Alex Salmond weighs inquiry options pending court challenge on censored evidence

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ALEX Salmond has delayed his response to a Holyrood inquiry pending a court challenge that could have profound implications for him, his evidence and Nicola Sturgeon.

The London-based Spectator magazine is understood to have applied to vary the reporting restrictions placed on Mr Salmond’s criminal trial last year.

A four-hour hearing has been scheduled at the High Court in Edinburgh tomorrow.

The court listing for tomorrow’s hearing

The aim is to see if a submission Mr Salmond made to the Holyrood inquiry into his fight with Mr Sturgeon’s government can be published in full.

MSPs on the inquiry yesterday narrowly vetoed publication by the parliament on legal grounds in case the 21-page dossier broke court orders, data or privacy laws. 

A Tory-led proposal to publish the material with “appropriate redactions” was also rejected.

The submission contains multiple accusations against Ms 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.

He said it was “farcical” that the material would never be included in the inqiry’s final report as a result of it not being published with the parliament’s stamp of authority.

However if the court challenge allowed its publication, it would remove the legal objections to the inquiry doing likewise and shorten the odds on Mr Salmond testifying.

He has said he willing to appear up until next Tueday, when Ms Sturgeon is due to give her oral evidence.

Mr Salmond initially indicated he would respond to the inquiry’s decision today, but is now holding off until after the court hearing.

Labour also called for an emergency meeting of the inquiry to be scheduled for Friday in case the outcome of the case affected its work.

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.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, who sits on the inquriy, said: “If the court allows The Spectator to publish the material then the Committee should have an emergency meeting to review whether it publishes too.

“In that eventuality, it makes no sense for the Committee to tie its own hands behind its back by refusing to make use of the submission and have the chance to question Mr Salmond.

“The Committee is dutybound to do all it can to get to the reasons why the Scottish Government’s procedures were so badly flawed and why the women involved were so badly failed – to do so, we must have all the evidence available and the chance to question Mr Salmond.

“The credibility of the Committee and its work hangs in the balance. If The Spectator’s legal challenge is successful, then the Committee must seize the opportunity to question Mr Salmond.”

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