Social worker awarded £27,000 over unfair dismissal

Melani Erlank was sacked by Argyll and Bute Council following claims she was bullied by her manager.

Payment: Melani Erlank awarded £27,000 over unfair dismissal. Matthew Newby via SWNS
Payment: Melani Erlank awarded £27,000 over unfair dismissal.

A sacked social worker at the centre of a bullying row has been awarded nearly £27,000 by an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.

Melani Erlank was sacked by Argyll and Bute Council in September 2019 following a long-running dispute in which she claimed to have been bullied by her manager.

The tribunal found that the local authority allowed the issue to “fester” for years, with senior managers having ‘no will’ to help Ms Erlank.

Bosses were also criticised for disregarding the advice of occupational health experts and the views of the council’s elected members in the way they dealt with the issue.

ADVERT

The judgment comes after a survey published last year revealed four out of five NHS staff within the council’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) with NHS Highland – in which Ms Erlank worked – had experienced or witnessed bullying and harassment.

Ms Erlank said the judgment signalled the end of ‘four very painful years; during which she felt suicidal at times.

She said: “I feel very relieved and grateful that my claim was upheld. The judgment means I feel vindicated and heard.

“My concerns were legitimate and I wasn’t losing my mind. I felt betrayed by management and HR.

ADVERT

“Their lack of intervention caused the situation to escalate. They could and should have taken action when they became aware of the concerns.

“At times I felt suicidal and unable to continue.

“If I did not have the support of my family and my union, I don’t know what would have happened.”

The tribunal heard the social worker began working with the council in February 2005, with Ms Cameron becoming her line manager in 2013.

The following year, Ms Erlank was signed off due to work-related stress.

She later suffered another period of absence for the same reason and raised concerns with local area manager Linda Skrastin that she was being bullied by Julie Cameron.

At this point, mediation was proposed but Ms Cameron refused to take part.

ADVERT

It later came to light that she had written a letter claiming Ms Erlank was incompetent and that she considered mediation “undermined her position as a manager”.

Employment judge Sally Cowen criticised the council for not taking action over the response, saying “a reasonable employer would have considered disciplinary action towards the manager”.

The tribunal heard that Ms Erlank suffered several periods of stress-related absence, and was seconded to another post for a short period of time.

But things came to a head in August 2019 at a case review meeting which resulted in Ms Erlank being dismissed due to “a breakdown in working relationships”.

Judge Cowen awarded her a total of £26,573.51 for unfair dismissal.

This included a 20 per cent reduction due to contributory conduct by Ms Erlank as she refused to take part in a “facilitated discussion process”.

The judge stated: “The tribunal considers that the actions of the respondent were what led to the dismissal.

“The matter could have been handled differently from the outset and the respondent’s acquiescence to Ms Cameron’s position of not wishing to engage, meant no progress was made for almost two years.

“When resolution was attempted, the mental health of the claimant was ignored and there was no will by the management involved to find ways to keep the claimant in employment.

“The dismissal was therefore unfair.”

A spokesman for Argyll and Bute Council said: “We are committed to doing all possible to create a positive working environment for our employees.

“A lot of change has happened already since the time of this complaint.

“We will continue to progress, with the HSCP, development of a constructive culture that supports all our employees in all the many different roles required to deliver effective services.”


Covid breaches rise as police break up more house parties

Enforcement of restrictions is at its highest level since emergency powers began.

STV News
In the first week in January, there were fewer than 500 charges recorded by police, but last week that number was more than 1,000.

Police say there has been a significant increase in the number of breaches of Covid regulations, including a rise in house parties.

At a Scottish Police Authority (SPA) conference on Wednesday morning, deputy chief constable Will Kerr said the number of house gatherings “have been rising significantly”.

The overall number of charges, which includes fines for breaking coronavirus rules, has more than doubled since the start of the year.

In the first week in January, there were fewer than 500 charges recorded by police, but last week that number was more than 1000.

ADVERT

Although the majority of interactions between police and the public continue to be resolved without enforcement, the percentage of occasions when officers have had to take action increased by 21% between the first week in January and the week up to February 10.

