Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Holyrood, Blurred Lines and Accountability


Nicola Sturgeon was very professional and a gave good account of herself at the Holyrood Inquiry, as you would expect - she was after all schooled and mentored by Alex Salmond who is no slouch at political theatre himself.

The sting in the tail though is that the First Minister was unable to give convincing answers on a wide range of issues including: 

  • the blurring of lines between the business of the Scottish Government and the affairs of the SNP
  • the purpose of the meeting held with Alex Salmond in her family home on 2 April 2018
  • the lack of a proper record for the meeting held on 2 April 2018 despite the provisions of the Ministerial Code
  • the alleged sharing of at least one complainant's name at the meeting on 2 April 2018
  • the allegation that as First Minister she gave a clear undertaking to intervene in the complaints process 
  • the supporting evidence surrounding the meeting on 2 April 2018 (corroborated in written statements from Geoff Aberdein, Duncan Hamilton and Kevin Pringle)
  • the purpose of meeting with Geoff Aberdein held in the Scottish Parliament on 29 March 2018
  • the alleged sharing of at least one complainant's name with Geoff Aberdeen at the meeting in the Scottish Parliament held on 29 March 2018
  • the prior contact with Geoff Aberdein and the reasons for involving Alex Salmond's former chief of staff in the complaints/investigation process
  • the lack of action over an allegation that a member of the First Minister's staff shared the name of a complainant
  • the reasons behind the collapse of Scottish Government's case in the judicial review brought by Alex Salmond
  • the lack of rigorous and oversight in the investigation and length of time it took for the Scottish Government to realise its case was fatally flawed
  • the damning assessment of the Scottish Government's case by external legal counsel on 31 October 2018
  • the failure of the Scottish Government to provide all relevant documents to the criminal investigation which led to Police Scotland serving a search warrant
  • the First Minister's conflicting statements to the Scottish Parliament and wider media
  • the suppression of key evidence and withholding of key documents from the Holyrood Inquiry - despite two votes in the Scottish Parliament demanding Ministers release their legal advice

All in all I think it's reasonable to say the handling of the 'Salmond affair' represents the greatest shambles in the Scottish Government's 20 year history and so the obvious question to ask is:

"Why after all this has no one resigned, been asked to resign or simply been sacked?"

So should Nicola Sturgeon resign?

Well the former First Minister Henry McLeish resigned over far less serious allegations (a muddle not a fiddle) and if I remember correctly the SNP demanded at the time that Henry McLeish should stand down.

As did David McLetchie (Scottish Conservatives) and Wendy Alexander (Scottish Labour), as leaders of their own respective parties, over relatively minor infractions - again with the SNP insisting their leadership was compromised.

So maybe, given the proximity of the next elections, the most honourable thing to do would be for Nicola Sturgeon to say she will not stand again as First Minister to make room for some fresh blood and new thinking.

Because if that were to happen, the Scottish Parliament would have the opportunity to learn lessons, restore its reputation, review its procedures and strengthen its democratic institutions - hopefully on an all-party, cross-party, non-tribal basis.  

 

Dundee's Fight for Equal Pay

Here's an interesting article about the fight for equal pay in Dundee City Council which appeared in The Guardian recently.

What I can't understand is why does there have to be another big battle on behalf of local council workers in Dundee?

Because the broad issue was settled by the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, back in 2017 when three judges unanimously declared Glasgow City Council's discriminatory WPBR pay arrangements to be unlawful.

I can't imagine the position in Dundee is that different from Glasgow yet the same sort of issues seem to be in play all over again.

Dundee is an SNP-led council just like Glasgow and the city's constituency MSPs and MPs are all SNP members as well:

  • Shona Robison - MSP for Dundee East (SNP)
  • Joe Fitzpatrick MSP for Dundee West (SNP) 
  • Stewart Hosie MP Dundee East (SNP)
  • Chris Law MP for Dundee West (SNP)

So all these nationalist politicians seemed to have learned little, if anything, from what happened in Glasgow where, of course, the Claimants still had to fight the SNP-led council (from 2017 onwards) every bit as hard as its Labour predecessors.

I plan to make contact with the equal pay campaigners in Dundee and if there's anything I can do to help with their fight, it will be my pleasure.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/20/care-workers-and-cleaners-of-she-town-in-fight-for-equal-pay?

