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Scotland’s top law officer advised government to send Alex Salmond misconduct claims to police

Former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond (Jane Barlow/PA Wire)
Former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond (Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

SCOTLAND’S top law officer advised that the sexual misconduct claims against Alex Salmond should be passed to the police, we can reveal.

It is understood the Scottish Government’s legal advisor James Wolffe QC was involved after the eight-month investigation into the two claims against Mr Salmond concluded.

Legal sources say the high-profile nature and sensitivity of the matter meant the Lord Advocate Mr Wolffe was consulted by the top civil servants in charge of the internal investigation and backed passing the matter to the police.

The Scottish Government has publicly refused to say what it did with the results of its investigation.

A young Alex Salmond outside the House of Commons

However, Police Scotland has confirmed it is currently assessing allegations against the former SNP leader – which he strongly refutes.

It is also understood the internal Scottish Government probe into the claims, led by Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, involved statements from civil servants other than the complainants themselves.

Yesterday it was reported that one of the complainants alleges “multiple incidences of harassment and conduct of an unwanted sexual nature”.

A newspaper carried allegations that Mr Salmond touched her bottom and breasts through her clothing while she was alone with him at Bute House after a function at the First Minister’s Edinburgh residence in December 2013.

Mr Salmond strenuously refutes the claims of sexual harassment and yesterday said he “absolutely denies any suggestion of criminality”.

The Key Players

Leslie Evans: Permanent Secretary of the Scottish Government

The first woman in the role. Her review led to a new procedure on handling harassment complaints.

Iain Livingstone: Chief Constable of Police Scotland

The inquiry into the allegations will be the first major challenge for Mr Livingstone – who takes up his post tomorrow.

James Wolffe QC: Lord Advocate

The chief legal officer of the Scottish Government will have overall responsibility for possible criminal proceedings against Mr Salmond.

Nicola Richards: Director of People at the Scottish Government

The civil servant handles HR and considers complaints against current or former ministers.

Ms Sturgeon, who was Deputy First Minister under Mr Salmond, last week said the issue of the former party leader staying in the SNP will “be considered in the fullness of time”.

And party insiders point out that, for legal reasons, the full allegations are not allowed to be passed to them for any consideration of whether disciplinary action should be taken.

However, critics claim the latest developments mean it is time for Mr Salmond to be suspended from the party he led for 24 years over two stints.

Rhoda Grant MSP (Allan Milligan)

Scottish Labour parliamentary business manager Rhoda Grant MSP, said: “Following further revelations and the fact that Alex Salmond has been reported to the police, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, must suspend him from the SNP immediately.

“Not to do so will send the wrong message to members in her party and the people of Scotland. People who experience harassment should be able to come forward in the knowledge there is a safe environment to do so and that the workplace they are in treats their complaint robustly.

“The SNP must do all it can to give complainants the support they need whoever the alleged perpetrator is and make clear that there is safe space for any other survivors to come forward.

“The First Minister has been too slow to act on these shocking allegations. Nicola Sturgeon must take action and she must do it now.”

The two claims against Mr Salmond were made in January and a civil service investigation into them concluded earlier this month.

Police Scotland said on Friday it was carrying out an assessment of information it had received in relation to the claims, and then officers will decide if the matter requires a full-blown investigation.

Timeline: Misconduct claims

January 2018

The Scottish Government receives two complaints of sexual misconduct against Mr Salmond.

March 2018

Mr Salmond is notified of the complaints and given details of the procedure under which they will be addressed.

August 22 2018

The Permanent Secretary informs Mr Salmond that she is considering making the complaints public.

August 23, 2018

Mr Salmond drops legal measures to block any publication and the allegations become public. He issues a statement refuting them and announcing he is taking the Government to court.

August 24. 2018

The Permanent Secretary issues states Mr Salmond’s statement contains “significant inaccuracies” and the Government will “defend its position vigorously”.

In a separate matter, Mr Salmond plans to take the Scottish Government to the civil courts as he feels its investigation process for complaints about former ministers is unfair.

Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans said Mr Salmond’s statement on the internal investigation into him contained “significant inaccuracies” which will be addressed in court.

But the former First Minister said the top civil servant will have “the most serious of questions to answer” if he wins his Court of Session battle.

It is expected to be months before the outcome of this judicial review, which is expected to cost Mr Salmond at least £40,000, is known.

Alex Salmond speaking to the media yesterday (Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

On Friday, Mr Salmond also revealed how he had to put in a special request to the Scottish Government to get access to his own ministerial diaries as part of his work to answer the complaints against him.

The former SNP leader also said he had not been given enough detail of the complaints in order to properly defend himself or identify the relevant people who would speak up on his behalf.

Scottish Conservative equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells MSP said: “It’s vital first to stress that we are dealing with allegations which are denied by Mr Salmond.

“But, if accurate, the fresh details set out in the media this morning are incredibly serious and go beyond harassment and into the realms of assault.

“They show that it is right that the matter has been passed to the police.

“We must respect the women who complained and allow due and fair process to continue so that the facts can be brought out.

“However, these revelations do raise questions about the way this matter was treated when it is alleged to have taken place, and these also need to be answered.

“Was a complaint made to the Scottish Government at the time? Was any SNP minister or official made aware of it? Was it only in January of this year that anyone within the Scottish Government or the SNP was informed of this alleged incident?

“We need to see full transparency from the SNP and the Scottish Government.”

Speaking on Friday Ms Sturgeon, said the situation was “difficult for me to come to terms with” given her long history with Mr Salmond, but claims “could not be ignored”.

The First Minister revealed that she was first informed of the investigation by Mr Salmond himself in April and had no prior knowledge of complaints being made against him. Ms Sturgeon had no role in the internal Scottish Government investigation.

A statement issued by Mr Salmond yesterday said: “As Mr Salmond made very clear when he spoke to all media outlets, he intends to make no further comment on these matters until his petition for Judicial Review is heard in the Court of Session.

“This is done on legal advice and in the context that he refutes these complaints of impropriety and absolutely denies any suggestion of criminality.”

When asked about the Lord Advocate’s role in the sexual misconduct investigation, a spokeswoman for the Crown Office said it would not be appropriate for them to provide any comment at this point.