A report presented by lawyer John Scott to the SPA on Wednesday found that enforcement was at its highest level since emergency powers started just under a year ago.

The report said: “Some individuals are feckless or careless, and some transgress through genuine confusion, albeit the persistently large number of unlawful house gatherings may be hard to excuse in that way.

“Some, especially when it comes to self-isolation, may simply be unable to adhere to requirements due to financial or other need which continues in many cases to go unmet and unsupported.”

ADVERT

The percentage of FPNs issued has risen from fewer than 400 in the first week of the year to around 750 last week.

Police in Glasgow issued 171 FPNs in one weekend, on February 13 and 14.

The report to the SPA also highlighted concerns regarding how gatherings of children aged 12 and over were treated in the same way as adults.

The report said this had a “serious impact on the health and wellbeing of such children”.

Although there is no pro-active policing on travel regulations, police had issued 532 FPNs for breaking these rules as of February 14.

A mess to embarrass the architects of devolution

Heady ideals look distinctly tarnished when following every twist and turn of what has been dubbed ‘The Alex Salmond Affair’.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Alex Salmond with current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Open, accountable and transparent. These are the watchwords that heralded the advent of Scotland’s new democracy in 1999.

These heady ideals look distinctly tarnished when following every twist and turn of what has been dubbed ‘The Alex Salmond Affair’.

It is regrettable that the personality of the former First Minister looms large. Some of the issues at the heart of this should not be lost or viewed through the prism of whether you approve or disapprove of Mr Salmond. Issues not personalities are what counts.

From the forming of the Scottish Governments harassment procedures, to the Court of Session declaring them unlawful, to the subsequent criminal prosecution of Mr Salmond through to the current procedural torture chamber that is the Holyrood Committee probing those procedures, this is a sorry tale that has not been the finest hour for openness, accountability and transparency.

ADVERT

Supporters of Mr Salmond have another word for all of this, they call it ‘corrupt’. Salmond himself this week accused the Crown Office of not being fit for purpose. That charge, from a former head of Government is unprecedented and despite his bent for an eye catching headline, it is not a charge Salmond would have made lightly.

On unrelated matters in recent weeks the Scottish Conservatives have used the word ‘corrupt’ in relation to some prosecutions. The office of Lord Advocate is under scrutiny and indeed assault by question as never before. I have no problem with that, it is called accountability to Parliament.

James Wolffe QC told MSPs the other week some prosecutions related to the administration of Rangers FC in 2012 were ‘malicious’. The public purse has haemorrhaged tens of millions of pounds in damages to citizens Wolffe says should never have been prosecuted in the first place.

Lord Tyre in another civil case last week said the prosecution of Mr David Grier proceeded without ‘probable cause’. This, the biggest scandal ever to hit the Crown Office in my lifetime, occurred in one of the world’s oldest legal systems in 2021.

ADVERT

And if that wasn’t enough, the intervention of the Crown Office on Monday night led to the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body redacting evidence from Mr Salmond that he was meant to speak to today at the Holyrood committee.

This is despite the fact the contents of his submission has been in the public domain and indeed has been widely published. I am tempted to ask why the Crown Office chose to have the Corporate body redact passages freely published elsewhere?

The constitutional optics don’t look good. The Lord Advocate is a member of the Cabinet which is of course a political body. When the devolution legislation made its way through the House of Lords in 1998, the late Lord McCluskey warned of the dangers of having a Law Officer being seen to be too attached to the Executive arm of Government.

That Law Officer was ultimately responsible for giving legal advice to the Government on the harassment procedures. That Law Officer was also ultimately accountable for Mr Salmond’s prosecution and for the subsequent attempts to have his views redacted before a Parliamentary Committee. Censored is another word.

For the avoidance of doubt I make no charge of impropriety against Mr Wolffe. Having known several Lord Advocate’s I know that they take their independence very seriously in the prosecution of crime and in making decisions free from political interference.