Care workers and cleaners of Dundee in fight for equal pay


‘She Town’ women have a proud industrial history. But they are facing a new struggle that is driving them into early retirement


By Eve Livingston - The Observer

Before sunrise on Tuesday last week, amid an amber weather warning and Scotland’s coldest temperatures in 25 years, 62-year-old Sheila Petrie set off on a five-mile walk to work through 15cm of snow. A community-based care worker in Dundee, where public transport was suspended due to the severe weather, Petrie is employed by the city’s council. At 8am sharp, 40 minutes into the journey, an administrator phoned to ask why she hadn’t yet scanned in for her shift.

It’s an example, Petrie says, of being “totally undervalued and completely trodden on by the council,” a relationship that she says has got increasingly worse over her 20-year career and driven her to take early semi-retirement from April. And it is one that stings all the more with the knowledge that her employers have, Petrie believes, been systematically underpaying her throughout that time, because she works in a job dominated by women.

This is the allegation made by Petrie’s union, the GMB, which launched a collective grievance this month against Dundee city council over equal pay. Their case hinges on the council’s use of “craft agreements” in jobs traditionally dominated by men – such as bricklayers, joiners, roofers and glaziers – which include a bonus scheme in which workers are paid both productivity bonuses and fixed bonuses every month just for attending work.

Comparable sectors made up predominantly of women, such as care, cleaning and catering, receive no such bonuses, and those working in them, say the union, may have taken home thousands of pounds less than their male counterparts each year.

Although most of these workers earn the living wage of £9.50 an hour, the union says unpredictable shift patterns mean many can’t live on these wages alone and often work second and third jobs to top up their wages. With 5,000-10,000 workers involved, the council’s bill could run to tens of millions, evoking memories of the historic equal pay strike in Glasgow in 2018 by a similar workforce. 

“There’s almost even more of a sense of injustice because Dundee is a matriarchal city,” says GMB organiser Helen Meldrum, pointing to the north-east city’s history as a mill town dominated by brands such as Levi’s and Timex which employed predominantly women, earning Dundee the title of “She Town”.

In 1993, faced with layoffs, women at Dundee’s Timex factory led one of Scotland’s biggest industrial actions. “Everyone here knows women who worked in those factories; they’re in our families,” Meldrum says.

While the union is still amassing claims, she believes it is likely that there are women with equal pay cases against the council who were also involved in factory strikes over terms and conditions. “Dundee has a proud tradition of women leading industrial disputes and fights against injustices, and this is no exception,” she continues. “This money has been stolen from these women and they’ll never get back all the extra hours they’ve worked.”

The council has not yet responded, but the union hopes negotiations can avoid industrial action and a drawn-out battle in the courts. The case could also have implications across Scotland’s councils, many of which also use craft agreements.

A spokesperson for Dundee city council told the Observer: “We have received a collective grievance from the GMB which we will consider and respond to in due course.”

For the workers involved, the dispute is as much about dignity and visibility as it is about money. “We’re expected to do more and more for less and less,” says Petrie, who points out that many of her colleagues return from their shifts to perform unpaid care for their parents and children.

“After how scary the last year has been, we’ve had enough of being treated how we’re treated. We deserve respect and to be recognised for what we’re worth.”

Government Business vs Party Business

The blurring of lines between what is legitimate government business and what is patently not has got the SNP into a terrible mess of late.

But the justice secretary Humza Yousaf seems not to have got the memo. 

   

Truth, Road Blocks and Scottish Ministers

If the SNP enjoyed an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, there's no doubt the recent bombshell evidence in the Salmond affair would never have seen the light of day. 

But the truth is slowly emerging in spite of rather than because of the Scottish Government. 

  

Making a Mockery of Scotland's Democracy (6)

Nicola Sturgeon's own evidence to the Holyrood Inquiry confirms that she broke the Ministerial Code by not recording and reporting her meeting with Alex Salmond and his advisers in the Sturgeon/Murrell family home on 2 April 2018.

