Nicola Sturgeon urges Alex Salmond inquiry to force her predecessor to testify

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NICOLA Sturgeon has urged the Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond affair to compel the former First Minister to testify before it.

Mr Salmond pulled out of a scheduled oral evidence session yesterday after the inquiry refused to publish a submission in which he repeatedly accused Mr Sturgeon of misleading parliament.

MSPs on the cross-party committee later narrowly rejected a compromise in which the inquiry would have tried to publish the material with “appropriate redactions” to overcome any legal risks.

Parliament lawyers have warned it could breach court orders, data or privacy laws in its current form.

Mr Salmond is now considering whether to give evidence before Ms Sturgeon appears on Tuesday, with a lot riding on a last-minute intervention at the High Court in Edinburgh tomorrow.

The Spectator magazine has applied to vary the reporting restrictions imposed at the time of Mr Salmond’s criminal trial last year to see if his 21-page inquiry submission can be published in full.

 Alex Salmond weighs inquiry options pending court challenge on censored evidence

If the application is successful, it would remove the legal risks preventing the inquiry doing likewise and make it likelier – though not certain – that Mr Salmond will testify.

At FMQs, Ms Sturgeon suggested the inquiry should use its powers to compel Mr Salmond to appear before it so he could be questioned just as she would be.

Although she did not name him, her office confirmed she had her predecessor in mind.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “If the committee is really interested in having proper full transparency, it will ensure that everybody who has relevant information to offer comes before it and does so fully, openly, on the record and on oath, just as I will do on Tuesday.”

 Nicola Sturgeon refuses to say if she would quit for lying to parliament

Asked if Ms Sturgeon meant the inquiry should use its powers to force Mr Salmond to attend, her official spokesman said later: “Yes. You surmise correctly. I mean, bluntly why wouldn’t they? 

“If the committee and all its members are serious about getting to the facts and getting to the truth, as they claim to be, then why on earth wouldn’t they use the powers at their disposal to compel witnesses to attend?

“They’ve previously talked about using those powers in respect of other witnesses. 

“So, you know, it would seem to make sense that they would want to do it in this case.”

Ms Baillie later raised the spokesman’s comments in a point of order at Holyrood, saying it might have breached the code of conduct for special advisers, and the committee would take its own decisions.

She said: “It is disrespectful and entirely unaceptable for the government and special advisers in particular to dictate to committees of this parliament.”

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said it was a matter for the committee not him.

The inquiry is looking at how the Scottish Government botched its probe into sexual misconduct claims made against Mr Salmond by civil servants in 2018.

The former FM had the exercise overturned in a judicial review, showing it has been “tainted by apparent bias”, a Government flaw that left taxpayers with a £512,000 for his costs.

He was later charged with sexual assault but cleared on all counts at a High Court trial last March.

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