Monday, 8 Mar 2021

Sturgeon challenges Salmond as ex-first minister demands ‘resignation’ over botched probe

Nicola Sturgeon grilled on Alex Salmond by Andrew Marr

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The submissions by the former Scottish first minister was published by the Holyrood Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints on Monday evening. The Scottish Government’s Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee was set up after the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled the Scottish Government’s handling of complaints against the former first minister to be “unlawful” in a judicial review.

The former Scottish First Minister wrote in one submission to the Holyrood inquiry: “The inescapable conclusion is of a malicious and concerted attempt to damage my reputation and remove me from public life in Scotland.

“It is an attempt which would, in fact, have succeeded but for the protection of the court and jury system and in particular the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary.

“However, underlying all of this and perhaps the most serious issue of all is the complete breakdown of the necessary barriers which should exist between Government, political party and indeed the prosecution authorities in any country which abides by the rule of law.

“I leave to others the question of what is, or is not, a conspiracy but am very clear in my position that the evidence supports a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned.”

He concluded: “The real cost to the Scottish people runs into many millions of pounds and yet no-one in this entire process has uttered the simple words which are necessary on occasions to renew and refresh democratic institutions – ‘I Resign’.

“The Committee now has the opportunity to address that position.”

Mr Salmond also hit out at the establishment of the Scottish Government’s complaints policy.

In a second submission focusing on the ministerial code, Mr Salmond accused Ms Sturgeon of several breaches of the Scottish Government ministerial code and lying to parliament over meetings between the pair in 2018 regarding unproven harassment claims made against the former first minister.

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Speaking tonight, the Scottish First Minister, who is due to give evidence to the Holyrood Committee next week, said: “What we have not seen is a shred of evidence to back these wild claims up.

“Now, in front of the Parliament, the burden of proof is on Alex Salmond.

“It is time for insinuation and assertion to be replaced with actual evidence.

“And if, as I fully expect, there is no evidence, because there was no conspiracy, then people will draw their own conclusions.”

Peter Murrell gives opening statement at Alex Salmond inquiry

Murdo Fraser MSP, Scottish Conservative member of the Salmond inquiry, said: “I think we can now see why folk in the SNP went to such lengths to prevent publication of this evidence from their former leader.”

Douglas Ross MP, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “This isn’t about a conspiracy, as she and other SNP figures have repeatedly suggested, at every opportunity they get.

“It’s about whether the First Minister mislead the Scottish Parliament and broke the Ministerial Code.”

In a statement tonight, a spokeswoman for Mr Salmond confirmed an agreement with Holyrood clerks “clears the way” for him to attend an oral hearing of the Committee on Wednesday.

Tonight, a spokesperson for the SNP described Mr Salmond’s submissions as an “assertion without a shred of credible evidence”.

The spokesperson said the claims were “ridiculous and baseless”.

A Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service spokesman said: “We take seriously our responsibility to uphold the law and to protect the dignity and rights of all those who come into contact with COPFS.

“Scotland’s prosecutors have acted independently and in the public interest at all times when considering matters related to this case.”

A Scottish Government source added: “As made clear in her submission, Liz Lloyd wholly rejects the allegations made by Mr Salmond in his submission.”

“She was not involved in a conspiracy to destroy Mr Salmond.”

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