Cole-Hamilton: 'Grim harassment inquiry was one of my darkest times as an MSP'
One of the members of the Holyrood harassment committee has described its work as “grim”.
Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said being part of the committee investigating the Scottish Government's botched handling of complaints against Alex Salmond had one of the “darkest periods” of his time in parliament.
In an interview with Holyrood's Politically Speaking podcast, Cole-Hamilton also denied being the source of media leaks from the committee.
In a report published last week, the committee said the Scottish Government’s handling of complaints against Salmond had been “seriously flawed”.
It also voted 5-4 in favour of concluding that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had misled MSPs in her evidence.
Commenting on the leak of the two female complainers' evidence to a Sunday newspaper, Cole-Hamilton said: “Clearly there was a catastrophic leak. I’m not talking about the leak of the vote, although that was bad form.
“There was a betrayal of trust in the complainers who had come to speak to us. They didn’t have to come to our committee – I’m very glad they did. I had hoped a protection of their confidentiality was a red line that others wouldn’t cross.”
Speaking more generally about his role in the committee's work, the MSP said: “It’s been one of the darkest periods of my time as an MSP. It sucks the oxygen away from everything else. Had I known what I know now, I would have asked someone else to be assigned. It’s been grim, frankly. Grim.”
Cole-Hamilton said his initial optimism about the committee's work had faded over time.
He said: “You’re a young MSP, you’re given a high-profile role on a high-profile inquiry, and you hope for the best.
“But I was disappointed at every turn. I’ve seen the worst of government, and parliament and party politics, drawing this out unnecessarily over two years to the cost only of the complainers, who must have hated every single minute of this.”
Cole-Hamilton said the work of the committee should have been done by a judge-led inquiry.
But he said the committee's work had uncovered what he called “a culture of demeaning people, diminishing people, making them feel rubbish and all because of power” within the Scottish Government.
He added: “There was a culture of silence. There was an anxiety about upsetting the political project of the day, which at the time was the independence referendum.”
He said he hoped the committee's final report would now draw a line under the saga.
“This is a psychodrama. Scotland is exhausted. We’ve just been through Brexit, we’re still in a global pandemic. We need a period of calm and stability where the psychodrama of Salmond and Sturgeon and all the bit part players around them can be put to bed. I think people want to move on.”
Listen to the full interview here or wherever you get your podcasts.