Alex Salmond condemns ‘disgraceful’ behaviour of Scottish Government

Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor

Former first minister Alex Salmond has branded the behaviour of the current Scottish Government a “disgrace”, as he warned his legal action against ministers would have cost taxpayers more than £750,000.

Mr Salmond accused Scotland’s most senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, of having a “bias” against him as he insisted he will pursue with the appropriate authorities the “serious matter” of her contacting two Scottish Government staff who raised harassment allegations against him.

He also said the “overwhelming likelihood” is that someone in the Government leaked details of the case against him to the press with “the intention of damaging my reputation but with no regard whatsoever to the interests of the complainers”.

His comments come as a Holyrood committee continues to investigate the Scottish Government’s botched handling of allegations against Mr Salmond – which saw the former first minister win a legal payout of more than £500,000.

That was after the Court of Session ruled the Government had acted unlawfully, with the woman appointed to investigate harassment allegations having already had dealings with the two female complainers.

In a submission to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, Mr Salmond said he is now aware that Ms Evans had had dealings with both women.

He said: “I am now aware from documents recently obtained by this committee that the Permanent Secretary met one complainer and phoned the other in mid process before contacting me on March 7 2018.

“I was astonished when I discovered this. There is nothing in the procedure which allows for this.”

He insisted this was “behaviour incompatible with the role of an impartial decision maker” and was also “further evidence of bias against me”.

He added: “The failure to disclose this meeting either in the civil or criminal case despite court orders is a serious matter which I intend to take forward with the appropriate authorities.”

Mr Salmond claimed the payout awarded to him showed the “court’s dissatisfaction with the conduct of the case from the Government” – adding “that failure was not due just to incompetence”.

Alex Salmond said he felt he had ‘no option’ but to take the Scottish Government to court (Jane Barlow/PA)
Alex Salmond said he felt he had ‘no option’ but to take the Scottish Government to court (Jane Barlow/PA)

He accused the Scottish Government of a “lack of candour and a systematic failure to disclose”, further claiming this had been “deliberate and consistent”.

He said this behaviour had “continued through the judicial review process and then my criminal trial” – in which he was cleared of all charges of sexual assault against him.

Holyrood has twice voted to order ministers to hand over the legal advice it received to the committee, which has itself taken the unprecedented step of issuing a notice to the Crown Office under part of the Scotland Act to gain access to certain documents.

Mr Salmond said: “To my astonishment, it continues to date with a persistent failure to produce all relevant documents to the parliamentary inquiry which has forced two parliamentary votes and triggered an unprecedented procedure under S23 of the Scotland Act.”

He insisted it is a “matter of deep regret that I had no option but to take the Scottish Government to the Court of Session”, adding he did this “very reluctantly and only after every other avenue had been exhausted”.

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond
Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of misleading Parliament about when she first learned of allegations against her former mentor (PA)

But he said: “Courts exist for a reason. They exist because when governments act illegally there must be a remedy for the citizen.

“In this case, the illegality was finally conceded but only after a legal process which will have cost upwards of £750,000 of taxpayers’ money and which caused immense strain and distress to all involved.

“The behaviour of the Government was, in my view, a disgrace.

“But actions have consequences. The rule of law requires that those who have acted illegally are held to account. It is now the job of this committee to resolve how that is best done.”

The committee has asked Mr Salmond to appear before MSPs to answer their questions on Tuesday February 9.

The investigation comes as opposition MSPs continue to question whether current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon misled Parliament over when she first became aware of allegations against her predecessor.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The points raised in this submission have been addressed previously.

“The First Minister looks forward to answering any further questions from the committee when she appears in person in due course.”

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