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Committee writes to judiciary asking for access to ‘entire process’ of Salmond judicial review

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Committee writes to judiciary asking for access to ‘entire process’ of Salmond judicial review

The Holyrood harassment inquiry has written to the Court of Session asking for “essential” documents  on the Scottish Government’s investigation of handling of harassment complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond to be released.

The committee wants access to “the entire court process” of the judicial review brought by Salmond against the government in 2018.

Convener Linda Fabiani said that the committee had made the direct request given the “importance of these proceedings and the time constraints on the committee in fulfilling its remit”.

The letter to the principal clerk of session and justiciary comes after the cross-party investigation said it was “frustrated” by the lack of evidence being provided and the “obstruction” it is encountering from parties including Salmond and the Scottish Government.

The committee is taking evidence from civil servants and ministers as well as former senior civil servants, the SNP and Salmond himself about events that led up to the Scottish Government having to pay out £500,000 in costs after the judicial review found the handling of the complaints was “tainted by apparent bias”.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly refused to waive legal privilege to allow the committee to see what legal advice it was given in the run up to the court case and has withheld documents relating to the case, although it has recently agreed to provide more information over the coming weeks.

Salmond has said he is keen to provide the committee with as much material as he is legally allowed to, but his solicitor has warned that this is limited by restrictions put in place by the Crown Office.

Fabiani quoted both parties in her letter to the judiciary, suggesting that the court may wish to release the documents given both Salmond’s legal team and the Scottish Government had expressed a willingness to supply more.

She said: “Whilst the parties differ in terms of their understanding of what access can be provided to the requested documents, without the court’s permission both parties, as set out above, appear to be content for the committee to have access to court records provided that all relevant legal restrictions are complied with.

“The committee’s statement on the handling of information and evidence confirms that the committee will treat all information in accordance with the relevant court orders and data protection law.

“The committee notes the Scottish Government’s intention to release certain documentation and take steps before the court where needed.

“However, given the importance of these proceedings and the time constraints on the committee in fulfilling its remit, the committee has decided to approach the court directly for confirmation on the position in relation to access to court documents in this case.

“We consider that having sight of some of the court documents is essential to enable the committee to meet the terms of its remit.”

Separately, Fabiani wrote to Salmond’s lawyers giving a deadline of Friday 1 October to supply written evidence to the committee.

She also wrote to Deputy First Minister John Swinney thanking the government for agreeing to provide more documents, and urging him to hurry up.

She added: “It is worth repeating the frustration it feels at the time taken to get to this position.

“While the committee notes the Scottish Government’s intention to release further information, it is mindful of the delays that have already been caused by the Scottish Government’s previous refusal to provide documentation and therefore, it has also written to the Court of Session to request confirmation of the extent to which the court will be able to make documentation available to the committee, should this not be forthcoming.”

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