SNP MSP Linda Fabiani to be convener of Alex Salmond committee

SNP MSP for East Kilbride Linda Fabiani has been chosen as the committee convener
SNP MSP for East Kilbride Linda Fabiani has been chosen as the committee convener
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Long-standing SNP MSP Linda Fabiani is set to be appointed to lead a Holyrood investigation into the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment claims against Alex Salmond.

MSPs have voted today to establish the Holyrood committee, with those assembled told the intention was to appoint deputy presiding officer Linda Fabiani as convener.

There will be four former SNP ministers in total appointed to the committee.

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Ms Fabiani has been a MSP since the creation of the Parliament in 1999 and served in Mr Salmond’s government.

The MSP for East Kilbride served as minister for Europe, external affairs and culture from 2007 before being replaced in the role by Mike Russell halfway through the SNP’s term.

Concerns have been raised over the appointment of an SNP MSP as convener of the committee.

Last month, the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled the way in which the allegations against the former First Minister were dealt with was “unlawful”.

The Scottish Government admitted it breached its own guidelines by appointing an investigating officer who had “prior involvement” in the case after allegations, which Mr Salmond strongly denies, were made last year.

A motion by the Minister for Parliamentary Business Graeme Dey to establish a nine-member committee was passed by 92 to 19 following a vote in Holyrood today.

“We took the decision to nominate four hugely experienced and highly respected parliamentarians to the committee,” Mr Dey said.

“When the committee meets, it is our intention to nominate Linda Fabiani, who I believe should have the confidence and respect of all parties in this Parliament, to the role of convener.

“The unprecedented decision to nominate a deputy presiding officer to such a role is one which I hoped other parties would, and I know some do, recognise as pointing the way for the work of the committee to be carried out in an appropriate, non-partisan way.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Annie Wells said: “We’re confident that all the MSPs who have been selected will seek to scrutinise the decisions that were made in this matter and provide recommendations on a way forward.

“We do, however, continue to have concerns that the convener of the committee will be selected from the SNP.

“I wish to emphasise that this is no reflection on the SNP member who may be nominated for the post of convener, but there is a clear public interest in ensuring that this committee is both impartial and is seen to be impartial.

“That will be more difficult to achieve in this very particular circumstance if the convener is from the same party as the government.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay MSP said: “It is essential for the standing of this Parliament that we get this right.

“The committee will deal with the actions or inactions of the most powerful politician in Scotland, the First Minister, and some of her key advisers in relation to complaints about the conduct of the previously most powerful politician in the country when he was in office.

“All eyes are on this Parliament in relation to how this inquiry will be conducted. Can this Parliament be trusted to do things openly and transparently in the national interest?

“This is a big test for us all. It is vital that any committee is not compromised before its work begins and that there’s no perception of in-built bias.”