SNP’s independence campaign risks ‘being jeopardised’ over secret Salmond inquiry files

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Campbell Gunn, a former aide to current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, told the Scottish Government it would be less damaging for the party to take a short term hit and release the documents. Both the Scottish Government and Mr Salmond’s lawyers have argued there are legal obstructions preventing them from handing over the documents.

The legal wrangling has seen Mr Salmond offer to appeal to the courts to be allowed to release papers used in his successful judicial review.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said the Scottish Government “intends to initiate legal proceedings to seek a ruling” about whether documents relating to the case can be released.

A Holyrood committee is currently investigating the Scottish Government’s handling of sexual harassment allegations made against Mr Salmond.

The probe by the committee was launched in the wake of the Scottish Court of Session’s ruling the Government had acted unlawfully in its investigation of the former first minister, who was awarded £512,000 of public money for his legal costs.

In a column, Mr Gunn said: “Avoid the drip-drip of allegations over a long period of time, by getting everything – whether damaging or not – into the open immediately.

“Take the short-term hit for long-term gain. If that means one or two people are forced to resign or are sacked by the first minister, then surely that’s what has to happen.

“No-one wants to see Scotland head for independence more than me. And I firmly believe that Nicola Sturgeon is, by a distance, the best person to lead us to that goal.

“But her position is being jeopardised by the almost daily allegations that there were murky goings-on behind the scenes which led to the sexual harassment and criminal charges being laid against Alex Salmond.”

He said if the “revelations result in one or two people losing their jobs, that must surely be a political price worth paying.” 

Committee Convenor Linda Fabiani also said this afternoon the Holyrood committee is facing “obstruction” as it seeks evidence about how the Government handled complaints of sexual misconduct against Mr Salmond when he was the first minister.

Ms Fabiani said the committee was still waiting for responses from the Scottish Government, Mr Salmond and SNP chief executive and Nicola Sturgeon’s partner Peter Murrell, who is Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish National Party.

The Committee Convenor also wrote to Mr Murrell asking for all “relevant information and records” about the use of SNP communication channels for official government business and those relating to the inquiry and the claims against Mr Salmond.

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She demanded “any and all” evidence of communications about the allegations against Mr Salmond, including “emails, minutes, notes, texts, papers and WhatsApp messages from all levels of the SNP.”

Ms Fabiani said it has been repeatedly frustrated by the refusal of witnesses to provide evidence and urged them to “engage productively” so the committee can proceed with its enquiry.

The SNP MSP said: “The committee continues to be completely frustrated with the lack of evidence and, quite frankly, obstruction it is experiencing.

“We had hoped to be in a position to hear further oral evidence but with responses still outstanding from the Scottish Government, chief executive of the SNP and the former first minister, all of this means that we simply cannot proceed at this stage.

“We have no choice but to meet in private again next week (October 6) to review the evidence we have received to date.

“I would urge all those we have approached to engage productively with the committee so it can get on with the task in hand.”

The Scottish Conservatives have also accused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of “misleading” the Scottish Parliament since the SNP Government will not “provide whatever material the inquiry requests.”

Scottish Conservative spokesman on the Salmond inquiry, Murdo Fraser MSP, said: “The SNP have treated the Salmond inquiry with contempt. They act like requests for key documents are beneath them.

He said if the “revelations result in one or two people losing their jobs, that must surely be a political price worth paying.” 

Committee Convenor Linda Fabiani also said this afternoon the Holyrood committee is facing “obstruction” as it seeks evidence about how the Government handled complaints of sexual misconduct against Mr Salmond when he was the first minister.

Ms Fabiani said the committee was still waiting for responses from the Scottish Government, Mr Salmond and SNP chief executive and Nicola Sturgeon’s partner Peter Murrell, who is Chief Executive Officer of the Scottish National Party.

The Committee Convenor also wrote to Mr Murrell asking for all “relevant information and records” about the use of SNP communication channels for official government business and those relating to the inquiry and the claims against Mr Salmond.

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She demanded “any and all” evidence of communications about the allegations against Mr Salmond, including “emails, minutes, notes, texts, papers and WhatsApp messages from all levels of the SNP.”

Ms Fabiani said it has been repeatedly frustrated by the refusal of witnesses to provide evidence and urged them to “engage productively” so the committee can proceed with its enquiry.

The SNP MSP said: “The committee continues to be completely frustrated with the lack of evidence and, quite frankly, obstruction it is experiencing.

“We had hoped to be in a position to hear further oral evidence but with responses still outstanding from the Scottish Government, chief executive of the SNP and the former first minister, all of this means that we simply cannot proceed at this stage.

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