyrood about it, asking for redactions to be made.

In his submission, the former first minister accused some in the Scottish Government and SNP of a “malicious and concerted attempt to damage my reputation and remove me from public life in Scotland”.

Sturgeon said her predecessor did not have “a shred of evidence” to support his claims.

Last Tuesday the submission was re-released, with a number of paragraphs relating to the set-up of a meeting between Salmond and his successor redacted.

Is the committee inquiry the only investigation into the matter?

No. Sturgeon is currently under investigation by James Hamilton QC, to establish if she breached the ministerial code.

Sturgeon referred herself after being accused of misleading parliament over when she knew of the complaints against Salmond.

She previously said she had been told about the allegations by Salmond himself during a meeting in her home on April 2, 2018.

However, it was later found that Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, had met the First Minister in her Holyrood office four days prior to that, where she was told of the complaints.

Did the Scottish Government publish legal advice it received over the Salmond case?

Deputy first minister John Swinney agreed to hand over legal advice under threat of a no-confidence vote from opposition parties, and the advice was published on Tuesday evening.

Documents showed that lawyers warned the Scottish Government in September 2018 that there “is a real risk that the court may be persuaded by the petitioner’s case in respect of the ground of challenge based on ‘procedural unfairness’”.

On December 6, 2018 legal advisers told ministers that in their view the “least worst option” would be to concede the petition.

Following publication of the legal advice, the Scottish Conservatives called on Sturgeon to resign and said they would submit a vote of no confidence in her.

A spokesman for the First Minister said on Tuesday evening that to call a vote of no confidence in the middle of a pandemic, before hearing a single word of the First Minister’s evidence, is “utterly irresponsible”.


Spike in East Renfrewshire Covid cases ‘causing concern’

John Swinney said case numbers will be reviewed on a daily basis in evaluating whether further action needs to be taken.

Scotland must maintain its guard to keep coronavirus under control, despite “encouraging signs” in tackling the virus, according to John Swinney.

The Deputy First Minister made the comments as he said that a spike in cases in East Renfrewshire has caused concern.

Speaking to STV News, Swinney indicated that case numbers will be reviewed on a daily basis in evaluating whether further action needs to be taken.

It comes as the majority of Scotland moves to level two of Covid restrictions, with the exemption of the City of Glasgow and Moray, with both areas having seen a rise in cases.

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East Renfrewshire currently has a case rate of 86.9 per 100,000 – higher than Glasgow’s when it was announced on Friday the city would be kept in Level 3 restrictions.

“We made it very clear when we set out the strategic framework that although we wanted to move down the levels in as unified a fashion as we can across the country, there may be exceptions where we have local outbreaks that we have to take action to strengthen the restrictions,” said Mr Swinney.

“Now, we’ve obviously regrettably had to do that in the City of Glasgow.

“We are looking at the numbers in all local authority areas on a daily basis to make sure that nothing is running away from us and obviously the East Renfrewshire situation is causing some concern.

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“And we’ll be reviewing these numbers on a daily basis to make sure that we take prompt, swift action to tackle any spread of the virus because that’s the way in which we’ll be able to maintain and sustain a position of lower restrictions within Scotland if we keep the virus and its prevalence under control.”

Swinney suggested the rise in cases in Glasgow were driven by the so-called Indian variant of the virus.

He said: “We’re at an early stage in understanding some of the most recent data on hospitalisations.

“Obviously, we think that some of the challenge within the City of Glasgow has been driven by the variant of concern that’s emerged in India.

“If that is the case, we need to see what the impact on hospitalisation is out of that particular variant of concern.

“So, we’re watching a range of data – case numbers, we’re looking at hospital admissions, we’re looking at positivity rates, and the welcome today has been the positivity rate has fallen again, case numbers are lower than they have been.

“So, there are encouraging signs, but we have to maintain our guard to make sure we keep the virus under control and the vaccination strategy, which has been very, very successful, is proving to be a very powerful weapon in containing the virus and in providing the public safety and assurance that we require.”


‘Blue Monday’: Anger as Glasgow remains in Level 3

Hospitality bosses were left devastated by the 'eleventh hour' announcement that left staff and stock on the shelf.

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While restrictions eased across the rest of Scotland, pubs and restaurants in Glasgow had their reopening plans ruined as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the city.

Hospitality bosses were left angry by the “eleventh hour” announcement on Friday meaning staff they had hired and the stock they had ordered have uncertain futures with no reopening date to look forward to.

Last week, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that the country would move from Level 3 to Level 2, with some island areas going down to Level 1.

