Scottish govt official 'asked for account of when they knew about Salmond complaints to be changed'

January 21, 2021

Sky News has learned of claims that a Scottish government official asked to change an account of when they knew about harassment complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond.

They concern a senior official whom we are not identifying, but who works with the current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon's political opponents have described the revelations as an "abuse of power" and a "clear attempt at a cover-up".

The official allegedly asked for a press statement to be changed and feared they faced consequences for their career if this was not done.

The statement was a record of a conversation they had been involved in. It indicated when, and what, they knew about complaints against Mr Salmond, which pre-dated the day that Ms Sturgeon says she was first informed.

The amendment request was allegedly made after a draft copy of the statement was sent to the Scottish government, prior to its publication.

Upon receipt, it is claimed the official contacted the author and asked for the record of when they said they "knew" of the complaints to be reduced to when they had a "suspicion" of them.

The official indicated that without the change, they feared their career could be negatively impacted.

The date on which senior members of the Scottish government learned of an investigation into the complaints against Mr Salmond is a point of contention which has embroiled Ms Sturgeon in controversy.

The first minister has told the Scottish Parliament she first knew on 2 April 2018.

However, Alex Salmond has accused her of misleading parliament, claiming the complaints were discussed in a meeting she attended four days earlier, on 29 March 2018.

This is refuted by Ms Sturgeon, whose spokesperson has accused Mr Salmond of "spinning false conspiracy theories".

The involvement of the official, and their request for changes, is contained in a submission made to the ongoing Scottish Parliament inquiry into the government's handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond.

Sky News has spoken to four people familiar with the content of the submission, which has not been made public.

All of the sources corroborate the details of the official's request to change the account of what they said.

Ms Sturgeon's political opponents say the revelations present her with serious questions.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: "The first minister has done everything in her power to evade scrutiny and dodge questions of her involvement in this scandal.

"It is outrageous that her staff acted to prevent facts reaching the public.

"Statements have been manipulated and the truth has been deliberately hidden.

"This is a clear attempt at a cover-up and an abuse of power at the heart of government. The first minister must answer for it."

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We can't comment on written submissions that have not been published by the committee and that we have not seen."

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