Alex Salmond is set to appear before the inquiry looking into the botched handling of harassment complaints against him. Following weeks of legal wrangling over what evidence can and cannot be published, the former first minister will give evidence to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints at 12.30pm on Friday.
It is expected First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will appear next week.
– Why was the committee established?
The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up to look into the Scottish Government investigation of the allegations against the former first minister.
MSPs have so far taken evidence from civil servants, including repeated sessions from Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, trade unions and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell – who is First Minister Ms Sturgeon’s husband.
– Why did Mr Salmond take legal action?
The former first minister did not feel his treatment by the Scottish Government was fair.
It was later found that the lead investigator of the complaints had prior contact with some of the female complainers, with Judge Lord Pentland saying the investigation was “tainted with apparent bias”.
– How has the inquiry gone so far?
The committee has repeatedly voiced frustration with how slow the handing of evidence has been from a number of parties.
The Scottish Government was accused of obstruction last year, with the committee saying it was “completely frustrated” with the lack of evidence.
Both the committee and the Scottish Government were at loggerheads over legal advice provided as part of the judicial review process. MSPs wanted to know when the Scottish Government was advised it would likely lose the challenge raised by Mr Salmond, but ministers said handing over the advice would breach the ministerial code.
On two occasions, MSPs voted for the evidence to be released, with a deal eventually being struck in December to reveal the advice only to MSPs on the committee.
– Didn’t Mr Salmond face trial on sexual misconduct charges?
Yes. The former first minister was cleared of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh in March last year after being arrested in January 2019.
– What is Mr Salmond expected to say?
It is not clear what the former first minister will say when he appears before the committee, but indirect sparring between himself and his former deputy in recent weeks has shown how contentious the issue has become.
A submission to the committee published this week from Mr Salmond said there had been a “malicious and concerted” effort to remove him from public life.
– What were the issues with Mr Salmond’s evidence?
Mr Salmond and the committee have been wrangling in recent weeks over evidence published by the inquiry.
Earlier this month, the former first minister said he would not appear after the committee decided not to publish his submission to a separate investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code over fears it may identify some of the complainers in Mr Salmond’s criminal trial last year.
However, an alteration made to a court order by Judge Lady Dorrian meant the evidence could potentially be made public.
While the committee voted against publication, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) made the decision to publish anyway.
The evidence, which was released on Monday evening, was online for less than 24 hours before the Crown Office raised concerns with Holyrood about it, asking for redactions to be made.
In his submission, the former first minister accused some in the Scottish Government and SNP of a “malicious and concerted attempt to damage my reputation and remove me from public life in Scotland”.
Ms Sturgeon said her predecessor did not have “a shred of evidence” to support his claims.
On Tuesday morning, the submission was re-released, with a number of paragraphs relating to the set-up of a meeting between Mr Salmond and his successor redacted.
– Is the committee inquiry the only investigation into the matter?
No. Ms Sturgeon is currently under investigation by James Hamilton QC to establish if she breached the ministerial code.
Ms Sturgeon referred herself after being accused of misleading Parliament over when she knew of the complaints against Mr Salmond.
She previously said she had been told about the allegations by Mr Salmond himself during a meeting in her home on April 2, 2018.
However, it was later found that Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein had met with the First Minister in her Holyrood office four days prior to that, where she was told of the complaints.
– Will Nicola Sturgeon appear before the committee?
The First Minister is expected to appear before the committee next week and has repeatedly said she looks forward to being able to present her side of the story.