Sal­mond had blasted Les­lie Evans’ pro­ce­dure as ‘un­fair’

The Herald on Sunday - - NEWS FOCUS -

THE row be­tween Alex Sal­mond and the Gov­ern­ment he used to lead has its roots in the han­dling of com­plaints that were made about him in Jan­uary last year.

Two women had come for­ward to make al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct against Sal­mond when he was First Min­is­ter.

They did so af­ter a new com­plaints process, signed off by Ni­cola Stur­geon, came into force the pre­vi­ous month. The al­le­ga­tions, which Sal­mond de­nies, trig­gered an eight-month in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pro­duced a flurry of con­tacts be­tween his team and the Gov­ern­ment.

In Au­gust, the Gov­ern­ment in­tended to make an an­nounce­ment about the probe, a course of ac­tion that did not meet with the ap­proval of Sal­mond.

De­tails of the case were then leaked to the Daily Record news­pa­per.

An en­raged Sal­mond, who had sug­gested me­di­a­tion as an al­ter­na­tive, blasted the con­duct of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and promised to chal­lenge it in court.

At the time, the for­mer SNP leader took aim at Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment per­ma­nent sec­re­tary Les­lie Evans: “The pro­ce­dure as put into op­er­a­tion by the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary is grossly un­fair and there­fore in­evitably will lead to prej­u­di­cial out­comes.”

He added: “[If] the court of ses­sion finds in my favour then the ad­min­is­tra­tion at the se­nior lev­els of the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment will have the most se­ri­ous ques­tions to an­swer.”

Evans de­fended her­self: “His [Sal­mond] state­ment con­tains sig­nif­i­cant in­ac­cu­ra­cies which will be ad­dressed in those court pro­ceed­ings. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment will de­fend its po­si­tion vig­or­ously.”

In t he end, t he Gov­ern­ment per­formed a U-turn by ad­mit­ting a ma­jor flaw in its han­dling of the com­plaints.

A civil ser­vant who acted as in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer had been in con­tact with the women ahead of the probe start­ing. Its in­de­pen­dence was fa­tally dam­aged.

Sal­mond’s court vic­tory last week, which he de­scribed as an “ab­ject sur­ren­der” by the Gov­ern­ment, have fu­elled calls for Evans to quit.

The botched in­ves­ti­ga­tion could cost the tax­payer around £500,000.

Stur­geon is also fac­ing the po­lit­i­cal heat over the con­tro­versy.

In Par­lia­ment last week, she con­firmed speak­ing to Sal­mond on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion when it was live, in­clud­ing meet­ings at her home.

An in­quiry over her deal­ings with her pre­de­ces­sor is likely.

How­ever, events last week in the Court of Ses­sion were about process, not the sub­stance of the al­le­ga­tions, and the Po­lice Scot­land probe into the sex­ual ha­rass­ment claims con­tin­ues.

As re­vealed by this news­pa­per, over a dozen Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment staff, past and present, have been quizzed by of­fi­cers.

It has also been re­ported that staff work­ing in Bute House, the of­fi­cial Gov­ern­ment res­i­dence, have been con­tacted.

Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment per­ma­nent sec­re­tary Les­lie Evans

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