Alex Salmond Inquiry: Nicola Sturgeon's chief of staff received thousands in taxpayer-funded legal advice

Nicola Sturgeon’s chief of staff received more than £6,000 in legal advice relating to the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond, The Scotsman can reveal.

The figure is despite Liz Lloyd not appearing in front of the inquiry to answer questions from MSPs and only providing written evidence to the committee.

It is also in marked contrast to the legal advice made available to the First Minister. Ms Sturgeon received no advice from internal or external solicitors and counsel, The Scotsman revealed in February.

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The Scottish Parliament’s inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints concluded that Ms Sturgeon had “misled” the committee over whether she had agreed to intervene in the complaints handling process during a meeting with Mr Salmond on April 2, 2018.

Nicola Sturgeon chief of staff received legal advice worth £6,000 in connection with the Salmond Inquiry.

However, a separate inquiry by James Hamilton concluded the First Minister’s conduct during the investigation of the complaints and the judicial review did not breach the ministerial code.

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The committee was also heavily critical of the Scottish Government’s approach to the development and implementation of the complaints process and of the role of permanent secretary Leslie Evans.

Ms Evans, along with Ms Lloyd and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, have faced calls to resign due to their roles in the scandal throughout the committee’s inquiry.

The permanent secretary has been urged to “consider her position” by opposition leaders, including Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and the Scottish Conservatives, following the publication of the committee reports.

The Scottish Government came under significant criticism from opposition parties earlier this year for a bill of more than £75,000 for “coaching” civil service witnesses who appeared in front of the harassment complaints committee.

At the time, Murdo Fraser, one of the Scottish Conservative members on the committee, said people would be “astonished” at the “rapidly rising bill” and labelled it a “waste of money”.

He said: "Taxpayers have spent £76,000 on a procession of witnesses who seem to suffer from collective amnesia, selective memories and the inability to give straight answers.

The total cost of legal advice for Ms Lloyd was £6,060 with the bill to be picked up by the taxpayer, a Freedom of Information request revealed.

However, the civil service code states that civil servants such as Ms Lloyd may be entitled to receive individual legal advice if they are involved in a formal inquiry as a consequence of their employment.

Responding to the sum, a Scottish Conservative spokesperson said the party had “concerns” about the amount of taxpayer cash going towards legal advice for civil servants.

They said: “Most voters are repulsed by the unedifying Salmond-Sturgeon scandal and confused about why no-one has taken responsibility or been held to account by the SNP Government.

"We have concerns about significant sums of taxpayers' money being used to prepare civil servants for the Salmond inquiry and this seems even more questionable when applied to witnesses who did not appear."

An SNP spokesperson said: "In highly complex legal situations like this, it is entirely appropriate that employees receive suitable legal advice as shown by the problems the Parliament and others had in complying with the law.”

The Scottish Government said it does not comment on individual staff matters.

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