Salmond denies harassment claims and takes Scottish Government to court

24 August 2018, 11:26

Alex Salmond on the campaign trail

Former first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond has denied claims of harassment made against him.

The Daily Record reported that allegations about his conduct towards two staff members in 2013 - while he was in office - have been handed to police.

In a statement, Mr Salmond denied the claims and said he has been prevented from properly challenging them by Scottish Government procedure.

He has launched a court action to contest the complaints process that was activated against him.

The Scottish Government said it was vital any allegations of harassment were investigated thoroughly.

Mr Salmond said: "For many months now, and on the advice of Senior Counsel, I have attempted to persuade the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government that she is behaving unlawfully in the application of a complaints procedure, introduced by her more than three years after I left office.

"This is a procedure so unjust that even now I have not been allowed to see and therefore to properly challenge the case against me. I have not been allowed to see the evidence."

He went on: "The Permanent Secretary chose to deny me contact with any current civil servant, many of whom wished to give evidence on my behalf, and access to documentation to allow me to properly challenge the complaints, all of which I refute and some of which were patently ridiculous.

"The procedure as put into operation by the Permanent Secretary is grossly unfair and therefore inevitably will lead to prejudicial outcomes.

"It is therefore with great reluctance that I have today launched a Judicial Review in the Court of Session which will decide the issue of the lawfulness of the procedure which has been used against me."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that Alex Salmond has initiated legal proceedings against the Scottish Government and as a result we are restricted in what we can say.

"However, the Scottish Government will defend its position vigorously. As a matter of principle and integrity, it is vital that any allegations of harassment are treated seriously and investigated thoroughly, regardless of the identity of the party involved."

Police Scotland did not comment on the Daily Record report.

A statement from Permanent Secretary at the Scottish Government Leslie Evans said: "Last November, I agreed with the First Minister that, in light of wider concerns about harassment in Westminster and the Scottish Parliament, an internal review would be carried out into the Scottish Government's procedures for handling complaints in the workplace.

"As part of that review, a new procedure on handling harassment complaints involving current or former ministers was introduced.

"Following the conclusion of an internal investigation I can confirm that the Scottish Government received two complaints in January in relation to Alex Salmond.

"Mr Salmond was notified of the complaints in March and the details of the procedure under which the complaints would be addressed."

The statement continued: "I informed Mr Salmond and the people involved on Wednesday, August 22 of my conclusions and that I was considering the public interest in making the fact of the complaints and investigation publicly known.

"Mr Salmond was subsequently given notice that I intended to make a statement referring to the fact of the complaints.

"Following legal proceedings instigated by Mr Salmond yesterday that statement was delayed. However, given that Mr Salmond subsequently dropped those proceedings I am now able to confirm the fact of the complaints.

"I note that the former first minister has indicated his intention to challenge the actions taken by the Scottish Government.

"His statement contains significant inaccuracies which will be addressed in those court proceedings. The Scottish Government will defend its position vigorously."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon "has had no role" in the process and has been advised of the Permanent Secretary's investigation's conclusions, the statement said.

Ms Evans statement said finally: "As the head of the Civil Service in Scotland, I have been consistently clear that there is no place for harassment of any kind in the workplace.

"In line with work already under way in the organisation to tackle inappropriate behaviour, I will consider carefully any issues about culture and working practices highlighted by these complaints."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Complaints were made in January relating to Alex Salmond by two individuals.

"These complaints have been considered since then under a procedure covering ministers and former ministers that was agreed by me in December 2017 in the wake of public concern about harassment.

"Although I have been aware for some time of the fact of the investigation - initially from Alex Salmond - I have had no role in the process, and to have referred to it before now would have compromised the integrity of the internal investigation, which I was not prepared to do.

"However, I was informed by the Permanent Secretary earlier this week that she had completed her investigation and that she intended to make the fact of the complaints public.

"Alex Salmond is now challenging the Scottish Government's procedure in court. The Scottish Government refutes his criticisms of its process and will defend its position vigorously.

"However, this focus on process cannot deflect from the fact that complaints were made that could not be ignored or swept under the carpet."

Ms Sturgeon's statement continued: "I have been clear on many occasions that all organisations and workplaces must make it possible for people to come forward to report concerns and have confidence that they will be treated seriously.

"For that principle to mean anything it cannot be applied selectively. It must be applied without fear or favour, regardless of the identity, seniority or political allegiance of the person involved.

"My relationship with Alex Salmond obviously makes this an extremely difficult situation for me to come to terms with. I am also acutely aware how upsetting this will be for my party.

"However the over-riding priority must be to ensure fair and due process. I would also ask that the privacy of those who have complained be respected."