Police escalate inquiry on Salmond allegations
●Full-blown investigation begins after assessment of evidence
Police Scotland has escalated its investigation into two complaints of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond into a full-blown inquiry.
The move came as Nicola Sturgeon was urged to disclose what she knew of trade union concerns over the former First Minister’s treatment of staff after fresh “bullying” claims emerged about his behaviour.
Ms Sturgeon and her fellow ministers were urged to be “as open as possible” about claims there was an issue with Mr Salmond and bullying when he was First Minister.
Mr Salmond’s conduct came under renewed scrutiny after it was reported that civil service trade unions raised concerns almost ten years ago about the way he treated staff.
He hit back yesterday, with Mr Salmond describing the allegations as “nothing more than anonymous malicious briefing” as he threatened legal action against those who published “defamatory material”.
Mr Salmond released his bullish statement after it was reported in the Daily Record that his temper had reduced staff to tears and ministerial behaviour led to unions
insisting the Scottish Government introduce a formal system for dealing with complaints.
According to the newspaper, no formal complaints against Mr Salmond were made before he left office in November 2014, but concerns had been raised about his behaviour.
Documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation have revealed a new Scottish Government process for dealing with complaints against ministers was introduced in 2010. The documents showed trade unions raised concerns about the behaviour of ministers a decade ago.
One of the documents referred to a “history of bad behaviour” by ministers in the former Scottish Office/ Scottish Executive “and now the Scottish Government”.
There had been no formal guidance for handling complaints before the introduction of the Fairness at Work policy. The newspaper quoted a senior trade union source, who was involved in policy draft discussions.
The source said: “By 2009-10, there were people approaching the union saying there was an issue with Mr Salmond and bullying. A number of union reps had all heard the same thing from different sources, so we were taking it very seriously because it was clearly a problem.”
Last night a Scottish Conservative spokesman suggested Ms Sturgeon, who was Deputy First Minister at the time, should disclose what she knew about the concerns.
The Tory spokesman said: “There are legitimate questions to be asked about what Scottish Government ministers knew of the trade union concerns at the time.”
A few hours after the latest allegations about Mr Salmond’s behaviour were reported, it emerged Police Scotland had upgraded their inquiries into complaints of sexual harassment made by two women.
Police Scotland had previously said it was “carrying out an assessment of information, which we have received and enquiries are at an early stage”.
Yesterday the police updated the statement to read: “Our inquiries continue. We will not be commenting further.”
The new form of words is understood to indicate Police Scotland has moved beyond the “assessment” stage where Scottish Government information was examined to a full-blown inquiry where witnesses are expected to be contacted. Mr Salmond, who has resigned from the SNP, is seeking a judicial review against the Scottish Government over its handling of sexual misconductclaims made against him.
Reacting to claims of bullying, a spokesperson for Mr Salmond said: “We will do our talking in court. The Daily Record have been placed on specific notice on recent stories they have run against Mr Salmond. This latest material is based on nothing more than anonymous malicious briefing from unnamed sources and a complete misinterpretation of documents released under FOI last January.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “No complaints about Alex Salmond were raised with the First Minister under this process when she was Deputy First Minister. As the First Minister has said, the first she became aware of the fact of any complaint against Alex Salmond is when he told her in April that he was under investigation.”
Alex Salmond is seeking a a judicial review against the Scottish Government