Indeed today, in a nervy address to MSPs, Mr Wolffe said the sole reason for the intervention of the Crown on Monday night was to protect the identification of witnesses although he simply ignored pointed questions about how the decision to write to the Corporate body crystallised. He was clear that there had been no political interference in the decision to intervene.

He was ‘not getting into the substance of issues’ he told Parliament this afternoon. That will not impress MSPs who believe the actions of his office has frustrated the work of a Parliamentary Committee.

ADVERT

However, Lord McCluskey’s warnings that the independence of the office could be seen as compromised by ties to politicians is an interesting one in this context. Today the Lord Advocate also made the point that both pre and post devolution the holder of his post has always been a member of the Government.

The Lord Advocate has had a locus at key stages of this long timeline. That is an uncomfortable place for any Law Officer when the intervention of his office is seen as key to the defence and credibility of a Government’s position. That being said Mr Wolffe was clear today that he offers advice without fear and no politician has ever tried to compromise his role.

Another cardinal principle in the separation of power stakes is that politicians should refrain from becoming embroiled in controversy relating to criminal prosecutions, since that is a matter for the Crown Office and the Courts.

At her Covid briefing today the First Minister, I would suggest, stretched that principle to breaking point. Of Salmond’s acquittal she said this, ‘Alex Salmond is innocent of criminality, that doesn’t mean the behaviour they claimed of didn’t happen. It is important we don’t lose sight of that’.

A prosecution has occurred and a citizen has been acquitted by a jury of fellow citizens listening to all of the evidence. And yet nearly a year after the acquittal of that citizen, the First Minister believes ‘that doesn’t mean the behaviour they claimed of didn’t happen’. That view, with respect to Nicola Sturgeon, is precisely why we have Juries. This forage into Mr Salmond’s acquittal wasn’t really wise.

Alex Salmond believes he has evidence that establishes a conspiracy to have him prosecuted for essentially political reasons. Today his successor called him and his supporters out, calling the conspiracy viewpoint variously ‘wild, untrue, false, baseless’.

She said that the preference for Mr Salmond is to make claims and not have them scrutinised and she urged him to give evidence to the committee. That evidence will now be given on Friday.

Mr Salmond has won in the Court of Session and been acquitted by the High Court of Justiciary of serious criminal charges. The end game for him is the salvaging of his reputation and the airing of what he believes is an abominable conspiracy.

I am certain that the findings of the parliamentary inquiry and indeed the separate probe of James Hamilton QC on whether the First Minister is in breach of the ministerial code are unlikely to deliver the redress that the former First Minister seeks. I equally doubt however that both probes will be the final word.


Any end date for Covid restrictions now ‘would be made up’

Nicola Sturgeon addressed the announcement of June 21 as a possible date for the end of restrictions in England.

Russell Cheyne - WPA/Pool via Getty Images

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she would be “making it up” if she gave a specific date for the end of Covid-19 restrictions.

Speaking at the coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Sturgeon addressed the announcement of June 21 as a possible date for the end of restrictions in England.

In setting out her government’s plans on Tuesday for easing the lockdown, the First Minister did not give a similar date.

The Scottish Conservatives accused Sturgeon of giving people “next to no hope”.

ADVERT

She told the briefing: “If I was to give you a fixed, hard and fast date right now, I would pretty much be making it up and I don’t think that’s the approach I should take with you.

“I’m not ruling out any specific dates. I want it to be as soon as possible and we have every reason to be hopeful that come the summer life will be much, much, much better than it is just now, but when I stand here and give you what I think the actual date when all or most restrictions will come to an end is going to be, I want to be as sure as I can be that is real and it can be delivered.”

Paul Grover via Getty Images
Boris Johnson set June 21 as a possible date for the end of restrictions in England.

Sturgeon added: “I don’t just understand the frustrations that people have, I feel those frustrations.

“As has been the case all along, I’ll have to take decisions that sometimes you agree with and sometimes you disagree with, but I can assure you that the Scottish Government will continue to do our very best to lead the country as quickly but also as safely and sustainably through this horrible ordeal and out the other side of it.”

