Inquiry evidence

Salmond: ‘failures of leadership are many’

Mr Salmond addressing the inquiry

Alex Salmond today told an inquiry at the Scottish parliament into the government’s handling of harassment complaints against him that the “failures of leadership are many and obvious”.

In a marathon six-hour session the former First Minister and SNP leader said it it was not possible to move on until the decision-making that is undermining the system of government in Scotland is addressed.

He told the committee of MSPs: “The Scottish civil service hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.

“The Crown Office hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.

“Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.”

Mr Salmond said it has been a “nightmare” and that he has faced accusations which are among the most wounding any person can face.

He said it was important to shine a light on the actions of the Crown Office and examine “the unacceptable conduct of those who appear to have no understanding of the importance of separation of party, government and prosecution authorities, indeed of the rule of law itself”.

The Scottish government had been found to have acted “unlawfully, unfairly and tainted by apparent bias” in its handling of complaints of harassment against him, Mr Salmond asserted.

He said he watched with astonishment on Wednesday when Nicola Sturgeon, his successor as First Minister and SNP leader, used a Covid press briefing to “effectively question the result of a jury”, but he said nothing.

“Today, that changes,” he said.

Mr Salmond has accused his successor Nicola Sturgeon of “repeatedly” misleading parliament about her involvement in the row and of breaching the ministerial code.

Ms Sturgeon refutes the claims, saying he is “creating an alternative reality in which the organs of the state…are all part of some wild conspiracy against him for reasons I can’t explain”.

Murdo Fraser, a member of the committee, said to Mr Salmond at today’s hearing that Nicola Sturgeon dismissed his claims. “In effect she is denouncing you as a liar and a fantasist. Are you? …..Who can corroborate your version of events?”

Mr Salmond said a number of people knew about the meetings.

Mr Fraser asked if the First Minister should resign, to which Mr Salmond said: “I believe the First Minister has broken the ministerial code but it is not the case that every minister who breaks the ministerial code resigns.

“It depends on what it found….it is not for me to decide on the consequences.”

Afterwards, Scottish Labour interim leader and Committee member Jackie Baillie said: “The former First Minister’s testimony to the Committee, including his assertion that the First Minister broke the Ministerial Code, poses serious questions for Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government.

“It is clear that Mr Salmond believes the First Minister has failed to follow the Ministerial Code on multiple occasions and that the Permanent Secretary has failed to follow the Civil Service code. The First Minister and the Lord Advocate have big questions to answer when they come before the Committee next week.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Devastating evidence has revealed SNP cover ups, costly mistakes and terrible errors of judgement.

“The number of accusations of misleading Parliament and breaking the Ministerial Code are extraordinary.

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“The entire leadership of the ruling party of government are on the ropes.”

The scandal has broadened to embrace the integrity of the Crown Office which sought to redact Mr Salmond’s evidence to the committee, forcing him to pull out of an earlier scheduled appearance.

Opposition MSPs have accused the SNP government of “a culture of secrecy and cover-up”.

But Ms Sturgeon has denied the existence of a conspiracy and is itching to give evidence. She is due to appear at the inquiry next Wednesday.

A further twist emerged on Thursday when stand-in Labour leader Jackie Baillie claimed the identity of one of the women making allegations against Mr Salmond was revealed at a meeting with his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein.

Ms Baillie said it was “an extraordinary breach of confidentiality”. She wanted to know on whose authority the name of the complainer was revealed and claimed there was “something rotten at the core of the SNP”.

Ms Sturgeon replied: “to the best of my knowledge I do not think that happened”.

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The scandal appears to be having an impact on voters. An Ipsos Mori opinion poll published on Thursday found that support for the SNP and Sturgeon had fallen.

It suggests that was linked to the Salmond controversy; 21% of SNP voters said it had worsened their opinion of the party, while 73% said it made no difference.

The SNP’s projected vote also fell by six points, as too did support for independence, but the party still enjoys a significant lead with 52% support against 23% for the Tories. Labour trails in third on 15%.

Voter satisfaction in Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership has fallen from a net positive rating of +48 last October to +32 this month.

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