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Cabinet files: Alex Salmond sought clarity on arrest of MSPs after police investigation into Tory MP

Alex Salmond speaks to journalists in 2007 | Alamy

Cabinet files: Alex Salmond sought clarity on arrest of MSPs after police investigation into Tory MP

Former First Minister Alex Salmond asked for rules on the arrest of MSPs to be made clear after a Tory MP was held in a misconduct investigation, Cabinet files reveal.

The then-SNP leader wanted clarity over the terms of police investigations into serving MSPs after Damien Green was arrested over the release of leaked documents.

The Tory MP was arrested in a row over a 2007 Home Office leak which eventually saw a £5m case collapse without charge.

Ten years later, he was forced to resign from Theresa May's government after lying about pornography found on his House of Commons computer. A report by the then cabinet secretary also found there were “plausible” claims Green had sexually harassed a Conservative Party activist in a separate matter.

Scottish Government files show that in 2008, Salmond raised questions over what would happen if a serving MSP was accused of potential misconduct in public office in a similar way to Green.

He asked the Cabinet to consider "whether there was, or should be, a public interest defence available to MSPs in pursuing their duties as MSPs".

The FM also wanted to discuss "what privileges pertained to the precincts of the Scottish Parliament and what authorisations the police would require to pursue criminal investigations in the parliament buildings" and "what the legal position was with regard to the intercepting of communications within the Scottish Parliament".

Referring to Salmond, the meeting minutes state: "He said that should a similar issue to that involving Mr Green arise in Scotland and involve an MSP, it would be important that the position regarding the above issues was clear to all parties involved."

The details have emerged in a cache of restricted documents released by the Scottish Government for the first time.

These include Cabinet records from the first SNP administration, which came into office in 2007 under Salmond's leadership.

Former UK work and pensions secretary Damian Green | Alamy

Green was Conservative immigration spokesperson when he was accused of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office in November 2008.

He was arrested for nine hours in a move that left David Cameron "angry" and was branded "Stalinesque" by the party.

Counter-terror officers searched Green's Kent home, offices and London residence after he made public documents he said were passed on by a Home Office whistleblower.

Five months later, a civil servant, Christopher Galley, was sacked for leaking the material on the grounds of gross professional misconduct.

Around the same time, Keir Starmer – then England's director of public prosecutions – dropped the £5m investigation into Green and Galley on the grounds of insufficient evidence and concluded that the information in the leak, which related to UK Government immigration policy, was not secret and did not impact on national security or risk lives.

In the Scottish Cabinet meeting of December 2008, it was said that any exemption from prosecution for MSPs "would be open to the public perception of a risk that they might occasionally act out of political interest or bias, rather than in the public interest".

The Scottish Cabinet in 2007 | NRS

The Cabinet noted that "the conduct of criminal investigations was a matter for the police," who would need "good cause" to enter the Scottish Parliament.

Members also discussed the application of the Wilson Doctrine in Scotland, saying that the convention that phones within the Palace of Westminster "would not be tapped" did not "apply directly to the Scottish Parliament building".

The Cabinet agreed that "further consideration should be given to whether the convention that the police should first seek advice from the procurator fiscal before seeking to enter the Scottish Parliament should be made into a protocol".

Green resigned from government in 2017 over pornography found on his office computer during the 2008 investigation.

Thousands of images had been found at the time of his arrest but were not reported at the time and became the subject of a Cabinet Office inquiry after it was published in the media. The sexual harassment incidents involving activist Kate Maltby happened in 2015 and the inquiry found that Maltby's accounts could not be discounted.

Resigning, Green said he did not recognise her account but apologised for having "made her uncomfortable".

The Cabinet records are being published as part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to proactively release records after 15 years, National Records Scotland (NRS) said.

Papers are accessible on the NRS website ScotlandsPeople from Wednesday. Janet Egdell, NRS chief executive, said: "The annual opening of the Scottish Cabinet records is a great opportunity for the public to learn more about how we were governed in the recent past.

"Discussions in 2008 covered a wide range of important topics, including the global financial crisis, investment in education, prisons and the role of juries in criminal trials. They also included the 'National Conversation' – a consultation exercise on the powers of the devolved administration and the possibility of Scottish independence."

George Adam, current Minister for Parliamentary Business, commented: "These Cabinet records are a valuable insight into both the workings of the Scottish Government and the issues of the day for historians, journalists and the general public.

"This is part of our continued commitment to releasing records and I am pleased NRS is again making them available to view and download free of charge."

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