Government acted 'unlawfully'
Salmond demands top civil servant quits after court ruling
Alex Salmond outside court: ‘action should not have been necessary’
Former First Minister Alex Salmond called on Scotland’s most senior civil servant to resign after a judge ruled that a Scottish government investigation into complaints of sexual misconduct against him had been “unlawful”.
At a Court of Session hearing in Edinburgh, Judge Lord Pentland said the decisions were “unlawful in respect that they were procedurally unfair and that they were tainted with apparent bias”.
Civil service guidelines state that there should be no contact between the people making complaints and those investigating them. Mr Salmond’s lawyers said this had not been the case and the civil servant who was investigating did indeed have prior contact with the complainants.
As he spoke outside Scotland’s highest civil court, the former SNP leader called for Scotland’s top civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, to quit her post.
He said he was “sad that it was necessary to take this action”. He added: “I also said I was not guilty of any criminality. The first of these has been established. The second is to come.
“But a former first minister of Scotland requiring to take the administration of the Scottish government to court to establish that point should not have been necessary. I think the person responsible should be considering her position.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that being forced to settle was “deeply regrettable”. She told parliament that while there was no suggestion that the “investigating officer did in fact act in a partial way”, she said it was a “well established principle” that such procedures must be seen to be impartial.
She said: “It remains my view that the Government was right to begin an investigation when the complaints were made and not allow them to be swept under the carpet because of the identity of the person complained about.
“And while in this one respect the operational application of the procedure was flawed, the Scottish Government considers the procedure itself to be robust and it remains in place.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “It is deeply regrettable, perhaps that is an understatement, that as a result of a failure in the proper application of the procedure, the Scottish Government has had to settle this matter.”
She said Ms Evans had “apologised to all involved” in the case. She said that the case being settled had “no implications one way or the other for the substance or the credibility to the complainers”.
The First Minister stressed her “regret” at the “difficult position the complainants have been put in”.
She stated: “I know the Permanent Secretary has spoken directly to both women and I can only imagine how difficult the decision to raise concerns, as well as the publicity around this investigation and the Judicial Review must have been for them in recent months.
“They had the right to expect the process to reach a lasting conclusion and I am sorry that on this occasion that has not been the case.”
In a statement, Ms Evans said: “The Scottish Government has acted in good faith at all times and will continue to do so. It was right and proper that these complaints were investigated and I stand by the decision to carry out that investigation.
“It is also important to note that the procedural flaw in the investigation does not have implications, one way or the other, for the substance of the complaints or the credibility of the complainers. The Judicial Review was never about the substance of the complaints, but about the process that took place to investigate those complaints.
“It is accordingly open to the Scottish Government to re-investigate the complaints and, subject to the views of the complainants, it would be our intention to consider this – however, this will only be once ongoing police inquiries have concluded.
“Meantime, I have commissioned an internal review of the specific application of this one element of the procedure. We shall learn and apply the lessons of this case to any future complaint addressed under our internal procedure.
“My priority remains the duty of care to my staff, including anyone in the organisation who brings forward any concerns about inappropriate conduct, regardless of the identity or seniority of the individual complained about.
“Finally I would reiterate that the single procedural flaw which led to this decision is deeply regrettable. In particular, I regret the distress it will cause to the two women who raised the complaints.”