Nicola Sturgeon should sack Leslie Evans for judicial review 'bourach', says Alex Salmond ally

Permanent secretary Leslie Evans should have been sacked by Nicola Sturgeon following the judicial review due to the way the legal action was mishandled, a veteran SNP politician has said.

Alex Neil, a long-term ally of Alex Salmond who served as health minister under the former first minister, said at least two or three other individuals within the SNP and the government who he would not name should also lose their jobs over the scandal.

The retiring MSP, one of the class of 1999, was speaking on The Scotsman’s new political podcast The Steamie.

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Speaking ahead of Mr Salmond’s announcement of a new pro-independence party, the Alba Party, on Friday, Mr Neil spoke about his experiences as an MSP throughout his 21 years in Holyrood.

Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans gives evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee, at Holyrood in Edinburgh, examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond.
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On the topic of the recent inquiries into the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond, the MSP said SNP colleagues believed the permanent secretary had made a “bourach” of the judicial review.

Calling for Ms Evans’ sacking, he said: “If I had been Nicola, there are certain people I would have sacked long before now and I think one of the reasons why the thing became such a problem for Nicola was because she was protecting people who in my view should not have been protected.

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"Top of that list was the permanent secretary.

"A senior cabinet minister told me the day the judicial review collapsed that the permanent secretary has made a complete bourach of the whole thing.

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"Well if she’s made a complete bourach of it, why is she still in position and why has she had her contract extended to next year?”

Mr Neil said his view was not a lone voice within the SNP group and that it was “very obvious” the judicial review, brought by Mr Salmond against his former government, had been “completely incompetently handled”.

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He said: “I am not the only one saying that. Privately a lot of SNP MSPs agree with me, did agree with me when I said at the time that she should be sacked.

"Sometimes loyalty can go too far. It is so overwhelmingly obvious that the permanent secretary acted in completely the wrong way throughout the judicial review.

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"Nicola has sacked Cabinet ministers for less, so the permanent secretary in my view should have been sacked ages ago.”

Asked whether he believed there had been a conspiracy against the former first minister, Mr Neil said he believed there to have been a “co-ordinated attempt to undermine” Mr Salmond.

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He said: “It certainly looks as though at points there was a co-ordinated attempt to undermine Alex Salmond. There is no doubt about that by various individuals.

"Whether that amounts to a planned conspiracy, I don’t know and nobody has produced any evidence to say that the First Minister was involved in a conspiracy.”

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Readers can listen to the full interview with Mr Neil alongside a look at the potential success of the Alba Party on The Steamie.

The Steamie is available from all of your favourite podcast providers, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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If you like what you hear, please hit subscribe to never miss an episode – and leave a rating and review. It helps others discover the show and allows us to hear your feedback

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