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by Andrew Learmonth
23 September 2021
Police Scotland investigating Alex Salmond harassment complaint leaks

Alex Salmond holds a press conference in August 2018 after details of the government's harassment investigation were leaked to the Daily Record

Police Scotland investigating Alex Salmond harassment complaint leaks

Police Scotland has confirmed that it has received two complaints about the “potential unlawful disclosure of information” around the Scottish Government’s probe into harassment complaints against Alex Salmond.

The force is investigating how details were leaked to both the Daily Record in August 2018 and to the authors of a new book examining the relationship between the former first minister and his successor, Nicola Sturgeon. 

Break Up, by journalists David Clegg and Kieran Andrews, revealed that Leslie Evans, the Scottish Government’s most senior civil servant, originally upheld five charges against the former first minister. 

After an extract of the book was serialised in August, Salmond instructed his lawyers to report to the Crown “the outrageous decision of some to publish leaked extracts of the Permanent Secretary Lesley Evans’ findings in the original unlawful investigation”.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We have received two complaints regarding the potential unlawful disclosure of information which are being investigated.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office has previously said they had “sympathy” with the Salmond’s belief that the initial leak to the Daily Record came from an employee of the Scottish Government, however, they could find “no evidence that a third party or an employee from the Scottish Government unlawfully obtained or disclosed personal data relating to Mr Alex Salmond.”

The ICO’s investigation said 23 members of staff had knowledge of the investigation.

The government was fiercely criticised by the Holyrood harassment committee over the leak. In their final report, the cross-party group of MPs expressed concern “at how details of the complaints made their way into the press via the leak to the Daily Record.”

The report added: “The committee’s view is that this was damaging for both the complainers and the former first minister. The committee notes that the former first minister was at least able to issue a statement to the media refuting the allegations. However, the women who made the complaints had no control over this process nor a voice in it. The committee has heard about the incredible toll that this has taken on Ms A and Ms B.

“The committee is not in a position to judge how the information came to be in the public domain, however, the fact is that it was made public and that is a matter of significant concern.

“Confidentiality of an investigation is of paramount importance and the leaking of such information is extremely serious. Should the identity of the person who leaked the information ever come to light, they should be held to account for their actions.”

During his evidence session to the inquiry, the former first minister suggested that details of the probe into two complaints had been shared with the paper by someone in Sturgeon’s office. 

He told MSPs that the government had initially wanted to put out a press statement revealing the complaints and the findings of the investigation on August 23, 2018. 

However, he and his lawyers said they would launch an interdict in a bid to stop the sending of the media release. 

That led to the government rowing back on plans to alert the press.

Hours later the Daily Record contacted the former first minister to say they had knowledge of the complaints.

In January 2019, the Scottish Government conceded its investigation of Salmond had been unlawful and tainted by apparent bias. It was forced to pay the ex-SNP leader £512,000 in costs.

He was later acquitted of 13 charges at a separate criminal trial.

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - Time is right to reform Scotland's exams, says education minister

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