Alex Salmond inquiry LIVE: Ex-FM says censoring of his evidence was 'intolerable' & insists name of accuser WAS shared

ALEX Salmond has branded the censoring of his written evidence "intolerable" – and says it would not have happened at Westminster.

The former First Minister is currently giving evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee probing the government's botched investigation into harassment claims about him in 2018.

Mr Salmond also insisted the name of a complainer WAS shared with his former chief of staff – despite Nicola Sturgeon's denial yesterday.

And he described the Scottish Government’s investigation into him – which he successfully challenged at the Court of Session – as an “abject, total, complete disaster”.

Mr Salmond also claimed Scotland had been "failed" by its leaders, suggesting they are not fit to deliver independence.

The former SNP chief is laying out his evidence in person and attempting to persuade the committee – and the nation – that there was a plot against him.

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to give evidence at the Holyrood inquiry next Wednesday in the final evidence session of the inquiry before it finishes its report.

The inquiry started at 12:30pm this afternoon from Holyrood – you can watch it live in the video above orhere.

All of the background details you need to know can be found here.

Keep up with latest news from the inquiry here.

  • Ewan Mowat

    THE third session of the committee has now re-convened.

  • Ewan Mowat

    THE second session of the committee has been suspended for a short break.

    Alex Salmond, seen coughing often while answering questions, asked to be relieved due to discomfort from a "small chest infection".

    The inquiry will resume shortly.

  • Ewan Mowat

    ALEX Salmond told how it was his own legal team that pushed for an anonymity order to be put in place for the complainants – at which the Scottish Government “didn’t turn up”.

    The former First Minister was responding to a question from SNP MSP Alasdair Allan about why he was “surprised” by the Crown Office’s intervention this week, which led to parliament redacting parts of his written evidence.

    He said: “I resent the idea that anything in my evidence – legalled by my lawyers and legal team with the intent that we had – would ever transgress on the order from Lady Dorrian.

    “On October 4, 2018, in front of Lord Pentland, my legal team moved an order to protect the anonymity of the two complainants in the civil case, in the Scottish Government.

    “The Scottish Government didn’t turn up. They weren’t even represented at that hearing.

    “So when I hear some people say that this is all about protecting anonymity of a complainant…when I know the Scottish Government didn’t turn up in the civil case on October 4, 2018, then you should allow me an element of surprise and an element of disquiet that an argument is being used for totally different reasons.”

  • Ewan Mowat

    ALEX Salmond was told early on by his lawyers he had a "very high probability of success" in his civil case against the Scottish Government, he said.

    He informed MSPs he received this legal advice even before it emerged the investigating officer in the harassment complaints probe against had prior contact with the two accusers – the detail which collapsed the government's case.

    Its investigation of Mr Salmond was ruled unlawful, "procedurally unfair" and "tainted by apparent bias" by the Court of Session in 2019.

    But the ex-First Minister told the Holyrood inquiry he did not immediately take legal action against the government he once led because of "all the possible political implications".

    Mr Salmond said: "My counsel was suggesting that a decision should be made to take action and I was reluctant because I was the former First Minister."

    But he blasted the government's initial decision to fight the judicial review case Mr Salmond brought, saying: "In terms of the Richter scale of mistakes, this is right up there."

    And he said it "must be unprecedented" to have external counsel to the government threaten to resign if it did not concede the case, as happened in late 2018.

    The former First Minister added: "Somebody has to accept responsibility for a calamitous occurrence, a defeat."

    Mr Salmond won more than £500,000 in legal costs, an amount he said was uncommonly high and was partly a result of having to drag the government through a separate legal process to get them to give up key documents they denied existed.

    He said: "The government's own pleadings to the court were wrong, inaccurate, misleading."

  • Ewan Mowat

    ALEX Salmond accused the Scottish Government of a “deliberate suppression of information inconvenient" to it throughout the judicial review, criminal trial and committee processes.

    Mr Salmond said civil service boss Leslie Evans – the “deciding officer” in the government’s investigation – met with one of the complainants and phoned the other one “in mid process” before he was informed there were complaints against him.

    He said: “If it’s a very bad thing for an investigating officer to have prior involvement, it’s a really difficult thing legally for a deciding officer to have during involvement in the middle of a process in terms of perceived bias.”

    The former First Minister said neither he or his legal team knew about the Permanent Secretary’s contact with the complainers until it was disclosed in a letter to the committee.

    He said: “It wasn’t disclosed across the judicial review, despite the duty of candour which was explained to the government by their own counsel and by Lord Pentland.

    “And it wasn’t even disclosed in the criminal process where I know – and I’m not going to stray into it – but there was a specific search warrant applied on the government a year past October/November which specifically asked for contact between the Permanent Secretary and complainants.

    “And that contact wasn’t disclosed even to a search warrant by the Crown Office.

    “I know this committee has been hugely frustrated by a lack of information, but you can see that the pattern of non-disclosure goes right through the judicial review, right through the criminal case, and right into this committee.

    “It’s not an odd document that’s been missed out. It is a sequence of deliberate suppression of information inconvenient to the government."

  • Ewan Mowat

    ALEX Salmond said the censoring of his written evidence to Holyrood is "intolerable" and would never have happened in the Westminster parliament.

    The Crown Office intervened earlier this week – after the former First Minister's testimony had already been been published – to get swathes of it redacted.

