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Holyrood harassment inquiry calls for Scottish Government officials to give evidence to MSPs directly

Holyrood

Holyrood harassment inquiry calls for Scottish Government officials to give evidence to MSPs directly

The Holyrood inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond has called on Nicola Sturgeon’s chief of staff to give evidence to MSPs directly, rather than as part of wider civil service submissions to the investigation.

In an exchange of emails, Scottish Government Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans said SNP chief of staff Liz Lloyd could give evidence in relation to her party political role but that, “as for all other civil servants, her involvement in relevant matters being examined by the Committee is being incorporated within the written evidence being provided to the Committee by the Scottish Government”.

But committee convener Linda Fabiani rejected the move, saying MSPs were “not content for the actions of the First Minister’s Chief of Staff to be added to the timeline of actions by Government officials”.

She said: “I have discussed these matters further with the Committee. While the Committee agrees that a timeline is a helpful reference, it wants to confirm at this point that further evidence from individual officials providing a factual account of their involvement in the development of the policy and in the judicial review, as originally requested, will also be required. This includes from the Chief of Staff.”

It comes after the inquiry committee hit out at the Scottish Government for refusing to release material related to the case, with convener Linda Fabiani writing to permanent secretary Leslie Evans to express her “frustration and disappointment” at the approach.

Despite requests from the committee – set up to examine the handling of sexual misconduct claims against Salmond – the Scottish Government has refused to hand over information, such as the legal advice it received for its investigation, which it claims is legally privileged.

The committee was established after the former First Minister launched legal action against the Scottish Government at the Court of Session, with the government eventually conceding that its investigation was flawed and paying around £500,000 in legal costs to the former First Minister.

Holyrood understands the committee has agreed to consider legal action to get the documents it requests.

Writing to Evans, Fabiani expressed her frustration, adding that the “committee will not hesitate to explore all options available to it to receive the documents it requires for this inquiry if the Scottish Government continues to refuse to provide documents and to provide an adequate explanation for withholding such documents”.

She said: “Withholding this amount of information, and providing the committee with a submission that is lacking in detail on what is being withheld gives the impression that the Scottish Government expects the committee, once again, to have to enter into protracted discussions with the Scottish Government to extract the information it needs”.

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