ADVERT

Speaking after confirming Scotland has recorded 47 deaths from coronavirus and 798 positive tests in the past 24 hours, she said the Scottish Government’s updated framework for easing restrictions focuses on the next six weeks as “that’s the timeframe that right now we can be most confident about”.

The First Minister said there is uncertainty over how the more infectious virus strain will behave once restrictions are lifted and the impact of the phased return to schools will be particularly scrutinised in this regard.

She said: “My hope is that the more we learn about the impact of the early changes, the more confidence we will then have that we can go further and faster, without risking a resurgence of the virus that would set us all back. In the meantime, we will move forward carefully.”

She also announced care homes should be supporting up to two named visitors for each resident from March 1, where possible, and Scottish Government guidance on this “very important way forward” will be published on Wednesday.

Sturgeon gave a further update on the daily coronavirus figures, announcing the daily test positivity rate is 3.9%, down from 4.8% on Tuesday.

There are 1018 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 58 in 24 hours, and there was no change in those in intensive care which remains at 93.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The First Minister seems to be rattled by the backlash to her plans.

ADVERT

“Nicola Sturgeon gave people next to no hope of when restrictions would ease and now she’s having to furiously backtrack. She seems to be on the verge of a climb-down over her lockdown plan already.

“After Scottish Conservative calls for a u-turn on the slow school reopening, she dodged questions about return dates.

“She’s now suggesting the loosening of restrictions to level 2 might happen earlier and, in another masterclass of political spin, trying to rewrite history and claim that was the plan all along.

“When people just want a clear message of hope and certainty, they’re getting less clarity and more confusion from the First Minister.”

Two women tortured teenage boy with glass bottle

Agnes Bowers and Nora Holmes stamped on the 17-year-old's head in Renfrewshire.

© Google Maps 2020
Agnes Bowers and Nora Holmes have been jailed for the attack.

Two women who attacked a teenage boy with a glass bottle and stamped on his head have been jailed.

Agnes Bowers, 27, and Nora Holmes, 25, carried out the assault to danger of life on the 17-year-old victim at his home in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, on October 4, 2019.

Holmes smashed a bottle of vodka over his head before the pair punched, kicked and stamped on his head. Holmes also tried to write on his leg using broken glass.

The pair pled guilty at the High Court in Glasgow to assault to teenager’s severe injury, permanent disfigurement and danger of his life.

ADVERT

The court heard they carried out the assault because of rumours about their victim.

Judge Lord Burns jailed Holmes who he said was the instigator of the attack for 43 months. Bowers , from Roystonhill, Glasgow, was jailed for 37 months and ordered to be monitored in the community for two years after her release.

Lord Burns said: “You both assaulted this young man because of a rumour which may or may not be well founded.

“This was fuelled by a cocktail of drink and drugs and mental health problems.”

ADVERT

The judge told Holmes: “You were the principal actor here and you used a bottle to hit the boy and cut glass on his body – a form of torture.”

Prosecutor Paul Kearney said: “Holmes began an assault by smashing a vodka bottle on his head.

“She then dragged him from the couch and the two accused kicked, punched and stamped on his head then kicked and punched him on the body. Holmes repeatedly struck his head off a wall.”

The crying victim pleaded with the pair for the attack to stop, but was cut with broken glass.

One witness told police: “It looked to me like they were trying to write something on his legs with the glass.”

The living room was described as being a “bloodbath” with walls and furniture stained.

The boy wasn’t moving and was covered in blood and a 999 call was eventually made.

ADVERT

Officers arrived and were told by Holmes that “things got out of control.”

She added: “It’s all on me. I think I went too far, I need a lawyer.”

The victim suffered a bleed on the brain, a cut to a vein and a broken nose.

Mr Kearney added: “The wounds will leave permanent scars. His life was put in danger and without medical treatment he would have died.”

Defence counsel Louise Arrol, representing Bowers, said: “She has very little recollection of the incident. She suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.”

Defence counsel Donna Armstrong, defending Holmes, said: “She has written a letter to the court expressing remorse. She lost control.”


