Holyrood to hold internal inquiry into Salmond complaints handling fiasco

The Scottish Parliament will mount its own investigation into the fallout from sexual misconduct allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond.

Holyrood is to set up a special committee, which will look at the Scottish Government’s handling of the complaints – strenuously denied by Mr Salmond – as well as the former first minister’s dealings with his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon.

The move was unanimously agreed by all parties at a meeting of the Parliamentary Bureau on Tuesday.

Holyrood officials will now consider the membership of the committee and what the remit should be for the probe.

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: “Bureau members unanimously agreed to create a new committee of inquiry.

“Officials have been asked to prepare options on its remit and membership and these will be discussed at a future meeting of the bureau.”

Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw said afterwards: “I’m pleased that the Parliamentary Bureau has decided today to back the Scottish Conservative proposal for a Holyrood inquiry into this affair.

“An investigation has been botched, two complainants have been let down and hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been wasted.

“These are clearly matters for the Scottish Parliament to investigate and the inquiry must be able to examine what went wrong and why this was allowed to happen.”

Labour leader Richard Leonard agreed the inquiry was the “right decision and a positive step forward”.

He added: “Full transparency in this matter is essential in order for the public to have confidence in the First Minister and the Scottish Government.

“That means full public and parliamentary scrutiny.

“At all times it is essential to remember that at the centre of all of this are two courageous women who put their faith in a system that has badly let them down and we must never lose sight of that by safeguarding the duty of care to them and their access to justice.”

Confirmation of the probe comes two days after Ms Sturgeon confirmed she will refer herself to the panel of independent advisers to consider whether her actions breached the ministerial code of conduct.

She previously told MSPs she only became aware of the allegations – which date back to Mr Salmond’s time as first minister – when the pair met for talks at her Glasgow home on April 2 last year.

A key aide to the former first minister has said Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff Liz Lloyd “suspected” a complaint had been made the previous month.

Geoff Aberdein, who served as Mr Salmond’s chief of staff during his time in office, has revealed he met Ms Sturgeon’s aide Liz Lloyd twice in March last year.

At the second meeting in late March he said Ms Lloyd confirmed “she suspected the Scottish Government had received an official complaint about Mr Salmond”.

Mr Aberdein said: “She made clear she did not know the full details of any potential complaint and had not alerted the First Minister to her suspicions about a potential complaint.”

A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said there was “quite clearly” a “vendetta” against Ms Lloyd.

Supporters of the SNP leader have already warned there has been an “attempt to smear” her with suggestions she was aware of the sexual misconduct probe before her meeting with Mr Salmond.

Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman said: “Liz is the subject of what is now quite openly being briefed as a vendetta.”

He added: “Quite clearly there is an agenda at play here in terms of Liz’s involvement, that has been made abundantly clear by the other side.”

He stressed Ms Lloyd will “co-operate fully with any inquiry” under the ministerial code referral, which will look into the issue which she is involved in.

The spokesman added: “We’re in a process where are dealing with something that is the subject of an ongoing police investigation and is also now subject to the First Minister’s referral under the ministerial code.

“We’re not going to be saying or doing anything that could be seen jeopardise or prejudice that in any way either of those processes.”