Taxpayer cost of legal advice to Salmond Inquiry 'impossible to know'

The cost of the legal advice to the ongoing Salmond Inquiry is not possible to be calculated by the Scottish Parliament, it has emerged.

Nicola Sturgeon with Alex Salmond. Picture: PA

In answer to a question from SNP MSP Alex Neil, member of the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body (SPCB) and former Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw, said it was “impossible” to calculate the cost of the legal advice to the inquiry.

He said that overall the SPCB has a budget of more than £1.5 million for its legal office and a further budget of £46,000 for the cost of external counsel.

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Answering how much has been spent on the Committee on the Scottish Government’s Handling of Harassment Complaints, Mr Carlaw said: "A proportion of in-house time will be spent on matters from members either through the member advice scheme or to other SPCB offices which support members.

"Unfortunately it is not possible to accurately attribute costs between these different areas of service, such as committee support, as in-house time is not recorded in that manner.

"In addition to the 2020/21, the SPCB has a budget spend of £46,000 for the provision of external legal advice across a full range of services.

"Legal advice is outsourced to external solicitors under the management of the legal office where particular expertise is required or in order to manage workflow at times of pressure.

Mr Carlaw also provided Holyrood with an additional answer about legal advice provided to the SPCB around the publication of Alex Salmond’s evidence to the harassment complaints committee.

Following an intervention by the Crown Office, the submission was removed, redacted, and republished.

He said: “The SPCB’s decision was informed by advice from officials, external solicitors, and senior counsel.

"Following receipt of a subsequent correspondence from the Crown Office, the presiding officer called an urgent meeting of the SPCB for the morning of February 23 to consider the terms of those letters.

"Clarification was sought from the Crown Office and received and was available for the SPCB’s consideration at its meeting that morning.

"After due consideration of its contents and mindful of the balance of judgements it had undertaken in relation to its earlier decision, the SPCB decided that while the submission could still be published, some of the content of the former first minister’s submission required to be redacted.”

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