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08 September 2020
Alex Salmond offers to take on Scottish Government in court a second time


Alex Salmond offers to take on Scottish Government in court a second time

Alex Salmond has said he is prepared to take on the Scottish Government in court a second time in order to secure the release of documents relevant to a committee investigation. 

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament committee looking into the handling of complaints of harassment against him, the former First Minister's lawyer accused the Scottish Government of delaying the release of documents and of providing “partial and incomplete evidence” to the committee.

Salmond offered to work with the committee to secure the release of documents held in relation to his 2019 judicial review, even offering to launch fresh legal action if the committee agrees to cover his costs. 

The letter also asks the committee to make a request to the Lord Advocate for the release of other documents relating to Salmond’s separate criminal trial, which he claims are of “vital public interest”. 

Currently, there are court orders relating to both sets of documents preventing their use outside of their original court setting. 

The Scottish Parliament committee was set up to investigate a Scottish Government probe into the conduct of Salmond during his time as FM.

Salmond successfully sued the Scottish Government over the probe, which the Court of Session found to be “procedurally unfair” and “tainted with apparent bias” after the government was found to have breached its own guidelines by appointing an investigating officer who had “prior involvement” with the case.

The Scottish Government had to pay over £500,000 in costs to Salmond as a result.

Salmond’s letter to the committee comes after the Scottish Government was criticised for not providing all the evidence that the committee has requested. 

The letter, signed by David McKie of law firm Levy & McRae, contains an offer to supply the committee with a list of documents that they believe are of relevance so that the committee can then request them.

“That is the quickest, and cheapest route for all,” they say.

But they add that Salmond could also return to the court to seek permission to share the documents, a move which they acknowledge could be contested by the Scottish Government. 

They said: “The second option, which we are willing to undertake on behalf of the committee, would be for Mr Salmond to return to court to seek the express consent of the court to have those documents passed to the committee”. 

But the letter says that Salmond would only pursue this option if the committee first agreed to cover his legal costs. 

They said: “Those costs are not costs which it would be fair to ask our client to meet, simply to provide documents for which a Committee of the Scottish Parliament has asked and which the Scottish Government delays, or refuses, to provide.

“We also don’t know whether that hearing would be contested by the Scottish Government, adding to the costs. 

“As a result, whilst we are more than content to make that application on behalf of the Committee, we would require clarification that all legal costs would be met by the Committee.”

On the documents relating to the criminal trial, Salmond’s lawyer said: “A great many documents have importance within the context of the remit of the Committee Inquiry but which were considered collateral to the trial itself.”

They added: “On this matter, unlike in the civil context, we are in the hands of the Committee. Our proposal is that a list of documents be produced by our client and thereafter the Committee write to the Lord Advocate seeking to impress upon him the vital public interest in those documents being shared.”

The Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC appeared before the committee on Tuesday. 

Scottish Labour deputy leader and committee member, Jackie Baillie, said: “This explosive letter reveals the extent of the Scottish Government’s failure to be fully transparent with the committee and the public.

“The invoking of legal privilege by powerful figures has become a regular fixture in this investigation and too many vital documents have been withheld from committee members.

“We simply cannot have the endemic culture of secrecy that permeates the Scottish Government and civil service inhibiting the progress of this committee any further.

“It is time for those who hold vital information to come clean with the committee so that we can get to the bottom of this affair together. The continued evasion is undignified, undemocratic and simply unacceptable. The secrecy must end: The truth must out.”

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