Salmond inquiry told documents ‘cast doubt’ on Scottish Government’s position

The prospects of the Scottish Government successfully defending a legal case brought by Alex Salmond changed after documents were discovered in December 2018, MSPs have heard.

Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans said the Scottish Government position was initially that there was a “strong case to defend” when the former first minister mounted a challenge over the handling of sexual  harassment complaints against him.

Mr Salmond went on to win more than £500,000 when the Court of Session ruled the way the allegations by two women against him were dealt with was “unlawful”.

The Scottish Government settled the case on January 8 2019, with Ms Evans saying that came after documents were discovered the month before.

Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans said she took the decision to concede the judicial review ‘within a matter of days’ (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA)

She told the Committee on Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints that the prospects of success in the case had been “kept under regular review by the Scottish Government” during the judicial review brought by Mr Salmond.

Ms Evans told MSPs the documents were identified on December 19 – with two of these describing the “contact between the investigating officer and those who had raised concerns”.

The Permanent Secretary said: “Although on the face of it the content of these documents was administrative in nature, their appearance at this stage in the proceedings cast doubt on the capacity of the Scottish Government to clearly evidence and explain the nature of every contact, and contradicted earlier assurances.

“It was at this point that it became clear that prospects had changed.”

Ms Evans added: “Whilst there was nothing to suggest that the investigating officer did not in fact conduct her duties in an entirely impartial way, the Scottish Government concluded that the totality of interactions between the investigating officer and complainers were such that the test of apparent bias was met.

“As a result, and in line with my responsibilities as principal accountable officer, I took the decision to concede the judicial review very rapidly – in fact within a matter of days.”

Ms Evans said that “in conceding, the Scottish Government acknowledged that one part of the internal procedure should have been applied differently”.

She added she “apologised to all concerned for this procedural failure” and stressed the “commitment” to learn from a review of what happened, which is being carried out by  Laura Dunlop QC.

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