Salmond offers to help inquiry access withheld documents

Alex Salmond's legal team blasts the Scottish Government for providing 'partial and incomplete evidence'.

Salmond offers to help inquiry access withheld documents Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Alex Salmond: Cleared of all sex offence charges in March.

Alex Salmond has offered to help retrieve key documents for the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s botched handling of sexual harassment complaints against him.

In a new letter to the special committee of MSPs, Salmond’s lawyer blasted the government for delaying the release of documents and providing “partial and incomplete evidence”.

David McKie of law firm Levy and McRae, representing the former First Minister, said the “pattern” of obstruction is “familiar to us”.

He was referring to the judicial review in 2019 into how the Scottish Government had dealt with sexual misconduct claims against Salmond.

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The Court of Session ruled the government’s actions in handling the complaints had been “unlawful”, “procedurally unfair” and “tainted with apparent bias”.

The government’s legal defeat – which saw it pay Salmond more than £512,000 in damages – caused the special Holyrood inquiry to be set up.

While not directly related, the claims triggered Police Scotland’s separate investigation into the former first minister, and ultimately, a criminal trial.

Salmond was cleared of 13 charges of sexual offences by a jury in the High Court in March.

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The Scottish Government has cited legal restrictions as to why some files provided to the Holyrood inquiry so far have been redacted or not included at all in the evidence.

Writing to the committee, Mr McKie contrasted his client’s willingness to share all relevant documents, saying he wanted to find a way through the “impasse”.

Salmond’s legal team have access to documents provided to the 2019 judicial review by the Scottish Government, he said.

However, they can be released to the inquiry only by the Scottish Government – the provider of the documents – or otherwise by court order.

Mr McKie said Salmond is willing to undertake legal action to try to get the files to the inquiry if necessary.

But he added: “As the party providing those documents, we see no reason at all why the Scottish Government cannot do so.”

Mr McKie wrote: “We note that the Scottish Government continues to delay and to provide partial and incomplete evidence.

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“That pattern is familiar to us from the judicial review proceedings.

“Reliance is being placed by the Scottish Government on the various legal impediments to document provision.

“We acknowledge those, and are similarly restricted.

“By contrast with the Scottish Government position, however, we are prepared to seek a way through that impasse.”

He set out two options for how the committee could access the missing or incomplete files.

The solicitor explained: “The first is that Mr Salmond provides the committee with a detailed list of all the documents he believes are relevant.

“The committee should then seek those specific documents from the Scottish Government. That is the quickest, and cheapest route for all.

“The second option, which we are willing to undertake on behalf of the committee, would be for Mr Salmond to return to court to seek the express consent of the court to have those documents passed to the committee.”

It follows frustration among MSPs on the committee over partially or fully withheld documents provided by the Scottish Government, despite a pledge to cooperate fully and transparently with the investigation.

The complaints against Salmond were made in late 2018 – shortly after the Scottish Government changed its complaints procedure – but dated back to the former FM’s time in Bute House in 2013.

Less than three weeks after the Court of Session ruled in Salmond’s favour and against the government in January 2019’s judicial review, he was arrested and charge by Police Scotland on a range of sexual offences.

Supporters of the ex-SNP leader believe there was a conspiracy against him among party and government officials.

Salmond, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, deputy first minister John Swinney and a swathe of past and present officials are to give evidence under oath to the special Scottish Parliament committee.