Uk

Crown told to hand over Alex Salmond plot messages in another dramatic day at Holyrood

THE Crown Office has been ordered to hand over correspondence Alex Salmond claims is “obvious and compelling” evidence of the plot to have him imprisoned.

The demand came from MSPs on Holyrood’s harassment inquiry, who narrowly voted for the release of messages understood to be between senior figures in the SNP.

The committee has also sent a “final” invite to the former First Minister asking him to appear tomorrow.

It’s understood Salmond is likely to accept.

He was due to appear yesterday but pulled out after a last-minute intervention from prosecutors saw the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) agree to delete sections of his submitted evidence.

READ MORE: Brexiteer Liam Fox claims Alex Salmond saga could ruin UK’s reputation

The decision to edit parts of Salmond’s testimony came after the Crown Office told the Parliament it had “grave concerns”.

It was briefly taken offline on Tuesday morning before being uploaded later in the day with the five of the 33 passages redacted.

The Crown Office’s intervention was described as “unprecedented and highly irregular” by Salmond’s lawyers.

They subsequently asked that the “all material and communications with all or any third parties which led to their decision to intervene at the very last minute” be preserved and retained.

Responding to an urgent question in Holyrood, Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC rejected claims of political interference. He told MSPs:  “The Crown has no interest in interfering with or limiting the conduct of proceedings in this Parliament.

“It’s only interest is securing observation and compliance with an order of the High Court, with which we are all obliged to comply whether in this Parliament as otherwise.

“As with any anticipated publication which may amount to contempt of court, the Crown considered whether it should raise concerns with parliamentary authorities, it took the view that it should.

“It was ultimately a matter for the parliamentary authorities taking their own legal advice to determine what they should or should not publish.

“The Crown having raised the concerns which it has raised has exhausted its interest in this matter and has absolutely no interest in otherwise limiting the activities or conduct of business in this Parliament.”

The Lord Advocate has been invited to appear before the inquiry for further questioning next week.

MSPs on the committee are also to ask the SPCB to approach the High Court for a definitive ruling on whether the parts of Salmond’s evidence redacted would breach a court order prohibiting the naming of the women in his criminal trial.

The cross-party harassment committee is investigating the Scottish Government’s flawed probe into allegations of misconduct made against Salmond by two civil servants.

He had the exercise set aside in January 2019, with a judicial review declaring it “unlawful” and “tainted by bias”.

The Government’s botched handling ultimately cost the taxpayer half a million pounds.

At a later criminal case, the former SNP leader was cleared on 13 counts of sexual assault.

Some of the material held by the Crown Office being requested by the committee was shown to Salmond to allow his lawyers to prepare their defence in the criminal trial.

He had previously warned he could be prosecuted for sharing it with MSPs.

In his submission to the committee, Salmond said he was “very clear” that the evidence supports “a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned”.

​READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon says no good reason for Alex Salmond not to appear before MSPs

He added: “That includes, for the avoidance of doubt, Peter Murrell (Chief Executive), Ian McCann (Compliance Officer) and Sue Ruddick (Chief Operating Officer) of the SNP together with Liz Lloyd, the First Minister’s Chief of Staff.

“There are others who, for legal reasons, I am not allowed to name.”

Salmond said the “most obvious and compelling evidence” was contained in material that the Crown Office refused to release.

He said: “That decision is frankly disgraceful. Refusing to allow the committee to see that material both denies me the opportunity to put the full truth before the committee and the public, and makes it impossible for the committee to complete its task on a full sight of the relevant material.

“The only beneficiaries of that decision to withhold evidence are those involved in conduct designed to damage (and indeed imprison) me.”

Speaking at her daily briefing, Sturgeon said anyone suggesting that the Crown Office’s decisions were in any way politically influenced were “downright wrong”.



File source

Tags
Show More
Back to top button
Close