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Salmond set to appear before inquiry as Holyrood agrees to publish submission

The Holyrood committee of MSPs investigating how the Scottish Government handled sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond has re-issued its invitation to the former First Minister to give evidence to the inquiry.

The committee re-issued the invitation on Wednesday, while also stating that Lady Dorrian’s High Court ruling last week had “no impact” on whether it would publish Mr Salmond’s submission as evidence.

In her formal reasoning, Lady Dorrian wrote that it was not for the courts “to interfere with…or seek to direct the committee in any way.”

Her ruling revised an earlier court order which imposed restrictions on what could be reported about Mr Salmond’s criminal trial in 2020, in which he was acquitted of all charges.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday the committee again voted against publishing the submission as evidence, reasoning that “the scope of the order has not changed.”

When such a vote took place earlier this month, Mr Salmond cancelled his appearance. 

The submission, which was leaked to The Spectator in January, asserts that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon misled the parliament about what she knew about the Scottish Government’s investigations into Mr Salmond and when she knew it.

Among other things, it accuses Ms Sturgeon of holding positions that are “manifestly untrue.”

Despite voting against publishing the submission, the committee referred the decision to Holyrood’s governing body, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB).

On Thursday, the presiding officer of the Parliament, Ken Macintosh, wrote to the committee: “Following two meetings of the SPCB today, at which a range of opinions were aired, the SPCB collectively agreed that on balance it is possible to publish the submission by Alex Salmond on the ministerial code”. 

The SPCB decision has cleared the way for Mr Salmond to appear before the committee as a star witness. 

Jackie Baillie, the Scottish Labour MSP on the committee, stated: “From the very outset of this process I have been clear that I believe the committee has the right to consider any evidence that may be relevant to its work, and I am glad that the Scottish parliament’s corporate body has agreed.”

Meanwhile, Ruth Davidson, the acting Scottish Conservative leader, said in a statement that the SNP are “clearly rattled” at the prospect of Mr Salmond appearing before the inquiry with his submission. 

Nonetheless, there is concern that the publication of the submission may compromise the anonymity of the accuser in the original criminal trial of Mr Salmond.

Rape Crisis Scotland said in an official statement that they are “extremely concerned” that their identities could be revealed either directly or indirectly through Mr Salmond’s submission. 

This comes as one of the complainants described the Holyrood inquiry into the handling of sexual harassment allegations as “…in many ways, more traumatic” than the actual criminal trial.

In an interview with BBC Scotland, the woman, one of nine who gave evidence against Mr Salmond in his criminal trial, said that the committee’s conduct has made it “significantly harder” for others to bring forth similar charges. 

There is also concern that some of the women who testified against Mr Salmond have been subject to online harassment. 

Writing to key Holyrood figures, Rape Crisis Scotland CEO Sandy Brindley said: “The treatment…has been intolerable, particularly online. They have been hounded, identified online and had threats made against them. 

“I am clear that if the Parliament publishes anything which could lead to identification…you will be directly responsible for putting their safety at risk.”

Image: Mary and Angus Hogg via Wikimedia Commons