Holyrood to publish cost of Salmond inquiry legal advice within three months

The full cost of external legal advice to the Scottish Parliament’s committee on the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond will be revealed after the election, The Scotsman has learned.

The cost of external legal advice to the Salmond Inquiry will be released post-election.
The cost of external legal advice to the Salmond Inquiry will be released post-election.

The confirmation was revealed as the SNP come under pressure to commit to publishing two separate investigations connected with the scandal.

The Scottish Conservatives are calling for both Laura Dunlop QC’s review into the government’s failings around the judicial review and James Hamilton QC’s investigation on the ministerial code to be released as soon as possible.

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Following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, The Scotsman can reveal the Scottish Parliament plans to release the full costs of the inquiry after the election in May.

Brodies LLP and DLA Piper are the two law firms contracted by the Scottish Parliament to offer support to the harassment complaints committee.

A FOI request revealed while Brodies have provided just under £100,000 worth of external legal advice to Holyrood since 2018/19, DLA Piper was hired specifically to provide advice to the Salmond inquiry.

The final cost of both law firms’ involvement has been kept secret ahead of the election on the basis the Parliament prefers to release the “full costs” once the parliamentary inquiry is complete.

This is intended to be published within 12 weeks once all final invoices have been received, a Scottish Parliament response to a FOI request said.

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: “The SPCB will publish the full costs once the parliamentary process is complete and all invoices have been received and finalised.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservative chief whip Miles Briggs has written to Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans for assurances both the Dunlop review and the Hamilton report are published ahead of the election.

The letter comes amid concerns from the opposition the SNP may rely on pre-election sensitivity rules to block their publication.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the Hamilton report will be published as soon as the Scottish Government receives the document, with the Dunlop review to be published “in early course”.

In the letter, Mr Briggs states: “I am deeply concerned that a failure to publish in advance of the election purdah, or to name a date in advance for publication during the election campaign, would mean that the report’s publication during the election campaign would breach the purdah guidance.

“While I understand the need to allow James Hamilton the space to conduct his work, it is important to the people of Scotland that they are able to read his findings ahead of the election.”

In a statement, the MSP added: “The SNP have tried to shut down scrutiny and sweep scandals under the carpet too often throughout the Alex Salmond affair.

“We must see the James Hamilton QC report on ministerial code breaches as soon as possible. It is of prime importance that the public receives full transparency on the conduct of the First Minister before they go to the ballot in May.

“We are seeking guarantees that the report will be published, no matter what, at the earliest opportunity.

“It’s also vital that the Laura Dunlop QC review of the Scottish Government’s harassment complaint procedure is published immediately. It cannot be shut down until after the election.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Mr Hamilton is independent and it is a matter from him when his report is complete. The Scottish Government has no control over that timing. Once received by the Scottish Government, however, it will be published the same day.

“The report by Laura Dunlop QC will be published next week, once we have completed ongoing data protection notifications that are required by law.”

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