Salmond inquiry: Baillie refuses to take No for an answer on ‘missing documents’

Former First Minister Alex Salmond and Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie who asked about the missing documents.

By Democrat reporter

MSPs on the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair have raised concerns about “missing documents” in the evidence supplied by the Scottish Government.

Labour MSP Jackie Bailie was forced to question a senior civil servant about missing emails using information gleaned from unnamed sources in this morning’s second witness session.

“Unfortunately these don’t seem to have been provided to the committee,” she said.

James Hynd, the Head of Cabinet, Parliament and Governance Division, said he would ask colleagues if other files had not been shared with MSPs.
But he added that he felt the files provided covered all the “material points”. 

The committee is looking at how the Government botched an in-house probe into sexual misconduct claims made against Mr Salmond in 2018.

Mr Salmond had the exercise set aside in a judicial review at the Court of Session, forcing ministers to admit it had been unfair, unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”.

The collapse of the Government’s case in January 2019 left taxpayers with a £500,000 legal bill for Mr Salmond’s costs, and the Holyrood inquiry is now investigating what happened.

A key decision was Director of People Nicola Richards appointing civil servant Judith Mackinnon to lead the investigation despite her being in prior contact with the accusers, which tainted the entire exercise.

Mr Hynd was in charge of drawing up a new harassment complaints procedure in late 2017 in light of the #MeToo movement and an instruction from the Scottish cabinet on 31 October 2017.

He said he quickly identified a gap in the existing policies and codes, which did not cover former ministers, only serving ones.

Ms Baillie asked Mr Hynd about a memorandum from Ms Mackinnon on 7 November 2017 suggesting that complaints against former ministers should be investigated independently.

Mr Hynd asked what information she was basing his position on, adding: “Because I’m not sure I did.”

Ms Baillie said: “Because my understanding is there are further emails from you agreeing with that proposition that the committee don’t have.

“You might want to go back and look and perhaps furnish the committee with those emails?”

As Mr Hynd hesitated, Ms Baillie said: “Well, let me pose the question to you. Did you think that independent investigation was a useful thing to have of former ministers?”

Mr Hynd said that it was thought best to have an independent investigating officer not directly involved in the complaints procedure.

Ms Baillie said: “Did you yourself not suggest three names of people, independent people, who could provide advice?”

Appearing to remember his suggestion, Mr Hynd said: “Oh yes.”

Ms Baillie said: “The committee doesn’t have that unfortunately.”

Mr Hynd said: “They were Scottish Government civil servants. They were not independent third parties to government.

“Where I had taken the procedure was the investigation would be done by a Scottish Government official unconnected to the matter being investigated, and I offered some potential names of who those individuals might be, but they were not external to government.”

Mr Hynd said he was not consulted about the appointment of Ms Mackinnon as the investigating officer by Ms Richards, and indeed had not known an investigation had been undertaken until it became public knowledge in August 2018.

He added  that he was not aware one of the complainers was given a copy of the complaints policy that he worked on while it was still in draft form.

However, he said he did not think any feedback from the complainer changed the procedure.

He also said Nicola Sturgeon appeared “keen” for the complaints policy to cover former ministers.

He said: “The First Minister, I think, was keen, for the record and for the avoidance of doubt, to make sure that the procedure or whatever review we were undertaking covered former ministers.”

Ms Baillie returned to the subject of missing emails at the end of Mr Hynd’s evidence.

She said: “Would you provide the emails I referred to earlier that were missing from the bundle given to the committee?

“There were clearly other emails where you’ve exchanged information about independent advisers and unfortunately these don’t seem to have been provided to the committee.”

Mr Hynd said: “I’ll look into that.”

SNP inquiry convener Linda Fabiani also asked about “missing documents”.

She said: “There’s obviously been a lot of key meetings where policy development changed as a result of comments. Are you aware of additional records that have not been provided to this committee?”

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