The following extract from the Ministerial Code could not be clearer:

"Contacts with External Individuals and Organisations, including Outside Interest Groups and Lobbyists"

"4.22 Ministers meet many people and organisations and consider a wide range of views as part of the formulation of Government policy. Meetings on official business should normally be arranged through Private Offices. A private secretary or official should be present for all discussions relating to Government business. Private Offices should arrange for the basic facts of formal meetings between Ministers and outside interest groups to be recorded, setting out the reasons for the meeting, the names of those attending and the interests represented. A monthly list of engagements carried out by all Ministers is published three months in arrears.

"4.23 If Ministers meet external organisations or individuals and find themselves discussing official business without an official present – for example at a party conference, social occasion or on holiday – any significant content (such as substantive issues relating to Government decisions or contracts) should be passed back to their Private Offices as soon as possible after the event, who should arrange for the basic facts of such meetings to be recorded in accordance with paragraph 4.22 above."

Now you can be very generous and give Nicola Sturgeon the benefit of every doubt regarding the true purpose of this fateful encounter which is now in dispute - but 
only before proceedings got underway.

Because as soon as it became clear the discussion was about ongoing complaints to the Scottish Government, the First Minister had a clear duty to put the meeting 'on the record' and report what was going on to the civil service.

Nicola Sturgeon's failure to act is fatal to her case and that's without going into a separate meeting with her own chief of staff and Alex Salmond's former chief of staff on 29 March 2018 (both of whom were present on 2 April 2018 along with Salmond's legal counsel, Duncan Hamilton).

So Nicola Sturgeon should begin her oral evidence to the Holyrood Inquiry tomorrow with a fulsome apology since there is no doubt she failed to live up to the high standards expected of Scottish Ministers who must be seen to do the right thing, particularly when potential conflicts of interest arise.  

  

Making a Mockery of Scotland's Democracy 5 (28/02/21)

 One of the interesting issues to emerge from Friday's session of the Holyrood Inquiry was the unpublished evidence surrounding the whole affair including a sworn statement from Geoff Aberdein, Alex Salmond's former chief of staff.

Now like everyone else I agree on the importance of protecting the identity of complainers, but I fail to see how this evidence cannot be redacted in such a way to achieve that purpose.

Likewise with other evidence which apparently cannot be used by Mr Salmond because it was produced for his criminal trial and cannot now be redeployed by him for use in other proceedings.

But this is a search for the truth and the truth is that the conduct of the Scottish Government has dragged the behaviour of the SNP into play, given the two organisations are so closely intertwined with their respective leaders being husband and wife, of course.

In the interests of justice it seems to me that either the Holyrood Inquiry examines this evidence, redacting it where necessary, or a independent, judge-led inquiry should be asked to so on the Scottish Parliament's behalf.  

  

Making a Mockery of Scotland's Democracy 4 (11/02/21)

Labour's Jackie Baillie pursued a reasonable and effective line of questioning with Nicola Sturgeon which met with no answer - only embarrassing waffle from Scotland's first minister.

  

Making a Mockery of Scotland's Democracy 3 (08/02/21)

Having previously promised to be transparent and cooperate fully with the Salmond inquiry the Scottish Government has been obstructive, thrawn and unhelpful.

Some witnesses appear to be suffering from selective amnesia, others have changed their evidence after being 'found out', public money has been spent on coaching civil servants and to add insult to injury Ministers have defied two votes of the Scottish Parliament requiring them to publish their legal advice.  

  

Making a Mockery of Scotland's Democracy 2 (07/02/21)

I am no cheerleader for Alex Salmond, quite the opposite in fact, but I am increasingly of the opinion that Nicola Sturgeon did break the Ministerial Code and did mislead the Scottish Parliament.

Here are some of the key points that jump out to me from Mr Salmond's statement to the Hamilton Inquiry.

1) Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond met three times in 2018 - on 2 April (in the Murrell/Sturgeon family home), on 7 June in Aberdeen (at the Hilton Hotel) and finally on 14 July (again at the Murrell/Sturgeon family home).

2) The initial meeting on 2 April was set up by Mr Salmond's former chief of staff (Geoff Aberdein) and Nicola Sturgeon's chief of staff ) Liz Loyd who were in previous contact with each other.

3) Geoff Aberdeen, Liz Loyd and Nicola Sturgeon all met in the Scottish Parliament on 29 March 2018 to arrange the meeting which subsequently took place just four days later on 2 April.

