Key dates in the Salmond and Sturgeon saga

Tom Eden and Neil Pooran, PA Scotland
·10-min read

Nicola Sturgeon has given evidence to the Holyrood committee examining the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment allegations made against Alex Salmond.

The inquiry was established after Scotland’s former first minister successfully challenged the Government’s apparently biased investigation, resulting in a £512,250 payout.

Here are the key dates as the saga unfolded:

– 2017

– October 31

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon orders a review of the Scottish Government’s “policies and processes for addressing inappropriate conduct” in the wake of the MeToo movement.

The review is led by the Government’s most senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans.

Inquiry into Scottish Governments handling of Harassment
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, right, and Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans (Andrew Milligan/PA)

– November 4

Ms Sturgeon is informed about an inquiry by Sky News relating to Mr Salmond’s alleged behaviour towards female staff at Edinburgh Airport.

– December 20
Ms Sturgeon approves the “Handling of Harassment Complaints Involving Current or Former Ministers” procedure.

– 2018

– January

Two female staff members make formal complaints to the Scottish Government about Mr Salmond’s conduct in December 2013 when he was first minister.

An internal investigation is established and investigating officer Judith Mackinnon is appointed.

– March 7

The Permanent Secretary tells Mr Salmond about the investigation.

– March 29

Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, meets Ms Sturgeon at Holyrood and discusses the allegations.

In her written evidence to the committee in 2020, Ms Sturgeon says she forgot about this meeting until “late January/early February” 2019.

Alex Salmond court case
Geoff Aberdein is the former chief of staff to Alex Salmond (Andrew Milligan/PA)

– April 2

Mr Salmond meets Ms Sturgeon at her home in Glasgow and tells her that he is under investigation.

In Mr Salmond’s later written evidence, he states the First Minister “suggested that she would intervene in favour of a mediation process at an appropriate stage” but subsequently decided against intervening.

Ms Sturgeon has argued she thought this was a party meeting, rather than a Government one.

– April 23

Mr Salmond calls Ms Sturgeon twice, asking her to encourage the Permanent Secretary to accept his mediation request.

– June 7

Ms Sturgeon meets Mr Salmond in Aberdeen, ahead of the SNP conference.

– July 14

Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond meet at the First Minister’s Glasgow home.

– August 21

The Crown Office passes complaints about Mr Salmond to police.

– August 22

Mr Salmond is told the Government inquiry is complete.

– August 23

The Scottish Government tells Mr Salmond’s lawyers it intends to release a public statement about the investigation, but agrees not to until an interim interdict application seeking to block publication has been heard.

The Daily Record newspaper breaks news of the allegations against Mr Salmond via a tweet.

He denies misconduct and calls some of the allegations “patently ridiculous”.

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– August 28

Mr Salmond lodges a petition for a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

– August 29

Mr Salmond resigns from the SNP, but says he will apply to rejoin once he has cleared his name.

He launches a crowdfunding appeal for the review, which quickly reaches more than £100,000.

– September 14

Police confirm they have launched an investigation into the complaints against Mr Salmond, separate from the Government’s investigation and the judicial review process.

Alex Salmond Legal Action
Alex Salmond speaking outside the Court of Session in Edinburgh after it ruled the Scottish Government acted unlawfully regarding sexual harassment complaints against him (Jane Barlow/PA)

– 2019

– January 8

A week before the full judicial review is due to start, the Scottish Government concedes defeat at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The Government’s lawyers accept that investigating officer Ms Mackinnon has had previous contact with the complainers.

The court concludes the investigation was “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias”.

Ms Evans releases a statement apologising to “all involved” and Mr Salmond calls for her to consider her position.

– January 13

Ms Sturgeon refers herself to independent advisers to rule on whether she breached the ministerial code in her meetings with Mr Salmond.

– January 15

MSPs agree to hold a Holyrood inquiry into the Government’s handling of the complaints against Mr Salmond.

– January 23

Police Scotland arrest Mr Salmond.

– January 24

Mr Salmond appears at Edinburgh Sheriff Court and is charged with several sexual offences, including attempted rape, which he denies.

– August 2

The Scottish Government pays £511,250 to Mr Salmond in connection with the judicial review.

– 2020

– February 26

The Scottish Parliament Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaint meets for the first time.

– March 9

Mr Salmond’s criminal trial starts at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Alex Salmond court case
Alex Salmond speaks outside the High Court in Edinburgh after he was cleared of attempted rape and a series of sexual assaults (Andrew Milligan/PA)

– March 23

Mr Salmond is acquitted on all charges.

The jury returns not guilty verdicts on 12 charges, including attempted rape, and a further not proven verdict is returned on a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape.

– August 18

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints hears evidence from its first witness, the Permanent Secretary.

Harassment allegation committee hearing
Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans gives evidence to the Scottish Parliament committee examining the handling of harassment allegations (Russell Cheyne/PA)

– September 29

Committee convener Linda Fabiani warns their investigation is being “completely frustrated” by a lack of evidence from key witnesses, and accuses the Scottish Government of “obstruction”.

