LONDON (Within the Law) - A legal ruling could lay the ground for the SNP’s Alex Salmond to give evidence to a Holyrood committee investigating the way the Scottish Government handled allegations made against him. The saga has the potential to become highly damaging for the party and its current leader Nicola Sturgeon.
In March, the former first minister was acquitted of sexually assaulting nine women. The jury found him not guilty on 12 points while another was ‘not proven’. After the verdict, Salmond said that his faith in the Scottish legal system had been restored and that there was certain evidence he would have liked to have been included which would one day see the light of day.
However, while Salmond was cleared of the charges, the focus has no turned to Nicola Sturgeon and how much she knew and when. Scottish Conservative have claimed Sturgeon lied when questioned about when she first knew about the allegations.
Salmond was awarded £500,000 in damages after the Scottish Government admitted its investigation into the allegations had been unlawful. He had been due to appear before a Holyrood enquiry into the government’s investigation but his legal team said he would not appear due to concerns that the committee would not publish his evidence.
His submission which has been published online accused Sturgeon of breaking the ministerial code by giving false statements to parliament. She denies the accusation.
However, a legal challenge from the Spectator has now forced a U-turn on the decision not to publish. Labour’s Jackie Baillie said the decision ‘presents the committee with the opportunity to publish the evidence and question Mr Salmond.’
She added that ‘it is the duty of the committee to get to the bottom of this fiasco and understand why the Scottish government’s procedures were so flawed and why the women we so let down.”
Conservative committee member Murdo Fraser Tweeted: “Now that this has happened there is no reason why @AlexSalmond cannot give evidence to our committee. I am proposing that we invite him as a witness using our powers of compulsion if necessary – as @nicolasturgeon called for yesterday.”
He also added that: “While we await the full details of the revised order and what implications it will have, I am satisfied that we now have grounds to compel Salmond to attend.”
He went on to accused Nicola Sturgeon of lying to parliament. “Sturgeon has already lied to parliament by saying she and her party would ensure full cooperation with the inquiry. The reality has been a cynical and determined campaign to thwart us at every turn.” He said that people might be ‘confused and frustrated’ by what he describes as ‘this despicable SNP chicanery.’
His choice of language suggests this is going to be a bitter fight. The SNP’s position north of the border has been almost impregnable. Both Labour and the Conservatives are desperate to grab any opportunity to make progress. They will both see this as an opportunity to make headway.
(Written by Tom Cropper, edited by Klaudia Fior)