‘Furious’ Salmond likely to sue Scottish government, say allies
Alex Salmond is expected to sue the Scottish government over the alleged role of its senior officials in his prosecution for sexual assaults, his allies have disclosed.
Sources close to the former first minister said he believed senior figures inside the government and Nicola Sturgeon’s office helped orchestrate significant parts of the case against him, and that he intends to sue for extensive damages.
Salmond is said to be particularly furious that details of an internal Scottish government inquiry into sexual assault allegations were leaked to the Daily Record in August 2018, and to believe that a government official is to blame.
Salmond was acquitted on Monday of all 14 assault charges, including one of attempted rape and another of intent to rape, by majority verdicts, following an 11-day trial at the high court in Edinburgh.
He was formally acquitted of one sexual assault charge midway through the trial after it was withdrawn by the prosecution. The jury later found him not guilty of 12 of the charges and said one was not proven, a verdict that also acquits the accused.
“It’s pretty clear he intends to sue the Scottish government for damages,” said one ally. “He believes this came from the top.” His allies also believe prominent officials in Sturgeon’s office and the Scottish National party should be fired after text messages and emails came to light which Salmond argues raises serious questions about their role in the case, and their handling of allegations against him.
One close friend of Salmond said the former SNP leader was also keen to give evidence to a Holyrood investigation into a botched Scottish government internal inquiry into complaints of misconduct brought against him by two civil servants in 2018.
The special committee of inquiry at Holyrood was set up after Leslie Evans, the Scottish government’s permanent secretary, admitted in January 2019 the internal investigation had the appearance of bias because the official in charge of it had prior contact with the complainants.
The alleged assaults against the two civil servants were investigated by Police Scotland detectives and included in the charges levelled against Salmond during his trial. He was acquitted by the jury of both of those sexual assaults.
Salmond won his judicial review in January 2019, and in August 2019 the Scottish government paid out £512,000 to cover the legal fees he had incurred.
The specially convened Holyrood committee, with includes three former SNP ministers, is due to start hearing witnesses after the coronavirus crisis has subsided later this year.
In the interim, the committee has asked to be given copies of nonconfidential evidence used during the trial so MSPs can study the background papers during the lockdown period and spring recess next month.
Before the trial, Salmond’s lawyer, Gordon Jackson QC, presented in closed court details of text messages between senior figures in the Scottish government and SNP, which Salmond argues proves there was orchestration.
Joanna Cherry QC, an SNP MP who is one of Salmond’s closest allies, said on Monday: “Some of the evidence which has come to light raises very serious questions over the process that was employed within the Scottish government to investigate the alleged complaints.”
Sturgeon told reporters on Monday she was ready to give evidence, after the coronavirus crisis was over.
“The court has given a verdict, a decision, and that must be respected,” she said.
“I have no doubt there will be further discussion around this issue in due course, and I will welcome that, but that time is not now. This country faces a crisis right now, bigger than we’ve ever faced before.”
A close ally of Sturgeon dismissed claims by Salmond’s supporters that the first minister would be forced to resign over the controversy. He said there were few MPs or MSPs who would believe that was justified.
‘I have no doubt there will be further discussion around this issue … but that time is not now’
Nicola Sturgeon First minister of Scotland
No 10 is facing criticism after a day of widespread confusion over its coronavirus lockdown advice, with a lack of clarity about who is allowed to travel to work, whether couples who live apart can still see each other and what counts as exercise.
Ministers had to give further guidance on a range of different scenarios after people expressed worries about what they were allowed to do and who they could still see.
The biggest confusion occurred over workers still travelling in packed tube trains to non-essential jobs, such as construction, with employees complaining they were being forced to work despite feeling unsafe.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, and Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, said construction workers should not be attending their workplaces. However, the government overruled them, saying employers could still require staff to attend their jobs in person – even though the overarching guidance is for people to “stay at home where possible”.
Other areas of confusion included:
• Advice over whether children of separated parents could still visit both households. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, initially said they could not, but quickly reversed his position to make clear that they could continue to live across two homes.
• Whether tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians could still enter people’s homes. Gove said it was reasonable for them to attend emergencies.
• What types of exercise were permitted. Gove said people would be allowed to run, walk or go to an allotment, but not to do more social activities, such as playing golf.
Despite Boris Johnson ordering the nation to stay at home on Monday night, images emerged for the second day running of travellers cramming on to London underground services during yesterday morning’s rush hour.
The pictures prompted concern that the reduced train services, because up to 30% of transport staff were off sick, had made it impossible for commuters to maintain social distancing.
In a clash between No 10 and City Hall, Khan accused the government of refusing to take difficult decisions, while Matt Hancock, the health secretary, argued the tube should be running in full to prevent overcrowding.
The health secretary used No 10’s
and Lisa O’Carroll
daily press conference to criticise the London mayor – who is chair of Transport for London (TfL) – by saying more trains should be laid on for passengers.
Hancock said: “When it comes to the tube, the first and the best answer is that Transport for London should have the tube running in full so that people travelling on the tube are spaced out and can be further apart – obeying the two-metre rule wherever possible.”
A spokesman for Khan said: “The mayor has told ministers countless times over recent days that TfL simply cannot safely run a full service because of the levels of staff sickness and selfisolation. Nearly a third of staff are already absent – there aren’t enough drivers and control staff to do it.
“The government must act urgently to get more people staying at home rather than going to work unnecessarily – that means taking the difficult decisions they are refusing to take to ban non-essential construction work and provide proper financial support to freelancers, the self-employed and those on zero-hours contracts to stay at home.”
The British Transport Police said on Monday that its officers would be “on hand to support rail operators if people are clearly disregarding the advice”. New police powers to enforce the lockdown, including the ability to impose on-the-spot fines, are expected to come into force tomorrow. The force said they would provide a “highvisibility presence” and advice.
– of which there are normally nearly 5m a day – were down 85% on Monday and yesterday, according to TfL. Transport for Greater Manchester is also running reduced tram, train and bus services, with figures showing usage down by between 70% and 80% compared with normal levels.
People in other areas of the country appeared to be broadly following the government’s strict instructions that they should leave the house only for reasons such as shopping for essential supplies or once-a-day exercise.
In Bristol, shops were closed and most city centre offices were deserted save for security guards. Buses were empty or carried only a few passengers. Supermarkets, from giants such as Tesco to local Polish and Chinese stores, were allowing only a restricted number of shoppers in at once.
For the most part, people were keeping two metres apart as they waited their turn in queues. People waiting for cashpoints also kept more of a distance than normal.
There were exceptions. Builders working on sites in the Temple Quarter and around Castle Park laboured side by side. A hand carwash in St Paul’s remained open. Thatchers working on a cottage on the outskirts of Bristol continued to work. A few people could not resist gathering in small groups in some parks.
In Marple, a small town on the edge of Stockport, streets were largely empty aside from a small number of people queuing outside Boots, fully observing the two-metre guidance.
Dog Grooming Spa said they would be posting tutorial videos on social media to help customers keep their dogs in “tip-top condition”.
▼ Alex Salmond is said to believe that government figures helped to orchestrate the case against him