Alex Salmond Inquiry: Evidence fiasco labelled a 'crisis of credibility' for Holyrood

The decision to remove, redact and republish key evidence from Alex Salmond to the harassment complaints committee by the Scottish Parliament has been described as a “crisis of credibility”.

Lothian MSP Neil Findlay
Lothian MSP Neil Findlay
Lothian MSP Neil Findlay

The former first minister's planned appearance in front of the inquiry tomorrow is now under serious doubt due to the decision by the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body following an intervention by the Crown Office overnight.

Deciding to redact the evidence after it had been published and available unredacted for more than 12 hours has led to criticism by MSPs.

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Raising a point of order ahead of the First Minister’s statement on easing Covid-19 restrictions, Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay labelled the fiasco as a "crisis of credibility”.

He also called on the Lord Advocate, who leads the Crown Office and is a cabinet member, or a member of the SPCB to answer questions in Holyrood on the situation.

He said: “I reluctantly rise to make an urgent request. Last night we saw the publication by this parliament of evidence that has been submitted to the committee on the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints.

"That evidence has now been withdrawn on the insistence of the Crown Office and the Lord Advocate who is a member of the government, the very government who he presumably advised to pursue the original flawed court case that resulted in it collapsing and multi-million pounds of public money being lost.

"Presiding Officer, this is a crisis of credibility for this parliament and we as members and the public we represent must hear from the Lord Advocate the reasons for this decision.

"We must make time, today, for this member of the cabinet to come before us to answer urgent questions from members on this crisis of credibility.

"This cannot just be simply allowed to pass.”

In response, the presiding office Ken Macintosh said the decision was taken by the SPCB, not on the insistence of the Lord Advocate and said the Scottish Labour MSP could take up his request with his party's business manager and that the decision was for the parliamentary bureau, which decides on Holyrood’s business.

He said: “I would suggest Mr Findlay that if he has questions for the corporate body he can raise them, he can write to me directly or to members of the corporate body.

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“As with any other body in this parliament, members elect members to committees, they elect members to the corporate body and they then entrust them to take decisions on their behalf.

"The corporate body will share information with members as it is fit and proper to do so and when it can do so and that is the trust that we have given, as we have given to every other committee of this parliament.”

Reacting to the decision by the SPCB to republish the submission from Mr Salmond, the SNP’s George Adam said it had been a “disgrace” and MSPs involved owed parliament an apology.

Mr Adam said: "This is precisely the situation that I, Rape Crisis Scotland and others warned parliament about last week.

"All steps must now be taken to ensure complainers are properly protected in what remains of this committee's hearings.

"Those who have put their petty political games before the protection of complainers should hang their heads in shame.

"For parliament to appear to break a contempt of court order, against legal advice and despite having been warned in advance, is a disgrace.

"Those members of the committee and of the corporate body who agreed to behave in this way owe firstly the complainers, but also the whole parliament, an apology."

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