Salmond says Scotland’s ‘leadership failed’ in harassment allegations

Salmond tells inquiry Nicola Sturgeon broke ministerial code by misleading parliament

Former first minister Alex Salmond is sworn in before giving evidence to a Scottish parliamentary inquiry on Friday. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/PA Wire

Former first minister Alex Salmond is sworn in before giving evidence to a Scottish parliamentary inquiry on Friday. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/PA Wire

 

Alex Salmond has accused Scotland’s political leadership of failing the country in its handling of sexual harassment allegations against him, suggesting that it is not fit to lead it to independence.

Mr Salmond said his successor as first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, broke the ministerial code by misleading parliament about her role in the affair but stopped short of saying she should resign.

“The Scottish civil service has not failed, its leadership has. The Crown Office has not failed, its leadership has failed. Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed,” he told a Scottish parliamentary inquiry.

“The move to independence, which I have sought all my political life . . . must be accompanied by institutions whose leadership is strong and robust and capable of protecting each and every citizen from arbitrary authority.”

Mr Salmond’s six-hour appearance before the committee was the most dramatic so far in an investigation into how Ms Sturgeon’s government handled complaints against him in 2018. A judicial review found that the Scottish government’s handling of the complaints was biased and unlawful and the exercise cost the authorities more than £500,000 in legal bills.

Criminal trial

Mr Salmond was subsequently charged with 13 sexual offences and was acquitted on all counts after a criminal trial. He claims that figures around Ms Sturgeon were part of a malicious effort to destroy his reputation.

The first minister this week accused Mr Salmond of making baseless allegations without “a shred of evidence” but he told the committee on Friday that it was her government that needed to prove its case.

“I know the first minister asserts I have to prove a case, I don’t. There have been two court cases, two judges, one jury. In this inquiry it’s the Scottish government, a government that has already admitted to behaving unlawfully, who are under examination,” he said.

Ms Sturgeon, who will give evidence to the parliamentary committee next Wednesday, claims that she first heard about the complaints against Mr Salmond when they met at her home on April 2nd, 2018. But Mr Salmond said his former chief of staff briefed the first minister about the allegations at a meeting on March 29th which led to the later meeting being set up.

“The meeting on March 29th was not impromptu, was not accidental, was not popping your head around the door. It was a meeting arranged for that purpose and the meeting on April 2nd was not popping into Nicola and Peter’s home, it was a meeting arranged for that purpose,” he said.

Party matters

Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, who is chief executive of the Scottish National Party (SNP), told the inquiry he thought Mr Salmond had come to their home to talk about party matters. The investigation into complaints against Mr Salmond was a Scottish government matter and any meeting about it involving the first minister should have been minuted.

Mr Salmond said a number of senior figures, including Scotland’s top civil servant and law officer, should resign but he said others must determine Ms Sturgeon’s fate.

“I have no doubt that Nicola has broken the ministerial code, but it’s not for me to decide what the consequences should be,” he said.