Alex Salmond 'calls into question' planned appearance before MSPs next week

Alex Salmond has indicated that he may not appear next week before a Holyrood committee investigating the handling of a Scottish Government probe into harassment claims against him.
Former Scottish National Party leader and former first minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty ImagesFormer Scottish National Party leader and former first minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images
Former Scottish National Party leader and former first minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

A specially convened committee of MSPs issued a formal invitation on Tuesday to the former first minister to give evidence next week.

But it has emerged Mr Salmond himself had already written to the committee last week calling into question the likelihood of him being able to appear before the committee on January 19.

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The ex-first minister is still seeking to have documents released by the Crown Office and the Scottish Government, which he says will allow MSPs to “fulfill their remit” and get the full picture as they investigate what went wrong with the internal probe into his conduct.

Mr Salmond has not spoken publicly since he was cleared of a string of sexual assault claims at the High Court in Edinburgh last March.

A year prior to this he had successfully taken out a judicial review against the government, which he previously led for seven years, over the way it handled the allegations made by two female civil servants about him.

A letter to the MSPs from Mr Salmond’s solicitor’s David McKie states the release of documents from the civil case and criminal case will “have the dual benefit of allowing our client to give a complete account while eliminating any risk of his breaching court orders inadvertently while giving his evidence”.

The letter states: “Neither we nor our client can see how it is possible for your committee to, putting it bluntly, do its job, without that evidence.”

It goes on: “The above concerns clearly call into question the likelihood of our client being able to give evidence on January 19. Furthermore, our client has written separately to your clerk to establish how, realistically, an evidence session in person is going to be possible given current restrictions given that he has an underlying health condition.

"There would be considerable media attention, as there was at his trial and during the judicial review. Managing that attention in the current health environment will be a matter for careful consideration.”

It comes after controversial claims last week from Mr Salmond that his successor Nicola Sturgeon misled the Scottish Parliament over meetings they had at her Glasgow home to discuss the issue.

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Ms Sturgeon denies the allegations made by her predecessor and will herself give evidence to the committee later in the month.

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Nicola Sturgeon did not try to 'influence' Alex Salmond harassment probe

The Government’s defeat in the judicial review in the January 2019 outcome resulted in ministers being forced to pay more than £500,000 to cover the cost of legal fees for Salmond's case at the Court of Session.

Judges found the Scottish Government's procedure may have been tainted by bias after it emerged the investigating officer leading the internal probe into the claims about Mr Salmond’s behaviour had previous contacts with the complainers about the case.

In the aftermath of the judicial review, Mr Salmond called on the Scottish Government’s top civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, to quit.

But she had defended the handling of the complaints, telling MSPs on the committee on Monday the government had followed the "right path".

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