Salmond won’t appear before inquiry committee on Tuesday

Former first minister was expected to face committee looking into handling of harassment complaints made against him.

Salmond won’t appear before inquiry committee on Tuesday Getty Images
Alex Salmond will not give evidence on Tuesday.

Alex Salmond is no longer to appear before a Scottish Parliament committee on Tuesday.

The former first minister was expected to face the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints.

However, on Monday morning, the Scottish Parliament said Salmond had not confirmed he would appear, and therefore the hearing would not go ahead.

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: “Mr Salmond has not confirmed that he will attend the committee meeting on Tuesday and he has raised a number of issues for clarification. Tuesday’s evidence session will therefore not go ahead.

“Mr Salmond had been contacted to make it clear that he can speak freely in committee about all of his contact with Nicola Sturgeon and his views on her actions.

“He was given the opportunity to make a lengthy opening statement on Tuesday and would have had four hours to answer questions in public. He was also invited to send more written evidence for publication after the meeting.

“The committee has already published two lengthy submissions from Mr Salmond and many, many pages of records and documents from him that he has been invited to speak freely about in parliament on Tuesday.

“All of this written and oral evidence could then be reflected in the committee’s report.

“The committee continues to communicate with Mr Salmond’s representatives.”

SNP chief executive Peter Murrell is expected to give evidence at the committee on Monday.

Murrell, husband of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, last appeared at the committee in December, but opposition parties have since raised questions about the evidence he gave.

Conservatives had threatened to trigger a vote on whether Sturgeon misled parliament if Murrell did not reappear at the committee.

The committee is expected to discuss “division between Scottish Government and party political matters”.

Committee convener Linda Fabiani previously sought clarity from Murrell over a meeting between Sturgeon and Salmond at her Glasgow home on April 2 2018.

During this meeting, the First Minister was told by her predecessor of complaints of harassment made against him.

Responding to a letter from Fabiani, Murrell said Sturgeon had mentioned the planned meeting the night before it took place.

Meanwhile, messages from women who made complaints about Alex Salmond must remain private, the SNP’s chief operating officer has said.

In her first public statement on the issue, Sue Ruddick said she had “reported an act of physical aggression by Mr Salmond” to the police.

She released a statement as Murrell gave evidence to a Holyrood committee examining the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints.

Last week, the committee reviewed messages between women which it had received from the Crown Office before unanimously agreeing not to publish them.

Committee convener Linda Fabiani said these message chains represented “safe spaces for confidential support”.

On Monday, Ms Ruddick said she was concerned the committee would seek the production of further messages.

She accused the committee of allowing itself to be led by people close to Mr Salmond who were seeking to “bolster his reputation” through false allegations.

She said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that the committee is determined to ignore complainers privacy rights and refer to, act upon and make public – whether in writing or through oral reference in a public session – private, confidential communications, despite having no lawful power to do so.

“Private communications between myself and Mr Murrell are in no way relevant to this committee’s remit.

“I am not a government employee and had no role in the complaints process of the Scottish Government.

“The messages the committee saw last week confirm I reported to Police Scotland an act of physical aggression by Mr Salmond.

“The messages confirmed there was no conspiracy.

“Having read those messages, the committee stated its desire to avoid further distress to complainers, yet just a few days later, considers it proportionate to act on my private communications, against my express wishes, when they have been unlawfully obtained and produced.”

Mr Salmond was acquitted of 13 charges including sexual assault, attempted rape and indecent assault following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh last year.

Ms Ruddick continued: “Last week it appeared, briefly, that the complainers’ rights had finally been taken into account; yet within minutes press reporting suggested this conclusion was wholly unfounded.

“It would be nothing short of astonishing if, as media reports suggest, the committee intends to discuss or seek production of further messages, despite the clear and obvious breach of my privacy rights, notwithstanding the further distress that would involve.”

Ms Ruddick said her privacy had been breached repeatedly through “selective leaks” over the past several months.

She continued: “These are private and personal communications which should not need to be in the public domain to prove a theory false or for complainers to be believed.

“Publication and discussion of private messages relating to a police complaint are outwith the committee’s remit, and offering support to a friend and complainer is not a conspiracy.

“It is, however, a complete invasion of my privacy and has already led to further distress to the other women involved in complaints against Mr Salmond, and those we turned to for support.

“In my case, this included Peter Murrell.”

She added: “The bullying and intimidation of complainers through use of their private and personal communications must end now.

“It is incredibly disappointing that complainers’ personal experiences of Mr Salmond are being ignored, and that this committee has allowed itself to be led by selective quoting, leaks and false allegations, all made in an attempt by Mr Salmond and those around him to bolster his reputation.”