POLITICS: Salmond plans legal action against head of civil service

Former first minister plans to report to police an alleged leak of information to a newspaper

By Lucy Ashton

Former First Minister Alex Salmond is planning to take legal action against the head of the civil service in Scotland.

And members of the so-called Salmond Inquiry, which probed the handling of the allegations of sexual harassment against Mr Salmond, including the Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie, were queuing up to tell journalists that Leslie Evans’ position was untenable.

Salmond said he had instructed lawyers to bring a case against permanent secretary Leslie Evans following a highly critical report into the Scottish Government’s unlawful handling of harassment complaints against him.

The exact basis of the planned legal action is not yet known.

The former first minister also intends to make a police complaint over the alleged leaking of harassment complaints to a newspaper.

MSPs earlier this week described the handling of the complaints as “seriously flawed”, while a separate inquiry cleared First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code.

Salmond, in his first public statement since the reports were published, said Ms Evans “refuses to accept real responsibility”.

He said: “Despite the most damning condemnation from a committee in the history of the modern Scottish Parliament, the permanent secretary still refuses to accept real responsibility.

“This cannot stand. I have therefore taken legal advice and will shortly be instructing my lawyers to bring proceedings in the Court of Session arising as a direct result of the conduct of the permanent secretary.

Salmond also said he would make a complaint to Police Scotland regarding the “leak” of original allegations of harassment against him in August 2018 to the Daily Record.

He said: “I have every confidence that Police Scotland will pursue that matter with rigour.

“I intend to make no further public comment on these issues and will leave the police and the courts to do their job.

“Instead I intend to move on, just as Scotland should now move on to debate the key election issues before us all, principally economic recovery from the pandemic and the future independence of our country.”

On Tuesday, the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee published its finalised report.

It was critical of the permanent secretary, concluding that there had been an “individual failing” on Ms Evans’ part.

It said that Ms Evans should have been aware of issues involved in her taking on a a number of roles in the process creating “a significant organisational risk”.

Two women, who made complaints of harassment against Salmond, announced on Sunday that they would make a formal complaint after their evidence was leaked to a newspaper.

Ms A and Ms B appeared before the committee and are quoted in the report as feeling “dropped” by the government after the judicial review was conceded.

The committee voted along party lines that it had been misled by Sturgeon, raising doubts about her evidence, but the final report said that the Hamilton inquiry was best placed to determine if she had broken the ministerial code.On Monday, a report by Irish lawyer James Hamilton QC cleared the First Minister of an ethics code breach.

His investigation concluded: “I am of the opinion that the First Minister did not breach the provisions of the ministerial code in respect of any of these matters.”

Speaking following the publication of the committee’s review on Tuesday, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The Scottish Government has acknowledged that it made mistakes and that these led to the judicial review being conceded, and I know that this had a real, and damaging, impact for the women who raised the complaints. We have apologised for this and we do so unreservedly again today.

“I remain absolutely determined that the Scottish Government should ensure this does not happen again and that together we create a culture where these behaviours do not arise.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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