Calls for Nicola Sturgeon to resign as Alex Salmond probe legal advice published

Nicola Sturgeon faces calls for her resignation after the publication of legal advice related to the botched investigation into allegations of sexual harassment made against Alex Salmond.

The papers reveal a QC warned about a huge flaw in the Government’s investigation into complaints against Mr Salmond two months before the case was conceded, the Daily Record report.

Roddy Dunlop said the prior contact between the Government’s Investigating Officer and female complainants was “extremely concerning”.

The revelation was contained in legal advice the Government was forced to hand over to the Salmond Inquiry.

A Holyrood committee is investigating the SNP Government’s botched handling of sexual misconduct complaints against Salmond when he was First Minister.

Salmond pursued a judicial review and it was agreed the internal probe, which destroyed his friendship with Nicola Sturgeon, had been unlawful and tainted by apparent bias.

The flaw in the botched investigation, which cost the taxpayer over £600,000, was that the Investigating Officer had prior contact with the female complainers.

MSPs suspected the Government was advised at an early stage that its legal defence to the judicial review was doomed and they believed the delay cost the taxpayer dearly.

Ministers initially refused to hand over the material.

However, after a threat of a no confidence motion, Deputy First Minister John Swinney agreed this week to hand over the advice.

The published material contained an “urgent” note from Dunlop, who was the Government’s senior counsel.

The legal advice related to the probe into claims of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond

He noted that the IO, Judith Mackinnon, should have had no prior involvement in “any aspect” of the matter being raised.

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He wrote: “It would be wrong for me to suggest that this revelation is anything other than an extremely concerning one.”

He also wrote that he was sufficiently concerned to contact Lord Advocate James Wolffe.

On December 6th, 2018, counsel argued that the “least worst” option would be to concede”.

However, days later an email was sent which appeared to offer the Lord Advocate’s view:

“The LA was indeed clear about no question of conceding, with a stress on the benefit that would accrue from a judicial finding (a) that it was right to have a procedure in such circumstances and (b) it was right to have this procedure, even if there is a risk – which we all know and understand – that he may be forced to hold that there were faults in the way it was applied in the particular case.”

On December 19th, counsel expressed alarm at the full extent of the prior involvement: “With regret, our dismay at this case deepens yet further.”

The Tories say they plan a vote of no confidence

The note added: “First, we are now in a position where we think that maintaining a defence of the appointment of the IO may be unstatable. Given the timescales we are reluctant to take a final view on this, but there is a real risk that we so conclude.

“Second, we are each in a position which is, so far as dealings with the other side and the court are concerned, close to untenable.”

The Government then conceded the case.

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Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: “The legal advice plainly states that while the Scottish Government had grounds to view aspects of its case as ‘defensible’, serious questions remained around procedural unfairness from the very beginning.

“Despite this warning, the Scottish Government persisted at the cost of over half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money and to the detriment of the women involved.

“The comments from counsel make it explicitly clear that the conduct of the investigation and the actions of those involved greatly jeopardised the proceedings. That Counsel were expressing grave concerns in October and that the Lord Advocate wished to continue with proceedings as late as December 2018 simply beggars belief.

“The Scottish Government’s unlawful handling of harassment complaints appears to be indefensible, and I look forward to having the opportunity to question the First Minister on the failings of her government.”

The Tories said they will submit a vote of no confidence in Ms Sturgeon.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Credible witnesses have now backed up Alex Salmond’s claims and the legal advice shows the Government knew months in advance that the judicial review was doomed, but they still went on to waste more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money.

“There is no longer any doubt that Nicola Sturgeon lied to the Scottish Parliament and broke the ministerial code on numerous counts.”

He added: “The weight of the evidence is overwhelming. Nicola Sturgeon must resign.

“We will be submitting a vote of no confidence in the First Minister.”



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