Alex Salmond: Scotland has not failed – its leadership has failed
Former first minister Alex Salmond launched an attack on the Scottish Government in his opening statement to the Scottish Parliament's harassment inquiry.
“Scotland has not failed; its leadership has failed,” he said in his opening remarks to the committee of MSPs.
He said that the collective behaviour of the Scottish Government had “shed a light on a government whose actions are no longer true to the principles of openness, accountability and transparency, which are the core principles on which this Scottish parliament was founded.”
He also criticised the fact that no one had taken the blame after the government was found to have acted unlawfully in its handling of an investigation into harassment complaints against him and there had been no resignations or sackings.
The Crown Office, too, was criticised by Salmond for intervening to have some of his evidence to parliament redacted.
But Salmond put the blame firmly on the leadership and said the institutions themselves had not failed.
“The Scottish courts emerge from this with their reputation enhanced,” he said.
“Can those leading the Crown Office say the same?
“Some say the failures of those institutions and the blurring of the boundaries between party, government and prosecution service mean that Scotland is in danger of becoming a failed state. I disagree.
The Scottish civil service hasn’t failed; its leadership has failed.
“The Crown Office hasn’t failed; its leadership has failed.
“Scotland hasn’t failed; its leadership has failed.”
Salmond said the previous two and a half years had been a “nightmare” and he had “every desire to move on, to turn the page” and not to talk about it anymore.
But he said the reason he was there was because “we can't turn that page nor move on until the decision making which is undermining the system of government in Scotland is addressed.”
“The competence and professionalism of the civil service matters,” he said.
“The independence of the Crown Office as acting in the public interest matters.
“Acting in accordance with legal advice matters.
“Concealing evidence from the courts matters.
“The duty of candour of public authorities matters.
“Democratic accountability through Parliament matters.
“Suppressing evidence from parliamentary committees matters.
“And yes, ministers telling the truth to Parliament matters.
“The day such things come to not matter would be a dark and dangerous one for Scotland.”
He said the failures of leadership were “many and obvious”.
He also said that although the First Minister had said he had a case to prove, he did not because he had already done so in two court cases.
The remit of the committee was to look at the conduct of government ministers and civil servants, he said.
But Salmond claimed that he was appearing before the committee “under the explicit threat of prosecution”.
“Not to fulfil my oath and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth would be a contempt, but the Crown Office says it might lead to prosecution.
“People should just stop and think for a moment about that.
“The ability of any witness before any parliament to tell the truth and fulfil the oath is effectively being questioned by the Crown Office.
“The truth is that those who now demand to see evidence have invested a great deal of time and public money in attempting to hide that evidence.
“When this inquiry ends, neutered though it may be, I'll consider that I've discharged my duty as a citizen, as a former first minister.
“It will then be for others to consider their own positions, and the light of what this committee decides.”
He added that the inquiry was a “chance to assert what type of Scotland we are trying to create.”
He said: “Few would now dispute that our country is a better place for achieving our parliament.
“However, the move to independence, which I've sought all my political life and continue to seek, must be accompanied by institutions whose leadership is strong and robust and capable of protecting each and every citizen from arbitrary authority.
“Such a principle is a central component of the rule of law.
“It matters to every person in Scotland, as much as it always has done.
“It is the bedrock of our democracy, of justice and of fairness.”
Salmond will continue to be questioned by the committee this afternoon.
The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, will appear before the committee on Tuesday.