MSPs on the committee which investigated the Scottish Government’s handling of claims of sexual misconduct by Alex Salmond have called for a new investigation into the leak of their findings.
The call from four committee members comes as the SNP was accused of lying to the media and what opponents suggest has been a Holyrood administration marked by secrecy and cover-up.
Andy Wightman, a former Green MSP who sat on the committee, prompted the demands for a new investigation after suggesting the SNP leaked the findings in an attempt to smear the committee as politically partisan and to undermine its conclusion that Nicola Sturgeon had misled parliament.
The committee decided by five votes to four the first minister had misled them about her knowledge of harassment allegations against her predecessor.
The finding was leaked to Sky News before the report was published, which Wightman suggests was done by the SNP to pre-empt criticism and suggest Sturgeon was a victim of political bias.
In a new blog published on the second anniversary of the leak, Wightman said it was used as an excuse to “trash” the report and the opposition members on the committee. Wightman told The Post he believes a fresh inquiry should be carried into the source of the leak.
He said: “It was very serious and undermined the authority of parliament.”
The members of the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints were SNP MSPs Linda Fabiani, Alasdair Allan, Stuart McMillan and Maureen Watt, Tory MSPs Margaret Mitchell and Murdo Fraser, Labour’s Jackie Baillie, Lib Dem Alex Cole-Hamilton and Wightman, a Green.
The Ethical Standards Commissioner was asked to investigate but, last September, cleared all the MSPs of wrongdoing.
Now, Scottish Labour deputy leader Baillie has said another inquiry is needed. She claimed: “Andy Wightman’s blog gives a powerful alternative narrative to events and I support calls for further inquiries. As well as the leak, the lack of transparency and the deliberate obstruction by senior government ministers and special advisers was appalling. The veil of secrecy that exists at the heart of the SNP government needs to be torn down and parliament needs to have more muscle to hold the government to account.”
Fraser added: “The inquiry was not helped by the fact that you had members of the governing party on the committee who viewed it as their job entirely to try to protect the first minister and spring to her defence at every turn.
“That’s in marked contrast to the approach by Westminster committees, such as the privileges committee, which we saw interrogating Boris Johnson last week.”
Cole-Hamilton said: “The leak of the findings of our committee fatally undermined the body of work we had amassed over two years.
“I would cooperate with any such investigation, but it’s important that authorities consider the balance of public interest against any undue harm we might do to the complainers.”
Former Labour minister and MP Brian Wilson has also urged a fresh inquiry.
He said: “It was possibly the most significant moment in the Sturgeon years and it was stage-managed perfectly to destroy the conclusions before they emerged.
“There is a need for an inquiry into who leaked it and who set out to discredit the non-SNP members of the committee for the very specific purpose of getting Nicola Sturgeon off the hook.”
The SNP has been embroiled in questions about its honesty and transparency after it emerged reporters were lied to over a fall in its membership. Chief executive Peter Murrell, who is married to Sturgeon, resigned last weekend.
The SNP yesterday insisted it had not leaked the report findings. It said: “There is absolutely no basis to these claims – and no evidence to support them – for the simple reason that it did not happen.”
The Scottish Government said it was a matter for the SNP. A £512,250 payout was awarded to Salmond for legal fees in 2019. The former first minister was separately cleared of all charges against him after a criminal trial.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe