Alex Salmond inquiry convener asks court to release all evidence

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The convener of the Holyrood inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints about Alex Salmond has asked Scotland’s highest court to release all evidence relating to the botched investigation of the former first minister.

In an attempt to bypass legal wrangling and disagreements between Mr Salmond’s lawyers and the Scottish Government, Linda Fabiani has appealed directly to the Court of Session to access the “essential” evidence.

Both sides have offered to begin legal proceedings to release evidence used in the judicial review that ruled the Government’s investigation into the sexual harassment claims was unlawful.

But although Ms Fabiani said the Government and Mr Salmond have publicly stated their willingness to release documents relating to the case, she told the court “the parties differ in terms of their understanding of what access can be provided”.

She has therefore written to the principal clerk at the Court of Session in Edinburgh asking for the release of all evidence lodged during the legal challenge.

Ms Fabiani has also requested both sides’ pleas, all affidavits, interlocutors, judicial decisions and any details of requests for disclosure of documents by either side, the recovery of information and details about the expenses involved in the legal challenge.

Pledging to comply with all relevant legal restrictions, she wrote: “We consider that having sight of some of the court documents is essential to enable the committee to meet the terms of its remit.”

  • All productions or evidence lodged in process by parties
  • All affidavits
  • All interlocutors; all judicial decisions
  • All pleadings and any adjusted pleadings (with the dates of those adjustments)
  • All material relating to any requests for disclosure of documents by either party
  • All material relating to any Commission for the recovery of evidence, including any evidence recovered by such Commissions
  • All information pertaining to legal fees/costs/expenses
  • All other formal court documents, including any Minutes of Agreement, Joint Minutes, etc.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Ms Fabiani said the investigation is being “completely frustrated” because it is still waiting for information from key witnesses, preventing MSPs from hearing evidence for three consecutive weeks.

The committee probe was launched in the wake of the Court of Session’s ruling the Government had acted unlawfully in its investigation of the former first minister, who was awarded £512,000 of public money for his legal costs.

Ms Fabiani said it has been repeatedly frustrated by the refusal of witnesses to provide evidence and urged them to “engage productively” so the committee can proceed with its inquiry.

Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Murrell
The committee is also awaiting evidence from Peter Murrell (PA)

She also calls for Mr Swinney to reconsider his refusal to waive legal privilege and “release details of when and what legal advice was made available during the judicial review without any further delay”, citing numerous examples where the Government has previously done so.

Ms Fabiani wrote: “Such disclosure is necessary to enable this committee to properly discharge the constitutionally important functions of the Parliament: to promote the public interest by ensuring that the First Minister and Scottish Government are held to account for their actions in dealing with complaints about the former first minister and to maintain public confidence in the conduct of government litigation having due regard to the public purse.”

The committee has also set Mr Salmond a deadline of Friday October 2 for a submission of all evidence currently available to him.

A Scottish Government spokesman denied that it had obstructed the inquiry and said it has provided more than 1,000 pages of information to the Committee.

He added: “Where further information or clarification has been required by the Committee, we have followed up quickly in writing, including to correct inaccurate assertions that documents had not been provided when they had in fact already been submitted.

“As the Committee has recognised, the inquiry involves sensitive information.

“We are providing the relevant information requested so far as is possible given the confidentiality, data protection and legal restrictions that apply and will continue to do so.”

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