By Rory Murphy
Alex Salmond refused to give evidence today (Wednesday) to the inquiry into how the Scottish government handled complaints against him.
A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said the former first minister had told the committee he would not be attending. He has now offered to appear before MSPs on Friday.
The move came after the parliament withdrew and then republished a revised version of one of Mr Salmond’s submissions to the inquiry.
The Crown Office had raised “grave concerns” about its publication.
Mr Salmond’s lawyers had described the parliament’s decision as a “significant surprise and concern” which could have “a material bearing on whether he was able to attend the evidence session on Wednesday.
The committee now plans to meet in private “to discuss the implications of Mr Salmond’s response and the next steps for its work”.
Mr Salmond’s submission included claims that there had been a “complete breakdown of the necessary barriers which should exist between government, political party and the prosecution authorities”.
The former first minister alleged there was “a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish government and the SNP to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned”.
The people named by Mr Salmond in his submissions include Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, who is the chief executive of the SNP, and Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff, Liz Lloyd.
Mr Salmond has also accused Ms Sturgeon, who succeeded him as first minister and SNP leader, of misleading parliament and breaching the ministerial code.
Ms Sturgeon, whose televised media conference on Covid today turned into a question and answer session session on the Salmond scandal, has denied the allegations and told BBC Scotland that there was “not a shred of evidence” to back up his claims of a conspiracy.
The inquiry committee has been examining what went wrong with the government’s internal investigation into sexual harassment complaints against Mr Salmond that were made by two female civil servants.
The government had to pay legal expenses of more than £500,000 to Mr Salmond after it admitted it had acted unlawfully during the investigation.
Mr Salmond was later cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault against a total of nine women after a High Court trial last year.
The former first minister had been expected to appear before the inquiry on 9 February, but this was cancelled when the committee voted, along party lines, not to publish one of his written submissions.
Mr Salmond insisted he could not live up to an oath to “tell the whole truth” without being able to refer to this document.
After a legal clarification, the committee referred the matter to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body which concluded that “on balance” it would be possible for the document to be published.
The submission was finally published on Monday evening, but it prompted the Crown Office to raise “grave concerns”.
The parliament later removed one of the documents and republished the submission in another form, which in turn led to Mr Salmond announcing he could not appear at the evidence session scheduled for Wednesday.