Salmond wins court bat­tle but po­lice in­quiry con­tin­ues

●Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment ad­mits er­ror while in­ves­ti­gat­ing ha­rass­ment claims

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By SCOTT MACNAB

Nicola Stur­geon has is­sued an apol­ogy to the women at the cen­tre of sex­ual ha­rass­ment claims against her pre­de­ces­sor Alex Salmond af­ter he won a dra­matic court vic­tory against the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

Salmond called on Scot­land’s top civil ser­vant, Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary Les­lie Evans, to quit fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s case at the Court of Ses­sion in Ed­in­burgh yes­ter­day amid flaws over the way al­le­ga­tions con­cern­ing the for­mer SNP leader were in­ves­ti­gated.

There are now con­cerns that women may be dis­cour­aged from com­ing for­ward to re­port fu­ture ha­rass­ment as a re­sult of the “pro­ce­dural flaws” that brought down the gov­ern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion yes­ter­day.

The case is likely to cost tax­pay­ers some­where in the re­gion of £500,000 in le­gal bills af­ter Salmond was awarded full costs. He has also de­clared he is con­sid­er­ing su­ing the gov­ern­ment he once led.

But the al­le­ga­tions them­selves, dat­ing from Salmond’s time as First Min­is­ter, have not gone away.

Salmond’s case fo­cused en­tirely on the fair­ness of the gov­ern­ment’s pro­ce­dures and will have no bear­ing on a sep­a­rate po­lice in­quiry into

the al­le­ga­tions, which is still on­go­ing.

The po­lice in­quiry has al­ready seen a num­ber of Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and SNP staff in­ter­viewed.

Ms Stur­geon is fac­ing awk­ward ques­tions af­ter it emerged she had a se­ries of meet­ings and phone calls with Salmond dur­ing the in­quiry where he set out his “con­cerns”.

The SNP leader said she did not feel “un­der pres­sure” to in­ter­vene de­spite con­firm­ing she had met Salmond three times af­ter com­plaints were made against him.

Two of those meet­ings – one on 2 April and the other on 7 July – were at her home in Glas­gow. The other took place on 7 June ahead of the SNP con­fer­ence in Aberdeen.

Ms Stur­geon told MSPS yes­ter­day: “I want to express my re­gret in par­tic­u­lar for the dif­fi­cult po­si­tion that the com­plainants have been placed in.

“I can only imag­ine how dif­fi­cult the de­ci­sion to raise con­cerns, as well as the pub­lic­ity around this in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the ju­di­cial re­view, must have been for them in re­cent months.

“They had ev­ery right to ex­pect the process to be ro­bust and be­yond re­proach in ev­ery as­pect of it, to reach a last­ing con­clu­sion.

“I am sorry that on this oc­ca­sion, this has not been the case.”

Ms Stur­geon re­vealed she had not spo­ken with Salmond in al­most six months. She spoke to him by phone on both 23 April and 18 July.

The case against Salmond came to light in Au­gust af­ter two com­plaints were made in Jan­uary of last year.

This fol­lowed a new pro­ce­dure in­tro­duced by the gov­ern­ment to in­ves­ti­gate ha­rass­ment claims fol­low­ing the fall­out of the global #Metoo move­ment.

Salmond im­me­di­ately chal­lenged the process used and won his case yes­ter­day af­ter it emerged the gov­ern­ment’s in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer, Ju­dith Mack­in­non, had pre­vi­ous con­tact with the women in­volved about their com­plaints.

Lord Pent­land found yes­ter­day this was “un­law­ful” and may have the ap­pear­ance of bias.

Salmond was ac­com­pa­nied in court yes­ter­day by for­mer SNP jus­tice sec­re­tary Kenny Macaskill and for­mer Holy­rood pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer Tri­cia Mar­wick.

He said after­wards: “The last time I was in that court it was to be sworn in as First Min­is­ter of Scot­land.

“I never thought it pos­si­ble that at any point I would be tak­ing the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to court – and there­fore while I’m glad about the vic­tory which has been achieved to­day, I’m sad that it was nec­es­sary to take this ac­tion.