4) Alex Salmond insists the purpose of the initial meeting (29/03) and subsequent meeting (02/04) was to discuss the complaints made against him.

5) The meeting on 2 April in the Murrell/Sturgeon family home was attended by Alex Salmond, Geoff Aberdein (former chief of staff), Duncan Hamilton (Advocate and Legal Counsel), Liz Loyd (chief of staff) and Nicola Sturgeon.

6) Peter Murrell was at the family home for at least part of the meeting, but took no part as the discussions - Murrell's evidence is that the meeting was about Scottish Government business. As well as being Nicola Sturgeon's husband Peter Murrell is chief executive of the SNP.

7) Nicola Sturgeon insists that the true purpose of the 2 April meeting was to discuss SNP business as she suspected Alex Salmond was thinking about resigning his party membership.

8) The significance of the dispute over the true purpose of the 2 April meeting is that the First Minister (or civil servant) must keep a detailed written record of all meetings which discuss Scottish Government business.

9) No such record exists - nor do they exist for the subsequent meetings held on 7June (in Aberdeen) or on 16 July (again in the Murrell/Sturgeon family home. 

See extract below from the Scottish Ministerial Code.


"Contacts with External Individuals and Organisations, including Outside Interest Groups and Lobbyists

"4.22 Ministers meet many people and organisations and consider a wide range of views as part of the formulation of Government policy. Meetings on official business should normally be arranged through Private Offices. A private secretary or official should be present for all discussions relating to Government business. Private Offices should arrange for the basic facts of formal meetings between Ministers and outside interest groups to be recorded, setting out the reasons for the meeting, the names of those attending and the interests represented. A monthly list of engagements carried out by all Ministers is published three months in arrears.

"4.23 If Ministers meet external organisations or individuals and find themselves discussing official business without an official present – for example at a party conference, social occasion or on holiday – any significant content (such as substantive issues relating to Government decisions or contracts) should be passed back to their Private Offices as soon as possible after the event, who should arrange for the basic facts of such meetings to be recorded in accordance with paragraph 4.22above."

  

Making a Mockery of Scotland's Democracy (06/02/21)

Alex Salmond's submission to the Hamilton Inquiry makes two very serious allegations against Nicola Sturgeon - that she breached the Scottish Government's ministerial code and deliberately misled the Scottish Parliament. 

It's hard to imagine two more serious accusations and if they are not investigated properly it will make a mockery of Scotland's democracy. 

  

Introduction

1. This is a submission to James Hamilton at his repeated request to assist in his examination of possible breaches of the Ministerial Code by the First Minister.

2. I have also shared this submission with the Parliamentary Committee as it is relevant to Phase Four of their Inquiry into complaints handling by Civil Servants, Government Ministers and Special Advisers.

3. The Whatsapp messages between myself and the First Minister were provided to the Parliamentary Committee by the First Minister and published by them. Therefore, I do not enclose them here, save for the inclusion of the message of 13th July 2018 in unredacted form referred to below. (Appendix A)

The Terms of Reference

4. Mr Hamilton wrote to me on 8th September, 29th October, 16th November, 4th and 19th December. I replied on 6th and 17th October, 23rd November and 23rd December. I finally agreed under some protest to make this submission.

The reason for my concern is that the remit drawn up for Mr Hamilton focuses on whether the First Minister intervened in a civil service process. As I have pointed out to Mr Hamilton, I know of no provisions in the Ministerial Code which makes it improper for a First Minister to so intervene.

5. To the contrary, intervention by the First Minister in an apparently unlawful process (subsequently confirmed by the Court of Session) would not constitute a breach precisely because the First Minister is under a duty in clause 2.30 of the Ministerial Code to avoid such illegality on the part of the Government she leads.

6. Further, to suggest intervention was a breach would be to ignore and contradict the express reliance of the procedure on the position of the First Minister as the leader of the party to which the former minister was a member in order to administer some unspecified sanction.

7. It will accordingly be a significant surprise if any breach of the Ministerial Code is found when the terms of reference have been tightly drafted by the Deputy First Minister to focus on that aspect of the First Minister’s conduct.

