Nicola Sturgeon apologises for procedural flaws in Salmond investigation

Written by Tom Freeman on 9 January 2019 in News

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gives statement to MSPs after her government concedes it acted unlawfully in investigation into complaints against her predecessor Alex Salmond

Nicola Sturgeon - Scottish parliament

Nicola Sturgeon has apologised for the way Scottish Government officials handled compalints against former first minister Alex Salmond after a judicial review into the process was settled out of court.

Salmond won his legal fight with the Scottish Government after officials admitted they breached their own guidelines by appointing an investigating officer who had "prior involvement" in the case.

In a statement to MSPs, Sturgeon said it had been "deeply, deeply regrettable" that the Scottish government had to settle the matter and drop the investigation, and apologised to the women who had made complaints against Salmond.

Sturgeon told MSPs: "The permanent secretary apologised to all involved. In echoing that, I want also to express my regret—in particular, about the difficult position in which the complainants have been placed. I know that the permanent secretary has spoken directly to both women.

"I can only imagine how difficult the decision to raise concerns, as well as the publicity around the investigation and the judicial review, must have been for them in recent months. They had every right to expect the process to be robust and beyond reproach in every aspect, and for it to reach a lasting conclusion. I am sorry that, on this occasion, that has not been the case."

Another investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment may yet be reopened once a police investigation had concluded, she added.

"It is important to note as a simple matter of fact that today’s settlement has no implications, one way or the other, for the substance of the complaints or the credibility of the complainants," she said.

"The judicial review was never about the substance of the complaints; it was about the process of investigating them. It will be open to the Scottish Government to reinvestigate the complaints, subject, of course, to the views of the complainants."

Acting Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: "The trouble is that good intentions towards complainants are worth little if the Government cannot meet basic standards of competence.

"It is clear that what we have witnessed today is deeply disappointing: a questionable investigation and, seemingly, a Scottish National Party civil war played out at the taxpayer’s expense to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs."

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said women would not feel empowered to make compalints in the future.

"The First Minister cannot be held responsible for the actions of her predecessor, but she is in the end responsible for the actions of this Government, and this Government has let these women down badly," he said."tion. She replied that she had met her former mentor three times and had two telephone calls with him but had not met him since last June.

She said: "He reiterated his concerns about the process and told me about proposals that he was making to the Scottish Government for mediation and arbitration. However, I was always clear that I had no role in the process. I did not seek to intervene in it at any stage—nor, indeed, did I feel under any pressure to do so."

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