But amid a surge in cases in Moray, the First Minister said it was unlikely the area would join the rest of Scotland in having restrictions eased. On Tuesday, a decision had not yet been reached.

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On Friday, it was confirmed Moray would remain in Level 3 along with Glasgow as the city became the country’s Covid-19 hotspot.

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“It’s outrageous,” said Paul Stevenson, owner of Sugo Pasta in the city centre, “Trading under Level 3 restrictions means we are not making money…without the sale of alcohol and the restrictions of trading hours. Going down to Level 2 gave us a chance.”

Covid-19 cases in Glasgow are rising with the rate now higher than 100 per 100,000 people.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is making vaccines available for people aged 18-39 living in the worst affected areas of the city and everyone is being urged to visit their local asymptomatic testing centre and take a Covid test.

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Paul Shevlane, of Maryhill’s Woodside Inn, said: “We don’t have a date for reopening, which is obviously understandable because look at the numbers and the cases.

“But you then also think about staff, rotas, money you’ve spent to get open for today. Just all the costs, the outlay of everything.

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“All the staff were looking forward to it, all the customers were looking forward to it. We were talking a lot about it so, aye, pretty gutted.”

Neighbouring East Renfrewshire has also seen a spike in new coronavirus cases, with the region’s infection rate over 86 per 100,000 people – above the Level 2 threshold.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “We are looking at the numbers in all local authority areas on a daily basis to make sure that nothing is running away from us and obviously the East Renfrewshire situation is causing some concern.

“Obviously, we think that some of the challenge within the City of Glasgow has been driven by the variant of concern that’s emerged in India.”

The Scottish Government announced financial support for businesses impacted by the continuation of Level 3 restrictions. Tourism and hospitality chiefs have said it is not enough.

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Donald MacLeod, convenor of the Glasgow Licensing Forum, said: “What should have been a happy Monday, a manic Monday, is really a blue Monday, a really depressing blue Monday.

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“I really feel for them, I think it was a disgraceful decision at the eleventh hour to make by the Scottish Government.”

The city’s health board said eligible residents should have received texts or will have letters soon inviting them to get vaccinated.

Professor Linda Bauld, of the University of Edinburgh, told STV News: “I think the testing is working well. We have a lot of testing. We’re testing more in the UK and in Scotland than most parts of the world. People need to come forward for the testing.

“The vaccines also extending to other age groups, really positive, but that’s not a quick fix. It takes time for that protection to be built up.”

‘Worst violence police have dealt with in 20 years’

Officers were pelted with bottles, barriers and fireworks as they tried to disperse hostile crowds.

Euan Cherry via SNS Group
An injured person was stretchered away as Rangers fans celebrated in Glasgow's George square.

Police officers have said Saturday’s events in Glasgow was the worst violence they had dealt with in 20 years, according to the Scottish Police Federation.

Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph before scenes turned “ugly” and more than five police were injured.

Calum Steele, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) general secretary, said officers who were on the ground told him the violent disorder that followed largely peaceful celebrations was the worst experience they had ever had in decades on the job.

He told STV News: “There is an inevitability that through adrenaline and through being pelted with missiles that officers are going to receive cuts and bruises.

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“But when that violence extends to officers being thrown up in the air, injuring their backs, having teeth broken, and further in the west of Scotland, having their arm broken, there are some serious questions that have to be asked about the kind of society we are living in.”

As the crowds of Rangers fans became increasingly disorderly following the consumption of “copious” amounts of alcohol, police in riot gear armed with shields began to disperse them, moving them off George Square.

As they were forced down the city streets, some supporters threw various missiles at officers.

Mr Steele said: “All of those that undertook and participated in the disorder in George Square are absolutely responsible for their own actions. But throwing of missiles, bottles, barriers, fireworks and other pyrotechnics at police officers, you present a real risk to life.

‘We’ll identify far more people that were involved and they’ll be getting a chap on the door in the next few days and weeks.’

Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland assistant chief constable
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“When we have police officers, with over 20 years experience, telling me that this is the worst experience, the worst violence that they’ve dealt with in 20 years, I think that’s something that has to be taken very seriously.”

Earlier in the day, one fan is understood to have suffered an extreme injury to his hand when a pyrotechnic he was holding exploded.

“The harm these kinds of projectiles can cause should never ever be understated,” Mr Steele told STV News.

So far, 28 people have been arrested following Saturday’s incidents which Rangers said ‘besmirched’ the club’s name.

