Scottish Labour Leader calls for new Convener of Committee of inquiry into Alex Salmond case

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been criticised after it became apparent a member of her own party was to head the parliamentary probe into the Alex Salmond investigation. 

The Leader of Scottish Labour, Richard Leonard made public in a tweet this morning that he believes an SNP MSP being the chair of the parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the Alex Salmond case “would bring its objectivity into question.”

In his letter to Nicola Sturgeon Leonard commends her decision to refer herself for investigation following his request last week but asked for her party, and the SNP politician chosen to head the committee of the parliamentary inquiry, to “step aside”.

He restated the calls he made during First Minister’s Questions on January 17 for the Convener of the committee looking into the developments of the allegations made against Alex Salmond to “come from a party other than the governing party” in the interest of “transparency” and “objectivity”.

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Tweet by Richard Leonard on letter to FM

He wrote that due to the nature of the case, “separation between party matters and government matters is a central feature…and a matter of serious contention”.

Ms Sturgeon has also referred herself for her own conduct to independent advisors over whether ministerial codes were broken by the several points of contact she had with Alex Salmond through the course of the internal government investigation, before the story was made public in a tweet by the Daily Record. These points of contact included two unminuted meetings at her Glasgow home and several phone calls with Mr Salmond.

The First Minister last week denied conspiring against and colluding with Alex Salmond on matters associated with the allegations made against him but this was further questioned in the Scottish Parliament this week by Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw.

Carlaw questioned the First Minister on her continued meetings with Alex Salmond “until as late as July last year” and asked for her to put on the record whether her or her staff knew of the complaints before April 2. Nicola Sturgeon emphasised the importance of allowing “the scrutiny of the inquiries that have been established” and that it is “incumbent to respect those processes”.

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon answering Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw during First Minister’s Questions on the 17th of January, 2019. 

The procedural failings of the Scottish government in the handling of this case came from amendments to its “policies and processes for addressing inappropriate conduct” following a review conducted in October 2017 led by Scotland’s top civil servant, Leslie Evans. The review of these processes came in wake of the string of high profile sexual misconduct cases in both the political sphere and entertainment industry in the last two years.

An important reminder, both stated by Ms Sturgeon this week and by Richard Leonard in his letter today, is that the police investigation is still ongoing and is not impacted by the judiciary review put forth by Alex Salmond in which the government conceded defeat nor by any of the fallout of every stage of this probe. However, there is a general consensus that the two women, who filed their formal complaints against Salmond to the Scottish government in January 2018, have been let down by the government through the failings of the new processes, despite the intent of their creation being to prevent this very situation.

See the graphic below for a recap of the development of the Alex Salmond investigation from 2017 until now.

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