Alex Salmond complaint committee puts inquiry on hold
A Holyrood committee set up to probe how misconduct allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond were handled has agreed to put its work on hold until the conclusion of a court case against him.
MSPs on the new committee will meet again within the next few weeks, but they ruled their inquiry into what happened will not take place until after the criminal case is complete.
The former SNP leader appeared in court in Edinburgh in January charged with 14 offences, including two of attempted rape, but insisted afterwards that he refutes “absolutely these allegations of criminality”.
Linda Fabiani, a former Scottish Government minister who is currently deputy presiding officer at Holyrood, was selected as committee convener, despite objections from Labour and the Conservatives.
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: “The issue at hand is whether the party of Government should be able to appoint the convener of this committee.
“It is clearly unprecedented that a committee of this Parliament is handling complaints against a former first minister, the actions of the current First Minister, both of whom were the leader and are the leader of the SNP. I think that places SNP members in a really quite difficult position.
“But my primary concern is one of transparency for this committee in order to do its work, and the question of perception is all in politics and the perception, unfortunately, is that the party of Government is actually appointing the convener of this committee.
“I think this committee needs to set off on entirely the right foot without fear or favour and for that reason I would ask the committee to think carefully about whether it is indeed the SNP that should have the convenership of the committee.”
Tory MSP Donald Cameron similarly asked SNP MSPs “even at this late stage, to reconsider and offer the convenership to another party”.
He said: “If ever there was a moment for justice to be done and for justice to be seen to be done, then this it is.”
Ms Fabiani pledged as committee convener she would be “as open and transparent as possible”.
She said: “The committee noted the sub judice requirement relevant to this inquiry, but agreed to have an initial meeting in approximately two weeks to receive background briefings.
“The committee also agreed to write to the Scottish Government with its expectation of full co-operation regarding information being passed to the committee, with relevant documentation retained by the Scottish Government for transmission to the committee when requested.”