The Scottish Government has been accused of “indefensible hypocrisy” over its refusal to release legal advice to the Holyrood inquiry into the handling of sexual harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond.
Monday, 14th September 2020, 7:30 am
The parliamentary committee investigating the bungled sexual misconduct inquiry, which resulted in the government paying more than £500,000 to Mr Salmond, has clashed with the government over its failure to release documents, with ministers claiming that legal restrictions prevent them from doing so.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has also said it would not be in the public interest to release legal information about the Salmond inquiry.
However, research by the Scottish Conservatives has shown that the SNP has demanded the UK government publish legal advice eight times, and that the Scottish Government has itself released legal advice on three separate occasions.
Yesterday Murdo Fraser MSP, the Tory spokesman on the committee, said: “The SNP have demanded that legal advice be published on issue after issue, only to claim it shouldn’t be published in this instance to protect the SNP from harm.
“The hypocrisy on show is indefensible. They are all for transparency until their Government has something to hide. From start to finish, the SNP has made a mockery of this inquiry by refusing to give up key documents at every turn.
“It’s the height of nationalist nonsense to shut down scrutiny because they know it would uncover the truth about their failings.”
According to the Conservatives, between 2011 and 2019 the SNP demanded the UK government release legal advice eight times on matters ranging from airstrikes on Syria to whether an independent Scotland could remain in the EU to the EU Withdrawal Agreement and the prorogation of Parliament.
The Scottish Government has itself released legal advice to the UK Infected Blood Inquiry, the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and also waived privilege to release legal advice to the Edinburgh Trams Inquiry.
The sexual harassment committee convener, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, has also raised the fact that the government has released legal advice before, writing to Mr Swinney this week saying: “The committee fails to see how it can conduct effective scrutiny when the Scottish Government is withholding all communications about the judicial review proceedings”.
One of Alex Salmond’s lawyers, David McKie, has also told the committee he would go back to court to help retrieve key documents not being handed over by the government.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Government is taking steps to enable it to provide all the relevant information requested by the committee, so far as is possible, taking account of the confidentiality, data protection and legal restrictions that apply.”