Lennon resigns as Celtic manager with club 18 points adrift

Lennon's departure comes after 1-0 defeat to bottom-placed Ross County on Sunday.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group
Lennon has left the club after a troubled season.

Neil Lennon has quit as Celtic manager with immediate effect.

Lennon’s departure comes after a 1-0 away defeat to Ross County that continues a troubled season for a team that has won four consecutive domestic trebles.

The Northern Irishman leaves with the team 18 points behind Rangers in the Premiership. His assistant John Kennedy will take over as interim manager.

Lennon, 49, has been a player, coach and manager (over two spells) for the vast majority of the past two decades but has been under pressure for months as season full of promise has become a struggle.

ADVERT

After nine successive league titles, Celtic were chasing a Scottish record ten in a row but instead a resurgent Rangers are closing in on the trophy. Lennon has also seen his side crash out of Europe and end a long run of domestic cup dominance.

Lennon said: “We have experienced a difficult season due to so many factors and, of course, it is very frustrating and disappointing that we have not been able to hit the same heights as we did previously.

“I have worked as hard as ever to try and turn things around, but unfortunately we have not managed to get the kind of run going that we have needed.

“I have always given my best to the club and have been proud to deliver silverware to the Celtic supporters. The club will always be part of me. I will always be a Celtic supporter myself and I will always want the best for Celtic.

ADVERT

“I would like to thank so many people at the club who have given me so much and I would also like to thank my family for their love and support. I wish the Celtic supporters, players, staff and directors nothing but success for the future.”

Lennon, a successful player with the club from 2000 to 2007, first managed Celtic in 2010, winning the first three league titles of their current run, as well as two Scottish Cup victories.

Following the abrupt departure of Brendan Rodgers from Celtic Park in February 2019, he returned to the club to take charge until the end of the season. He guided the team to the title and, after winning the Scottish Cup for the team to complete a third domestic treble he was offered the job on a permanent basis.

Last season the Northern Irishman continued the run of silverware, sealing a record-equalling ninth consecutive league title and winning the League Cup. He also lead his side out at the delayed Scottish Cup final in December, where they beat Hearts to complete a historic ‘quadruple treble’.

Though successful domestically before this season, Lennon’s record in Europe in his second spell was more troubled. A 5-4 aggregate defeat to CFR Cluj ended Champions League involvement in the third qualifying round last season. The consolation place of a Europa League place was taken and Celtic topped their group but were defeated by Copenhagen in the last 32.

This season, Champions League qualification saw the club knocked out by Ferencvaros in the second round. The Europa League brought more misery with a home defeat to Milan and an away draw with Lille followed by humiliating back-to-back 4-1 defeats to Sparta Prague.

Following the second of those losses, Lennon had insisted that he enjoyed the backing of the Celtic hierarchy and was determined to fight on.

ADVERT

A League Cup exit to Ross County brought demonstrations at Celtic Park from angry fans and a 4-1 defeat to Milan worsened the situation.

The manager continued to argue that he should be given the chance to turn results around but conceded that his trophy-laden past record may not count for much given recent setbacks.

However, Lennon did receive clear and public backing from the club’s board in early December when they said they were supportive. However, the statement acknowledged results and said that a review would take place “in the new year”.

A run of positive results came to an end with defeat to Rangers at Ibrox on January 2, though Celtic’s performance was much improved on previous encounters.

However, following the defeat the club left for Dubai for a training camp.

Lennon, his assistant John Kennedy, another member of staff and 13 players at the club had to isolate following the trip after defender Christopher Jullien tested positive for coronavirus.

A second Celtic player was confirmed as having the virus during a media conference where Lennon had claimed critics of the trip were “hypocrites”, had claimed other clubs were not following covid protocols, and claimed some in the media had misrepresented the trip.

While Lennon and key players isolated, Celtic drew two games, ceding further ground in the Premiership.

On his return to the dugout, he saw the team draw 2-2 at Livingston and afterwards insisted that he would not quit, saying he had “put too much into it” and that “It’s my life”.

