Alex Salmond inquiry: Ruth Davidson writes to SNP chief for answers

A list of eight questions has been sent from Ruth Davidson to SNP chief executive Peter Murrell about his part in leaked WhatsApp messages concerning Alex Salmond.
Ruth Davidson has written to SNP chief executive Peter Murrell over leaked WhatsApp messages.Ruth Davidson has written to SNP chief executive Peter Murrell over leaked WhatsApp messages.
Ruth Davidson has written to SNP chief executive Peter Murrell over leaked WhatsApp messages.

The Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader has revealed she has written to Mr Murrell after the messages were raised with Nicola Sturgeon in First Minister’s Questions last week, although he is believed not to have received her letter yet.

At the time Ms Sturgeon, who is SNP leader and married to Mr Murrell, said it was unreasonable she was being asked to answer for someone else’s actions and he should be asked instead.

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Ms Davidson said she had taken the First Minister's advice and has now written to Mr Murrell. Her letter states: “Given the frustrations experienced by the Committee and the Scottish Parliament in receiving answers – and the promise of the SNP party leader that those under her within the party will co-operate fully and her direct instruction to put questions straight to you - I have decided to take Ms Sturgeon's advice and ask you the following questions.”

She asks him to confirm if he sent the messages, the date they were sent and if they were sent to another SNP employee and goes on to ask if "this was the only occasion on which you advised an employee of the SNP that it was “good” to be “pressurising” the police with regards to the investigation into Alex Salmond” and what his “intent in encouraging others to engage in “pressurising” the police” had been?

She questions how sending such messages was “relevant to the SNP and your role as chief executive”, if Ms Sturgeon had been “aware of your call for others to be “pressurising” the police” and if any Scottish Government ministers were members of the WhatsApp group where the messages were sent.

Ms Davidson had quizzed the First Minister about the messages last Thursday after criticising her for failing to live up to a pledge that the Scottish Government would hand over all documents requested by the Holyrood committee investigating the government’s conduct into handling of sexual harassment complaints against Mr Salmond.

At FMQs, Ms Davidson asked Ms Sturgeon to confirm that the WhatsApp messages, which appeared to come from Mr Murrell, suggesting he wanted Mr Salmond to be investigated by the Metropolitan Police and Crown Office, were genuine.

She said the messages included Mr Murrell purportedly saying it was a “good time to be pressurising” police and “the more fronts he [Mr Salmond] is having to fire-fight on, the better for all complainers”.

Ms Sturgeon said the leak of the messages was the subject of a police inquiry and added: “I don’t think it is reasonable for me to be asked questions about things that other people might or might not have done. Call the people who the messages are purported to come from and ask them the questions.”

Today Ms Davidson said: “This week, the SNP leader refused to answer questions about the actions of the SNP chief executive, Peter Murrell.

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“But Nicola Sturgeon also promised the SNP would ‘co-operate fully’ with the Salmond inquiry, and said that we should ask Peter Murrell directly for answers. So I took her instruction and wrote to Mr Murrell.

“The Scottish public need to hear these answers, and Nicola Sturgeon promised the SNP would deliver them. So no more excuses, let’s have the truth.”

In her letter to Mr Murrell she also stresses that the Holyrood Salmond inquiry “is examining the extent to which lines that divide Scottish Government matters and party matters are clear and adhered to in practice.”

Mr Murrell was also mentioned by the committee convener Linda Fabiani last week, when she spoke of the inquiry's frustrations about “lack of evidence" submitted by him, the Scottish Government and the lawyers representing Mr Salmond. It is believed Mr Murrell sent a new written submission to committee on Friday.

Ms Fabiani also said the committee had taken the unusual step of writing to the Scottish Courts Service in the hope of receiving documents relating to Mr Salmond's successful judicial review of the government's actions in dealing with complaints against him. Without seeing such documentation, she said, said the committee was at a “stage where we cannot proceed any further” due to a lack of evidence.

An SNP spokesperson said: “Mr Murrell has met all the deadlines set by the Committee and hopes his latest written submission is published soon.”

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