Sturgeon named in Salmond’s legal action as former first minister warns of ‘day of reckoning’

Politics

Nicola Sturgeon is among senior figures accused of “misfeasance” in former first minister Alex Salmond’s fresh legal action against the Scottish government.

Mr Salmond took the government to court in 2019 and was awarded £512,000 over its mishandling of harassment complaints against him.

The former SNP leader – who was first minister between 2007 and 2014 – was subsequently cleared of sexual assault charges in a separate criminal trial in 2020.

The Alba Party leader is now alleging “misfeasance” by civil servants and is seeking damages and loss of earnings in what he said will be a “day of reckoning for the Scottish government”.

The Alex Salmond v Scottish ministers case called at the Court of Session on Friday.

The public officials and ministers named in the action include former permanent secretary Leslie Evans, ex-chief of staff Liz Lloyd, and former first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

In a statement after the case called, Mr Salmond said “not one single person has been held accountable” for what he described as a “tawdry business” – which included a judicial review, criminal trial and Holyrood inquiry.

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He said he had “done my talking in court or in front of parliament” and would continue to do so.

Mr Salmond 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 enquiries 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.”

File photo dated 19/04/2022 of Alba leader Alex Salmond delivering a speech at the party's local government election manifesto launch at the Caird Hall, Dundee. Alex Salmond has warned that his former party faces "electoral disaster" if it does not back Alba's calls to put up a single independence candidate in a forthcoming by-election. The former Scottish first minister and SNP party leader has written an open letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf to reiterate that without his proposals the pro
Image:
Alba Party leader Mr Salmond pictured in August

Mr Salmond said he would delay the progression of the case – known as sisting – to allow criminal investigations into alleged leaking and perjury to take place.

But he added: “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.”

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

A Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish government’s handling of the original two complaints then followed, which called both Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon to give evidence.

During the inquiry, Mr Salmond attacked Scotland’s former top civil servant – then permanent secretary Ms Evans – 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.

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Mr Salmond’s lawyer, Gordon Dangerfield, said: “This is an action of misfeasance in public office in which we aver that public officials of the Scottish government conducted themselves improperly, in bad faith and beyond their powers, with the intention of injuring Mr Salmond.

“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.”

Mr Dangerfield claimed many documents requested over the past year in regards to the averments “continue to be concealed by the Scottish government”.

He added: “A major aim of Mr Salmond in bringing this action 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.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf has said the Scottish government will “robustly” defend itself.

Speaking at a press conference at the British-Irish Council in Dublin on Friday, Mr Yousaf initially refused to be drawn on the case, but added: “Unsurprisingly to anyone listening or watching, the Scottish government will defend its position robustly, but I’ll say no more because that’s a live case.”

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