Salmond demands explanation from Lord Advocate over Crown Office intervention
Alex Salmond has asked for an explanation from the Lord Advocate for the Crown Office's intervention in matters relating to his evidence submission to the harassment complaints committee.
The former first minister asked the committee to defer his appearance before it after a decision was taken by the Scottish Parliament to remove, redact and republish written evidence he had provided.
The changes came after the Crown Office had raised ‘grave concerns’ about the publication of the evidence. The prosecution service's decision to intervene was called "astonishing" in a statement issued on behalf of Salmond.
Salmond has asked his lawyers to write to the Lord Advocate, the head of the Crown Office, demanding answers for what he described as "unprecedented and highly irregular actions".
The statement said: "On Monday, he had confirmed attendance at the Parliamentary Committee today to deliver his evidence. His submissions had been approved and were published that day. Logistical and health and safety arrangements had been made for the evidence session and travel plans had been organised.
"On Monday afternoon the First Minister pre-emptively announced that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on her government’s part. This was before Mr Salmond’s evidence was even published.
"Then late on Monday night, after publication on the Parliamentary website the Crown Office intervened, which led to redaction of substantial sections of some of the very evidence the First Minister claimed did not exist.
"In light of this astonishing decision to intervene at the eleventh hour and in light of the timing, Mr Salmond asked the Committee to defer his evidence by 48 hours to enable his legal team to consider the full implications of this extraordinary intervention."
Among a number of questions that have been put to the Lord Advocate include a request for the legal basis for the Crown's intervention, as well as the reason it has taken until now for concerns to be raised about certain paragraphs, given they have already been in the public domain for some time.
His lawyers also asked: "Why has the Crown’s position changed? What new information or intervention led to such a dramatic expansion of the material which the Parliament has been required to redact?
"Specifically, given the fact that each of the paragraphs which appeared in the original submission on the Ministerial Code in the same terms as previously accepted, what about those paragraphs is suddenly now so legally “problematic” that a Parliamentary Inquiry is to be deprived of that evidence?"
Salmond may still appear before the committee on Friday. The parliamentary inquiry is looking into the conduct of the government following two harassment complaints made against the former first minister, which led to the process being deemed “unlawful” and over £500,000 being paid in legal expenses.