The wounded officers have received medical treatment, one for a serious injury, and Police Scotland confirmed they were recovering well.

Police Scotland’s assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie said that a full investigation into Saturday’s incidents was underway.

He said: “We’ll look at CCTV, speak to witnesses, [and] police officers that were there. We’ll identify far more people that were involved and they’ll be getting a chap on the door in the next few days and weeks.

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“We’ll share the information around the identities of the people we believe are responsible with the club. I don’t think anybody who was involved in that on Saturday night should get anywhere near a football ground again in the future.”

Man killed in car crash that seriously injured another named

The 83-year-old died on Friday after the collision on the A950 Mintlaw to New Pitsligo Road, Aberdeenshire.

Police Scotland
Two cars collided on the A950 Mintlaw to New Pitsligo Road in Aberdeenshire.

A man who was killed in a two-car crash in Aberdeenshire that seriously injured another has been named by police.

Stanley Morrison, from Macduff, was pronounced dead at the scene while the other man was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to be treated for serious injuries.

The 83-year-old died after the collision on the A950 Mintlaw to New Pitsligo Road at around 5.50pm on Friday, May 14.

Police are appealing for anyone who witnessed the incident to get in touch to help them in their investigation.

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Sergeant Scott Deans, of Aberdeenshire Road Policing, said: “Our thoughts remain with the family of the man who has tragically died.

“Our enquiries into the circumstances surrounding the incident are ongoing and I would urge anyone who has any information surrounding the crash to get in contact with police.

“Police can be contacted by calling 101 and quoting incident number 2744 of Friday, May 14, 2021.”


Appeal for witnesses after woman knocked down and killed

The 22-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene after the alarm was raised near Caldercruix on Sunday night.

© Google Maps 2020
North Lanarkshire: The incident happened on the A89 Airdrie Road.

A young woman has died after being hit by a vehicle in North Lanarkshire.

The 22-year-old pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene after the alarm was raised near Caldercruix on Sunday night.

The incident happened on the A89 Airdrie Road, near to the Woodside Road junction, at around 11.45pm.

On Monday afternoon, Police Scotland reported that the road remains closed for investigation works to conclude.

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Detective constable Lyndsay McKinnon, of Coatbridge CID, said: “This was a serious incident and our thoughts at this time are with the family and friends of the woman who lost her life. 

“Our enquiries into the cause of the crash are continuing and I would ask anyone who saw what happened, and has not yet spoken to officers, to come forward. 

“We are particularly interested to speak to anyone who was on the A89 before the crash and may have seen the deceased walking.

“Anyone with information or anyone who may dashcam footage which can help the investigation is asked to contact police on 101.”


Dedicated team to track suspects in George Square incidents

Police have already arrested 28 people in relation to various offences on Saturday.

Euan Cherry via SNS Group
Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then marched George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph.

A special team of police will investigate the incidents that took place at and around George Square in Glasgow on Saturday.

The dedicated inquiry will track those involved using CCTV, video and photographs from the scenes which officers described as the “worst violence they’ve dealt with in 20 years”.

Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then marched George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph before scenes turned “ugly” and more than five police were injured.

At present, 28 people have been arrested in connection with a variety of offences.

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An online portal has been set-up so that the public can send detectives any video footage or photographs of incidents that took place on May 15.

Detective inspector Craig Warren, who is leading the investigation, said: “The public can be confident we are doing everything possible to identify those responsible for the violence and disorder on Saturday. This will take time due to the numbers involved.

“Rest assured, if you were involved in causing this disorder, violence or anti-social behaviour you will be arrested.

“We are reviewing CCTV, video and still images and I would appeal to anyone who may have captured incidents on their mobiles to please get in touch with us. You may have footage that could help us in our investigation and it’s vital we speak with you.

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“The Major Incident Public Portal (MIPP) is now available for the public to send any information, photographs or images directly to the investigation team.

“There has been footage circulating on social media covering the events in George Square. If you recognise people involved in these acts of violence and disorder, please let us know. You can contact 101 or alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Coronavirus: 161 new cases recorded in last 24 hours

Scottish Government figures showed there had been no further deaths of those who had recently tested positive.

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Covid: 161 new cases in Scotland.

Scotland has recorded 161 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the latest Scottish Government figures show.

No new deaths have been recorded meaning the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – remains at 7664.

A total of 229,774 people have tested positive for the virus and the daily test positivity rate is 1.6%, down from 2% the previous day.

A total of 68 people were in hospital on Sunday with recently confirmed Covid-19, with three patients in intensive care.

