MSPs investigating the Scottish Government’s response to sexual harassment complaints against Alex Salmond have vowed to uncover the truth as the first witnesses prepare to give evidence.
Members of the cross-party committee have already criticised ministers for withholding key documents but promised to get to the bottom of the series of events that led to a successful legal challenge by Mr Salmond and cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The former first minister was awarded £512,250 in legal expenses last year after the Scottish Government admitted there had been a “failure” in how the complaints were handled.
In a subsequent High Court trial, which ended in March just before lockdown, Mr Salmond was cleared of 13 charges, which he had denied, including sexual assaults and attempted rape.
The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints will call permanent secretary Leslie Evans, the country’s top civil servant, as its first witness on Tuesday. In later sessions it will call Mr Salmond, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.
Committee members said yesterday they expected witnesses “to be open and transparent about their role in this saga”.
They also expressed concerns about information being withheld by the Scottish Government.
Seven pages of one 10-page document containing legal advice had been completely redacted.
The Scottish Government said parts were concealed because they concerned legal advice and therefore legally privileged.
Committee member Alex Cole-Hamilton, a Lib Dem MSP, said: “The committee has already faced challenges over securing documents and statements from persons of interest.That evasiveness does not serve the people of Scotland well. As the committee moves to the next stage, we will expect witnesses to be open about their role.”
Another committee member, Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, said: “For the inquiry to do its job properly, we need the SNP Government to be more transparent and to stop withholding so many documents.”
“We welcome the opportunity the parliamentary inquiry will bring to address issues that have been raised – and we will not pre-empt that process.
“We are providing all the relevant information requested by the committee, taking account of the confidentiality, data protection and legal restrictions that apply.”