8. By contrast, I have information which suggests other related breaches of the Ministerial Code which should properly be examined by Mr Hamilton. I have asked that he undertake that investigation. I have drawn his attention to the apparent parliamentary assurance from the First Minister on 29th October 2020 that there was no restriction on Mr Hamilton preventing him from doing so.

9. Mr Hamilton has failed to give me a clear response as to whether these related matters relevant to the Ministerial Code, but outwith the specific remit, are going to be considered. However, in his letter of 4th December he did indicate that he was inclined to the view that such matters could be considered and will take into account arguments for their inclusion. It is on that basis I make this submission.

10. In doing so, I would note that it does not serve the public interest if the independent process of examination of the Ministerial Code (which I introduced as First Minister) is predetermined, or seen to be predetermined, by a restrictive remit given by the Deputy First Minister.

11. A restricted investigation would not achieve its purpose of genuine independent determination and would undermine confidence in what has been a useful innovation in public accountability.

12. I would accordingly urge Mr Hamilton to embrace the independence of his role and the express assurance given to the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister that he is free to expand the original remit drafted by the Deputy First Minister and to address each of the matters contained in this submission.

Breaches of the Ministerial Code.

13. Beyond the terms of the remit set for Mr Hamilton by the Deputy First Minister, there are other aspects of the conduct of the First Minister which, in my submission, require scrutiny and determination in relation to breaches of the Ministerial Code.

14. I was contacted by phone on or around 9 March 2018 and further the following week by Geoff Aberdein, my former Chief of Staff. The purpose of the contact was to tell me about meetings he had held with the First Minister’s Chief of Staff, Liz Lloyd, at her request.

15. In the second of these meetings she had informed him that she was aware of two complaints concerning me under a new complaints process introduced to include former Ministers. She named one of the complainers to him. At that stage I did not know the identity of the other complainer.

16. On receipt of the letter from the Permanent Secretary first informing me of complaints on 7th March 2018 I had secured Levy and McRae as my solicitors and Duncan Hamilton, Advocate and Ronnie Clancy QC as my counsel.

17. Even at this early stage we had identified that there were a range of serious deficiencies in the procedure. There was no public or parliamentary record of it ever being adopted. In addition it contained many aspects of both procedural unfairness and substantive illegality.

There was an obvious and immediate question over the respect to which the Scottish Government even had jurisdiction to consider the complaints. In relation to former Ministers (in contrast to current Ministers) it offered no opportunity for mediation. The complaints procedure of which I was familiar (‘Fairness at Work’) was based on the legislative foundation of the Ministerial Code in which the First Minister was the final decision maker.

I wished to bring all of these matters to the attention of the First Minister. I did not know at that stage the degree of knowledge and involvement in the policy on the part of both the First Minister and her Chief of Staff.

18. Mr Aberdein had been asked by Ms Lloyd to be her contact with me and they jointly arranged a meeting with the First Minister in the Scottish Parliament on 29th March 2018. This meeting was for the purpose of discussing the complaints and thereafter arranging a direct meeting between myself and the First Minister.

There was never the slightest doubt what the meeting was about. Any suggestion by the First Minister to the Scottish Parliament (Official Report, 8th October 2020) that the meeting was ‘fleeting or opportunistic’ is simply untrue.

It was agreed on the 29th March 2018 at the meeting in the Scottish Parliament attended by Mr Aberdein and the First Minister [REDACTED] that the meeting between myself and the First Minister would take place on 2nd April at her home near Glasgow. Self-evidently only the First Minister could issue that invitation to her private home.

19. In attendance at the meeting on 2nd April 2018 were Mr Aberdein, Mr Hamilton, Ms Lloyd and myself. The First Minister and I met privately and then there was a general discussion with all five of us. My purpose was to alert the First Minister to the illegality of the process (not being aware at that time of her involvement in it) and to seek an intervention from the First Minister to secure a mediation process to resolve the complaints.

20. I was well aware that under the Ministerial Code the First Minister should notify the civil service of the discussion and believed that this would be the point at which she would make her views known. The First Minister assured us that she would make such an intervention at an appropriate stage.

21. On 23rd April 2018, I phoned the First Minister by arrangement on WhatsApp to say that a formal offer of mediation was being made via my solicitor to the Permanent Secretary that day. In the event, this offer was declined by the Permanent Secretary, even before it was put to the complainers.