Results continued to be mixed. A 0-0 draw at Almondvale followed, and the team then beat Hamilton 2-0 before defeat to St Mirren.

Five wins in a row then saw Lennon optimistic that the team had found their stride but the defeat in Dingwall in Sunday left him unable to explain another defensive lapse but insisting he was the man to solve the problems and could mastermind a summer rebuild.

‘He fought so hard’

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said: “I would like to pay tribute to Neil for all he has done for the club in his second spell, delivering our eighth and ninth successive league titles, the quadruple treble and winning the last five available domestic trophies.

“Neil has always been and will always be a true Celtic man and someone I will always hold in the highest regard.   

“I have watched Neil fight many battles over many years, on and off the field, with a courage and tenacity few could match. Even this season, he has fought so hard and worked tirelessly to turn things around.

“While this season has not progressed as we would have liked, it cannot diminish the character or integrity of a man who has given the club so much.

“Personally, it is a sad day for me to see Neil leave the club. Neil is a man of quality and decency, he is someone who will always be part of the fabric of Celtic and someone who will always be welcomed at Celtic Park.

“On behalf of everyone at the club, and personally, I would like to thank Neil for his work as our manager and I wish him and his family good health and continued success in everything they do.”

Celtic’s biggest shareholder Dermot Desmond said: “Neil is a Celtic legend both as a player and manager. He has given so much to the Club, and with his success over the last number of years – including winning a Treble in his own right – he will be very difficult to replace.

“We thank Neil sincerely for all he has done for the club and we wish him every success going forward.”

Woman who faked pregnancy after one-night stand sentenced

Jaclyn McGowan was sentenced to 150 hours community service after lying about being pregnant for nine months.

© Google Maps 2020
Sentenced: Jaclyn McGowan lied about being pregnant for nine months.

A woman who faked a pregnancy after a one-night stand has been sentenced to community service.

Jaclyn McGowan, 36, from Perth and Kinross, pleaded guilty to causing fear and alarm by stalking for nine months by lying about being pregnant.

At Perth Sheriff Court on Wednesday, Sheriff Lindsay Foulis sentenced McGowan to 150 hours of community service after she lied to Jamie Aitken and his family about being pregnant for nine months.

Fiscal depute Tina Dickie told the court that in June 2019, McGowan met with Jamie Aitken after matching on dating app Tinder and spent the night together in a hotel.

ADVERT

About two weeks after the meeting, McGowan messaged Mr Aitken to inform him she was pregnant and planned on keeping the baby. The pair agreed they would try to co-parent the child.

Ms Dickie said Mr Aitken told police in August 2019 McGowan sent him a picture of a crib and told him to transfer £300 to pay for it, which he refused to do.

Shortly after, McGowan claimed to be having a miscarriage. Several days later, McGowan told Mr Aitken it had been a false alarm and she was still pregnant.

In September 2019, McGowan sent pictures of a baby scan to Mr Aitken’s mother, Wendy, telling them Mr Aitken would never be a part of his child’s life, but the family were welcome to be.

ADVERT

In February 2020, McGowan visited a trampoline park in Dundee where Mr Aitken’s brother Corrie worked. He told his brother that despite McGowan supposedly being eight months’ pregnant, she looked “slim and not pregnant”.

She attended the park again several weeks later and appeared to have a large pregnancy bump.

McGowan blocked Mr Aitken from all social media in February 2020 and has had no further contact with him since.

In October 2020, Mr Aitken filed a police report against McGowan, saying her actions had left him feeling low and suicidal.

After being questioned by police, McGowan said after their one-night stand she had taken a pregnancy test, showing her to be pregnant. McGowan had a miscarriage a week later but did not inform Mr Aitken.

She admitted to buying a prosthetic bump to give the appearance of pregnancy while attending the trampoline park and said her actions were to hurt Mr Aitken for the way he had acted when the relationship ended.

McGowan’s solicitor argued that Mr Aitken’s claim he wished to keep the baby “couldn’t be further from the truth”, saying he had made it clear he did not want the child and pressured her to get an abortion.