    This is the submission by Mr Salmond which accuses Nicola Sturgeon of repeatedly lying to parliament and breaching the ministerial code over meetings in 2018.

    Tory committee member Murdo Fraser asked if Mr Salmond had ever heard of such a thing happening in his long years as an MP, and he said: "No, it is intolerable."

    The ex-Nats boss continued: "Before I came to the committee, and the convener kindly allowed me to read a statement into the record, I received a letter of what I was and wasn’t allowed to talk about.

    "And according to that letter I’m not allowed to talk about areas of my written evidence that were submitted in good faith to this committee – which are easily available online in reputable journals for anybody to see, which are a wide part of political debate, and are accepted as that.

    "The idea that the only place that can’t be discussed is in a parliamentary committee is the direct opposite of what should be true.

    "Parliamentary committees should actually be able to discuss things that cannot be discussed elsewhere because of proper exercise of parliamentary privilege and the duties of members of parliament.

    "Therefore it seems to be an extraordinary position and clearly something is wrong. Whether it’s institutional…or whether it’s personnel as I suggest, is a matter for the parliament to decide.

    "But clearly it is an intolerable situation and should not be allowed to continue."

  • Ewan Mowat
    Ex-FM Alex Salmond is back answering questions as the second session is underway
  • Ewan Mowat

    THE Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints has resumed.

    The second session, with former First Minister Alex Salmond, is now underway.

  • Ewan Mowat

    ALEX Salmond has insisted the name of a complainer WAS shared with his former chief of staff – despite denials by Nicola Sturgeon

  • Ewan Mowat

    THE inquiry has been suspended for a 20-minute break after the first session was concluded.

    More to follow after the short respite.

  • Ewan Mowat

    ALEX Salmond has insisted the name of a complainer WAS shared with his former chief of staff when the complaints process was still ongoing, despite denials yesterday by Nicola Sturgeon.

    Asked by Scottish Labour acting leader Jackie Baillie if it was true a woman's identity had been revealed, he said: "Yes."

    This is alleged to have happened in meetings held prior to Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon's summit on April 2, 2018, at her home.

    Ms Baillie said: "Can I ask you how you know that, because obviously we're interested in evidence being corroborated at this committee?"

    Mr Salmond answered: "Because my former chief of staff told me that."

    The Labour MSP followed up: "Is anybody else party to that information?"

    He replied: "As far as I'm aware – and you'd have to ask the people concerned – as far as I'm aware there are three other people who know that to be true."

    Ms Baillie said the committee has written to the people involved.

    At First Minister's Questions yesterday, Ms Sturgeon dismissed Ms Baillie's claim the name of a complainer was revealed.

    The First Minister said: "Alex Salmond claims the name of a complainant was given. That is not the same thing as accepting that is the case."

    Pressed by Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie if she was "categorically" denying it, Ms Sturgeon answered: "To the very best of my knowledge, I do not think that happened."

  • Ewan Mowat

    ALEX Salmond described the Scottish Government’s investigation into him – which he successfully challenged at the Court of Session – as an “abject, total, complete disaster”.

    In January 2019, the Court of Session ruled the government’s probe into complaints about Mr Salmond was “unlawful” and “unfair” in that it was “tainted by apparent bias” after an investigating officer was appointed who’d had previous contact with the complainants.

    It led to over £500,000 of taxpayers’ money being used to cover Mr Salmond’s legal expenses.

    Mr Salmond told the committee: “When I took out the petition for judicial review it was on, I can’t remember, seven or eight grounds.

    “My legal advice – and legal advice is just that, it’s only advice – is that we had a very, very high likelihood of success before we knew about anything to do with the application of the policy which was initially concealed from us and then which we learned about as the judicial review went on.

    “I wouldn’t have taken out a judicial review without the advice saying the policy was unlawful.

    “And I think there was a great deal of understanding in terms of the Scottish Government of the jeopardy that their policy was in.

    “There were many, many things wrong with the policy. Why were there many things wrong with the policy? Because it was developed at pace as the civil service says, spatchcock as I would say, over a period of six weeks in an apparent panic for reasons which hopefully this committee can try and determine.

    “However you look at it , from nobody’s point of view was it a satisfactory outcome.

    “It was an abject, total, complete disaster.”

  • Ewan Mowat

    ALEX Salmond has said he did not threaten to resign from the SNP when he discussed historic claims made against him with Nicola Sturgeon in November 2017.

    Under questioning from Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton about an alleged incident at Edinburgh Airport in 2009, Mr Salmond said: "No, I didn't threaten resignation – there was nothing to threaten resignation about."

    Ms Sturgeon has claimed that at a meeting she held later with Mr Salmond which discussed the government's harassment probe against him, she had feared he might resign from the SNP.

    The First Minister insists she thought that meeting was party business, not government business, which is why it wasn't minuted, nor civil servants informed.

    But Mr Salmond also defended his predecessor from any suggestion she covered up his behaviour or anyone else's when she was his deputy FM – in which role she dealt with workplace complaints against ministers.

    He told the committee: "I've got points to make about what I believe the current First Minister has done or not done and they'll be made in response to relevant questions to the committee.

    "But I've seen it pursued on the committee that somehow Nicola Sturgeon was covering up – that's not not the case. My charges against Nicola Sturgeon don't include that."

    The ex-FM said that to his knowledge, during his time in charge, no complaints against any ministers came across his then-deputy Ms Sturgeon's desk.

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