Salmond: Motive for ‘malicious’ plot was to avoid ‘cataclysmic’ defeat in court

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The Scottish Government hoped a criminal trial of Alex Salmond would “ride to the rescue” and prevent its unlawful investigation of him suffering a “cataclysmic” civil court defeat, the former first minister has claimed.

Giving evidence at Holyrood, Mr Salmond said Scotland’s “leadership has failed” and called for the Lord Advocate and the head of Scotland’s civil service, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, to resign over the handling of the complaints against him.

Although Mr Salmond admitted he had no proof Nicola Sturgeon was involved in what he believes was a “malicious and concerted attempt” to remove him from public life, he said he had “no doubt” that she had broken the ministerial code.

Mr Salmond, who said his legal fees for the judicial review totalled £591.689.73, was awarded £512,250 in costs.

Speaking under oath, the former SNP leader said he was sure that the government knew its investigation of allegations made against him was unlawful, but prolonged their defence of the case in the hope that a criminal trial would “overtake” the process.

The Scottish Government conceded the judicial review in January 2019, allegedly after government counsel threatened to resign, and in March Mr Salmond was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault following a criminal trial.

He told MSPs the decision not to concede the case sooner could not have been a purely legal decision, but would have been made by the Permanent Secretary “and presumably the First Minister”.

The Scottish Government has refused to release the legal advice on the case, despite two parliamentary votes demanding publication.

Mr Salmond suggested the Scottish Government had gone to “extraordinary lengths” to obstruct the Holyrood inquiry into its “abject failure” to deal with harassment complaints.

“Given the public has paid dearly for the mistakes of the Lord Advocate and others, I think they’re entitled to see that legal opinion,” Mr Salmond said.

Alex Salmond
Mr Salmond, centre, appeared in person before the Holyrood committee (Andy Buchanan/PA)

“What other motivation could there possibly have been than the belief that something might happen and intervene which meant that the judicial review never came to court?”

He added: “If the criminal case had been advanced, then the civil case wouldn’t have gone ahead pending the outcome of the criminal case.

“Many people seemed to invest a great deal of hope that the criminal case would ride to the rescue, like the cavalry over the hill, and the civil case would never be heard.”

Mr Salmond also contradicted evidence from Ms Sturgeon over key meetings on the complaints against him, and added: “I have no doubt that Nicola broke the ministerial code, but it’s not for me to suggest what the consequence should be.”

He said he did not believe she was involved in covering up complaints against him, but criticised her for using a Covid press conference to “effectively question the result of a jury”.

Alex Salmond harassment allegations
Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon (Danny Lawson/PA)

He said the failures of leadership surrounding the investigation into his conduct are “many and obvious”.

He added: “The Government acted illegally but somehow nobody is to blame.

“Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.

“The importance of this inquiry is for each and every one of us to help put this right.

“This inquiry is not about me, I have already established the illegality of the actions of the Scottish Government in the Court of Session, and I have been acquitted of all criminal charges by a jury in the highest court in the land.

“The remit of this inquiry is about the actions of others, whose investigation into the conduct of ministers, the Permanent Secretary, civil servants and special advisers.

“It also requires to shine a light on the activities of the Crown Office.”

He went on to claim the committee has been “systematically deprived of the evidence it has legitimately sought” in its inquiry, later adding there was “deliberate suppression of information inconvenient to the Government”.

He said the previous two years and six months – during his investigation and criminal trial – had been a “nightmare”, but “we can’t turn that page, nor move on, until the decision-making which is undermining the system of government in Scotland is addressed”.

Alex Salmond
Mr Salmond was questioned at length by the committee (Andy Buchanan/PA)

Mr Salmond said it had, adding: “My former chief of staff told me that.”

The former first minister also claimed a leak to the Daily Record newspaper, which broke news of the allegations against him, was “politically inspired”, as he called for police to act.

Ms Sturgeon has previously insisted there is “not a shred of evidence” there was a conspiracy against Mr Salmond and has denied lying to Parliament.

She is scheduled to appear before the committee on Wednesday, and her spokesman said she “looks forward” to addressing issues Mr Salmond raised.

Her spokesman added: “Today was Alex Salmond’s chance to provide proof of the conspiracy which has been alleged – and he did not do so. Instead, under oath, he explicitly conceded there was no such evidence against the First Minister, and also gave testimony which directly undermined some of the central planks of the conspiracy theories.”

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