“The con­se­quences are very clear. Be­cause the process has been agreed as un­law­ful, as un­fair and tainted by ap­par­ent bias, then the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment have had to con­cede on the case and the ex­penses to the max­i­mum ex­tent.

“That is go­ing to raise a cost to the pub­lic purse of many, many hun­dreds of thou­sands of pounds.

“And all of this was un­nec­es­sary be­cause through­out the process we of­fered me­di­a­tion, le­gal ar­bi­tra­tion, so that this mat­ter could be prop­erly set­tled with­out hav­ing to come to the high­est court in the land.

“At ev­ery stage that was re­buffed by the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary.”

Salmond added: “I sug­gest the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary now ac­cepts that re­spon­si­bil­ity and con­sid­ers her po­si­tion.”

He de­scribed the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s climb­down as an “ab­ject sur­ren­der”.

Ms Evans, who es­tab­lished the pro­ce­dures which were used to in­ves­ti­gate Salmond, re­fused to quit.

But she apol­o­gised and or­dered a re­view into what went wrong.

The climb­down came af­ter the gov­ern­ment had is­sued a se­ries of ro­bust state­ments in­sist­ing it was ready to de­fend its po­si­tion in court.

“The full pic­ture only be­came ev­i­dent in De­cem­ber 2018 as a re­sult of the work be­ing un­der­taken to pro­duce rel­e­vant doc­u­ments in ad­vance of the hear­ing,” Ms Evans said yes­ter­day. “I want to apol­o­gise to all in­volved for the fail­ure in the proper ap­pli­ca­tion of this one par­tic­u­lar part of the pro­ce­dure.

“There is noth­ing to sug­gest that the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer did not con­duct their du­ties in an im­par­tial way.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the in­ter­ac­tions with the com­plainants in ad­vance of the com­plaints be­ing made meant that the process was flawed, how­ever im­par­tially and fairly the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer con­ducted the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Ms Evans said the court case was “never about the sub­stance of the com­plaints”, but about the process that took place to in­ves­ti­gate those com­plaints.

“It is ac­cord­ingly open to the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to re-in­ves­ti­gate the com­plaints and, sub­ject to the views of the com­plainants, it would be our in­ten­tion to con­sider this,” she said. “How­ever, this will only be once on­go­ing po­lice in­quiries have con­cluded.”

Civil ser­vice union the FDA called for the case to be re­opened. Gen­eral sec­re­tary Dave Pen­man in­sisted the fall of the case was down to a “flaw” in the way it was con­ducted.

“It does not chal­lenge the process it­self or make judg­ment on the sub­stance of the case,” he said.

“In these cir­cum­stances, sub­ject to the wishes of the com­plainants, we would call on the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to re-in­ves­ti­gate the com­plaints at the most ap­pro­pri­ate time.”

But there are grow­ing con­cerns the col­lapse of the case could stop fu­ture vic­tims com­ing for­ward.

Tory MSP Annie Wells said: “At the cen­tre of this en­tire af­fair are two women whose com­plaints against the for­mer First Min­is­ter have now fallen apart thanks to the in­com­pe­tence of the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment. It’s a com­plete sham­bles. The Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary has apol­o­gised for her role in this fi­asco, but it is Nicola Stur­geon who must take re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

She added: “Her gov­ern­ment has presided over a mess which only risks dis­cour­ag­ing women from com­ing for­ward in fu­ture. It is a dis­grace.”

Labour’s Pauline Mcneill said: “We must not for­get that this case is fun­da­men­tally about women and the brav­ery it takes to come for­ward to chal­lenge pow­er­ful men and pow­er­ful in­sti­tu­tions. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment must take steps to en­sure this could never hap­pen again.”

“I never thought it pos­si­ble that at any point I would be tak­ing the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to court ... I’m sad that it was nec­es­sary”

ALEX SALMOND

For­mer First Min­is­ter

For­mer First Min­is­ter Alex Salmond called for the res­ig­na­tion of the coun­try’s most se­nior civil ser­vant as he crit­i­cised the “botched mess” of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

Mr Salmond said the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment had suf­fered an “ab­ject hu­mil­i­a­tion” af­ter the Court of Ses­sion heard an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions made against the for­mer SNP leader had been “un­law­ful”.