22. By the end of May, it was becoming clear that the substantial arguments my legal team were making in correspondence against the legality of the procedure were not having any impact with the Permanent Secretary. My legal team advised that it was impossible properly to defend myself against the complaints under such a flawed procedure. They advised that a petition for Judicial Review would have excellent prospects of success given the Government were acting unlawfully.

However I was extremely reluctant to sue the Government I once led. I wanted to avoid the damage both to the Scottish Government and the SNP which would inevitably result. To avoid such a drastic step, I resolved to let the First Minister see the draft petition for Judicial Review. As a lawyer, and as First Minister, I assumed that she would see the legal jeopardy into which the government was drifting. I therefore sought a further meeting.

23. On 1st June 2018 the First Minister sent me a message which was the opposite of the assurance she had given on the 2nd April 2018 suggesting instead that she had always said that intervention was “not the right thing to do”.

That was both untrue and disturbing. On 3rd June 2018 I sent her a message on the implications for the Government in losing a Judicial Review and pointing to her obligation (under the Ministerial Code) to ensure that her administration was acting lawfully and (under the Scotland Act) to ensure that their actions were compliant with the European Convention.

24. The First Minister and I met in Aberdeen on 7th June 2018 when I asked her to look at the draft Judicial Review Petition. She did briefly but made it clear she was now disinclined to make any intervention.

25. My desire to avoid damaging and expensive litigation remained. My legal team thereafter offered arbitration as an alternative to putting the matter before the Court of Session. That proposal was designed to offer a quick and relatively inexpensive means of demonstrating the illegality of the procedure in a process which guaranteed the confidentiality of the complainers.

It would also have demonstrated the illegality of the process in a forum which would be much less damaging to the Scottish Government than the subsequent public declaration of illegality.

I was prepared at that time to engage fully with the procedure in the event my legal advice was incorrect. In the event, of course, it was robust. I explained the advantages of such an approach to the First Minister in a Whatsapp message of 5th July 2018.

26. I received a message via Geoff Aberdein from her Chief of Staff Liz Lloyd (the initial the First Minister has redacted from my relevant WhatsApp message is “L”) on the 13th July 2018 that the First Minister wanted to see me again and we met once again at her house at her request the following day, 14th July 2018. This is shown at Appendix A.

There was no-one else at this meeting. She specifically agreed to correct the impression that had been suggested to my counsel in discussions between our legal representatives that she was opposed to arbitration. I followed this up with a WhatsApp message on the 16th July 2018.

27. On 18th July 2018 the First Minister phoned me at 13.05 to say that arbitration had been rejected and suggested that this was on the advice of the Law Officers. She urged me to submit a substantive rebuttal of the specific complaints against me, suggested that the general complaints already answered were of little consequence and would be dismissed, and then assured me that my submission would be judged fairly.

She told me I would receive a letter from the Permanent Secretary offering me further time to submit such a rebuttal which duly arrived later that day. As it turned out the rebuttal once submitted was given only cursory examination by the Investigating Officer in the course of a single day and she had already submitted her final report to the Permanent Secretary.

My view is now that it was believed that my submission of a rebuttal would weaken the case for Judicial Review (my involvement in rebutting the substance of the complaints being seen to cure the procedural unfairness) and that the First Minister’s phone call of 18th July 2018 and the Permanent Secretary’s letter of the same date suggesting that it was in my “interests” to submit a substantive response was designed to achieve that.

28. In terms of the meetings with me, the only breaches of the Ministerial Code are the failure to inform civil servants timeously of the nature of the meetings.

29. My view is that the First Minister should have informed the Permanent Secretary of the legal risks they were running and ensured a proper examination of the legal position and satisfied herself that her Government were acting lawfully.

30. Further once the Judicial Review had commenced, and at the very latest by October 31st 2018 the Government and the First Minister knew of legal advice from external counsel (the First Minister consulted with counsel on 13th November) that on the balance of probability they would lose the Judicial Review and be found to have acted unlawfully.

Despite this the legal action was continued until early January 2019 and was only conceded after both Government external counsel threatened to resign from the case which they considered to be unstateable. This, on any reading, is contrary to section 2.30 of the Ministerial Code.

31. Most seriously, Parliament has been repeatedly misled on a number of occasions about the nature of the meeting of 2nd April 2018.

