Alex Salmond 'astonished' by inquiry decision not to ask for key evidence
Alex Salmond is “astonished” by the Holyrood inquiry examining the botched handling of harassment complaints against him deciding not to issue his legal team a demand for key evidence, a letter seen by The Scotsman states.
In a letter sent to the harassment complaints committee convener Linda Fabiani, the former first minister’s legal team said Mr Salmond was “perplexed and disappointed” at the decision not to issue a section 24 order to his legal team.
The letter adds that not doing so is a “disservice to the Scottish public” and would leave the committee to publish a report “based on incomplete evidence”.
Mr Salmond claimed during his evidence session in front of MSPs that his legal team would be happy to provide what he believes is key evidence for the inquiry and which he claims proves his allegations of a “malicious effort” to remove him from public life.
The former SNP leader said that he had been blocked from handing over this material due what he labelled “obstruction” from the Crown Office, which has issued several letters to his legal team stating he would be in breach of section 162 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Scotland Act 2010 if he passed on any material disclosed to him during his criminal trial.
However, the committee confirmed on Monday it would not be issuing an order to Levy and McRae, stating it considered section 162 to be “unambiguous in its terms” and that it should not use its powers to gain access to documents in a way that “the Parliament has agreed would be unlawful”.
In a furious letter to the committee, Mr Salmond’s legal team state the “public is left wondering”. They said “we and counsel disagree” that section 162 prevents the notice being issued.
The letter states: “Now it appears to be the ‘clear view’ of the committee not to proceed with seeking an order for the material under section of the Scotland Act.
"Our client is perplexed and disappointed at this decision as he is aware of highly relevant evidence which he has been prevented from producing and which would allow the committee to consider and report on the actions of the First Minister, Scottish Government officials and special advisers in dealing with complaints about him.
"The consequences of your decisions are clear, as we have been spelling out to your committee since last October. You have chosen to disregard – and not even review – evidence which is relevant to your inquiry.
“You are correct to say that our client has provided very substantial information to assist your committee. He had hoped – and remains willing and able – to ensure the provision of more.
"Unless you reconsider the Crown Office instruction on us not to provide it, your deliberations and conclusions will be based on incomplete evidence.
"Our client considers that to be a disservice to the Scottish public given the issues at stake and the government’s own stated willingness to co-operate in full from the outset.”
The inquiry is examining how the botched handling of complaints let to a £500,000 bill to the taxpayer. Mr Salmond was also acquitted of sexual offence charges in a trial last year.
The committee is due to report before Parliament rises for the Holyrood election period.