Alex Salmond calls on Scotland's top civil servant to consider her position after 'procedurally flawed' investigation

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 8 January 2019 in News

Salmond launched legal action against the Scottish Government to contest the complaints process activated against him in relation to allegations of sexual harassment during his time as FM

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Former First Minister Alex Salmond has called on Scotland’s top civil servant to consider her position after an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made against him were deemed “procedurally flawed”.

Salmond launched the legal action against the Scottish Government to contest the complaints process activated against him in relation to allegations of sexual harassment during his time as FM.

Two allegations, which he strongly denies, emerged in January 2018.

But the Scottish Government has now admitted it breached its own guidelines during the investigation, by appointing an investigating officer who had "prior involvement" in the case.

Salmond will be awarded costs from the Scottish Government which are likely to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Speaking after the decision, a visibly emotional Salmond called for Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans to consider her position.

He said: “The Advocate for the government said that the government accepted institutional responsibility. Not personal, but institutional responsibility. And therefore I suggest that the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government now accepts that responsibility and consider her position.”

He added: “It is a matter of great personal sadness that I have had to bring the Scottish Government to court simply to ensure that those within it are acting fairly, honestly and with due regard for the law”.

Salmond accused Evans of wasting “huge amounts of public money in an incompetent attempt to enforce an unlawful process” and said the Scottish Government’s conduct had “unquestionably lacked candour”.

The former FM said his privacy had been “blatantly disregarded” through leaks to the media.

He said: “That was done deliberately, and to inflict the maximum damage to my reputation. It included the leaking of detailed complaints to a tabloid newspaper, complaints which I emphatically dispute. It included also the leaking of the supposed advice of the Lord Advocate to the press. That breaches a fundamental constitutional principle – that of the independence of the criminal justice system from political interference.”

Salmond's case focused entirely on the fairness of the government's procedures and will have no bearing on a separate police inquiry into the allegations, which is still ongoing.

But although the Scottish Government reached a settlement with Salmond, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans said the government would consider re-investigating complaints once ongoing police inquiries are concluded.

In a statement released today, Evans said that although the Investigating Officer had carried out the process impartially and fairly, the process had been flawed because of interactions with the complainants in advance of the complaints being made.

She said: “As part of the settlement, I have accepted that the decision reached after the investigation of two complaints made against Mr Salmond should be set aside. 

“This action is being taken because it has become clear that, in one respect only (albeit an important one), the investigation was procedurally flawed.

“However, it is important to stress that this relates to the operational application of the Procedure for Handling Complaints Involving Current or Former Ministers (‘the Procedure’). The Scottish Government considers the Procedure itself to be robust and it remains in place.

“After reassessing all the materials available, I have concluded that an impression of partiality could have been created based on one specific point - contact between the Investigating Officer and the two complainants around the time of their complaints being made in January 2018.”

She added: “The Scottish Government has acted in good faith at all times and will continue to do so. It was right and proper that these complaints were investigated and I stand by the decision to carry out that investigation.

“It is also important to note that the procedural flaw in the investigation does not have implications, one way or the other, for the substance of the complaints or the credibility of the complainers. The Judicial Review was never about the substance of the complaints, but about the process that took place to investigate those complaints.”

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