Holyrood inquiry invites Alex Salmond to give evidence next week

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THE Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond saga has invited the former first minister to give evidence next week. 

But his appearance is still in doubt after MSPs on the inquiry again voted against publishing evidence he submitted to the committee.

Instead, they opted to refer the matter to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, which meets tomorrow.

Mr Salmond’s lawyers previously told the committee he has cleared his diary to give evidence on Wednesday, following a senior judge’s decision to slightly alter a court order made during his criminal trial last year. 

Mr Salmond’s team believe the move should allow evidence he submitted to the Holyrood inquiry to be published. 

He has made publication a precondition of his appearance before the committee.

His legal team said they had resubmitted the evidence in a slightly revised form “to put the issue beyond any doubt”.

However a majority of the Holyrood committee agreed Lady Dorrian’s alteration “has no impact on its previous decision”.

It is understood MSPs are yet to see his revised evidence.

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: “The committee tonight considered the detail of Lady Dorrian’s ruling and its impact on the committee’s decision not to publish Mr Salmond’s evidence on the ministerial code.

“The majority of the committee is clear that the judgment has no impact on its previous decision and understanding of its legal obligations and its decision on the publication of the submission from the former first minister on the ministerial code. The scope of the order has not changed.

“However, the committee is keenly aware that publication is for the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and has tonight agreed to refer this to the SPCB for a decision on its publication.

“The committee is pleased to hear that Mr Salmond is willing to give evidence next Wednesday.

“He can, as a minimum, give evidence on all of his published submissions and records.

“As such, the committee plans to write to him tomorrow to invite him to attend next Wednesday (24 February).”

In a letter to the committee, Mr Salmond’s lawyers said he had submitted a revised version of the original evidence, as well as another submission.

They said: “Given the terms of the judgment and the matters debated at the court hearing last week, we now can see no impediment to publication.”

They added: “Our client would like to discuss practical arrangements for his attendance at the committee next week on the assumption that his submission will now be published. 

“He has cleared Wednesday from his diary and we can discuss timing with the clerks.”

MSPs on the inquiry are looking at how the Scottish Government botched its probe into sexual misconduct claims made against the former first minister by two civil servants in 2018.

Mr Salmond was due to give evidence last week but a row broke out after the inquiry narrowly vetoed publishing a submission by him.

The submission contains multiple accusations against First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, including that she repeatedly misled parliament and so breached the Scottish ministerial code – a resignation offence which she denies.

The decision appeared to rule out Mr Salmond ever testifying in person, as he had made publication of the submission a precondition of an appearance.

However Mr Salmond’s team believe it should now be published following legal action taken by The Spectator.

The magazine challenged the scope and terms of a court order made during the former first minister’s trial, amid concerns the Holyrood inquiry was being “overcautious” in its interpretation of it.

Following a hearing, Lady Dorrian agreed to vary it slightly, although not in the manner suggested by The Spectator.

But she made clear “all matters relating” to the Holyrood committee’s decisions “are in my view wholly irrelevant to any matters which it is within the jurisdiction of the court to address”. 

MSPs on the Holyrood inquiry voted against publishing Mr Salmond’s evidence by five votes to four.

They voted to refer the matter to the SPCB by six votes to three.

One committee source said the move was “bonkers”.

Mr Salmond was cleared of multiple counts of sexual assault following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh last year.

The row around his evidence means Ms Sturgeon could have to wait until next month to give evidence before the inquiry.

It came as it emerged Ms Sturgeon has now submitted evidence to a separate investigation, led by James Hamilton QC, into whether she broke the ministerial code.

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