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Harassment inquiry sets 23 September deadline for judicial review documents

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Harassment inquiry sets 23 September deadline for judicial review documents

The Scottish Parliament committee established to examine handling of harassment complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond has repeated its frustration with the approach taken by the Scottish Government, with convener Linda Fabiani writing to John Swinney to set a deadline of 23 September for officials to hand over documents relating to last year's judicial review.

The move follows growing tensions between the committee and the Scottish Government, with MSPs also writing to Salmond’s solicitors after the former FM offered to take on the Scottish Government in court a second time in order to secure the release of documents relating to the case.

Writing in response to the offer, Fabiani said the committee “will continue to assess all appropriate options in seeking the documents and information necessary.”

In her letter to Swinney, the committee convener said: “The committee remains frustrated at the approach being taken by the government, and that it is only at this late stage the Government is acknowledging the need to provide information at a sufficient level of detail to facilitate the committee’s scrutiny and instigating the process to collate it.”

Fabiani added: “While the committee notes that the government is now assessing how it can give the committee access to court documents, members also explored with the Lord Advocate the position taken up to now that documents which form part of the 2 court process, or have been lodged with the court are the property of the court and cannot be released without the court’s permission. The committee also noted the suggestion by other parties that there are no legal reasons why the Scottish Government could not provide such documents.”

It comes after the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government was forced to apologise for giving wrong information to the inquiry, with Leslie Evans telling MSPs she was unaware of Scottish Government special advisers having played a role in the government’s response to the judicial review brought by Salmond.

She said she would not see a “natural role” for a special adviser in that.

However, in a letter to the committee, Evans corrected her evidence, saying Sturgeon’s chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, did take part in meetings about the case. 

A freedom of information response last year listed 17 meetings at which lawyers involved in the judicial review met with Sturgeon or senior staff, with Lloyd present at three meetings in October and November 2018.

Evans said she had forgotten about the meetings when giving evidence.

In the letter, which was published yesterday on the committee’s website, Evans wrote: “My answer on this point in oral evidence to the committee was based upon my best recollection at the time but I accept that the record shows that the information above is correct.

“I apologise for not having that level of detail at the front of my mind in answering the point put to me.”

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