– November 4

The Scottish Parliament passes a motion demanding the Government reveals the legal advice it received during the judicial review.

Harassment allegation committee hearing
Linda Fabiani is convener of the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints (Andrew Milligan/PA)

– December 18

The inquiry into the Salmond affair reaches an agreement with the Scottish Government over access to previously undisclosed material.

– 2021

– January 13

Mr Salmond rejects an invitation to appear before the committee in person on February 19, citing public health grounds.

– January 20

Mr Salmond alleges the Scottish Government’s “reprehensible” failure to release “crucial” documents had put him at a disadvantage in both his criminal trial and legal challenge against the Government’s investigation.

In written evidence to the committee, he says his legal team will ask the Lord Advocate whether the Government was in contempt of court over the “withholding of relevant evidence”.

– January 26

Mr Salmond refuses another offer to appear before the committee the following week.

– January 27

The committee offers a final date – February 8 – for Mr Salmond to appear to give evidence.

Harassment allegation committee hearing
Lord Advocate James Wolffe gives evidence to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints (Russell Cheyne/PA)

– January 29

The Crown Office confirms it has handed over evidence to the Holyrood inquiry.

It allows the unprecedented step of MSPs issuing a notice to the Crown Office under part of the Scotland Act, demanding the release of documents detailing text or WhatsApp communications between SNP chief operating officer Susan Ruddick and Scottish Government ministers, civil servants or special advisers.

It also asks for any documents linked to the leaking of complaints to the Daily Record newspaper in August 2018.

– February 3

Mr Salmond brands the behaviour of the current Scottish Government a “disgrace”, in a written submission to the inquiry.

He accuses Ms Evans of having a “bias” against him.

He also claims the “overwhelming likelihood” is that someone in the Government leaked details of the case against him to the press.

– February 8

Mr Salmond declines to appear before the harassment committee over concerns about the committee not publishing his evidence.

His submission, published elsewhere online, accused Ms Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code with “false and manifestly untrue” statements to parliament, which she denies.

Mr Salmond’s lawyers say he “cannot take his oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth” until a number of concerns were addressed, including the publication of the evidence by the committee and concerns about him being “in legal jeopardy”.

-February 25

Alex Salmond agrees to appear before the Holyrood inquiry after his evidence is published in a redacted form following a long drawn-out saga.

Alex Salmond
Former first minister Alex Salmond is sworn in before giving evidence to the committee (Andy Buchanan/PA)

– February 26

Mr Salmond gives evidence to the Holyrood committee.

He says Scotland’s “leadership has failed” and calls for the Lord Advocate and the head of Scotland’s civil service, Leslie Evans, to resign over the handling of the complaints against him.

He says he has “no doubt” Ms Sturgeon broke rules governing the behaviour of ministers – which she denies – but stops short of saying she should resign.

– March 2

The Scottish Conservatives call on Ms Sturgeon to resign after the Scottish Government published legal advice related to the botched investigation.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney agreed to hand over the legal advice under threat of a no-confidence vote, and acknowledged “reservations were raised” by Government lawyers about the way allegations about Mr Salmond were investigated.

The Scottish Conservatives say they will submit a no-confidence motion in the First Minister.

– March 3

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gives evidence to the committee and maintains she did not intervene in the investigation as it would have been an abuse of her role.

She said Mr Salmond’s claims of a plot against him are “absurd” and her Government has nothing to hide.

She apologises to the two women who made complaints, saying she regrets the “very serious mistake” made in the investigation.

John Swinney vote of no confidence
Deputy First Minister John Swinney survived a vote of no confidence (Jane Barlow/PA)

– March 10

Deputy First Minister John Swinney survives a vote of no confidence at Holyrood.

The Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats accused him of failing to hand over legal documents to the Scottish Parliament inquiry into the Government’s handling of harassment complaints.

But the support of Scottish Green MSPs meant the challenge to him was ultimately unsuccessful, with Holyrood voting down the motion by 57 votes to 65.

– March 16

A report from Laura Dunlop QC makes a range of recommendations about how complaints against current and former Government ministers should be handled.

These include a call for harassment allegations against current or former ministers to be handled independently, rather then by the Scottish Government.

Ms Dunlop was tasked with carrying out the review following Mr Salmond’s successful court challenge against the Government’s procedures.

– March 16 (evening)

Using parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons, Conservative MP David Davis reads out messages that he suggested showed a “concerted effort by senior members of the SNP to encourage complaints” against Mr Salmond.

These claims are strongly refuted by Nicola Sturgeon.

A spokesman for her says “the reality is very different to the picture being presented”.

– March 18

MSPs on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee reportedly vote 5-4 that the First Minister gave an “inaccurate” account of a meeting with Mr Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon says the “very partisan leak” is “not that surprising” – saying she stands by the evidence she gave the committee.

– March 21

In a statement released through Rape Crisis Scotland, two women who made complaints of harassment against former first minister Alex Salmond said they would be making a formal complaint over the leak of evidence they gave to the Holyrood committee.

A story in The Sunday Times claims the women, giving evidence in private last Monday, painted a picture of a demeaning environment for women, with one saying it was “like the Wild West”.