Alex Salmond announces legal action over ‘conduct’ of Scotland’s top civil servant

Former first minister accuses permanent secretary Leslie Evan of ‘refusing to accept real responsibility’ for government’s failings in handling harassment complaints

Chiara Giordano
Wednesday 24 March 2021 19:04
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<p>‘I hope it is the only legal action that I am required to take’</p>

‘I hope it is the only legal action that I am required to take’

Alex Salmond has revealed he will be taking legal action over the “conduct” of Scotland’s most senior civil servant.

The former first minister accused permanent secretary Leslie Evans of still refusing to “accept real responsibility” for the government’s failings in handling sexual harassment complaints made against him.

Nicola Sturgeon’s predecessor said he would also be making a police referral regarding the “leak” of the original complaints made against him, which were first reported by the Daily Record newspaper in August 2018.

In his first public statement since the publication of reports around the government’s botched investigation, Mr Salmond said: “I have taken legal advice and will shortly be instructing my lawyers to bring proceedings in the Court of Session arising as a direct result of the conduct of the permanent secretary.

“I hope it is the only legal action that I am required to take.”

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Mr Salmond was cleared of 13 charges of sexual harassment against nine women at the conclusion of a trial at the High Court in March 2020.

The previous January, the Scottish government had admitted its own 2018 inquiry into harassment allegations by two female civil servants against Mr Salmond was unlawful and had been “tainted by apparent bias”.

Two separate inquiries looked at the botched government probe before giving their conclusions earlier this week.

The first inquiry, by QC James Hamilton, cleared Nicola Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code, but the second, by the committee on the Scottish government handling of harassment complaints, found the first minister misled parliament.

It came after Ms Sturgeon admitted she “forgot” about the first meeting at which she learned of sexual harassment claims.

She later acknowledged an earlier discussion with Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, but argued that was only in general terms – not a detailed account – and that she had forgotten about it.

Mr Hamilton backed that account, while saying it was “regrettable” that the meeting had been omitted from her account.

Publishing their conclusions, which were partially leaked last week, members probing the Scottish government’s botched handling of harassment allegations against the former first minister said they “find it hard to believe” Ms Sturgeon had “no knowledge of any concerns about inappropriate behaviour on the part of Mr Salmond prior to November 2017”.

In what he described as his “third and final public statement” about the probes, Mr Salmond said someone within government needed to take responsibility for the failings identified by the them.

Leslie Evans, permanent secretary to the Scottish government

“The inquiries are over and, despite their manifest limitations, the findings are in and must be accepted, just like the verdicts of juries and the judgments of courts,” he said on Wednesday.

“I have waited to see the response from those individuals to the publication of the inquiry reports.

“Unfortunately, it appears that the clear intention is to carry on regardless.”

Referring to his previous successful court challenge against the government, Mr Salmond said that, “despite the most damning condemnation from a committee in the history of the modern Scottish parliament”, the permanent secretary “still refuses to accept real responsibility”.

“Instead, the waste of public resources has continued to grow as has the impact on all the people concerned,” he said.

“This cannot stand. I have therefore taken legal advice and will shortly be instructing my lawyers to bring proceedings in the Court of Session arising as a direct result of the conduct of the permanent secretary.”

Additional reporting by PA

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