Key events leading to the formation of Alex Salmond’s new political party

PA Scotland
·7-min read

Alex Salmond has announced he is setting up a new political party to contest May’s Scottish Parliament election.

It is the latest development in a long running saga which began with a Scottish Government investigation into harassment complaints against the former first minister.

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.

– 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.

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, pictured in 2014, were previously close colleagues and friends (PA)

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 investigating the handling of the complaints in 2020, Ms Sturgeon says she forgot about this meeting until “late January/early February” 2019.

– 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.

– June 7

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

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond
Ms Sturgeon has previously told how Mr Salmond was her mentor for a number of years (PA)

– 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 23

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

– August 28

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

– 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.

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 therefore “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias”.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave evidence to the Holyrood committee on March 2, 2021 (PA)

– 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

– March 9

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

– March 23

Mr Salmond is acquitted on all charges.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond was acquitted of all charges against him in his criminal trial (PA)

– August 18

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

2021

– January 13

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

– 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 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.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond gave evidence to the committee investigating how the Government handled complaints against him on February 26, 2021 (Scottish Parliament TV/PA)

– 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 26

Mr Salmond gives evidence to the Holyrood committee.

He says Scotland’s “leadership has failed” and calls for the Lord Advocate and Ms 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 3

Ms 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.

– 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.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was cleared of breaching the ministerial code and defeated a motion of no confidence against her (PA)

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 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.

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

– March 22

An independent report by judge James Hamilton QC clears the First Minister of breaching the ministerial code following the Government’s botched handling of allegations against Mr Salmond.

– March 23

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints finds Ms Sturgeon misled MSPs while giving evidence.

It says there was a “fundamental contradiction” in her evidence on whether she agreed to intervene in a Scottish Government investigation into complaints by two women against the former first minister.

Ms Sturgeon survives a vote of no confidence, brought by the Scottish Tories, who claimed she misled Parliament and ignored legal advice.

The vote fell by 65 votes to 31 with 27 abstentions.

– March 24

Mr Salmond announces plans to take legal action against Ms Evans.

The former first minister says she did not take “real responsibility” for failings highlighted in the Hamilton and committee reports.

– March 26

At a press conference, Mr Salmond announces his new pro-independence Alba Party will contest the Scottish Parliament election in May – and he will stand in the North East region.

An SNP spokesperson labels the move “perhaps the most predictable development in Scottish politics for quite some time”.