Civil servant confirms receiving Permanent Secretary text after Alex Salmond won judicial review
A senior civil servant has confirmed she did receive a text message from Permanent Secretary Lesley Evans on the day Alex Salmond won the judicial review of the handling of complaints against him, despite previously denying knowledge of the message.
Barbara Allison, former head of HR at the Scottish Government, wrote to the Holyrood committee looking into the botched process for handling the harassment complaints to “correct the unintended inaccuracy” in her previous statement.
She told the committee on Tuesday morning she had deleted the messages from her mobile phone, but had managed to recover them by instructing the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal’s Service to provide her with copies of material retrieved from her phone in relation to the criminal trial against Salmond.
The text message was from Permanent Secretary Lesley Evans on the day the probe was found to be unlawful by the Court of Session.
It read: “Thanks Barbara – battle maybe lost but not the war. Hope you are having lovely & well deserved break. L”.
Allison, who had been on holiday at the time she received the message, replied: “Thanks Leslie. It is lovely here. My mind and thoughts are with you all there tho. Best wishes. Bx”.
Allison told the committee she still had no recollection of receiving the text from Evans – nor could she remember what she had sent in the first place to warrant a response.
However, she confirmed she had kept messages from one of the complainers involved in the case because “they were the only record of my contact with her”.
She said: “I don’t routinely keep all my texts. I will clear out texts, so yes, I must have deleted some texts. But I specifically kept the texts from Miss B for a reason.”
Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie had asked Allison about the message at an evidence session with the committee in September. Allison had denied receiving the text, as well as having any discussion with the Permanent Secretary about it afterwards.
COPFS documents confirmed the messages, dated 8 January 2019, did exist. They have been used to argue there was a conspiracy against Salmond.
Asked what Allison believed was meant by the reference to a “battle”, she said she assumed this was about the judicial review outcome, while she suggested the reference to “war” was about wider efforts by the Permanent Secretary to create a better working environment.
She said: “My view is the permanent secretary has, since she came in in 2015, has made a concerted effort to make sure people feel included and heard. I’m assuming it was the broad context of making sure that women can come forward.”
This echoed evidence given by Evans to the committee last month, who said the text has been “misinterpreted”.
She said: “I think that has been misinterpreted as having some kind of conspiratorial element to it. That is not the case.
“I was not referring to any individual when I sent that text, I was talking about a long-term commitment of mine and indeed of the Scottish Government to ensure quality lies at the heart of what it does.”