Alex Salmond accuses Nicola Sturgeon's husband of trying to imprison him

Simon Johnson
·5-min read
Alex Salmond has claimed there was a conspiracy at the top of the SNP to remove him from public life - Getty Images Europe
Alex Salmond has claimed there was a conspiracy at the top of the SNP to remove him from public life - Getty Images Europe

Alex Salmond has alleged there was a conspiracy to remove him from public life and even imprison him involving a series of senior SNP figures including Nicola Sturgeon's husband and chief of staff.

In an extraordinary submission to a Holyrood inquiry, the former First Minister said the evidence "supports a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP."

Mr Salmond, who will appear before the inquiry on Wednesday, said the "inescapable conclusion" was that they had tried to remove him from public life and claimed they would have succeeded if not for the court system.

Among those he named were Peter Murrell, the SNP's chief executive and Ms Sturgeon's husband, and Liz Lloyd, her chief of staff.

They also included Ian McCann, the party's compliance officer, and Sue Ruddick, its chief operating officer. However, he said there were others that for legal reasons he was not permitted to identify.

In a separate submission, Ms Lloyd vehemently rejected being part of any conspiracy and said this was "not substantiated by any evidence." She also denied leaking the existence of a Scottish Government inquiry into the allegations to the Daily Record newspaper.

Watch: Top tips for helping the environment on a tight budget

But Mr Salmond enclosed an affidavit from a senior SNP official at Westminster, who accused senior figures in the party's headquarters of a "witch hunt" against Mr Salmond.

Anne Harvey, principal assistant to the Chief Whip of the SNP Westminster group, said they were "engaged in a cynical attempt to construct a disingenuous and totally unwarranted" case against the former First Minister.

Mr Salmond also hit out at the Crown Office and a series of the Scottish Government's most senior mandarins, including Leslie Evans, the permanent secretary, over their roles in the investigation into him.

The submission was published shortly after Ms Sturgeon challenged him to "put up or shut up" over his allegations there was a conspiracy against him.

In a pre-emptive strike, the First Minister said the inquiry into her government's botched handling of sexual misconduct allegations against him was the chance for him to "replace insinuation and assertion" with proof.

But she said he cannot do that because there is not a "shred of evidence" his conspiracy claims were true and urged him to stop making the "distressing" allegations if he cannot substantiate them.

Peter Murrell, the SNP chief executive and Nicola Sturgeon's husband -  Getty Images Europe
Peter Murrell, the SNP chief executive and Nicola Sturgeon's husband - Getty Images Europe

However, Ms Sturgeon was forced to deny she had breached the ministerial code, which is normally a resignation offence, by misleading parliament over when she found out about her government's investigation into him.

Mr Salmond won a judicial review in 2019 when Scotland’s highest civil court found that the way the Scottish Government investigated sexual misconduct allegations against him was unlawful.

The SNP administration he once led paid him £512,250 of taxpayers' money to cover his legal costs after the judge Lord Pentland ruled the inquiry was "procedurally unfair" and "tainted with apparent bias".

The case was abandoned on the eve of a Court of Session hearing after the government admitted it had breached its own guidelines by appointing an investigating officer who had “prior involvement” with two civil servants who had made complaints.

The inquiry into the debacle was kickstarted after Mr Salmond was acquitted of sex charges at the High Court last year.

In his written submission, he said he had not used the word "conspiracy" but noted the dictionary definition was "the activity of secretly planning with other people to do something bad or illegal."

Leslie Evans, the Scottish Government's permanent secretary - PA
Leslie Evans, the Scottish Government's permanent secretary - PA

He said: "The inescapable conclusion is of a malicious and concerted attempt to damage my reputation and remove me from public life in Scotland.

"It is an attempt which would, in fact, have succeeded but for the protection of the court and jury system and in particular the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary.

"However, underlying all of this and perhaps the most serious issue of all is the complete breakdown of the necessary barriers which should exist between Government, political party and indeed the prosecution authorities in any country which abides by the rule of law.

"I leave to others the question of what is, or is not, a conspiracy but am very clear in my position that the evidence supports a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned."

After naming those he said had acted against him, he added: "The real cost to the Scottish people runs into many millions of pounds and yet no-one in this entire process has uttered the simple words which are necessary on occasions to renew and refresh democratic institutions - 'I Resign'.

"The Committee now has the opportunity to address that position."

Speaking earlier, Ms Sturgeon said: "What we have not seen is a shred of evidence to back these wild claims up. Now, in front of the Parliament, the burden of proof is on Alex Salmond.

"It is time for insinuation and assertion to be replaced with actual evidence. And if, as I fully expect, there is no evidence, because there was no conspiracy, then people will draw their own conclusions."

An SNP spokesman said: "This is just more assertion without a shred of credible evidence.

"Several of the women have already made clear how utterly absurd it is to suggest they were part of a conspiracy to bring him down. And yet Alex Salmond is still making these ridiculous and baseless claims and lashing out at all and sundry.

"People who supported him loyally for years and worked tirelessly to get him elected don’t deserve these smears. And women who made complaints about his behaviour - who barely merit a mention in his conspiracy dossier - most certainly deserve better."

Watch: What is National Insurance and do I have to pay it?