Alex Salmond accuser feels ‘let down and traumatised’ by Holyrood inquiry

The woman accuses Scotland’s government of exploiting sexual assault victims for political gain in shocking interview

Sam Hancock
Sunday 14 February 2021 23:57 GMT
The woman, who must remain anonymous for legal reasons, spoke to the BBC on Sunday
The woman, who must remain anonymous for legal reasons, spoke to the BBC on Sunday (BBC)

One of Alex Salmond’s accusers said she has found the ongoing Holyrood inquiry into the original probe of the former first minister’s conduct “more traumatic” than the High Court trial, in which she gave evidence.

During an interview with the BBC’s Sunday Show, the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said ministers had “let down” the “courageous” women who came forward to accuse Mr Salmond once before and were in the process of doing it again.

“It takes a lot of courage to report sexual harassment, particularly against a very powerful person,” she told presenters on the programme.

“I think that [the investigating committee] really had an opportunity to ensure that they could investigate the creation of procedures that would make it safe and easy for women to come forward and they have made it significantly harder.”

The 2020 investigation into Mr Salmond, after 10 women accused him of sexual assault, was previously found to be “tainted by apparent bias” by the Court of Session, prompting officials to launch a fresh committee inquiry into the process.

Mr Salmond challenged the legality of the Scottish government’s original investigation and it emerged that the government-appointed investigating officer, Judith Mackinnon, had made prior contact with two of the complainants.

The judicial review was eventually conceded by the Scottish government and Mr Salmond received a £512,250 payout for his legal fees. Mr Salmond was ultimately acquitted of all 13 of the sexual assault charges against him.

His accuser spoke out on Sunday to claim the government was now exploiting the experiences of these women for its own “self-serving political interests”.

She said the committee investigating the initial probe had turned the issue into a “political fight” and suggested any of its findings would be “utterly useless”. She also denied claims that there had been a conspiracy to target the former first minister.

Asked about the complaints procedure, the woman said: “From what I can see it hasn’t been fixed yet and I think the thing that’s really disappointing, particularly through the committee process, is that the fact that committee members have turned this into a political fight has effectively allowed the government to get away with not being properly scrutinised by members on its procedures.”

She added that the case had made it “much harder for women to be believed and for women to be able to come forward”.

Criticising the way the committee has acted, she said: “It’s actually, in many ways, more traumatic than the experience of the High Court trial.”

The woman said she had hoped the committee would “properly investigate the government” in order to help eradicate sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace but, instead, “what has happened is they have taken your very personal experiences and they have exploited them for their own self-serving political interests, and that in and of itself is something that’s really traumatic”.

Scotland’s government has asked Laura Dunlop QC to conduct a review of the complaints procedure against current and former ministers as a result.

Linda Fabiani, convener of the Committee on the Scottish Government’s Handling of Harassment Complaints, later appeared on the same BBC programme to offer an apology to the alleged victims.

“I’m very very sad to hear that, but I understand,” the SNP MSP said. “I am really sorry that people feel that way, that these women feel that way.

“I can only apologise for myself I can’t apologise for anybody else, that’s up to them.”

A Scottish government spokesman told the PA news agency: “We welcome the opportunity which the parliamentary inquiry and the externally led review bring to address issues which have been raised, and which we have acknowledged.

“We are committed to a learning process and will ensure that lessons from these proceedings are fully recognised.”

Rounding off her comments on the Sunday Show, the committee’s Ms Fabiani said she was “absolutely sorry for the way that things have gone”, adding that no “complainant” should feel as though the government has “exploited them”.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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