Scottish parliament's Salmond inquiry postpones Sturgeon appearance


The Holyrood committee investigating the Scottish government’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond has postponed Nicola Sturgeon’s appearance before it in an attempt to break the deadlock over the former first minister’s evidence.

The committee reached crisis point earlier this week after it voted narrowly against publishing evidence that Salmond says is an essential part of his case alleging that Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, resulting in the former first minister refusing to attend in person.

Sturgeon’s planned evidence session on 16 February was delayed for what is believed to be the fourth time after the committee met on Friday to consider a ruling by the senior Scottish judge Lady Dorrian, who agreed to amend a court order she imposed on what could be reported about Salmond’s criminal trial on 14 counts of alleged sexual assault, including an attempted rape, of which he was acquitted last year.

The Spectator magazine and its publisher, Andrew Neil, had challenged Dorrian’s original order, arguing it prevented journalists and Holyrood from reporting allegations made by Salmond about the government and its investigation.

Dorrian amended her order, although in a different form to that originally sought by the Spectator, and will provide her written judgment on Monday.

Salmond’s lawyers, Levy & McRae, who were also instructed by the Spectator, wrote to the committee on Thursday to say they believed the amendment should clear the way for the parliament to publish the relevant evidence, thus enabling an oral evidence session.

The committee’s timeframe for completing evidence sessions and writing its report is becoming increasingly tight, with Holyrood going into recess at the end of next month for May’s election.

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It is understood the committee will use this Tuesday’s session to consider the implications of Dorian’s written ruling, in the expectation that Salmond will make his long-awaited appearance the following week, with Sturgeon attending in the first week of March.

A Scottish parliament spokesperson said: “At its meeting today, the committee was united in its desire to complete this inquiry in an open and transparent way, and to publish its report and recommendations next month.

“Given the impact of the recent court judgment is not yet known, the committee has agreed that it must have the time to reflect on the impact on its work once the full written judgment is published early next week.”



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