Scottish govt handling of Alex Salmond harassment claims ‘seriously flawed’ – report

The Scottish government’s handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond was "seriously flawed", a cross-party committee of MSPs has found.

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints report has concluded the women who made the allegations were "badly let down".

It also found it was misled by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon following its investigation into the government’s unlawful handling of allegations against Mr Salmond.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Tories have said they will press ahead with a vote of no confidence in Ms Sturgeon.

The findings are separate from those of James Hamilton, who reported on Monday that there had been no breach of the ministerial code by the first minister over her role in the saga.

The committee found a "fundamental contradiction" in Ms Sturgeon’s evidence on whether she agreed to intervene in a Scottish government investigation into complaints by two women against the former first minister.

It said that, in a meeting at her Glasgow home on 2 April 2018, Ms Sturgeon "did in fact leave Mr Salmond with the impression that she would, if necessary, intervene".

The report continued: "Her written evidence is therefore an inaccurate account of what happened, and she has misled the committee on this matter."

The committee found this is a potential breach of the ministerial code but added that Mr Hamilton’s report was the "most appropriate place" to address this question.

The four SNP committee members did not agree with the finding that she misled the committee, which was among the conclusions leaked last week.

The report states the committee "find it hard to believe" Ms Sturgeon had "no knowledge of any concerns about inappropriate behaviour on the part of Mr Salmond prior to November 2017".

It continues: "If she did have such knowledge, then she should have acted upon it. If she did have such knowledge, then she has misled the committee."

The four SNP committee members again disagreed with this statement, saying it "does not distinguish between bullying behaviour and sexual harassment".

They claimed "some evidence to the inquiry indicated that the former first minister could display bullying behaviour" but "there has been no suggestion the first minister was aware of sexual harassment".

The report states the committee is "concerned" that Ms Sturgeon did not disclose details of her meeting with Mr Salmond to the Scottish government’s most senior civil servant, permanent secretary Leslie Evans, until 6 June – more than two months after the meeting at the first minister’s home.

The committee found she should have told Ms Evans "at the earliest opportunity" and immediately stopped contact with Mr Salmond, instead of continuing to meet him.

The four SNP committee members also disagreed with this finding.

The cross-party inquiry was set up after a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the Scottish government’s investigation into the allegations against him being ruled unlawful and "tainted by apparent bias" in 2019.

He was awarded a maximum payout of £512,250 after the Scottish government conceded the case a week before it was due to be heard in court.

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