Criticism as SNP politician poised to head up botched Alex Salmond inquiry

Alex Salmond  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Alex Salmond (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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An SNP politician is poised to head up an inquiry into the Scottish Government’s botched handling of complaints against former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Opposition parties have hit out after the Nationalists declined to hand over the convenorship of an ad hoc Holyrood committee which will look into the issue.

The taxpayer was left with a legal bill of £500,000 after Salmond successfully won a judicial review at the Court of Session into the procedures used by the Government he once led to investigate complaints made against him.

A series of private meetings between Nicola Sturgeon and Mr Salmond while the probe was underway will be at the heart of the deliberations and opposition parties had suggested that the SNP should not head it up.

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But a meeting of the Scottish Parliament business bureau today saw the SNP hold firm on the issue.

A Parliament spokeswoman said: “Bureau members unanimously agreed to the establishment of a 9 person committee, convened by a member of the SNP with the Deputy Convener coming from the Conservative Party. The Bureau will finalise issues around remit and membership at its next meeting.”

Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden welcomed the creation of the committee.

But he said: “We are disappointed the SNP has refused to forfeit convenership of a committee probing issues which have occurred within its own party.

“There will be further opportunities in coming weeks for the nationalists to reconsider this move, and voters will expect them to do exactly that.”

Labour Business Manager Neil Findlay had argued against the SNP chairing the committee during the meeting, but said he did not want to block the committee being established.

“It is now a matter for the SNP to decide if it thinks chairing the committee is appropriate - ultimately the election of a convener is a matter for the committee so the option is still open for an MSP from an opposition party to chair the committee,” he said.

All parties unanimously agreed to the establishment of this committee and its remit and timescale are now being finalised.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie added: “We have previously suggested that the SNP should consider stepping aside from chairing this committee. However, it is now up to them to put forward a convenor who can command the respect of parliament.

“This committee will address the concerns that have arisen over the actions of the First Minister, her advisers and officials. Its purpose will be to give confidence that people can make complaints about harassment in the future and have their complaint dealt with seriously and effectively.”