Alex Salmond inquiry: John Swinney 'rubber-stamped' redactions in material passed to harassment committee

Submissions to Holyrood’s harassment complaints committee, including redactions by civil servants, were approved by the deputy first minister ahead of being passed to Parliament, it has emerged.

John Swinney 'approved' redactions to Scottish Government submissions to the harassment complaints committee.
John Swinney 'approved' redactions to Scottish Government submissions to the harassment complaints committee.

In a letter to the committee in response to questions to the Lord Advocate, the Scottish Government confirms that John Swinney personally approved redactions to crucial submissions to the committee.

The letter adds that no changes were made by Mr Swinney during the process of approval and the process was “entirely normal” for documents being provided to Parliament by the Scottish Government.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Read More

Read More
FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon under pressure to say she will resign if found to have bro...

The decision to offer political approval to ministers was done, the letter states, to “provide assurance” to ministers that the approach to transparency was being “complied with”.

Members of the committee had asked the Scottish Government whether or not the nature of redactions had been “considered, commented on and cleared at a political level”.

It states: “As documents released to the committee have been provided on behalf of the Scottish Government, final approval for their release (once collated and appropriately redacted per the above approach) was sought from the Deputy First Minister.

"This is entirely normal for any documents being provided by the government to the Parliament. This process of approval for release has not resulted in changes to the identification of documents being released or to the redactions made to them.

"The purpose of the approval process has been to provide assurance by officials to ministers that the approach set out above has been complied with, has been consistent with ministers’ commitment to share relevant information with the committee, and that the arrangements for release have complied with all relevant legal obligations on the Scottish Government.”

In a separate letter, the Lord Advocate confirmed the original decision report following the Scottish Government investigation into complaints against Mr Salmond and issued by the Permanent Secretary had been passed to the police and the Crown Office despite opposition from complainers.

Refusing to answer the question as to whether he had any personal involvement, James Wolffe QC said the decision to pass on the report was “consistent” with the Scottish Government’s sexual offences policy.

He said: “The Scottish Government concluded that criminal behaviour may have occurred and that it was appropriate that this should be brought to the attention of the police so that it could be considered by them.

"The government took into account the attitude of the complainers to the question of a referral to the police, but concluded that the matter should nevertheless be referred.

"That decision was consistent with the strong policy stance which the Scottish Government had taken in relation to sexual offences.

"It was also consistent with the general responsibility of the Scottish Government to support the rule of law.”

The committee is examining the botched handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond by the Scottish Government, which led to a £500,000 legal bill after the government conceded a judicial review challenge on the grounds of the process being “tainted by apparent bias”.

Mr Salmond was also acquitted of sexual offence charges in a trial last year.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.