UK

‘Day of reckoning’ coming for Scottish Government in legal action, warns Salmond

Alex Salmond lodged the case this week (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Alex Salmond lodged the case this week (Stefan Rousseau/PA) Alex Salmond lodged the case this week (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Former first minister Alex Salmond has said the Scottish Government’s “day of reckoning” is coming as he launched legal action over the handling of harassment complaints against him.

The Court of Session confirmed to the PA news agency on Friday the case, Alex Salmond v Scottish ministers, had been called.

A statement from Mr Salmond’s lawyer confirmed his successor Nicola Sturgeon and former permanent secretary Leslie Evans are named among those accused of “misfeasance”.

In a statement released to the media, Mr Salmond said throughout the “tawdry business”, which has included a judicial review, a criminal trial and a Holyrood inquiry, he has “done my talking in court or in front of Parliament”, and will continue to do so.

Mr Salmond – who was first minister between 2007 and 2014 – was investigated by the Scottish Government after two complaints from staff were made under a new complaints procedure which included former ministers.

The investigation was deemed by a judicial review to have been “tainted with apparent bias” after the Scottish Government conceded defeat and Mr Salmond was awarded £512,000 as a result.

He added: “Despite Lord Pentland’s findings in the Court of Session that the behaviour of the former permanent secretary and her officials was ‘unlawful’, ‘unfair’ and ‘tainted by apparent bias’, despite the ongoing police and Crown Office inquiries into the criminal leaks and potential perjury at the criminal trial, despite the astonishing revelations of misfeasance contained in the eventual publication of the Government’s own legal advice, and despite the specific findings of the parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of the former permanent secretary and the former first minister, not one single person has been held accountable.

“With this court action, that evasion of responsibility ends.”

Mr Salmond was subsequently cleared of 13 charges of sexual misconduct – including attempted rape – following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

The case put forward this week by Mr Salmond, his lawyer said, includes the “soliciting of false criminal complaints”.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond Nicola Sturgeon – once a close ally of Alex Salmond – is among those accused by him of ‘misfeasance’ in the legal action (PA)

It follows a protracted Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the original two complaints, which called both Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon to give evidence.

During the inquiry, Mr Salmond condemned Ms Evans – Scotland’s former top civil servant – accusing her of having a “bias” against him and calling for her resignation.

In March 2021 – just days before he announced he was the leader of the fledgling Alba Party – Mr Salmond confirmed his intention to take legal action against Ms Evans.

The inquiry, which worsened an already sour relationship between Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon – who had previously been close – found Ms Sturgeon misled MSPs in her evidence, but she was cleared of any breaches of the ministerial code.

The former first minister said he would delay the progression of the case – known as sisting – to allow police and Crown Office investigations to take place.

But he concluded: “However, the calling of the action signals that the day of reckoning for the Scottish Government’s record of misfeasance on this grand scale will inevitably come.”

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond The former first minister is now the leader of the Alba Party (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Salmond’s lawyer, Gordon Dangerfield, said the case accuses Government officials of conducting themselves “improperly, in bad faith and beyond their powers, with the intention of injuring Mr Salmond”.

He said: “We aver that public officials decided at an early stage that Mr Salmond was to be found guilty of allegations against him, regardless of the actual facts.

“As events snowballed, we aver that public officials then took part in the criminal leaking of confidential documents, the concealment of documents in defiance of court orders and a criminal warrant, the misleading of the court during judicial review proceedings, the soliciting of false criminal complaints, and ultimately the commission of perjury at a parliamentary inquiry.

“All of this, we aver, was done for political reasons, and specifically to injure Mr Salmond.”

The case also includes accusations the Scottish Government “concealed” documents relating to the issue, adding a “major aim” of Mr Salmond is to “obtain disclosure of this vital evidence and to blow apart the Scottish Government cover-up which has gone on now for far too long”.

Speaking to PA on Friday, Scottish Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray said: “Unfortunately, because this is now in a legal sphere, there is no further comment that I can make.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on a live litigation.”