32. The First Minister told Parliament (see Official Report of 8th,10th & 17th January 2019) that she first learned of the complaints against me when I visited her home on 2nd April 2018. That is untrue and is a breach of the Ministerial Code.

The evidence from Mr Aberdein that he personally discussed the existence of the complaints, and summarised the substance of the complaints, with the First Minister in a pre arranged meeting in Parliament on 29th March 2018 arranged for that specific purpose cannot be reconciled with the position of the First Minister to Parliament.

The fact that Mr Aberdein learned of these complaints in early March 2018 from the Chief of Staff to the First Minister who thereafter arranged for the meeting between Mr Aberdein and the First Minister on 29th March to discuss them, is supported by his sharing that information contemporaneously with myself, Kevin Pringle and Duncan Hamilton, Advocate.

33. In her written submission to the Committee, the First Minister has subsequently admitted to that meeting on 29th March 2018, claiming to have previously ‘forgotten’ about it. That is, with respect, untenable. 

The pre-arranged meeting in the Scottish Parliament of 29th March 2018 was “forgotten” about because acknowledging it would have rendered ridiculous the claim made by the First Minister in Parliament that it had been believed that the meeting on 2nd April was on SNP Party business (Official Report 8th & 10th January 2019) and thus held at her private residence. 

In reality all participants in that meeting were fully aware of what the meeting was about and why it had been arranged. The meeting took place with a shared understanding of the issues for discussion – the complaints made and the Scottish Government procedure which had been launched.

The First Minister’s claim that it was ever thought to be about anything other than the complaints made against me is wholly false.

The failure to account for the meeting on 29th March 2018 when making a statement to Parliament, and thereafter failing to correct that false representation, is a further breach of the Ministerial Code.

Further, the repeated representation to the Parliament of the meeting on the 2nd April 2018 as being a ‘party’ meeting because it proceeded in ignorance of the complaints is false and manifestly untrue. The meeting on 2nd April 2018 was arranged as a direct consequence of the prior meeting about the complaints held in the Scottish Parliament on 29th March 2018.

34. The First Minister additionally informed Parliament (Official Report 10th January 2018) that ‘I did not know how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint, I did not know how the Scottish Government intended to deal with the complaint and I did not make any effort to find out how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint or to intervene in how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint.’

I would contrast that position with the factual position at paragraphs 20 and 27 above. The First Minister’s position on this is simply untrue. She did initially offer to intervene, in the presence of all those at the First Minister’s house on the 2nd April 2018.

Moreover, she did engage in following the process of the complaint and indeed reported the status of that process to me personally.

35. I also believe it should be investigated further in terms of the Ministerial Code, whether the criminal leak of part of the contents of the Permanent Secretary’s Decision report to the Daily Record was sourced from the First Minister’s Office. 

We now know from a statement made by the Daily Record editor that they received a document. I enclose at Appendix B the summary of the ICO review of the complaint which explains the criminal nature of the leak and the identification of 23 possible staff sources of the leak given that the Prosecutor has sympathy with the hypothesis that the leak came from an employee of the Scottish Government”.

My reasoning is as follows. The leak did not come from me, or anyone representing me. In fact I sought interdict to prevent publication and damage to my reputation. The leak is very unlikely indeed to have come from either of the two complainers.

The Chief Constable, correctly, refused to accept a copy of the report when it was offered to Police Scotland on August 21st 2018 by the Crown Agent. It cannot, therefore have leaked from Police Scotland.

Scottish Government officials had not leaked the fact of an investigation from January when it started.

The only additional group of people to have received such a document, or summary of such a document, in the week prior to publication in the Daily Record was the First Minister’s Office as indicated in paragraph 4.8 of the ICO Prosecutor’s Report. In that office, the document would be accessed by the First Minister and her Special Advisers.

I would be happy to offer further information on this submission.


Rt Hon Alex Salmond

31st December 2020

Hardline, Hate-Filled Minorities

I had no sooner sent this response to an uninvited visitor to my Twitter timeline that I came across Neil Mackay's timely article in The Herald.

"I don't know what you think I'm interested in talking to someone who is so rude, angry and belligerent - I suspect you're an agent who's trying to put people off the SNP and indy, but in any event stay off my timeline as I'm not remotely interested in what you have to say."

