Alex Salmond wins case against @ScotGov over handling of sexual harassment claims

Ben Wray

Former FM says Scottish Government “made an abject surrender” and calls for Permanent Secretary to consider her position

FORMER First Minister Alex Salmond has won his case against the Scottish Government after it admitted it had breached guidelines in investigating allegations of sexual harassment against him.

Judge Lord Pentland told the Court of Session in Edinburgh that the Scottish Government had acted unlawfully “in respect that they were procedurally unfair” and “tainted with apparent bias”.

Two women made complaints of sexual misconduct against Salmond in January 2018 concerning alleged events in 2013. In August 2018 Salmond launched a public crowdfunder for legal action against the Scottish Government over its handling of the allegations.

Speaking outside the court, Salmond said that his action “should not have been necessary” and that Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government Leslie Evans, who headed up the investigation, should consider resignation from her post.

He said: “The government has made an abject surrender in terms of the case before we even got to the first day of hearings.

“Back in August when I made my last comments on these matters, I said that the process that was used against me was unfair, unlawful and tainted by bias.

Read more: Alex Salmond resigns from the SNP to avoid dividing the party

“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.”

Salmond claimed that the court proceedings could cost up to £500,000.

In court, Scottish Government lawyer Roddy Dunlop QC conceded that the investigator had met the accusers prior to her appointment.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon: Sexual misconduct complaints against Alex Salmond “could not be ignored”

In a statement, Evans conceded that “the decision reached after the investigation of two complaints made against Mr Salmond should be set aside” due to “in one respect only…the investigation was procedurally flawed”.

She said: “After reassessing all the materials available, I have concluded that an impression of partiality could have been created based on one specific point – contact between the Investigating Officer and the two complainants around the time of their complaints being made in January 2018.

“The full picture only became evident in December 2018 as a result of the work being undertaken to produce relevant documents in advance of the hearing.

“I want to apologise to all involved for the failure in the proper application of this one particular part of the Procedure. There is nothing to suggest that the Investigating Officer did not conduct their duties in an impartial way. Unfortunately, the interactions with the complainants in advance of the complaints being made meant that the process was flawed, however impartially and fairly the Investigating Officer conducted the investigation.”

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She added that she had “commissioned an internal review of the specific application of this one element of the procedure”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that while she “deeply regrets” the situation the Scottish Government had found itself in, she did not believe Evans should stand down.

Salmond had resigned in the SNP in August, but said he would now seek to renew his membership of the party.

The Court of Session case brought by Salmond related to Scottish Government procedures in investigating the the accusations, rather than their veracity. A Police inquiry into the accusations is ongoing.

Commenting on events on social media website Twitter, Rape Crisis Scotland said: “This ruling has no bearing on the veracity of the complaints of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond. Amongst all the noise around this ruling, let’s not forget the women who have made allegations serious enough to warrant a police investigation.”

Picture courtesy of Scottish Government