Civil servant central to Alex Salmond scandal among second job holders in Scottish Government

A civil servant who led the botched investigation into harassment complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond is among nearly 100 civil servants with external financial interests, The Scotsman can reveal.
The Salmond scandal rocked the SNP and the Scottish GovernmentThe Salmond scandal rocked the SNP and the Scottish Government
The Salmond scandal rocked the SNP and the Scottish Government

Judith Mackinnon, who was the ‘investigating officer’ in the Scottish Government’s probe into the alleged behaviour of Mr Salmond, is listed as a director of a HR and executive coaching business run jointly with her husband.

Her second role appears in a list of 99 roles held by civil servants with an external financial interest, which have been released to The Scotsman following a transparency battle with the Scottish Government.

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In June, The Scotsman reported how more than 450 roles were held by civil servants, but had been entirely anonymised by government officials, a disclosure labelled “completely useless” by opposition parties.

Despite the fresh disclosure, hundreds of other roles – the majority of which are in the charitable or voluntary sector – have been excluded from the disclosure, raising concerns that potential conflicts of interest will still be kept secret by the government.

No names of civil servants have been released as part of the list of roles, and several of the external interests have been redacted by officials due to personal information restrictions.

The Scottish Conservatives said the failure to disclose more showed the SNP had “very little interest in being transparent”.

The party’s chief whip, Stepher Kerr, said: “While there are understandable privacy concerns, there is still extremely basic information that they want to keep secret from the public.

“It is all too typical of the SNP Government wanting to hide from scrutiny, even though they’ve raised their own concerns over people holding second jobs.”

Among those identifiable through the disclosure is Ms Mackinnon after the Scottish Government listed one entry within the People directorate as being a business owner at Mackinnon Partners.

The civil servant is no longer listed as a shareholder at Mackinnon Partners, based in Finnieston Business Park in Glasgow, with the business now owned solely by her husband.

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Her involvement in the harassment complaints procedure was central to the Scottish Government losing the court case brought by Mr Salmond.

Ms Mackinnon was found to have had “prior involvement” with the complainers – an issue that directly led to the government conceding the case and agreeing to pay Mr Salmond more than £500,000 in costs.

Mr Salmond was later cleared at a criminal trial of sexual offence charges.

The deputy chief executive of Food Standards Scotland, Julie Hesketh-Laird, is also identifiable through Companies House as a director of Pentland Spirits, a new drinks firm.

Two listings among senior civil servants also include reference to a shareholding and directorship in a “development company building houses in Edinburgh”.

Among those in the lower ranks of the civil service who can receive up to £72,000 in pay is one entry for a 50 per cent share in a bar in the Philippines. However, the name is redacted.

Another civil servant within the Covid Public Health directorate is said to be setting up a “decluttering and organising business”.

Two listings also show civil servants working for two US consultancy firms.

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One entry shows a civil servant in the Digital directorate working as a “consultant on digital” with a Chicago-based firm, while another is a “subject matter expert” on artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Former Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie said: "Double jobbing and conflicts of interest at Westminster have already shocked the public, and yet the Scottish Government still refuses to open the books and demonstrate that there are no such problems here.”

In its response to the Freedom of Information request, the Scottish Government said the roles covered the past five years, meaning they may no longer be held by the civil servants.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “In line with other civil service departments, the Scottish government has robust arrangements in place which require relevant external occupations and undertakings to be declared by staff and, also, that they do not represent any conflict with the organisation or the staff member’s position and values as a civil servant.

“We do not comment on individual staffing matters or individual cases.”

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