Scots are used to tumult and unpredictability in their politics but this morning they are waking up to something of a different order. Former first minister Alex Salmond has been reported to police following allegations of sexual assault by two female staff members, according to the Daily Record. One of the alleged incidents, the paper claims, took place in Bute House, the official residence of the first minister of Scotland and now home to Nicola Sturgeon. The complaints were reportedly uncovered by an internal Scottish Government investigation and handed to Police Scotland.
Salmond denies all allegations against him and, what’s more, is now taking his own former government to court. In a statement issued on Thursday night, the former SNP leader revealed he had been in dispute with Leslie Evans, the permanent secretary to the Scottish Government, over the conduct of the internal investigation. Salmond accuses her of acting 'unlawfully' in the course of the process.
Salmond, who lost his seat to the Tories in the 2017 election and now hosts a self-titled show on Russia Today, announced he was seeking a judicial review at the Court of Session, the highest civil court in Scotland. In his statement, he said:
'For many months now, and on the advice of senior counsel, I have attempted to persuade the permanent secretary to the Scottish Government that she is behaving unlawfully in the application of a complaints procedure, introduced by her more than three years after I left office.
'This is a procedure so unjust that even now I have not been allowed to see and therefore to properly challenge the case against me. I have not been allowed to see the evidence. I have tried everything, including offers of conciliation, mediation and legal arbitration to resolve these matters both properly and amicably. This would have been in everybody’s interests, particularly those of the two complainants. All of these efforts have been rejected.
'The permanent secretary chose to deny me contact with any current civil servant, many of whom wished to give evidence on my behalf and access to documentation to allow me to properly challenge the complaints, all of which I refute and some of which were patently ridiculous. The procedure as put into operation by the permanent secretary is grossly unfair and therefore inevitably will lead to prejudicial outcomes.
'It is therefore with great reluctance that I have today launched a judicial review in the Court of Session which will decide the issue of the lawfulness of the procedure which has been used against me. If I lose then I will have to answer to the complaints both comprehensively and publicly. Until then I am bound to say nothing which would impinge on the Court proceedings.
'In our submissions on judicial review we have asked that the complainants’ identity be protected. If the Court of Session finds in my favour then the administration at the senior levels of the Scottish Government will have the most serious questions to answer. In my opinion and for whatever reason the permanent secretary has decided to mount a process against me using an unlawful procedure which she herself introduced. I will let a real court decide whether it was lawful for her to do so.'
For its part, the Scottish Government told the Record:
'We can confirm that Alex Salmond has initiated legal proceedings against the Scottish Government and as a result we are restricted in what we can say. However, the [Scottish Government] will defend its position vigorously. As a matter of principle and integrity, it is vital that any allegations of harassment are treated seriously and investigated thoroughly, regardless of the identity of the party involved.'
That a former first minister is taking legal action against the Scottish Government is striking; that it is a Scottish Government run by his own party, all the more so. The word 'unprecedented' will get a great deal of airing today.
Alex Salmond was the first SNP first minister of Scotland, elected to lead a minority administration in 2007 before winning a majority in 2011. He resigned to make way for Nicola Sturgeon after losing the 2014 independence referendum. The allegations against him will shock members of the public.