Alex Salmond inquiry: 'Seriously flawed' Scottish Government document handling processes review to be published in June

A key review into how the Scottish Government handles internal documents and information is set to published in June, months after the Alex Salmond inquiry said existing processes are “seriously flawed”.

Issues with the Scottish Government’s document handling came to the fore during the judicial review brought by Mr Salmond in 2018 following the botched handling of harassment complaints against him by the Scottish Government

During the court case, the Scottish Government failed to disclose all relevant documents to the Court of Session around the prior contact of the investigating officer, Judith MacKinnon, with the two complainants ahead of the formal investigation stage.

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Scottish Parliament handout photo of Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government Leslie Evans giving evidence at Holyrood to a Scottish Parliament committee examining the handling of harassment complaints involving current and former Ministers.
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The failure to disclose a letter and an email chain detailing the investigating officer’s prior involvement led directly to the concession of the judicial review on the grounds of “apparent bias”.

Roddy Dunlop QC, the Scottish Government’s lawyer during the judicial review, criticised the disclosure of documents, saying it meant the government’s duty of candour had not been met.

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In a note of prospects on December 17, Mr Dunlop said the way the government had handled document disclosure had led to “extreme professional embarrassment”, with the failure to produce key documents as “unexplained, and frankly inexplicable”.

The concession of the case led to a legal bill of at least £500,000 to the taxpayer.

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Alba Party leader Alex Salmond. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Mr Salmond was later acquitted of all sexual offence charges in a criminal trial in March last year.

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The Holyrood inquiry into the handling of the harassment complaints and the judicial review said the “major flaw” during the court case was the “significant failure” to identify relevant documents, something described as “inexplicable” in the committee’s final report.

Now a review into the way the Scottish Government handles documents is set to be published in June, The Scotsman understands.

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It is not known whether this will be part of a wider response to the Salmond inquiry, the Hamilton report into the ministerial code, and the Laura Dunlop review.

However, in response to a Freedom of Information request, Scottish Government officials said the “review of our corporate information management processes for storage, retrieval and deployment of corporate information” which was due to be finished in December last year, will be published in June.

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said in a separate statement: “Given the timing of the committee’s report, it was not appropriate or feasible to respond in full before the Parliamentary recess and election.

"We are currently considering the three reports collectively, in partnership with civil service trade unions. We will publish an implementation plan in June, in line with a commitment made by the Deputy First Minister in March.”

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