SNP Civil War: Salmond and Sturgeon ordered to stop ‘knocking hell out of each other’

Alex Salmond inquiry: Jackie Baillie slams committee

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The Scottish Government’s investigation of the unproven allegations against Mr Salmond was found to be “tainted by apparent bias” by Scotland’s Court of Session. Mr Salmond was awarded £512,250 for legal costs after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the government investigation.

The former SNP leader was also separately acquitted of all 13 charges of sexual assault against him in a criminal trial.

Now legal advice released by the Scottish Government revealed lawyers acting for the SNP led administration were on the verge of resigning because of high chances of Mr Salmond winning the case.

The advice published last night after pressure from the Scottish Conservatives and two Holyrood votes revealed Roddy Dunlop QC said counsel had grounds to resign in December 2018, weeks before the Scottish Government conceded to Mr Salmond in January 2019.

Lawyers had already warned of problems with the case, with legal papers revealing that on September 26, 2018, senior and junior counsel advised of a “real risk that the Court may be persuaded” by a legal challenge “attacking various aspects of the investigation process”.

On December 17, Mr Dunlop and the Scottish Government’s Solicitor Advocate Christine O’Neill said they were “firmly of the view that at least one of the challenges mounted by the petitioner (Mr Salmond) will be successful”.

Mr Dunlop, who is Dean of Scotland’s Faculty of Advocates, also made clear the risks of proceeding with the case to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

In the advice, he and Ms O’Neill added “we simply wish all concerned – and we include the First Minister in this – to be absolutely certain that they wish us to plough on regardless” with the defence of the case.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the new documents showed “Nicola Sturgeon thought she was a better lawyer than Queen’s Counsel”.

The Scottish Conservatives have also lodged two motions calling on Ms Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney to resign over the Salmond inquiry.

Mr Ross added: “She was emphatically wrong and it cost taxpayers more than £500,000.

“These are some of the devastating documents that the First Minister hoped would never get out.

“The SNP fought two votes in the Scottish Parliament to shut them down and waited until after Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence session to release it.

“After the revelations of these latest documents, the First Minister’s position is more unstable than ever.”

He continued: “These documents are a crushing blow to Nicola Sturgeon’s chances in the Vote of No Confidence.”

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Scottish Labour deputy leader and committee member Jackie Baillie said the newly-released documents showed the Scottish Government “refused conceding the judicial review for as long as feasibly possible and that the astonishing failures of the investigation directly led to the women involved being cruelly let down”.

Ms Baillie added: “The documents tell of ‘entirely avoidable’ errors and mention that officials and lawyers were put in ‘extremely difficult’ professional positions due to the failings of the government.

“The Scottish Government should be ashamed of the catastrophic errors it made in this case; errors that failed the taxpayer and most importantly the women involved.”

It comes after Mr Salmond said there was “no doubt” Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code over meetings she held with his former mentor over the harassment allegations.

Mr Salmond also claimed whilst giving evidence to the inquiry that he was the victim of a “malicious and concerted” attempt by several people see him removed from public life.

Alex Salmond speaks after being acquitted of sexual offences

But he stopped short of saying she should resign as a separate inquiry led by James Hamilton QC is investigating if Ms Sturgeon breached the ministerial code, which she denies.

Appearing before the committee on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon rejected his accusations and said she felt “let down” by his “absurd” claims of a plot of SNP figures against him.

Henry McLeish, Scotland’s second First Minister, said Scots can’t continue to see “two distinguished, prestigious people knocking hell out each other in public.”

The 72-year-old Labour veteran made clear: “That’s got to be left behind.

“What we should be doing now is for both the committee of inquiry at Holyrood and the separate inquiry into the breach of the ministerial code to be completed as soon as possible, get on with the election and get Scotland back to some normality.”

Mr McLeish became first minister in 2000 but had to resign the position just over a year later having become embroiled in an expenses row about a failure to declare subletting a floor in his Glenrothes office – dubbed Officegate.

In response, Mr Swinney said: “I am completely clear that these documents, taken in their entirety, utterly disprove the conspiracy theory that the Scottish Government delayed the concession of the judicial review or ignored advice from counsel, or that there was a plot against Mr Salmond.

“These documents demonstrate that the case became unstateable in late December and the Scottish Government conceded quickly afterwards in early January.”

 

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