Alex Salmond to appear before harassment inquiry next week - days after pulling out over Sturgeon evidence row

February 24, 2021

The on-off appearance of Alex Salmond before a Scottish parliament inquiry is back on.

The committee looking into the Scottish government's mishandling of harassment complaints against the former first minister has invited him to give evidence on Friday, and Sky News understands he will accept the invitation.

It comes after Mr Salmond cancelled a scheduled Wednesday appearance, amid a row over the redaction of his written submission.

Meanwhile, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has addressed the account of a meeting that raises questions over whether she misled parliament, stating: "That's not an account that I would agree with."

Sky News put to her the recollection of one person present at a meeting in her office on 29 March 2018 - four days before she told the Scottish parliament she first learned of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond.

We reported last July the account that states: "There was discussion about the investigation, the process of it, the fact it was a civil service investigation being conducted by civil servants."

I put the above to Ms Sturgeon, and asked: "That's an account from someone in discussion with you about the investigation into Alex Salmond in your office on 29 March 2018. Have they misremembered those details?"

She replied: "That's not an account that I would agree with. I can't speak for somebody else and I don't know for sure exactly whose account that is, but I hope that'll be before the committee looking at these matters a week today and I'll be able to answer all these questions in full."

In a separate development, lawyers for Alex Salmond have labelled as "unprecedented and troubling" an intervention by Scotland's Crown Office in the publication of his claims against Nicola Sturgeon.

They have questioned the role of "third parties" in removing from public view the details around allegations that his successor broke the Ministerial Code.

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly denied breaching the code.

Mr Salmond had been due to give evidence to the Scottish parliament committee looking into the government mishandling of harassment complaints against him.

He cancelled his scheduled Wednesday appearance after redactions were made to a written submission he had made in advance.

They conceal details which he believes are central to his claim that Ms Sturgeon misled parliament over what she knew and when, about harassment complaints against him in 2018.

The submission had already been posted on the Scottish parliament's website following a decision to publish by the Scottish Parliament's management team, its Corporate Body (SPCB).

However, that changed following the intervention of the Crown office, Scotland's prosecuting authority.

It expressed "grave concerns" on legal grounds, and Mr Salmond's submission was redacted as a consequence.

In a letter to the Lord Advocate, the Head of the Crown Office, Mr Salmond's lawyers ask for an explanation as to why its position "changed" from an earlier meeting at which it had accepted the submission, except one paragraph which was duly removed.

The written submission was revised but, they say, the content remained largely unchanged.

In their letter, the lawyers state: "(Mr Salmond) has a reasonable apprehension that the Crown must have been approached on this matter by third parties seeking to change the Crown's previously stated position.

"Something inexplicably changed overnight with the effect of changing the evidence he is able to give to the committee."

Mr Salmond's lawyers have asked that the Crown to preserve and retain all material and communications with all or any third parties which led to their decision to intervene.

A spokesperson for the Crown Office said: "The Lord Advocate has not had a decision-making role in any of the matters relating to the prosecution of Mr Salmond including on the issue of potential contempt of court.

"As is common practice in situations where there may be a perception of a conflict of interest, decisions are taken on behalf of Law Officers by senior professional prosecutors acting independently and in the public interest.

"Where the Crown becomes aware of a potential contempt of court this will be carefully considered and action taken if appropriate.

"Any correspondence received will be responded to."

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