Alex Salmond inquiry: Committee member ‘heartily sick of the whole affair’

Scottish government is acting like ‘cesspit of vipers’ over Salmond saga, claims Tory MSP

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
Wednesday 24 February 2021 15:41
Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond

A Scottish Conservative MSP on the committee investigating the Scottish government’s botched handling of complaints against Alex Salmond has claimed he is “heartily sick of the whole affair”.

The former first minister pulled out of Wednesday’s scheduled appearance at the committee after parliamentary authorities removed, redacted and published an edited version of his written evidence.

Mr Salmond is reportedly ready to accept an invitation to appear at the committee on Friday. His legal team is writing to the Lord Advocate to ask for an explanation for the Crown Office’s “unprecedented” request for the redaction.

MSP Murdo Fraser condemned the decision to redact parts of Mr Salmond’s claims. “As a member of the parliamentary committee investigating the matter, I am heartily sick of the whole affair,” said the Tory politician in an article for The Scotsman.

“I am sick of the lies, the evasion, the deceit, the obstruction, and the obfuscation.” Mr Fraser claimed the “whole sorry story” of the inquiry had revealed the Scottish government to be a “cesspit of vipers obsessed with personal vendettas, tearing at each other and destroying public trust”.

The MSP also criticised the Crown Office – the body responsible for prosecuting crimes in Scotland – for “threatening the Scottish parliament with criminal proceedings” if the evidence was not redacted.

“In his written submission, Salmond claims that the Crown Office acted under political influence,” Mr Murdo said. “The action taken yesterday would suggest that the Crown Office is out to prove his case for him.”

It comes as Mr Salmond said his lawyers would be writing to the Lord Advocate – Scotland’s top law officer – to ask for an explanation for the Crown Office’s “astonishing” and “highly irregular action”.

Questioning why the Crown Office waited until this week to intervene, his legal team asked: “What new information or intervention led to such a dramatic expansion of the material which the parliament has been required to redact?”

Scottish Tory leader at Holyrood Ruth Davidson

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross also said the Lord Advocate must explain why he wanted written evidence redacted, saying the saga had become “sad for parliament and for Scotland”.

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Tory party at Holyrood, said the Crown Office’s decision raised “real question marks” over the independence of government institutions.

She told BBC Radio 4’s World at One she believed there should be judge-led inquiry into “why the [Scottish] government is not allowing a committee of its own parliament to have access to information they need”.

Despite being in the public domain for approximately 16 hours, the parliament’s corporate body decided to pull the evidence from its website on Tuesday afternoon and censor certain sections.

Mr Salmond’s lawyers had said there was a “material risk” for him in giving evidence to the committee, and demanded to know the legal justification for the redactions.

The committee met in private on Wednesday and agreed to invite Mr Salmond again to give evidence in person on Friday. “There was unanimous agreement in the committee that it wants to hear from Alex Salmond,” said a Scottish parliament spokesperson.

Mr Salmond is expected to accept the invitation, Sky News reported on Wednesday.

The committee also said it expected Ms Sturgeon to give her evidence next Wednesday as “the final witness to the inquiry”.

Influential SNP councillor Chris McEleny appealed to Ms Sturgeon to help ease the damage done by the endless procedural wrangling over the inquiry.

He tweeted: “Stop this madness that your officials and staff are responsible for which is ruining the hard earned reputation of our parliament and jeopardising the cause of independence.”

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