A woman who made sexual assault allegations against Alex Salmond has claimed the Holyrood inquiry into the saga has been more traumatic for her in many ways than the trial was.
The woman, who was one of nine who gave evidence against the former first minister at the High Court last year, was speaking exclusively to Glenn Campbell, the new BBC Scotland political editor.
Mr Salmond was cleared of all 13 of the sexual assault charges against him.
A committee, which includes Dumbarton Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, is now investigating the Scottish government’s handling of the original complaints against Mr Salmond.
The inquiry was intended to ensure that similar mistakes were not made in the future and that women could feel confident in coming forward with complaints about alleged sexual misconduct.
But the woman told Mr Campbell that she believed it had descended into a “political fight” that made it less likely that other women would report any concerns.
She said the row had “effectively allowed the government to get away with not being properly scrutinised on its procedures”.
And she claimed that the inquiry had been “in many ways more traumatic than the experience of the High Court trial”.
SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, who heads the committee, said she was “really sorry” that the woman felt that way, and that she would like to issue a personal apology for anything that had made any complainant feel like they had been exploited.
Ms Fabiani said social media had been “pretty horrible”, and that she hoped people would reflect on their own behaviour.
She added: “The reality is that the parliament tasked this committee with an important job to do and we have to do that job.
“We have to get this task finished and do it in the best way that we can, because what we want to do is to make sure that women aren’t afraid to come forward in the future.
“Things have obviously gone wrong, we have to find out what they were, and I hope we can make some recommendations that will be taken on board to protect women in the future”.
The committee of nine MSPs has been split along party lines over key issues, and has been badly delayed with members accusing both the government and Mr Salmond of being uncooperative and attempting to frustrate its work.
Mr Salmond declined to appear before the committee last Tuesday over its refusal to publish some of the evidence that he wants it to.
And First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – whose own appearance next week has also been postponed – has accused some opposition committee members of having already drawn their own conclusions before hearing her evidence.
In an interview broadcast on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, the woman said she had hoped the committee would be impartial and would properly investigate the government and contribute towards ensuring the sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace were no longer an issue.
She said: “Instead what has happened is they have taken your very personal experiences and exploited them for their own self-serving political interests, and that is something in itself that is really traumatic.”
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, also claimed that the committee had “strayed so far from its own remit that it has made any of its findings completely useless”.
She added: “I think that they really had an opportunity to ensure they could investigate the creation of procedures that would make it safe and easy for women to come forward, and they have made it significantly harder.”
The committee was set up to examine what went wrong with the government’s investigation into internal complaints about Mr Salmond’s alleged behaviour, which were made by two female civil servants in 2018.
The government admitted it had acted unlawfully during the investigation, and had to pay Mr Salmond’s legal fees of more than £500,000.
Mr Salmond was later cleared of 13 sexual assault charges, including one of attempted rape, which were alleged to have happened while he was serving as first minister.
The nine women who made the allegations included an SNP politician, a party worker and several current and former Scottish government civil servants and officials.
In court, Mr Salmond said the claims made about his alleged conduct were “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose”, or “exaggerations”.
He has also accused Ms Sturgeon, who succeeded him as both first minister and SNP leader, of breaching the ministerial code by lying to parliament – which she denies.
Last month the committee used its legal powers to demand the release of documents from the Crown Office.
These included text or WhatsApp communications between SNP officials and government staff, which were uncovered as part of the police investigation into Mr Salmond.
There have been claims by supporters of Mr Salmond that the messages were evidence of a conspiracy against him.
But the committee said the messages were between women seeking “confidential support” which were not relevant to its inquiry, and would not be published to avoid causing further distress.
The woman spoken to by BBC Scotland said she believed it was “natural to discuss issues of sexual assault, sexual harassment, with women you worked with at the time”.
And she said it was “utterly absurd” to suggest that nine women “could be persuaded to lie to the police, to perjure themselves in court”.
“The truth is that we individually had experiences of Alex Salmond’s behaviour,” she said.
The woman added: “It takes a lot of courage to report sexual harassment, particularly against a very powerful person.
“I think the fact the government were willing to investigate those complaints is positive, but clearly they let down those women and they have a responsibility to fix that for anybody else in the future.”