The Holyrood inquiry into how the Scottish government handled sexual harassment allegations against former First Minister Alex Salmond has cleared the way for his appearance later this month after a high court ruling on Thursday 11th February.
The ruling, made by the senior Judge Lady Dorrian, revised an earlier decision which enforced limits on what could be reported about Mr Salmond’s criminal trial last year, in which he was acquitted of all charges.
The earlier decision meant that Mr Salmond’s submission to the inquiry, leaked in January by The Spectator, could not be published as evidence without significant redactions and resulted in the inquiry committee voting by five votes to four on 9th February against publishing the submission.
Mr Salmond then declined to give evidence to the committee on the grounds that he would not be able to refer to his submission, which he asserts is critical to his claims that the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code.
Mr Salmond’s submission to the Holyrood inquiry is the same as his submission to the James Hamilton QC inquiry, which is investigating whether or not Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code.
It holds that Ms Sturgeon’s claims over what she knew about the investigation into allegations against Mr Salmond and when she knew it are “untenable” and “manifestly untrue”.
With Mr Salmond cancelling what was supposed to be his final appearance date, the inquiry looked to be in jeopardy.
It was unclear how the inquiry could proceed without his appearance.
However following Lady Dorrian’s decision, Mr Salmond’s lawyers contacted the committee and notified them of his renewed interest in appearing under oath later this month and his desire to re-submit his original statement.
The understanding is that the court ruling has cleared the way for the committee to publish Mr Salmond’s submission, albeit in redacted form.
Yet, this is not guaranteed, and the precise implications of Lady Dorrian’s decision will only become clear when she publishes her formal judgement early next week.
Following an emergency meeting on 12th February, the committee decided to delay Ms Sturgeon’s appearance on 16th February.
Ms Sturgeon will now appear in early March, with Mr Salmond appearing in late February if his statement is published as evidence.
Jackie Baillie, Acting Leader of the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Labour MSP on the committee, said:
“I am very glad that the committee has today re-affirmed its wish to speak to Alex Salmond, and given his stated intention to come before the committee I look forward to the date of his appearance.
“On Tuesday the committee will meet to discuss Lady Dorrian’s judgement due on Monday and I hope that we will then be in a position to publish the evidence provided by Mr Salmond.
“I also look forward to the First Minister appearing before the committee in due course, and I am sure she will engage with the committee in the spirit of cooperation and transparency that she has promised on repeated occasions.”
Image: Scottish Courts