Alex Salmond inquiry: Former First Minister's allegations of a conspiracy within the Scottish government and SNP to get him sent to prison are extraordinary – Murdo Fraser MSP

Today, the former First Minister Alex Salmond was due to give evidence to the parliamentary inquiry investigating the Scottish government’s handling of harassment complaints against him. At the last minute, following the intervention of the Crown Office forcing the Parliamentary authorities to redact part of his written submission, he decided to pull out of appearing in person. It would have been an explosive session.

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond campaign together in the Gordon constituency in 2015 (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Salmond’s written evidence, published on Monday evening, is extraordinary. In it, he alleges a conspiracy against him amongst individuals within the Scottish government and the SNP to damage his reputation, even to the extent of having him sent to prison.

He names Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, Peter Murrell, chief executive of the SNP, two other senior SNP officials, and Liz Lloyd, the First Minister’s chief of staff. He also states that there is compelling evidence of this conspiracy that is held by Scotland’s Crown Office, and which it refuses to release.

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The submission is damning in his criticism of the behaviour of the Scottish government, senior civil servants, and the Lord Advocate, not least in relation to the lack of cooperation with the inquiry committee.

Salmond claims that the deliberate obstruction of the committee inquiry by those in power has been nothing to do with protecting the anonymity of the complainants, but about shielding some of the most powerful people in the country.

As a member of the parliamentary committee investigating the matter, I am heartily sick of the whole affair. I am sick of the lies, the evasion, the deceit, the obstruction, and the obfuscation. I am sick of senior civil servants, on enormous salaries and gold-plated pensions, unable to give straight answers to questions, and having to write to the committee subsequently to correct evidence given. I am sick of the falsehoods and contradictions we heard from Peter Murrell when he gave evidence three weeks ago.

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I am sick of the way in which the female complainants at the heart of this process have been let down by the Scottish government and its procedures – procedures declared unlawful in a Scottish court. I am sick of the way in which these female complainants have been used as human shields by the First Minister and others within her government, in a manner which is as callously cynical as it is morally repugnant.

Perhaps most concerning of all is the role of the Crown Office. In any liberal democracy where the rule of law is respected, the prosecution service should be regarded as beyond reproach. Yet, only yesterday, we saw the Crown Office threatening the Scottish Parliament with criminal proceedings if elements of Mr Salmond’s evidence were not withdrawn, despite this having been already put in the public domain.

In his written submission, Salmond claims that the Crown Office acted under political influence, and that the Lord Advocate is deeply compromised between his twin roles as head of prosecutions and chief government legal advisor. He claims that it is actively “shielding some of the most powerful people in the country”. The action taken yesterday would suggest that the Crown Office is out to prove his case for him.

We should not forget that this is the same Crown Office which, in an unprecedented failure in Scottish legal history, has admitted the malicious prosecution of the former Rangers administrators, a scandal likely to cost the Scottish tax payer in excess of £100 million. No-one has yet been held responsible for that scandal. There is something very, very wrong here.

Nicola Sturgeon’s defence to all these claims was set out in media interviews on Monday afternoon, in which she claimed that her predecessor had no evidence to support his claims. According to Salmond, that evidence exists, and is being withheld – by the same Crown Office.

In the meantime, we are now left with the current SNP leader, and First Minister, claiming that the former SNP leader and First Minister, for whom she worked loyally over many years, is effectively a liar and a fantasist.

And yet this was the individual, Alex Salmond, who Nicola Sturgeon and all her colleagues within the SNP – John Swinney, Angus Robertson, Humza Yousaf, and the rest – asked us all to trust to lead the country to the creation of a new independent state back in 2014. How can we ever believe a single word these people say again?

What this whole sorry story tells us is that we now have a Scottish government simply not fit for purpose. It is a cesspit of vipers obsessed with personal vendettas, tearing at each other and destroying public trust not just in government but also in the institutions of our justice system.

Whether it is Alex Salmond who is the liar, or Nicola Sturgeon, is something that we may never find out for sure, but the simple fact that it has to be one or other (or perhaps both) should tell us all we need to know about the poisonous cult that has taken over Scottish public life, determined to pervert all arms of the state to prevent the truth being told.

Whilst this bloody internal civil war goes on within Scotland’s governing party, Scotland faces real challenges; ones that matter to real people – tackling the Covid pandemic, extending the vaccination programme and rebuilding our economy and society after a year of unprecedented difficulty.

How can we possibly trust the current government of corrupt liars with these most serious of tasks, when they have proven themselves so unfit to hold public office?

In a few short weeks Scotland will go to the polls to elect a new government. It is an opportunity for a fresh start, to wipe the slate clean and start again. It is a time to reclaim government from those who would abuse it for their own personal ends. I dearly hope that the Scottish people will grasp that opportunity for change.

Murdo Fraser is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife

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