Salmond concerned about criminal prosecution over committee appearance

Alex Salmond fears appearing at committee investigating Holyrood’s botched handling of harassment complaints would leave him ‘in jeopardy of criminal prosecution’, his legal team say

  • Alex Salmond initially rejected invitation to appear citing public health reasons
  • Lawyers have since said it could leave him ‘in jeopardy of criminal prosecution’
  • Mr Salmond offered to appear in February stating original date was unsuitable 

Alex Salmond’s legal team say the former first minister is concerned that his appearance at a Holyrood committee would leave him ‘in jeopardy of criminal prosecution’.

The response comes after the Scottish Government expressed disappointment in his refusal to appear in person before Holyrood’s inquiry into the botched investigation of sexual harassment claims against him.

The former first minister was invited to give evidence next Tuesday, but his lawyer rejected the request, citing public health concerns and the Scottish Government’s refusal to publish its legal advice.

Mr Salmond offered to appear in person on February 16, stating that the original date offered was unsuitable.

Former First Minister Alex Salmond and his legal team (pictured in January 2019) have argued that Mr Salmond’s appearance at the committee investigating the handling of sexual harassment allegations against him could leave him open to a criminal prosecution

David McKie, of Levy & McRae who are representing Mr Salmond, also raised concerns over Mr Salmond’s ability to ‘tell ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’ under threat of a charge of perjury’, with Mr McKie saying: ‘How do you propose he does so when that inevitably involves reference to material in the criminal proceedings and when doing so leaves him open to prosecution?

‘You are aware that there are multiple documents of fundamental importance to your inquiry which were part of disclosure in the criminal trial.

‘We have pointed this out for months now in numerous letters.

‘We wish these to be available to the committee but have now been warned on a number of occasions by the Crown Office that supplying these to you, or even identifying them for you to recover, would constitute an offence.’

Earlier this week, it was reported Mr Salmond’s team has been in a legal wrangle with the Crown Office over the disclosure of documents obtained by him during his trial at the High Court last year where he was cleared of a series of charges of sexual misconduct.

The Crown Office said he would be committing a criminal offence by divulging the information to the committee, and the letter said an extension would allow more time to sort any issues out.

In the letter, Mr McKie also raised concerns over the current Covid-19 restrictions in Holyrood, saying: ‘You publicised your invitation for next week in the full knowledge of the contrary advice from the Presiding Officer to suspend in-person Committee meetings.’

Alex Salmond has also cited public health reasons for rejecting an invitation to appear before the committee

Under advice, all committee meetings will be held virtually for the foreseeable future.

Mr McKie added: ‘He is perfectly willing to travel to your committee meeting as long as it can be completed safely and can be properly regarded as being for work or an essential purpose in conformity with the regulations.

‘This is not a question of personal preference, it is about following the Parliament’s own advice on in-person meetings.’

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: ‘While there is rightly a strong presumption against committees meeting in person, the Presiding Officer understands that there may be a small number of circumstances where essential committee business cannot be effectively undertaken by any means other than meeting in person.

‘As the Convener made clear to Mr Salmond’s solicitor, the Committee would be happy to work with Mr Salmond to find a way to allow him to give evidence in a safe and secure way.

‘The Committee will meet in private next Tuesday to consider its work programme including Mr Salmond’s latest response.

‘However, the Committee is clear that all evidence to it must comply with the relevant legal obligations.’

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon’s appearances in front of a Holyrood inquiry have previously already been delayed by Covid curbs.  

Allegations, discussions, denials and a ‘forgotten’ key meeting 

November 2017: Allegations regarding Alex Salmond’s behaviour are raised with the SNP by Sky News. Nicola Sturgeon said she spoke to him about this – and he ‘denied it’. No further action was taken.

March 29, 2018: Miss Sturgeon meets Geoff Aberdein in her Scottish parliament office where she has admitted they discussed the possibility of a meeting with Mr Salmond. Miss Sturgeon – after initially forgetting about this meeting – says there was ‘the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature’.

April 2, 2018: Miss Sturgeon and Mr Salmond meet at the First Minister’s home. According to Miss Sturgeon, this is the first time she heard of the complaints made against him. Despite this, she has insisted that the matters discussed were party business.

April 23, 2018: Miss Sturgeon and Mr Salmond hold a ‘substantive’ phone discussion. During this call, Miss Sturgeon claims that Mr Salmond asked whether she would speak to Leslie Evans about ‘mediation’ with the complainants. A special adviser was in the room at the time.

June 6, 2018: Miss Sturgeon writes to Mrs Evans to inform her that she has held discussions with Mr Salmond.

June 7, 2018: Miss Sturgeon again meets Mr Salmond, this time in Aberdeen ahead of the SNP party conference.

July 14, 2018: Miss Sturgeon meets Mr Salmond at her home near Glasgow.

July 18, 2018: Miss Sturgeon and Mr Salmond speak again on the phone. Miss Sturgeon said that ‘by this time’ she was ‘anxious – as party leader and from the perspective of preparing my party for any potential public issue – to know whether his handling of the matter meant it was likely to become public in the near future.’

This is the last time Miss Sturgeon and Mr Salmond speak. During this time they also exchange a number of WhatsApp messages in which they discuss the affair – including Mr Salmond’s decision to seek a judicial review over the government’s probe into the two complaints. He goes on to win this and is awarded £500,000 in legal fees.  

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