Now I appreciate there are morons on both sides, but the SNP is the party of government and ought to be leading by example when it comes to the behaviour of its members and supporters.

 

Sturgeon on Salmond - "Not Got a Sexist Bone In His Body"

Nicola Sturgeon has known Alex Salmond for the best part of 30 years and although she has had some critical things to say recently about his behaviour - this has not always been the case.

Back in 2015 Nicola even went as far as to say the former First Minister "had not got a sexist bone in his body."

No wonder people are cynical at the ability of politicians to say whatever suits their purpose when they find themselves in tricky situations. 


The Daily Record - 10 June 2015

'Behave yourself, Alex Salmond is no sexist' – First Minister Nicola Sturgeon defends her predecessor over Commons row

SNP leader takes time out from her visit to the United States to insist the MP for Gordon “has not got a sexist bone in his body”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says Alex Salmond is no sexist (Image: PA)

NICOLA Sturgeon has launched a bracing defence of Alex Salmond over charges of sexism after he told a Conservative MP to “behave yourself, woman”.

The First Minister took time out from her visit to the United States to insist her predecessor “has not got a sexist bone in his body”.

Sturgeon leapt to the Gordon MP’s defence after he sparked controversy during a House of Commons exchange with Enterprise Minister Anna Soubry last week.



The Times - 11 June 2015

Sturgeon rejects sexist jibe about Salmond

Nicola Sturgeon said she believed Alex Salmon had not got a sexist bone in his body - GETTY IMAGES

By Lindsay McIntosh - The Times

Nicola Sturgeon has said that no man “is less sexist” than Alex Salmond as she made a staunch defence of her predecessor who is in trouble for telling a female MP to “behave” in the House of Commons. 

Mr Salmond, the former first minister, snapped “behave yourself, woman” at Anna Soubry, the minister for small business, during heated exchanges in parliament last week. He has since been condemned by political opponents, including Ms Soubry, for the “sexist” remark.

Ms Sturgeon used an interview yesterday to defend him and praise him for the support he has given her throughout her career.


The Mail - 10 June 2015

Alex Salmond is least sexist man I know, says Nicola Sturgeon after he told Tory minister to 'behave yourself, woman'
  • Sturgeon defends predecessor, says there is 'no sexist bone in his body'
  • Former SNP leader launched tirade when Anna Soubry interrupted him
  • He said the MP should 'behave better' before telling her to 'calm down' 
  • Soubry also hit back, saying his 'attitude belongs in the 19th century'
By MATT CHORLEY, POLITICAL EDITOR FOR MAILONLINE 

Nicola Sturgeon has leapt to the defence of Alex Salmond in his row with a female Tory minister, insisting there is 'not a sexist bone in his body'.

Mr Salmond was accused of sexism after describing business minister Anna Soubry as 'demented' and telling her to 'behave yourself, woman' during a debate in the House of Commons.

But Miss Sturgeon has claimed there is no man she knows 'who is less sexist' than her predecessor as SNP leader.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, pictured on her trip to New York, has defended her predecessor Alex Salmond over claims he is sexist



The Huffington Post - 10 June 2015

Nicola Sturgeon Defends Alex Salmond Against Accusations Of Sexism Following Anna Soubry Comments

Paul Vale - The Huffington Post UK

NEW YORK -- Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon defended Alex Salmond against accusations of sexism on Tuesday, stating there is no man she knows "who is less sexist."

Salmond was accused of sexism after he told Conservative MP Anna Soubry to "behave yourself, woman" during a parliamentary debate on devolution last Wednesday.

Speaking to the HuffPost UK, Sturgeon said that having "worked with Alex Salmond for 25 years, he’s not got a sexist bone in his body."

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon visits Glasgow Caledonian University New York on June 8, 2015 in New York City


The Sunday Post - June 14, 2015

SNP MP Hannah Bardell defends Alex Salmond in sexism row


A key ally of Alex Salmond has accused the media of being “disingenuous” for claiming the former First Minister is sexist.

Hannah Bardell, who worked for Salmond for years and is now an MP, said: “I cannot think of anyone who has done more to help women, and men, to progress under his guidance.

“It’s disingenuous to create that sort of storm round what he said.”