The decision to go to court could delay the harassment committee by weeks
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon campaigning together in happier times.
By Conor Matchett in The Scotsman
The Scottish Government has said it will start legal action in order to find out whether it can release potentially explosive documentation about the sexual misconduct probe surrounding former First Minister Alex Salmond.
A letter from deputy first minister John Swinney to the committee examining the harassment complaints procedure which was mishandled by the Scottish Government and labelled as being tainted by “apparent bias”, set out the position of the Scottish Government.
John Swinney pictured with Martin Docherty Hughes MP and Gil Paterson, who is about to retire from Holyrood, on a visit to West Dunbartonshire.
Mr Swinney said the Scottish Government will go back to court in order to find out whether documents involving the complaint can be disclosed to the committee as part of the inquiry.
The deputy first minister’s letter states: “The Scottish Government therefore intends to initiate legal proceedings to seek a ruling from the Court on whether certain specific documentation which the Scottish Government holds is, or is not, covered by that undertaking.
“The Scottish Government’s position is in favour of the release of those documents. Once such a ruling is available more material may become available to be shared with the Committee at that point.”
These documents could include evidence of how the specific harassment complaints linked to Mr Salmond were handled by the Scottish Government.
Mr Salmond’s legal team last week threatened the Scottish Government with further court action if it attempted to release the documents, calling it a “clear contempt of court” given the agreement already in place with the court that the documents would not be released.
However, with the letter from Mr Swinney, the Scottish Government has said it will release a new raft of documents including 127 pages of additional material and a seven page chronology of events to the committee.
The deputy first minister also states the pleadings in law made by both the Scottish Government and Mr Salmond’s legal team will be made public.
The 120 page court record will be handed to the committee and will cover each side’s legal arguments ahead of the judicial review action prior to it being conceded by the Scottish Government.
In a letter to the committee, they state: “The Committee requires to be aware of the context of those pleadings. They do not represent the final position so far as the Petitioner was concerned.
“Had the Petition not been conceded by the Scottish Government, there would have been further adjustment in respect of the recoveries from the Commission & Diligence procedure.”
The committee’s work could be delayed by months by this action, but MSPs on the panel have criticised the Scottish Government for a lack of transparency from day one.
Both Mr Salmond and the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon are expected to give evidence to the inquiry at a later date.