MSPs consider move to force release of 'explosive' Salmond documents

Dan Sanderson
·3-min read
Alex Salmond has been told he cannot mention some documents obtained ahead of his criminal trial -  Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
Alex Salmond has been told he cannot mention some documents obtained ahead of his criminal trial - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

MSPs investigating the Alex Salmond affair are examining how potentially explosive documents allegedly obtained by the former First Minister in his criminal trial can be forced into the public domain.

The Daily Telegraph understands that members of a Holyrood committee examining the botched government probe into sexual harassment complaints against the ex-SNP leader are aware of a list of documents published recently on an online blog.

Craig Murray, a former UK ambassador and nationalist activist, is awaiting trial for alleged contempt of court for previous comments about the Salmond case.

Watch: Nicola Sturgeon faces more questions over Alex Salmond bullying claims after internal emails leaked

He used his own legal proceedings to request a series of documents from the Crown Office, which it is claimed show internal discussions within SNP high command about the allegations facing Mr Salmond.

He then uploaded the list, as well as a response from the Lord Advocate which rejected the request but appeared to acknowledge the documents' existence, online.

According to Mr Murray, the documents cast doubt over the evidence of Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon’s husband and the SNP chief executive, when he testified to the Holyrood committee last month.

If published, they would also fuel claims of a conspiracy against Mr Salmond.

Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon's husband, gave evidence last month - Pool/Getty
Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon's husband, gave evidence last month - Pool/Getty

Mr Murrell told Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP, that there was “nothing else” when she asked whether there were messages to party officials about Mr Salmond, other than those that had already entered the public domain.

Challenged by Ms Baillie about whether there was nothing other than texts in which Mr Murrell spoke about pressure being applied to police over the Salmond case, he replied “there is nothing else - no.”

Mr Murrell has claimed he phrased the text message in which he said it was a “good time to be pressuring the police” poorly because he was upset and that its meaning has been misinterpreted.

He has been invited back to give further evidence to the committee within the next fortnight.

A source familiar with the committee’s discussions said: “MSPs are looking into how they might run down these leads. There is a healthy scepticism about where some of this stuff is coming from, but nevertheless if these claims turn out to be true, they could be relevant to the inquiry.”

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond are now bitter enemies - Andrew Milligan/PA
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond are now bitter enemies - Andrew Milligan/PA

Committees at Holyrood do have the legal power to compel witnesses or the release of documents, although these are rarely used.

There are also some limitations to the power, particularly in relation to criminal proceedings, and it remains to be seen whether the Lord Advocate would attempt to resist any formal request.

Mr Salmond believes it is unfair that he is being asked to give evidence to the committee under oath, but has also been told that he will be at risk of prosecution if he talks about information he obtained while preparing his defence.

He was cleared of all 13 sex assault charges at a trial last March, and his allies believe he was the victim of a plot designed to prevent him from making a return to frontline politics.

Ms Sturgeon has dismissed claims of a conspiracy as “a heap of nonsense” and has said she is looking forward to giving her own version of events to the committee in person.

Mr Salmond is in a wrangle with MSPs over when he will appear. He rejected an invitation to give evidence this week. A second invitation, for February 2, has been issued with Mr Salmond given a deadline of Thursday to respond.

The SNP was approached for comment. The Crown Office declined to comment.

Watch the latest videos from Yahoo News UK