ADVERT

Sheriff Foulis said: “It seems to me that these actions fall on the less serious category but certainly don’t diminish your actions.

“You pleaded guilty to causing fear and alarm over a period of nine months, so when I say it is on the less serious side, none the less I have to bear that in mind.”

He noted McGowan had not contacted Mr Aitken for nine months before he filed a police report and that the crown was also not seeking a non-harassment order.


Salmond questions ‘irregular’ Crown Office intervention

The Scottish Parliament agreed to belatedly redact large sections of Salmond's written evidence.

Andrew Milligan/PA via PA Wire
Salmond: Questions 'highly irregular' intervention.

Alex Salmond has questioned the Crown Office’s “unprecedented and highly irregular actions” after it intervened to have his evidence redacted.

The Scottish Parliament agreed to belatedly redact large sections of Salmond’s written evidence in which he accused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of misleading Holyrood and breaching the ministerial code, following a letter from the Crown Office expressing concern about possible contempt of court.

The former first minister’s legal team is now calling for the Lord Advocate to explain the “astonishing” intervention that attempted to censor evidence already in the public domain.

A spokesman for Salmond said his lawyers will also ask the Crown Office – the body responsible for prosecuting crimes in Scotland – to not destroy any possible evidence about the decision to intervene.

ADVERT

Salmond’s evidence, alleging that Sturgeon had breached the ministerial code – a claim she denies – and describing the Crown Office as “simply not fit for purpose”, was eventually published by parliament on Monday evening.

However, following a letter from the Crown Office purportedly suggesting parts of the evidence could amount to contempt of court, parliament removed the submission on Tuesday before replacing it with a version with five sections redacted.

It prompted Salmond to pull out of his scheduled appearance to give oral evidence to the Holyrood inquiry that is examining the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment allegations made against him, although he has offered to attend on Friday instead.

“In light of this astonishing decision to intervene at the eleventh hour and in light of the timing, Mr Salmond asked the committee to defer his evidence by 48 hours to enable his legal team to consider the full implications of this extraordinary intervention,” Salmond’s spokesman said.

ADVERT

“Mr Salmond has now asked his lawyers, Levy & McRae, to write to the Lord Advocate as the head of the Crown Office to ask for an explanation for the Crown’s unprecedented and highly irregular actions.”

The statement, issued on Wednesday morning, also reveals questions that Salmond’s lawyers will put to Lord Advocate James Wolffe – head of the Crown Office and a member of the Scottish Government.

They include demands for him to explain the legal basis for the crown’s intervention, questions over whether the legal position about the evidence has changed and why, and whether there were any representations made to the Crown Office.

The spokesman added: “Mr Salmond has instructed his lawyers to request specifically that the crown preserve and retain all material and communications with all or any third parties which led to their decision to intervene at the very last minute just as he was set to give his evidence.”

The current First Minister has denied any breach of the ministerial code and said there is “not a shred of evidence” that Salmond can show to prove there was a conspiracy against him.

Scottish Labour interim leader and member of the Committee on the Scottish Government’s Handling of Harassment Complaints, Jackie Baillie called for the Lord Advocate to answer an urgent question in parliament about the decision to redact Salmond’s submission.

Baillie said: “The credibility of the inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints, and indeed the credibility of the entire Parliament, hangs in the balance.

ADVERT

“The Crown Office’s unprecedented intervention yesterday demands explanation – we cannot have this Parliament cowed into submission by the will of the Crown Office.

“The Lord Advocate must appear before the parliament to explain the actions of the Crown Office immediately.”

Parliament’s Presiding Officer has since allowed an urgent question to be asked of the Scottish Government on Wednesday afternoon, about whether the Lord Advocate “was consulted about the letter from the Crown Office to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body in relation to the evidence from Alex Salmond published by the Parliament”.

The call was echoed by the Scottish Conservatives, who have also urged the current First Minister to publish her submission to the separate investigation into whether she broke the ministerial code.

Party leader Douglas Ross said: “The SNP government and the Crown Office are shutting down scrutiny at every turn.

