Salmond inquiry chair Fabiani 'frustrated' by criticism
The chair of the committee set up to investigate the Scottish Government’s handling of complaints against Alex Salmond has said she is “frustrated” by criticism of its work.
SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said the committee’s work had become “very politically charged” and was subject to “horrendous” commentary on social media.
The committee was set up to find out what went wrong with the government’s botched handling of harassment complaints against the former first minister after a 2019 ruling by the Court of Session that the process had been “unlawful”.
During an interview with Holyrood’s Politically Speaking podcast primarily focusing on how politicians engage with business, Fabiani said she hoped the committee would be able to report “quite extensively” on aspects such as the processes put in place by the Scottish Government and the judicial review brought by Salmond.
But she said findings on the ministerial code were not likely to be as “thorough” as those of James Hamilton QC who is carrying out a separate investigation.
Asked about criticism of the committee, she said: “I’m not hugely upset by it – I wouldn’t like anyone to think I wasn’t sleeping at night or anything like that.
“It’s more of a frustration. There are two frustrations. The first is that perhaps because it’s the run-up to an election, it’s become very politically charged. Highly charged politically.
“I find that difficult because I’m a believer in cross-party coming together to get at the truth of something and do a proper inquiry. I find the politics that have become involved quite difficult, not to deal with – that’s my job – but just that it’s happened. I find that hard.”
Fabiani also talked about ill-informed speculation on social media.
She said: “I’ve got a constant worry about the wellbeing of people who are involved in this at all levels. That does worry me. The other thing I’m finding frustrating is the social media. Again, I don’t lose sleep over it, I don’t respond to it – I recognize it for what it is.
“But I think there’s a frustration that so much of it is done anonymously. So much of it is based on absolutely no knowledge whatsoever, just opinion…I’m finding that quite difficult.”
Asked whether the committee had become about the complainants when that was not its original remit, she said: “It has been allowed to become about them, I would say.
"That’s become quite difficult, but that’s based on the law. There was a court case, there were provisions put in place after the court case. So, the committee has to take cognizance of them and be very, very careful. I suppose that’s what I’m talking about by some people having opinions that are not based on any fact.
“Some of the stuff that’s been on social media is horrendous, based on complete misunderstanding of the legal system and how it works and based on a complete misunderstanding of how the committee is working and what the committee’s remit is.
“It has ended up involving people, and I find that difficult. There has been more than one letter from Rape Crisis who are quite rightly speaking on behalf of people they deal with. I find that really difficult, but I have been given a job to do.”
Fabiani said she hoped the committee’s report would help improve the government’s system for handling harassment complaints, giving women more confidence to come forward.
“That’s the most important thing of all – learning lessons,” she said.
Salmond is expected to appear before the committee on Friday, with an appearance by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon currently scheduled for next week.
Listen to the full interview here https://www.holyrood.com/podcasts.htm or wherever you get your podcasts.
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