News In Focus
Scottish Government concedes error in Salmond investigation
Former First Minister Alex Salmond has won his challenge to a finding that he sexually harassed two women during his time in office.
After the Scottish Government conceded in the Court of Session today that it breached its own guidelines by appointing an investigating officer who had prior involvement with the complainers, the judge, Lord Pentland, approved a settlement in which the Government accepted that its actions had been "unlawful in respect that they were procedurally unfair", and "tainted with apparent bias", and the decision should be set aside.
Roddy Dunlop QC, representing the Government, said the investigating officer was a "dedicated HR professional" but that prior contact they had had with the complainers could have given the impression that they were not acting impartially.
The Government did not accept an allegation that the investigating officer had effectively been "assisting the complainers" and "giving them encouragement".
In a statement, Leslie Evans, the Government's Permanent Secretary, said that while the error was accepted, it related to the way the investigation had been carried out, and that "The Scottish Government considers the procedure itself to be robust and it remains in place." Mr Salmond, who denies all the allegations, had challenged the procedure itself as unfair.
Apologising "to all involved", Ms Evans added: "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. The judicial review 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 – however, this will only be once ongoing police inquiries have concluded."
She concluded: "In particular, I regret the distress [the failure] will cause to the two women who raised the complaints."
Calling for Ms Evans to "consider her position", Mr Salmond commented: "The last time I was in that court 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.
"Therefore while I am glad about the victory which has been achieved today, I am sad that it was necessary to take this action."
With the Government agreeing to pay his legal costs, the money he raised through a crowdfunding appeal would go to good causes in Scotland and elsewhere.