Alex Salmond harassment complaints could be reopened by Scottish ministers with new procedure

Harassment complaints made against Alex Salmond could be reopened by the Scottish Government using a new procedure announced on Thursday, it can be revealed.

The complaints made against the former first minister were the focus of a Scottish Government investigation in 2018, but officials have repeatedly claimed the procedure never reached a formal outcome.

No decision has yet been made whether to do so.

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'No time limit' on harassment complaints against ministers in new procedure publ...
The Scottish Government could reopen the harassment complaints procedure against Alex Salmond.

A report by Leslie Evans, the then-permanent secretary, upheld five complaints made against Mr Salmond, but this legal force of the decision report was reduced by the Court of Session after the former SNP leader won a bitter legal dispute with the Scottish Government that cost the taxpayer more than £500,000.

This came after the Scottish Government conceded the case on the grounds the report was “tainted by apparent bias”.

The leader of the pro-independence Alba Party was later acquitted of several sexual offence charges at a high-profile trial in Edinburgh two years ago.

The botched handling of the complaints made against Mr Salmond was also the focus of a dramatic Holyrood inquiry last year.

While the inquiry concluded Nicola Sturgeon had misled the committee and therefore Parliament, a key report by the independent adviser on the ministerial code, James Hamilton, cleared the First Minister of any wrongdoing.

However, officials confirmed that old wounds could be reopened by the Government under its new procedure to handle complaints about the conduct of current and former ministers.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “The procedure would not be used to deal with any issues without the express consent of the complainer.

"No decision to reopen the complaint has been made.”

Government officials have repeatedly claimed the defeat at judicial review meant the original investigation and complaints process did not reach an outcome.

This was central to their ultimately doomed argument, used during a protracted transparency battle with The Scotsman, that Ms Evans’ report into Mr Salmond’s behaviour did not exist.

Officials argued the decision report was not held by the Scottish Government as it was not the “outcome” of the complaints procedure, due to the result of the judicial review.

The two women who were at the heart of the complaints against Mr Salmond told Holyrood’s harassment complaints committee they never “seriously" thought about resubmitting their complaints under a new, improved, procedure, had the Scottish Government conceded the judicial review at an earlier stage.

One told MSPs: “Not in any serious way. It is something that I would have struggled to see the purpose of, and I would have struggled to feel confident that the Government was going to handle it appropriately.”

They also criticised how they had been treated after the “conclusion” of the first complaints process.

The women said: “We were given regular updates over the period of the judicial review, but after that we were basically just dropped.

"We went through the entirety of the police investigation and the criminal trial with next to no contact from the Scottish Government, let alone any kind of support.

"I was quite taken aback because it felt as though we were just left to swim.”

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