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A total of 3,035,790 people have received the first dose of a Covid vaccination and 1,638,536 have received their second dose.

With the exception of Glasgow and Moray, mainland Scotland moved to level two restrictions on Monday and some islands moved to level one.

Since the start of the pandemic more than 10,000 deaths have been registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Over three million people, around two thirds of adults in Scotland, have received their first dose of the vaccination.

Police probe video of Rangers players after title win

In a statement, Police Scotland said they are now assessing the content of the video.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group
Police said they are assessing the contents of the video.

Police Scotland has said it is assessing a video allegedly involving Rangers football players using sectarian language during their league title celebrations.

In a clip circulated on social media, a group of players are seen singing along to the song, ‘Sweet Caroline’, at Ibrox Stadium.

The celebrations came after the club were presented with the Scottish Premiership title on Saturday following a 4-0 victory against Aberdeen.

In a statement, Police Scotland said they are now assessing the content of the video.

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The statement read: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media apparently showing Rangers players using sectarian language while celebrating on Saturday.

“We are assessing its contents and will liaise with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as part of our enquiries.”

Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said it is right that Police Scotland investigate and determine the facts around the video.

He tweeted: “I have also been made aware of this clip, if (and I stress if) this clip is genuine then any player or staff member found to be guilty of anti-Catholic hatred should be shown the door by the Club.

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“It is right Police Scot investigate & determine the facts around it.”

In a statement released by Rangers FC, the club said that it had sought legal advice and is confident that no criminality took place.

The statement read: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media. It is evident that this video was shared with an adjoining narrative which attempts to discredit our players and the reputation of Rangers Football Club. This highlights the dangers of ‘trial by social media.’

“It is deeply concerning that this video has been taken as genuine and has been shared widely including by some political representatives who should be mindful of their influence and legal processes.

“Our squad is richly diverse. Sectarianism is unacceptable and has no place in our club which is underlined by our Everyone Anyone campaign.

“We are confident that no criminality took place, we have sought legal advice and look forward to cooperating with Police Scotland.”


Women in entertainment share list of ‘abusive’ men to avoid

List of 'powerful and abusive' men comes to light after actor Kevin Guthrie was jailed for sexual assault.

Amanda Edwards / Stringer via Getty Images

Women in Scotland’s entertainment industry have a shared list of “powerful and abusive” men to avoid while they’re working.

The so-called ‘whisper network’ contains names of men deemed a threat to women and has come to light after actor Kevin Guthrie was jailed for sexual assault.

Sunshine on Leith and Fantastic Beasts star Guthrie was locked up for three years on Friday after being convicted of an attack in Glasgow in 2017.

His sentencing has prompted a number of women to speak out about harassment and inappropriate behaviour, as they called on industry bosses to do more to protect them.

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Theatre producer Rosie Priest told STV News that the list had been shared between women across Scotland’s entertainment sector.

The men involved, she added, were often “protected by the cult of celebrity”.

She said: “That cult of celebrity runs deeper than the people you see on stage. Directors, writers, choreographers, CEOs – they all have this immense amount of power.

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Rosie Priest

“We know that, unfortunately, one in four women is going to experience sexual violence in their lifetime and that sexual violence isn’t to do with intimacy, it’s to do with power.

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“And as a sector founded on very unequal power balances, a very small amount of people holding a lot of power, it means that predators, abusers, bullies can thrive.”

Four years have passed since the birth of the #MeToo movement and the fall of Hollywood giants Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and Kevin Spacey.

But many working in the industry in Scotland believe not enough has been done to protect them.

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Louise Oliver

Writer and actor Louise Oliver co-founded the Persistent and Nasty platform for women working in stage and screen to share their experiences.

She said: “There have been some moments across my career where I’m like ‘that wasn’t so great’ and I didn’t do anything at the time.

“I just had to move on and get over it.”

A court heard Guthrie, 33, attacked a woman who was “distressed and unwell” at a flat in the west end of Glasgow in 2017.

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A judge described the assault as a “heinous crime” as he placed the actor on the sex offenders’ register for life.

Theatre and TV actor Maureen Beattie launched the Safe Spaces campaign in a bid to rid the industry of inappropriate behaviour.

She said: “The world I want to see is a world so unused to that behaviour that it is an absolute shock when it happens.

“I suppose the revelations recently are shocking – but it’s like ‘there you go, it’s still going on’.

“To get to the point where bad behaviour literally took the breath away from you because you were like ‘wow, that’s extraordinary’ is where I’d like to get to.”


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