MSPs will be able to see legal advice given to Sturgeon's government

Members of Scottish Parliament will be able to see secret legal advice given to Nicola Sturgeon’s government over Alex Salmond harassment case behind closed doors

  • Members of group will be able to read unredacted report at Holyrood next week 
  • MSPs will be able to see legal advice on confidential basis after deal was reached
  • A redacted version along with an explanatory note will be published afterwards
  • Alex Salmond acquitted of attempted rape and series of sexual assaults in March

A committee of MSPs will be able to see secret legal advice given to Nicola Sturgeon’s government over the Alex Salmond harassment case. 

Members of the group examining the handling of harassment complaints against the former first minister will be able to see the previously undisclosed document in a special ‘reading room’ set up at Holyrood next Tuesday.

The MSPs will be able to read the unredacted report, dated December 29, 2018, on a confidential basis after a deal was reached to view it.

A redacted version of the legal advice along with an explanatory note will be published afterwards.

A committee of MSPs will be able to see secret legal advice given to Nicola Sturgeon’s (pictured left during First Minister’s questions yesterday) government over the Alex Salmond (right, outside court in March this year) harassment case

The agreement between the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints and ministers comes after repeated demands from convener Linda Fabiani for the release of more evidence.

The Scottish Government has previously said legal privilege prevents it from disclosing the legal advice it received in the case.

Mr Salmond successfully challenged the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints made against him in the courts, which led to him receiving a payout of more than £500,000.

Ms Fabiani said on Friday that she has accepted the offer to view the document in the reading room, but she added the report in question only covers some of the legal advice the committee is looking for.

Linda Fabiani (pictured above), chair of the Holyrood inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints. The MSPs will be able to read the unredacted report on a confidential basis

Those permitted to enter the room will not be allowed to remove or copy the document, though the convener has requested that they are allowed to take notes.

Ms Fabiani said: ‘The committee has been consistently clear on its position on legal advice. The committee believes that to fulfil the vital task that Parliament has set it, it needs to see legal advice including from counsel.

‘It continues to push to see this advice in full and believes that it has to be published.

‘In the meantime, the committee has agreed to accept the terms of an offer negotiated with the Scottish Government to read a report which includes some of the legal advice.

‘A redacted copy of this report will be published after the committee sees the full report on December 22.’

Sturgeon and Salmond won’t appear at inquiry until next year

Sturgeon and Alex Salmond will not appear at a Holyrood inquiry until next year following delays sparked by the Scottish Government’s refusal to hand over key evidence.

The committee examining the Government’s botched probe into complaints against Mr Salmond has been forced to suspend public meetings until after Christmas. MSPs had planned to complete inquiries this month but have repeatedly been thwarted due to a secrecy row with SNP ministers.

It is understood the committee will recommence public evidence-gathering in January.

According to sources, Mr Salmond is now set to appear on January 19, and Miss Sturgeon the following week. MSPs also hope SNP chief executive Peter Murrell will be called back, possibly before Christmas.

Other witnesses including the Lord Advocate James Wolffe and Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans will be called in 2021.

This follows a row between the committee and the Government over the publication of legal advice obtained by ministers ahead of a courtroom battle with Mr Salmond.

The committee is investigating the Government’s bungled probe into two harassment complaints made against Mr Salmond in early 2018.

Mr Salmond took the Scottish Government to court over the way it dealt with allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

In January 2019, the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled the Scottish Government acted unlawfully in its investigation.

Later that year, the Scottish Government paid out £500,000 to Mr Salmond to cover his legal expenses.

This legal fight was purely over the process of investigating the complaints – not the complaints themselves – which were subject of a police investigation.

In March this year, Mr Salmond was acquitted of attempted rape and a series of sexual assaults – including one with intent to rape – by a jury following an 11-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.  

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