Salmond had blasted Leslie Evans’ procedure as ‘unfair’
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