Salmond inquiry convener demands end to ‘disrespectful’ delays

Linda Fabiani
Linda Fabiani (PA Wire)
15:16pm, Thu 12 Nov 2020
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The convener of the Alex Salmond inquiry has demanded an end to “disrespectful” delays in receiving evidence from both the Scottish Government and the former first minister.

Linda Fabiani said the Scottish Parliament committee examining the handling of harassment complaints is still waiting for the detailed evidence it has requested.

In a strongly worded statement released on Thursday, Ms Fabiani said she is “beyond frustration” at the lack of clarity the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints has received.

Alex Salmond Legal Action (PA Archive)

She told Mr Salmond his written submission remains outstanding ahead of an evidence-taking session next month, when MSPs intend to hear from the former first minister.

In a separate letter to Deputy First Minister John Swinney, she criticised “unacceptable” delays to documents being handed over to the committee.

Mr Swinney has been asked to hand over the legal advice the Scottish Government received about its unlawful investigation into Mr Salmond by Friday.

Ministers have repeatedly refused to reveal the guidance they received but in a parliamentary debate last week, MSPs called for the Scottish Government to waive its legal privilege and “publish all the legal advice it received”.

Mr Swinney said he and the Cabinet will “consider the implications of the motion”.

I am, yet again, writing letters to express my frustration at the delay, the prevarication and obfuscation

Ms Fabiani released a statement on Thursday saying: “Week after week the committee is in a position where it is clear to us that the evidence being shared with the committee lacks detail and indeed usefulness.

“This is both deeply problematic and deeply disrespectful.

“I have, on multiple occasions, made it clear exactly what evidence the committee wants to see.

“There is no doubt that we have received a large amount of information. But we are receiving very few clear answers.”

She added: “I am in a position today where I am, yet again, writing letters to express my frustration at the delay, the prevarication and obfuscation.

“But this goes beyond frustration.

“This must end and we will complete our work and do the job given to us by the nation’s Parliament.”

In January 2019, the Court of Session ruled prior communication between investigating officer Judith MacKinnon and two women who came forward with complaints meant the inquiry was unlawful.

Lord Pentland added the Government’s actions were “procedurally unfair and they were tainted with apparent bias”.

The Scottish Government ultimately conceded the case and the legal bill totalled more than £630,000 – including a £512,250 payout to Mr Salmond.

In response to the convener’s letter, a source close to Mr Salmond said the former first minister is doing his “level best” to help the committee.

The source said: “Alex will not submit partial evidence as he is required under oath to tell the whole truth.

“As was explained in a letter to the committee convener back on September 29, the Crown have threatened potential prosecution if Alex reveals even to the parliamentary committee, evidence disclosed during the criminal case.

“To their credit, the committee have since attempted to clear this obstacle with the Crown Office and no doubt will be able to prevail directly upon the lord advocate next week.”

The Scottish Government said it had already provided more than 1,000 pages of relevant material and its witnesses had given more than 14 hours of oral evidence.

A spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is providing all relevant material to the committee and we are even in the process of initiating legal proceedings necessary to get the permission of the Court of Session to allow the release of further documents.”

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