Salmond inquiry narrows scope of legal advice sought from Scottish Government

The scope of legal advice the Salmond inquiry is seeking from the Scottish Government has been narrowed after weeks of wrangling.

The committee set up to investigate how complaints against Alex Salmond were handled has been pushing the Scottish Government to release legal advice it received during a judicial review brought by the former first minister.

Ministers conceded the case and Mr Salmond was awarded more than £500,000.

Inquiry into Scottish Governments handling of Harassment
Inquiry into Scottish Governments handling of Harassment

Releasing legal advice is against the ministerial code unless there are “exceptional circumstances” – and law officers must provide their consent.

This month, MSPs have voted twice in the Scottish Parliament for the advice to be made public but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy John Swinney have said a process is being undertaken to see if it can be released.

Now, committee convener Linda Fabiani has written to Mr Swinney to limit the scope of the request, clarifying the inquiry is only seeking legal advice on the chances of the Scottish Government winning the case in a bid to reduce the length of time it is taking to receive the advice.

Ms Fabiani said the release of part of the advice should not require “a lengthy process”.

In a letter to the Deputy First Minister on Thursday, the convener said: “At this stage, the priority for the committee is to receive copies of the written advice provided by counsel, in particular on the prospects of success.

“This advice should be clearly distinguishable and provided privilege is waived, not involve a lengthy process in order for it to be identified and provided to the committee.”

Ms Sturgeon was pressed on the publication of the advice at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, with Tory Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson claiming she has “something to hide”.

The First Minister has repeatedly said a process is under way to assess if the advice can be released.

Angus Robertson
Angus Robertson

Meanwhile, the committee has also sent a letter to former SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson calling for him to provide written evidence by December 9.

Mr Robertson, the SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central in next year’s Holyrood election, led the party in the House of Commons between 2007 and 2017.

The former Moray MP was asked by the committee if he had any contact with the First Minister, Scottish Government officials or special advisers about any allegations or formal complaints against Mr Salmond involving sexual harassment.

He was also asked what actions were taken as a result of the allegations.

Mr Robertson was urged by the convener not to divulge what the allegations were or any other information that could identify complainers.