Alex Salmond asks for delay in appearance at harassment committee
Alex Salmond has asked for his appearance at the committee investigating the handling of harassment complaints against him to be delayed for a month.
The former first minister was invited to give evidence at Holyrood next week but his lawyers have said he believes it would "send a very bad message" if he was to attend at this time.
In a letter to convener Linda Fabiani, his representative David McKie said the presiding officer had advised against in-person meetings at present "on health and safety grounds". Instead, it was suggested Salmond appear on 16 February.
McKie said in the letter: "Our client understands your anxiety to finish your hearings and therefore can we suggest Tuesday 16 February (in principle at this stage) for an in-person evidence session.
"That will give the clerks time to work out the feasibility of a safe hearing in light of the review of lockdown due at the end of the month and to recover the further material evidence.
"Assuming you still wish to call the First Minister the week after our client then, as we understand it, the parliamentary timetable would still give a full month for the committee to agree and publish a report to parliament.
"That, of course, is on the assumption that the election timetable stays at May."
Salmond's lawyers previously insisted he would not be able to give a full account to MSPs without the recovery of material from both the civil and criminal case.
A letter stated: “Our client is now effectively being forced into a position of being asked to take an oath to tell the ‘truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’, but being simultaneously advised by those acting in the name of the Lord Advocate that he would be committing a criminal offence if he does so.
“That cannot be a tenable position.
“We respectfully submit that it remains in your power to avoid those two issues. Your recovery of key material from both the civil case and the criminal case would have the dual benefit of allowing our client to give a complete account while eliminating any risk of his breaching court orders inadvertently when giving his evidence.
“There is no legal reason we can think of which would prevent you from seeking its recovery.”
But in the email sent to Salmond after this correspondence from his lawyers, Fabiani said: “The committee appreciates that you would wish to access evidence from the criminal trial in order to go into more detail when you appear before the committee.
“However, the committee is now in the position where if it does not complete evidence-taking in the very near future it may not be able to report to parliament in advance of purdah rules coming into force.
“The committee must fulfil the task that parliament has set it and that must include reporting its findings on this important inquiry before the committee is disbanded in advance of the general election. On that basis 19 January is the date that is being offered to you.”
Concerns had also been raised about Salmond appearing before the committee in person due to an underlying health condition and safety issues given the media attention his presence would likely attract.