Judge Lord Pent­land ruled the gov­ern­ment’s ac­tions were “un­law­ful in re­spect that they were pro­ce­du­rally un­fair and that they were tainted with ap­par­ent bias”.

The case had been ex­pected to call next week, but was brought for­ward for a spe­cial hear­ing in Ed­in­burgh yes­ter­day.

Mr Salmond ap­peared re­laxed as he ar­rived at the

Call for res­ig­na­tion of top man­darin as vic­tor hits out at ‘botched mess’ of in­quiry

court where he was joined by sup­port­ers in­clud­ing for­mer SNP MSPS Tri­cia Mar­wick and Kenny Macaskill.

The court heard that HR pro­fes­sional Ju­dith Mack­in­non, who was charged with ex­am­in­ing the com­plaints, had in­volve­ment with the two women prior to be­ing ap­pointed in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer.

Ron­nie Clancy QC, rep­re­sent­ing Mr Salmond, said Ms Mack­in­non had been in con­tact with the two com­plain­ers be­fore the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan, de­spite the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s own guide­lines say­ing the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer should have had no prior in­volve­ment in the case.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s lawyer Roddy Dun­lop QC told the court that the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer was a “ded­i­cated HR pro­fes­sional” who acted in “good faith” through­out the process.

He added: “There is in­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity for the fail­ure. No in­di­vid­ual is be­ing of­fered for sac­ri­fice.”

How­ever, Mr Dun­lop said his clients ac­cepted that Ms Mack­in­non had some con­tact with the two women be­fore be­ing ap­pointed as an in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer.

He said this had caused the gov­ern­ment to ac­cept there had been a “fail­ure” in one as­pect of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and that peo­ple could form the im­pres­sion that it hadn’t been act­ing im­par­tially.

But Mr Dun­lop said the fail­ure was noth­ing to do with the mer­its of the com­plaints against Mr Salmond.

Fol­low­ing the court’s de­ci­sion, Mr Salmond called for the res­ig­na­tion of Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary Les­lie Evans, the coun­try’s most se­nior civil ser­vant.

Ad­dress­ing a huge me­dia pack in a chilly Par­lia­ment

Square, Mr Salmond said: “I’m ob­vi­ously glad, de­lighted, by the re­sult to­day. The gov­ern­ment has made an ab­ject sur­ren­der in terms of the case.”

He re­peat­edly at­tacked Ms Evans, claim­ing the civil ser­vant was re­spon­si­ble for the “in­sti­tu­tional fail­ure” in the han­dling of the com­plaints, which were for­mally lodged in Jan­uary..

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has said it could yet re-in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tions but only af­ter a sep­a­rate po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion has con­cluded.

Asked about the prospect of a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Mr Salmond said: “I saw that re­mark from the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary. It sounded like some­one who is in­cred­i­bly anx­ious to save her job.

“The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment fell at the first fence. I think they would have fallen at all the other fences as well.

“I’m not putting out the bunt­ing to­day. Yes, I’m glad to have won, but I’m re­ally, re­ally sad to be forced to take this ac­tion against I gov­ern­ment I led for al­most eight years.”

Ms Evans said an in­ter­nal re­view would be car­ried out into the way the com­plaints process had been han­dled.

And she said she re­gret­ted the “dis­tress” caused to the two women who had brought the com­plaints.

She stated: “The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has acted in good faith at all times and will con­tinue to do so. It was right and proper that these com­plaints were in­ves­ti­gated and I stand by the de­ci­sion to carry out that in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“It is also im­por­tant to note that the pro­ce­dural flaw in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion does not have im­pli­ca­tions, one way or the other, for the sub­stance of the com­plaints or the cred­i­bil­ity of the com­plain­ers.”

0 Alex Salmond speaks to the me­dia out­side the Court of Ses­sion in Ed­in­burgh yes­ter­day fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s case

Alex Salmond ad­dresses the me­dia out­side the Court of Ses­sion in Ed­in­burgh yes­ter­day. The for­mer first min­is­ter de­scribed the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s climb­down as an ‘ab­ject sur­ren­der’

0 Nicola Stur­geon makes a state­ment at the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day

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