Redactions to Alex Salmond's evidence 'could have a material bearing' on planned inquiry appearance

Alex Salmond’s legal team has indicated that the former first minister may pull out of his planned appearance in front of the harassment complaints committee tomorrow after his evidence on the ministerial code was deleted, redacted, and republished.

Alex Salmond's legal team has warned he may have to pull out of his planned appearance in front of the inquiry.
Alex Salmond's legal team has warned he may have to pull out of his planned appearance in front of the inquiry.
Alex Salmond's legal team has warned he may have to pull out of his planned appearance in front of the inquiry.

In a letter to the committee convener seen by The Scotsman, David McKie of Levy and McRae urged the Parliament to share with him the “legal basis” for the redactions.

He writes: “These could have a material bearing on whether he [Mr Salmond] is able to attend tomorrow.”

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The Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body (SPCB) just hours earlier decided Mr Salmond's submission on the potential breach of the ministerial code by Nicola Sturgeon would be deleted, redacted and then re-uploaded to the Scottish Parliament’s website following an intervention by the Crown Office.

MSPs on the SPCB had “agreed collectively” to remove the submission with “immediate effect” following an emergency meeting on Tuesday morning.

The decision followed the Crown Office writing to the SPCB on Monday night expressing “grave concerns” around the legality of the submission and the potential for jigsaw identification of complainers in Mr Salmond’s criminal trial.

However, this move has now thrown Mr Salmond’s appearance in front of the committee up into the air once again.

The non-publication of the ministerial code evidence was previously the main reason as to why the former first minister had not committed to appearing in front of the committee.

In a letter to the harassment complaints committee, Mr Salmond's legal team expressed concerns around the Crown Office’s intervention and requested the legal basis of the redactions to be shared “urgently”.

The letter also indicated Mr Salmond may not appear in front of the committee on Wednesday.

The letter states: “This comes as a significant surprise and concern, given that clear agreement was reached on publication of our client’s submissions, which are now widely reported and in the public domain.

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“Our client is alarmed at the interference of Crown Office in a Parliamentary Inquiry, particularly given Lady Dorrian’s judgement last week in which she clarified her previous order and which indicated that the publication of submissions were largely matters for the committee. Our client’s submissions took full account of that judgement.

“Our client’s final submission makes clear his concerns on the role of the Crown office in this matter already.

“Today’s intervention only serves to reinforce those concerns.

"Neither we nor our client have any knowledge of what representations were made by the Crown Office and on what basis they were made. We have not been contacted by the Crown, nor has our client on this matter.

“Our client’s submission was carefully reviewed by us and by counsel before submission. There is no legal basis for the redactions that we are aware of which you now propose having gone through that extremely careful exercise.

“This is our client’s submission and he is entitled to have it published. If any aspect of it is removed, it compromises his oral evidence. We have asked on numerous occasions for assurances on these issues from the committee.

"After publication of his submissions yesterday, we concluded not unreasonably that the issue was resolved, partly to our client’s satisfaction and certainly to allow him to fulfil his oath.

“Your email potentially – and fundamentally - changes that. We therefore require to see URGENTLY the legal basis for the proposed redactions in order that we can properly advise our client and make further representations.

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"These could have a material bearing on whether he is able to attend tomorrow.

“As matters stand, we have advised him that the apparent intervention from the Crown suggests that there has to be a material risk to him in speaking to his submission. He cannot be placed in legal jeopardy.”

"Accordingly, please send to us now the legal basis for the redactions. On the face of it, our preliminary view is that the committee may well require to obtain further legal advice on the issue.”

The harassment complaints committee is examining the botched handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond by the Scottish Government, which led to a £500,000 legal bill after the Government conceded a judicial review challenge on the grounds of the process being “tainted by apparent bias”.

Mr Salmond was also acquitted of sexual offence charges in a trial last year.

Ms Sturgeon is expected to give evidence next week.

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