“The Lord Advocate must face Parliament to explain why the Crown Office are strong-arming parliament and suppressing evidence – not to protect victims’ identities – but to protect Nicola Sturgeon.

“The First Minister broke cover this week in a panic to demand Alex Salmond bring forward his evidence, only for the Crown Office to shut it down.

“If she won’t release her own evidence on ministerial code breaches, she’s a hypocrite and, once again, she’s trying to dodge scrutiny.”

The Scottish Government and Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service have been contacted for comment.


Woman seriously hurt after being ‘deliberately’ hit by car

A 30-year-old woman has been arrested and charged with attempted murder following incident in Glasgow.

© Google Maps 2020
Woman suffered serious injuries after being driven at 'deliberately' in Glasgow.

A 30-year-old woman has been arrested and charged in connection with the attempted murder of a 34-year-old woman in Glasgow.

Police are investigating reports that the 34-year-old was deliberately driven at in Stronsay Street, in the Germiston area of the city.

She is currently in hospital with serious injuries.

Detective Inspector Graham McCreadie, of Maryhill Police Station, said: “Around 8.55pm on Tuesday, officers were called to a report of a 34-year-old woman deliberately driven at in Stronsay Street, Glasgow.

ADVERT

“The injured woman was taken to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital where she is being treated for her injuries. Hospital staff describe her condition as serious.

“A 30-year-old woman has been arrested and charged in connection with this attempted murder. She is due before Glasgow Sheriff Court on Thursday. “

Police say a full report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.


Indoor care home visits to resume from next month

Two named visitors will be able to visit each resident twice a week from March 1.

Resolution Productions via Getty Images

Indoor visiting at care homes can resume from early March, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Two named visitors will be able to visit each resident twice a week, although only one person can visit at any one time.

Full guidance on the resumption was published by the Scottish Government on Wednesday.

Deaths in care homes related to coronavirus have reduced by almost 70% over the last four weeks, according to official figures.

ADVERT

Care homes will have to put various safety measures in place before welcoming visitors, including personal protective equipment such as face masks.

A vast majority of care home residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

However, some care providers such as Barchester have questioned the decision, with one saying only vaccinated people should be able to visit.

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “That may not sound like much and we obviously hope to get back to even more normality in the weeks to come, but I know for many across the country, even that is a big step back to a more normal way of life.

ADVERT

“It’s not a complete return to normal yet, because there will still be a lot of Covid safety measures in place, face coverings, rigorous hygiene and the availability of testing, but it is nevertheless a very important way forward.”

Barchester said it would ask the government to prioritise regular care home visitors for vaccination.

A spokesperson said: “We think it is important to take a cautious and phased approach, ensuring the one designated visitor per resident or patient is supported in complying with the protocols including the use of PPE and being tested using a Lateral Flow Device before entering a home, and our desire is that they are also vaccinated, if possible.

“In order to support this, we are lobbying with the government for designated visitors to be prioritised for a vaccination.”

Meanwhile, the GMB union has said there needs to be more staff in care homes, a whistleblowing protocol for homes not meeting safety standards and “stringent enforcement” of Covid-19 rules.

Rhea Wolfson, from GMB Scotland’s women’s campaign unit, said: “The balance between compassion and safety is precarious at this moment. Confidence is fragile among care home workers and there can be no room for complacency.

“That’s why ahead of the return to care home visits GMB has asked the Scottish Government to ensure the delivery of three basic provisions.”

ADVERT

She added: “Everyone wants to see families reunited but government and employers owe a great debt to these key workers after the last year, and it’s important their voices are now being heard.”

A 36-page guidance document for visiting outlines a number of criteria which should be met, including adequate stores of personal protective equipment (PPE), staff and visitor testing and “high level coverage” of the coronavirus vaccine.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I am grateful to care home providers and Scottish Care, directors of public health, Care Home Relatives Scotland and partners for helping to develop this guidance and for supporting its implementation.

“Essential visits are unaffected by the resumption of indoor meaningful contact and should always be compassionately and generously enabled by care homes when needed.”


You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?