Politics

Alex Salmond Inquiry again votes to refuse to publish former first minister’s evidence

The Holyrood Inquiry has again voted against publishing Alex Salmond’s evidence.

Members of the Scottish Parliament made the decision after legal advice from the parliament’s lawyers.

It is understood the vote was 5-4 and casts serious doubt on whether the former First Minister will attend the committee.

However, by six votes to three MSPs on the Committee agreed to refer the issue to the Parliament’s corporate body, which meets tomorrow.

The Inquiry is examining the SNP Government’s mishandling of sexual misconduct complaints against Salmond when he was First Minister.

Salmond pursued the government in court in 2018 and it was agreed the internal probe had been unlawful.

He was separately acquitted of sexual offences after a trial last year.

His allies believe he was the victim of a plot and the fiasco ended the friendship between Nicola Sturgeon and Salmond.

However, the Inquiry has been in turmoil over Holyrood’s recent refusal to publish some of Salmond’s evidence.

In his submission, described by the Tories as “bombshell”, Salmond accused Sturgeon of misleading parliament and breaching the ministerial code of conduct in relation to meetings between the pair during the probe.

Holyrood lawyers advised against publishing the Salmond submission’s on the code – even though it was widely reported in the media – over legal concerns.

Salmond has made clear he will not appear in front of MSPs until the decision on his submission is reversed.

The Spectator magazine went to court recently in a bid to have a court order from Salmond’s criminal trial adjusted.

MSPs hoped the amended order would result in Holyrood publishing Salmond’s submission.

In a letter to the Committee today, Salmond’s legal team sounded upbeat about his client finally giving oral evidence in the wake of the legal bid.

His lawyer wrote: “Given the terms of the judgement and the matters debated at the court hearing last week, we now can see no impediment to publication.”

The letter continued: “Our client would like to discuss practical arrangements for his attendance at the committee next week on the assumption that his submission will now be published. He has cleared Wednesday from his diary and we can discuss timings with the clerks.”

However, after a lengthy meeting tonight, the Inquiry voted against publication – the second time MSPs have made this decision.

The matter will be considered by the corporate body tomorrow.

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: “The Committee tonight considered the detail of Lady Dorrian’s ruling and its impact on the Committee’s decision not to publish Mr Salmond’s evidence on the ministerial code. The majority of the Committee is clear that the judgement has no impact on its previous decision and understanding of its legal obligations and its decision on the publication of the submission from the Former First Minister on the ministerial code. The scope of the order has not changed.

“However, the Committee is keenly aware that publication is for the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and has tonight agreed to refer this to the SPCB for a decision on its publication.

“The Committee is pleased to hear that Mr Salmond is willing to give evidence next Wednesday. He can, as a minimum, give evidence on all of his published submissions and records. As such, the Committee plans to write to him tomorrow to invite him to attend next Wednesday (24 February).”

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