Alex Salmond case: Scottish Government acted unlawfully over sexual harassment complaint

Alex Salmond has won a major court victory against the Scottish Government over the way complaints of sexual harassment against him were investigated.

The former First Minister had objected to the procedures used by the Scottish Government to look into two complaints against him after it emerged that the investigating officer had previous contact with the complainers.

And the Scottish Government admitted during a Court of Session hearing in Edinburgh today that there was a “procedural flaw” in the case, meaning the case against Salmondeffectively collapsed.

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Mr Salmond was in court today, along with former SNP colleagues Kenny MacAskill and Tricia Marwick.

Alex Salmond at the Court of Session in Edinburgh

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Alex Salmond case: Former SNP leader's statement in full

The ex-First Minister said afterwards he was “glad to have won the case” but sad to have been forced into taking action against a Government he led for seven years.

He also called on the Scottish Government’s top civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, to “consider her position” over the “institutional” failures in the case. She has apologised and ordered a review into the case.

The final bill to taxpayers rise to half a million pounds after he was awarded costs, he told reporters outside the court.

“The last time I was in that court it was to be sworn in as First Minister of Scotland,” Salmond said.

“I never thought it possible that at any point I would be taking the Scottish Government to court - and therefore while I’m glad about the victory which has been achieved today, I’m sad that it was necessary to take this action.

“The consequences are very clear - because the process has been agreed as unlawful, as unfair and tainted by apparent bias then the Scottish Government have had to concede on the case and the expenses to the maximum extent.

“That is going to raise a cost to the public purse of many, many hundreds of thousands of pounds. And all of this was unnecessary because throughout the process we offered mediation, legal arbitration so that this matter could be properly settled without having to come to the highest court in the land.

“At every stage that was rebuffed by the Permanent Secretary.”

He added: “I suggest the Permanent Secretary now accepts that responsibility and considers her position.”

He described the Government ‘s climbdown today as an “abject surrender.”

Salmond has always denied allegations of wrongdoing, but still faces an ongoing police investigation into harassment claims.

The Scottish Government said today it could still open a fresh probe into Salmond’s conduct if the complainers involved want to press ahead.

The head of Scotland’s civil service, Leslie Evans, who established the procedures which were used to investigate Salmond, today apologised and ordered a review into what went wrong.

“After reassessing all the materials available, I have concluded that an impression of partiality could have been created based on one specific point - contact between the Investigating Officer and the two complainants around the time of their complaints being made in January 2018,” she said today.

“The full picture only became evident in December 2018 as a result of the work being undertaken to produce relevant documents in advance of the hearing.

“I want to apologise to all involved for the failure in the proper application of this one particular part of the Procedure. There is nothing to suggest that the Investigating Officer did not conduct their duties in an impartial way.

“Unfortunately, the interactions with the complainants in advance of the complaints being made meant that the process was flawed, however impartially and fairly the Investigating Officer conducted the investigation.”

She added that the court case was “never about the substance of the complaints” but about the process that took place to investigate those complaints.

“It is accordingly open to the Scottish Government to re-investigate the complaints and, subject to the views of the complainants, it would be our intention to consider this - however, this will only be once ongoing police inquiries have concluded,” she added.

“Meantime I have commissioned an internal review of the specific application of this one element of the procedure. We shall learn and apply the lessons of this case to any future complaint addressed under our internal procedure.”