Alex Salmond inquiry must be allowed to take its course – Swinney

Lucinda Cameron, PA Scotland
·3-min read

The inquiry into the botched handling of harassment allegations against Alex Salmond should be allowed to take its course, John Swinney said after a Conservative MP raised concerns about the initial investigation.

Using parliamentary privilege, David Davis claimed messages disclosed by a whistleblower show there was a “concerted effort by senior members of the SNP to encourage complaints” against the former first minister.

Mr Davis told the Commons the messages present a case “which demands serious investigation”.

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up after a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government’s investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees in 2019.

Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney
John Swinney, right, said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave ‘comprehensive answers to every question’ when she faced the committee earlier this month (Jane Barlow/PA)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spent several hours being questioned by the committee on March 3.

Her deputy Mr Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday that the inquiry should be left to come to its conclusions.

He said: “The First Minister spent eight hours of the harassment committee giving comprehensive answers to every question that was put to her and she stands by all of that information.

“We’ve set up the process of inquiry, I think we should let it take its course and come to the conclusions that we need to, as I’ve said we will do, in connection with the reports that arise out of these events.”

Commenting on Ms Sturgeon’s appearance at the committee, he added: “The First Minister gave an open and candid account of the involvement that she’s had and her recollections of this process and obviously we await the outcome of the different inquiries that are looking at these issues.”

A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said: “As with Mr Salmond’s previous claims and cherry-picking of messages, the reality is very different to the picture being presented.

“Every message involving SNP staff has been seen by the committee previously. Their views have been widely reported as dismissive of them.”

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Conservative MP David Davis used parliamentary privilege to raise concerns (Luciana Guerra/PA)

As well as the committee’s inquiry, James Hamilton QC is investigating whether Ms Sturgeon breached the ministerial code.

On Tuesday, a report by Laura Dunlop QC called for complaints against current and former Government ministers to be investigated independently, rather than by the Scottish Government.

Mr Swinney said: “We will take forward the report of Laura Dunlop, we obviously have got other reports we’re waiting for from James Hamilton QC and also from the parliamentary committee that’s looking at these issues.

“We expect the parliamentary report very shortly and the James Hamilton report should be with us hopefully very shortly as well. We will group all of those together and make sure we take swift action, we committed ourselves yesterday to taking forward these proposals through a series of actions in June.

“Once we’ve seen all of the different reports that will give us the opportunity to make sure that the mistakes that were made in the handling of these complaints by the Scottish Government are never repeated should a similar situation arise in the future.”