Alex Salmond inquiry: Legal advice to be published after no-confidence vote threat

Key legal advice relating to the Scottish Government’s position on the successful judicial review action brought by Alex Salmond will be released tomorrow.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said the Scottish Government will release the legal advice around the Salmond Inquiry.

The decision was taken by deputy first minister John Swinney following the threat of a successful no-confidence vote.

Subject to legal notifications under GDPR rules, the advice will be released to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday after the decision was signed off by law officers this afternoon.

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Mr Swinney said the “very integrity of the legal system” was being questioned and the Scottish Government had to go further and release the advice.

It is understood the move from the Scottish Conservatives brought the issue to a head, alongside the extraordinary attacks on the judiciary by Alex Salmond and political opponents.

The deputy first minister went through the ministerial code process for releasing legal advice, with the decision to release it given the stamp of approval by the law officers on Monday afternoon.

A motion of no confidence in Mr Swinney had been publicly backed by all opposition parties and independent MSP Andy Wightman ahead of a potential vote.

The Scottish Government had been defeated twice in two Holyrood votes last year calling for the advice to be released and the vote could have seen the deputy first minister lose his job.

However, the Scottish Government change of tack means the motion is likely to be withdrawn.

Mr Swinney said: “In normal circumstances, government legal advice is not released. Indeed, such is the importance of being able to get frank, private advice, it is almost unheard of for the legal advice to be released.

“But, we have to acknowledge that the issues at stake now are not normal. The very integrity of the legal system is being questioned.

“Serious allegations have been made. This material allows people to confirm that these allegations are false.

“We have already shared in private with the Scottish Parliament’s committee on these issues the substance of the advice.

“Now we recognise that in order to counter the false claims being made by some, we must go further. Subject to the mandatory legal checks and processes, we will release the key legal advice.”

Responding to Mr Swinney’s decision, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Despite two votes in the Scottish Parliament demanding the legal advice be published, John Swinney only backed down and U-turned to save his own skin.

"It's a pathetic reveal of what motivates the SNP. It's not about getting to the truth, it's only about self-preservation."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The committee have already been offered a private viewing of the legal advice, but for it to be useful they need to be able to cite it and publish extracts in their report. Providing bits of the advice and only to the committee in private is no use whatsoever.”

Scottish Labour deputy leade Jackie Baillie said: “This screeching U-turn from John Swinney may well be a cynical move to save his job, but it is very welcome nonetheless.

“I would like to gently remind Mr Swinney that the Scottish Parliament twice voted for the government to hand over its legal advice. The committee particularly wants to see external counsel’s advice from when they were first engaged in August – and it must come without any redactions.”

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