Scottish Parliament's Alex Salmond inquiry must be open to public scrutiny – Kenny MacAskill

Reporting of the inquiry into the handling of complaints against Alex Salmond may be difficult, given the prosecution of Craig Murray for his coverage of the trial, writes Kenny MacAskill.

Alex Salmond leaves the High Court in Edinburgh in March after being acquitted of sexual offence charges (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)
Alex Salmond leaves the High Court in Edinburgh in March after being acquitted of sexual offence charges (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

The Scottish Parliament prides itself on its openness. It was part of the ethos that saw it established and it’s contained in its founding principles. Members have sought to maintain that ever since with as much as possible being carried out in public. More, in my experience, than Westminster.

But that’s going to be challenged with the Salmond inquiry. Not because of a position taken by the elected members sitting on the committee, instead as a result of the actions of the Lord Advocate. This will be the highest-profile inquiry ever conducted with the current and former First Ministers to give evidence, along with the Permanent Secretary.

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Normally that would mean wall-to-wall public coverage. But the prosecution of Craig Murray for contempt of court for allegedly breaching an order banning the identification of witnesses in the criminal trial, in which ‘jigsaw identification’ may be a factor, threatens that. How can this all be held in public or aspects be reported even with names withheld? Senior broadcasters have already told me they don’t know what they can do.

Simply by where they are or what they were doing, it’ll be evident which post individuals hold and who’s involved. It’s not as if they can be assumed to be a cleaner stuck in the office or a stray Avon lady who’s wandered into a house.

Anonymity of witnesses is one thing, closing down public scrutiny quite another. If this is what the Lord Advocate intended, he’s a disgrace, if it’s simply what happens, then he’s a fool.

Parliamentary openness and open reporting needs assured, on this of all inquiries.

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