Nicola Sturgeon grilled on Alex Salmond by Andrew Marr
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On Thursday afternoon, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) ruled a written submission from former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, where he claims Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, can be published. The Holyrood committee is investigating the Scottish Government’s botched handling of two harassment complaints made against Mr Salmond in 2018. A Court of Session in Edinburgh found the investigation had been unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, and Mr Salmond was awarded £512,000 in legal expenses.
On Wednesday evening, MSPs on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee, narrowly voted against the publishing Mr Salmond’s submission.
MSPs cited legal concerns over the identity of complainers in a separate criminal trial against Mr Salmond last year, where he was cleared of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh.
The decision by MSPs last night was then referred to the SPCB which ruled the submission by Mr Salmond – which has been redacted – could be published.
The former First Minister is now set to give evidence to MSPs next week.
SNP’s George Adam claimed the people of Scotland would be “utterly bewildered” by the governing body’s decision.
The MSP for Paisley also claimed the SPCB had “ignored clear legal advice” and warned the decision “could jeopardise the court-ordered anonymity of complainants in a sexual offences case”.
Ms Davidson knocked-back the argument from the SNP and accused the party of trying to “shut down scrutiny”.
The Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader added no evidence would ever be published to parliament which could compromise a complainant’s right to remain anonymous.
Ms Davidson said: “This is a bizarre response from the SNP, who are clearly rattled that their attempts to shut down scrutiny are no longer working. Their clear overreaction only confirms in people’s minds that they must have something to hide.
“Nobody is suggesting for a second that information would ever be published jeopardising a complainant’s anonymity.”
She added: “As the ruling party, it is the SNP’s own government who so badly let down women who came forward. It is therefore galling to hear them falsely accuse others of doing the same.
“It was an SNP First Minister [Alex Salmond] accused of sexual misconduct and an SNP Government who botched the investigation. They clearly feel if they throw enough mud at others, people may forget those material facts. They won’t.
“We must uncover what happened here for the complainants who were so badly let down.”
In a letter, Holyrood Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said the SPCB had “collectively agreed that on balance it is possible to publish the submission by Alex Salmond on the ministerial code”.
Mr Macintosh added the “decision in principle to publish must now be followed by the processing of the submission in line with the committee’s evidence handling statement”.
The former First Minister has previously said he would only face the Holyrood inquiry if his submission was formally published by the committee.
Mr Salmond claims Ms Sturgeon mislead parliament over when she knew about complaints made against him.
Ms Salmond claimed the Scottish Parliament had been “repeatedly misled on a number of occasions about the nature of the meeting” he had with Ms Sturgeon at her home on April 2, 2018.
Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly denied any breach of the ministerial code.
The SNP leader previously told MSPs she first learned of allegations against Mr Salmond at the April meeting, something Mr Salmond claimed was “untrue and is a breach of the ministerial code”.
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Instead, Mr Salmond claimed his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein had “personally discussed the existence of the complaints, and summarised the substance of the complaints” in a meeting with Ms Sturgeon in Holyrood on March 29.
Following the decision by the Committee this afternoon, a spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said: “The publication of this submission changes nothing as far as the First Minister is concerned, as she has always expected to be questioned on its contents.
“The only frustration is that she has still not had the chance to rebut the claims and conspiracy stories that have been levelled at her – and has lost count of how many times she has agreed to appear before the committee, only for the date to be postponed.”
A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman added: “The Committee notes the decision of the SPCB. Mr Salmond’s submission will now be processed in line with the Committee’s statement on the handling of information, ahead of publication early next week.
“The Committee will be writing to Mr Salmond to invite him to give evidence to the Committee on February 24.”
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