As it happenedended1614369783

Salmond inquiry news - live: Former leader calls for multiple resignations including Nicola Sturgeon’s husband

Follow all the action from Friday as it happened

Anyone involved in Alex Salmond ‘conspiracy’ should be sacked, MSP says

In a committee hearing which has now concluded, former first minister Alex Salmond called on senior members of the Scottish government and the SNP, including Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, to resign over allegations they conspired against him.

The list of those he said should consider their position included the Scottish government’s permanent secretary, its chief law officer, Peter Murrell, the chief executive of the SNP who is married to the current first minister, and Ms Sturgeon’s minister’s chief of staff.

He stopped short of calling on his successor to stand down, saying it was “not for me” to decide if Ms Sturgeon had breached the ministerial code and should be disciplined as such.

Mr Salmond appeared before the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints as part of the Holyrood inquiry into the unlawful investigation of sexual harassment claims made against him.

He was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault in a criminal trial and awarded a £512,250 payout after successfully challenging the lawfulness of the government investigation.

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DUP halts construction of border inspection facilities

Northern Ireland’s DUP agriculture minister Gordon Lyons has said he has ordered his officials to halt construction of permanent inspection facilities for post-Brexit checks on agri-food goods arriving from Great Britain.

Mr Lyons told the PA news agency he has also ordered a halt of further recruitment of inspection staff for the port facilities and ordered an end to charges levied at the ports on traders bringing goods from GB into Northern Ireland.

Follow my colleague, Jon Sharman, as he reports:

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Salmond calls for string of resignations including Sturgeon’s husband

Alex Salmond has called on senior members of the Scottish government and the SNP, including Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, to resign over allegations they conspired against him.

Our Whitehall editor, Kate Devlin, reports:

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Salmond criticises Sturgeon for ‘not informing permanent secretary about allegations'

Alex Salmond was asked if, as a former first minister, he would have notified the civil service if he had been approached by a political colleague as he had done with Nicola Sturgeon on 2 April 2018.

“In the circumstances that were there, I would have gone to the permanent secretary,” he said.

“And that is obviously what I was urging, or asking, Nicola to do, or seriously consider. I was obviously disappointed that she couldn’t see that was the way forward.

“I wouldn’t have asked her to do it if I didn’t believe it was totally legitimate. You can see from the WhatsApp messages that I tried to argue this was the legitimate thing to do.”

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Unions and police chiefs hit out at government over vaccine rollout

Teachers have been left “disappointed” and police “scared and betrayed” after finding out the vaccination against coronavirus of people under 50 would be prioritised by age rather than profession.

Education unions and leaders warned of the potential for disruption to learning when all students are allowed back on 8 March due to the risk of staff absences.

Meanwhile, the chair of the Police Federation attacked the move as a “contemptible betrayal” of officers.

It comes after it was revealed today that people aged 40 to 49 will be prioritised next for a Covid-19 vaccine, then those in their 30s, and then 18- to 29-year-olds.

My colleague, Zoe Tidman, reports:

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Key takeaways from Salmond committee hearing

Here is a roundup of the evidence Alex Salmond gave to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints today:

No apology

The former first minister was asked if he wanted to say “sorry” for behaviours he had previously admitted - with Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton saying some of these were “appalling”.

But Mr Salmond said he was “resting” on the verdicts of two courts cases - the Court of Session finding the Scottish government’s handling of complaints against him to be illegal and the criminal case at the High Court in Edinburgh at which he was cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault.

He added the “government’s illegality has had huge consequences for a number of people”.

Identity of one of the complainers

Mr Salmond said the identity of one of the women who made complaints was revealed to his former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein.

Labour’s Jackie Baillie, who raised this issue with the current first minister in Holyrood on Thursday, asked if the name of one of the complainers had been shared at a meeting Mr Aberdein had been at.

Mr Salmond, giving evidence under oath, said: “My former chief of staff told me that.”

Evidence of ‘suppression’ claims

Mr Salmond believes there has been a “calculated and deliberate suppression of key evidence” to the committee, saying it had been “systematically deprived of the evidence it has legitimately sought”.

He went on to state there was a “pattern of non-disclosure” that “goes right through the judicial review, right through the criminal case and right into this committee”.

“It’s not the odd document that’s been missed out, it is a sequence of deliberate suppression of information inconvenient to the government,” he said.

Failure of leadership

Mr Salmond claimed the “failures of leadership are many and obvious” in the case - but complained no-one had “taken responsibility”, with no resignations or sackings.

“The government acted illegally but somehow nobody is to blame,” he told MSPs.

Mr Salmond stated: “Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed. The importance of this inquiry is for each and everyone of us to help put this right.”

No cover up by his successor Nicola Sturgeon

The former first minister was asked if, prior to November 2017, Nicola Sturgeon had raised questions or concerns with him about sexually inappropriate behaviour.

Mr Salmond said: “I have got points to make about what I believe the current first minister has done or not done, and they will be made in response to relevant questions, relevant to the committee.

“But I’ve seen it pursued on the committee that somehow Nicola Sturgeon was covering up something, that is not the case.”

Nicola Sturgeon’s call for evidence

Mr Salmond said: “I note that the first minister asserts I have to prove a case, I don’t. That has already been done. There have been two court cases, two judges, one jury.”

But he said Ms Sturgeon was aware of complaints against him in March - not April as she has previously told the Scottish Parliament.

The first minister has said she first learned of the allegations when Mr Salmond came to her home on 2 April but Mr Salmond said: “I know that she knew on 29 March”.

Resignations

Mr Salmond called for the Lord Advocate and the head of Scotland’s civil service, permanent secretary Leslie Evans, to resign over the handling of the complaints against him.

But while he said he had “no doubt” Nicola Sturgeon has broken rules governing the behaviour of ministers, he stopped short saying she should resign.

“I have no doubt that Nicola broke the ministerial code but it’s not for me to suggest what the consequence should be,” he said.

Additional reporting by PA

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Door-to-door campaigning to resume on 8 March, minister confirms

Doorstep campaigning will be able to resume from 8 March in the run up to May’s local elections, the government has said, but only if coronavirus rules are obeyed.

Guidance published on Friday means individual activists will be able to campaign outdoors in the run-up to the polls in England, while campaigners will be able to deliver leaflets and talk to voters on their doorsteps, but must remain at a distance of two metres away and not enter their homes.

Ministers will relax the current ban under the third national lockdown so two months of in-person campaigning can take place ahead of voting on 6 May.

Constitution minister Chloe Smith said: “Democracy should not be cancelled because of Covid. Voters appreciate being well-informed and campaigning is an important part of effective elections.

“I urge political campaigners to continue to show social responsibility, and for parties, agents and candidates to ensure that their campaigners understand the clear rules.”

All campaigners will be encouraged to wear masks and to wash their hands more regularly.

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That’s it from us on the politics blog for today, thanks for following along. Check back tomorrow for all the latest updates.

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