Alex Salmond inquiry MSPs ‘walked out’ as leak emerged during meeting

21:05pm, Thu 25 Mar 2021
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

MSPs on the committee set up to investigate the botched handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond walked out of a meeting after it emerged that parts of their report had been leaked in real time, a member of the panel has said.

As the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints met last week, details of its conclusions were given to the media.

Sections of the report which concluded by division that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon misled Parliament appeared on Sky News, before being picked up elsewhere.

Speaking to BBC Scotland’s Podlitical podcast, independent MSP and committee member Andy Wightman said members were made aware of the leak as the virtual meeting was going on, causing “one or two” members to walk out.

“As I recall, Alasdair Allan was making a contribution and he got interrupted by the convener… to say she had a text from the Parliament’s media office to say there were reports out there of our conclusions,” he said.

Andy Wightman (PA Wire)

“There was a stunned silence, one or two people walked out.

“There’s been at times quite tense, difficult conversations that we’ve had, about process as well… so in a sense it was the culmination of quite a bit of tension.

“I wouldn’t say it was very pleasant, because I suppose we all think that it must have been one of the committee.”

A further leak of private evidence to the committee of the two women who complained about Mr Salmond was also made to a Sunday newspaper.

Mr Wightman added: “That was a real breach, not just of the MSP code of conduct, but of their trust in us, which I found really devastating.”

He also attacked the committee members who took the information to the media, saying: “There’s no sanction to sack an MSP, but I certainly don’t think an MSP who leaked, particularly that private evidence from complainers, I don’t think they’re fit to be an MSP.”

Jackie Baillie in Holyrood (PA Wire)

Speaking on comedian Matt Forde’s Political Party podcast, Scottish Labour deputy leader, and Salmond committee member, Jackie Baillie, said of the leak of the complainer’s evidence: “It was shameful. As a woman I cannot stand that kind of approach at all.”

Ms Baillie also spoke of the pressure put on the committee in the final week of its deliberations before the report was published on Tuesday morning.

“People were working flat out. It was a pressure cooker environment to ensure we finished the job,” she said.

“So yes, there were some blunt conversations but I’m not going to fall out with those SNP committee members because we actually went through a lot together and shared many of the same frustrations.”

Ms Baillie added the committee had been “operating against the most impossible time scale”, with meetings every day in the week before the report was published, including one day with three meetings.

She said: “We waded through hours and hours and pages and pages of evidence.

“We went where the evidence took us, and actually the majority of recommendations were entirely unanimous.”

Sign up to our newsletter