ALEX Salmond was criticised yesterday for failing to appear at a Holyrood debate over what legal advice the Scottish Government had taken over post-
independence EU membership.
• FM attends to official business instead of Scottish Parliament debate
• Scottish Government spent £12,000 to defy an order from the Information Commissioner to reveal whether it had taken legal advice on EU legal advice
Opposition MSPs demanded a judicial review yesterday after his deputy Nicola Sturgeon, last week, revealed no advice on the issue had been sought.
This came despite £12,000 of taxpayers’ cash being spent in a court battle to conceal this non-existent advice.
Mr Salmond had appeared to indicate in a previous television interview with the BBC’s
Andrew Neil that advice had been taken and the opposition suspect a cover-up.
Labour leader Johann Lamont used the Holyrood debate on the issue to call for a judicial review into the affair and was backed by Liberal Democrat chief Willie Rennie.
Mr Salmond was absent as he was opening a new cross-Scotland trail and announced new green energy targets at a major renewables conference.
“The First Minister is getting on with the job of promoting jobs and investment in Scotland,” his spokesman said.
But Labour MSP James Kelly said: “The whole nation doubts the First Minister’s word and yet he refuses to come to the Scottish Parliament to defend his battered reputation. He is too feart to debate Johann Lamont on his own character in front the Scottish people.”
Mr Salmond last week launched his own inquiry into opposition claims that he breached the ministerial code. It will be held by former Whitehall civil servant Sir David Bell, but Labour now say there must be a far wider investigation.
Ms Lamont proposed “an inquiry into the basis on which the First Minister did ever assert Scotland would automatically be a member of the EU”. She said: “What made him say that this separate Scotland would not have to adopt the euro? [We need] an inquiry into why he said he’d sought advice from law officers when he had not. No amount of bluff and bluster will stop us seeking the truth.”
Mr Rennie said such a review could restore confidence in the word of the government.
Ms Sturgeon said ministers have published a number of
papers on constitutional matters since 2007 which set out the view that an independent Scotland would “continue in membership of the EU”.
She added: “We have also been clear that negotiations will be required on the terms of Scottish membership of the EU. These documents were underpinned by law officers’ advice.”
But a letter from Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland which emerged yesterday said law officers would only flag up “wrong statements of the law” and not “policy or political aspirations”.
EU president Jose Manuel Barroso has already indicated that Scotland would have to reapply to join up as a new state.