Alex Salmond turns down request to face Holyrood committee in person

Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter
·2-min read

Alex Salmond has rejected an invitation to appear in front of the committee looking into the handling of complaints made against him.

The former first minister was invited on Tuesday by Linda Fabiani, convener of the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, to appear next week.

However in a letter published on Wednesday from Mr Salmond’s lawyer David McKie, he rejects the invite due to public health concerns.

Plans were made to have Mr Salmond testify under oath in person before the committee, but he believes that would “send the wrong message”, the letter said.

“Our client cannot accept your invitation to attend your committee in person next week,” the letter said. “He remains willing to attend and give evidence, however.

“As we understand it, the Presiding Officer has advised against all in-person committee meetings on health and safety grounds.

Linda Fabiani in committee
Mr Salmond was invited to appear before the committee by convener Linda Fabiani (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA)

“Our client feels very strongly that it would send a very bad message to the rest of the country if he were to flout that, particularly at a time when the present First Minister is set to further tighten restrictions on everyone else.”

Mr McKie goes on to raise doubts about the effectiveness of meeting virtually, which was the case when Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans returned to the committee on Tuesday.

Ms Fabiani bemoaned the “particularly difficult” session in her invitation to Mr Salmond, after a number of MSPs struggled to be heard due to connection issues.

Mr McKie said: “According to widespread reports in today’s press it is clear that the remote committee format had very substantial difficulties and we cannot imagine any disagreement between us that it would not be at all suitable for a significant evidence session.”

Mr Salmond’s team has also been in a legal wrangle with the Crown Office over the disclosure of documents obtained by him during his trial at the High Court last year where he was cleared of a series of charges of sexual misconduct.

The Crown Office said he would be committing a criminal offence by divulging the information to the committee, and the letter said an extension would allow more time to sort any issues out.

The letter asks that the committee seeks Crown Office assurances that Mr Salmond will not face prosecution for the evidence he gives on the day.

Mr McKie suggested, in principle, Mr Salmond appearing before the committee on February 16, allowing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to appear the following week and a further month for a report to be drafted by the committee.