Holyrood committee votes against publishing Salmond evidence

The committee refused to accept the former First Minister's request for his submission to be published in full.

Holyrood committee votes against publishing Salmond evidence Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond campaigning in 2015.

A Scottish Parliament committee has voted against publishing an evidence submission it has received from Alex Salmond, citing legal obligations.

By a vote of five to four, MSPs on the committee looking into the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints decided not to publish the submission or a redacted version of it.

It means the former First Minister is unlikely to appear before any future hearings of the committee.

Salmond had been due to appear on Tuesday, but the session was called off, with his lawyers telling the committee he would not give evidence until his concerns had been addressed.

He had requested publication of his submission accusing his successor Nicola Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code – which she denies – and sought assurances he would not be placed “in legal jeopardy”.

Sturgeon is expected to appear before the inquiry at its next meeting.

Writing to Salmond on Tuesday, committee convener Linda Fabiani said they would not be able to meet his request in full.

She said: “A majority of the committee agreed that, given the legal constraints under which the committee must operate, it is not able to publish any version of your submission on the ministerial code.

“That said, we offered you an opportunity to attend today to provide hours of evidence before the committee.

“As made clear last week, you could have commented extensively on all of your contact with the First Minister and your views on her actions and the Scottish Government’s actions.”

The decision was criticised by members of the committee who voted to publish to document.

Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Conservative spokesman on the Salmond inquiry, said: “This again sums up the lack of scrutiny the SNP government will be subjected to in relation to this inquiry.

“It will constrain what we can say and what we can ask of witnesses which is completely unacceptable.”

Scottish Labour interim leader and committee member Jackie Baillie said: “The decision not to publish this vital evidence is, in my view, a blow to the credibility of the committee, and, by extension, to the Parliament itself.

“The evidence in question is already largely in the public domain and by refusing to publish it, even with appropriate redactions, the committee has denied itself the chance to question the former First Minister.

“I do not believe that the public interest has been well served by this decision and the ability of the parliament to hold the Scottish Government to account is called into question.”

Salmond’s lawyer had said he was willing to give evidence in person if his conditions were met.

David McKie said: “Our client remains willing to give evidence to the committee at any point up to the final date for evidence (currently fixed for February 16).

“However, he cannot take his oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth unless and until you properly address in writing the legitimate concerns set out in this and our numerous previous letters.”