MSPs concerned information in Alex Salmond case has been destroyed

Former First Minister Alex Salmond outside the Court of Session after winning his judicial review against the Scottish Government.
Former First Minister Alex Salmond outside the Court of Session after winning his judicial review against the Scottish Government.
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The Holyrood committee investigating the Scottish Government's handling of allegations of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond has raised new concerns about the potential loss of vital information.

Linda Fabiani, who chairs the panel of MSPs overseeing how complaints of harassment were investigated, said they would again be seeking assurances from Scotland's top civil servant that emails from the time have not been destroyed.

At the end of a meeting of the panel today, in which they received "detailed briefings on information retention systems", Ms Fabiani said they would write to Leslie Evans as there were fears information which predated a specific order to retain all emails regarding the harassment claims, might have been lost.

And she said they would ask again why the cost of the legal settlement between the former First Minister and the Scottish Government had still not been published on the government's website.

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SNP MSP said: “The Committee notes, having taken detailed briefings on information retention systems at its meeting today, that in the context of the Scottish Government's current document management policy, information maybe no longer be available if it predates the Scottish Government's instruction of 22 March to retain.

“The Committee also notes that the Scottish Government uses Enterprise Vault where information such as emails is held for a year before deletion. The Committee is seeking further information on the Scottish Government's exchange configuration and exchange retention policy settings."

The Holyrood committee was set up in the aftermath of a judicial review into the Scottish Government's handling of two harassment complaints against Mr Salmond, which he won and was later awarded £512,000 in legal costs.

The committee had also previously written to Leslie Evans to question why it has not been told how much the government's botched inquiry into the complaints had cost the taxpayer, and has also expressed its dissatisfaction with the government over the sharing of information.

Ms Evans has tried to appease concerns about information, saying the government was "committed to cooperating fully with the committee and has taken steps to ensure all relevant information is preserved". She has also said there was "no risk that relevant information kept as part of the corporate record has been automatically deleted"and informed the Committee that legal costs of more than £25,000 were published a month in arrears, which is why the cost had not appeared on the government's website before it was made public "by a third party".

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Today Ms Fabiani said that while the committee welcomed confirmation from the Scottish Government that it would share the information it provided as part of the Judicial Review, she added: "The Committee also discussed the Permanent Secretary's letter of 26 September and notes that legal expenditure over £25,000 is routinely published on the Scottish Government's website. However, the Committee notes that this is not in fact the case in this instance at the date of this Committee meeting and will seek clarification.”

Unrelated to the Holyrood probe, Mr Salmond was charged in January this year with a total of 14 offences – two of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one of a breach of the peace. He strongly denies the charges and is expected to stand trial next year.