Two former lord advocates dropped from inquiry into Alex Salmond EU row
BOTH members of an independent panel set up by Alex Salmond to investigate complaints into the First Minister’s conduct have been ditched from a probe into the recent row over EU membership.
It emerged last night that Dame Elish Angiolini will not be part of the inquiry into claims that Mr Salmond broke ministerial rules after the government spent £12,000 fighting a court battle to conceal its legal advice on the place of an independent Scotland in the EU – advice that did not exist. Mr Salmond had appeared to claim in a television interview that the advice did exist.
The other panel member, Lord Fraser, revealed at the weekend he had been “stood down”. Both are former lord advocates, the most senior law officer in Scotland, and top legal advisers to ministers.
Mr Salmond revealed last week that the probe will be led by former Whitehall mandarin Sir David Bell, now principal of Reading University, but did not tell MSPs that neither of the other panel members would be involved.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As was made clear last Thursday, Sir David Bell will lead this investigation because the issue relates to an area of the ministerial code that touches on the law officers’ prerogative.
“Both Dame Elish and Lord Fraser are former distinguished law officers and, given the topic of Ms Stihler’s request, asking former law officers to determine on this matter might create the perception of proximity.
“As such, it was appropriate to refer the issue to an adviser not drawn from legal circles. This is entirely consistent with all previous investigations by the panel.”
Mr Salmond will come under fresh pressure today as MSPs debate the row, with Labour calling for Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon to repay the money.
Lib Demo leader Willie Rennie has called on Peter Housden, the head of Scotland’s civil service, to explain whether the decision to defend official legal advice that did not exist was an “appropriate” use of public funds.
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