MSPs 'walked out' of Salmond committee following report leak

MSPs on the committee set up to investigate the botched handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond walked out of a meeting after it emerged that parts of their report had been leaked in real time, a member of the panel has said.

As the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints met last week, details of its conclusions were given to the media.

Sections of the report which concluded by division that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon misled Parliament appeared on Sky News, before being picked up elsewhere.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Speaking to BBC Scotland's Podlitical podcast, independent MSP and committee member Andy Wightman said members were made aware of the leak as the virtual meeting was going on, causing "one or two" members to walk out.

"As I recall, Alasdair Allan was making a contribution and he got interrupted by the convener... to say she had a text from the Parliament's media office to say there were reports out there of our conclusions," he said.

"There was a stunned silence, one or two people walked out.

"There's been at times quite tense, difficult conversations that we've had, about process as well... so in a sense it was the culmination of quite a bit of tension.

"I wouldn't say it was very pleasant, because I suppose we all think that it must have been one of the committee."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, at Holyrood in Edinburgh, examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond. Picture: PA
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, at Holyrood in Edinburgh, examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond. Picture: PA

A further leak of private evidence to the committee of the two women who complained about Mr Salmond was also made to a Sunday newspaper.

Mr Wightman added: "That was a real breach, not just of the MSP code of conduct, but of their trust in us, which I found really devastating."

He also attacked the committee members who took the information to the media, saying: "There's no sanction to sack an MSP, but I certainly don't think an MSP who leaked, particularly that private evidence from complainers, I don't think they're fit to be an MSP."

On Wednesday, Alex Salmond said he would launch fresh legal action “as a direct result of the conduct” of permanent secretary Leslie Evans around her role in the handling of harassment complaints against him.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.