Former SNP minister demands release of Salmond documents and says Sturgeon must go if they show conspiracy

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Dan Sanderson
·5 min read
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Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon in 2011 -  Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe
Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon in 2011 - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe

A former SNP minister has called for secret documents about the Alex Salmond affair to be made public and said Nicola Sturgeon should resign if they prove allegations of a conspiracy.

Alex Neil, an MSP who held senior cabinet posts in Edinburgh under both Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon, called for transparency from both the Scottish Government and the Crown Office, which have both been criticised for withholding evidence.

Mr Salmond has alleged that senior figures in the SNP, including Ms Sturgeon’s husband and her chief of staff, conspired against him by using sexual assault allegations to attempt to ruin his political career and potentially imprison him.

Ms Sturgeon has said claims of a conspiracy involving not only the SNP but the prosecution service and other public bodies are ridiculous.

— Jackson Carlaw MSP (@Jackson_Carlaw) February 25, 2021There are good people in the SNP who are utterly dismayed by this sorry state of affairs & the damage it is doing.

One such person is former SNP Cabinet Minister Alex Neil who‘S rightly called out the Crown Office for & ScotGov for refusing to cooperate with the parly committee.

Mr Neil, who served as an SNP cabinet minister between 2011 and 2016, called for legal advice which the Scottish Government received about a legal challenge brought by Mr Salmond to a civil service probe against him, to be released to a Holyrood committee probing the affair.

The Scottish Government has defied two votes at Holyrood to release the advice, which Mr Salmond says will show Ms Sturgeon’s administration spent public money fighting his case despite being told it was likely to lose.

Ms Sturgeon initially said the committee would have any documents it asked for but later reneged on the pledge.

Mr Neil also called for messages held by the Crown Office between senior SNP figures - which Mr Salmond's camp claims will prove allegations of a conspiracy against him - to be turned over.

The messages were obtained by prosecutors and released to Mr Salmond as part of the disclosure process for his criminal trial, but he has been told he could be prosecuted if he reveals their contents.

The Holyrood committee probing the affair also launched a fresh legal bid to compel the Crown Office to release the messages. The committee would then decide whether they should be published.

Nicola Sturgeon will appear next week - Virginia Mayo/AP
Nicola Sturgeon will appear next week - Virginia Mayo/AP

“In four weeks time we go into the official start of the [Holyrood] election campaign,” Mr Neil, seen as an ally to Mr Salmond, said. “I think really, the SNP and SNP leadership has to…. release the legal advice which was promised by the First Minister to the parliamentary committee.

“And for the Crown Office to lift the threat of criminal action against Mr Salmond and allow the information the committee has asked for to be presented to the committee and the public.

“Then, hopefully, once it’s all out in the open people will make up their minds if there was a conspiracy, if there was who was involved in it, what action should be taken, and let’s see if we can get a line drawn under this before we get into the election campaign.”

He added: “If it was proven that there was a conspiracy, everybody involved in the conspiracy, I think, would be getting their jotters.”

Mr Salmond is finally due to appear in front of MSPs on Friday. Ms Sturgeon is due to give evidence next week.

She accused Mr Salmond on Wednesday of inhabiting an “alternate reality” and mocked his claims that the organs of state had colluded in an attempt to bring him down.

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The Holyrood committee is investigating the civil service probe into Mr Salmond, which was ruled unlawful after he challenged it in court. He was later cleared of all 13 sex assault charges, following a separate criminal investigation.

Alyn Smith, the Stirling MP and an ally to Ms Sturgeon, claimed on Wednesday that allegations the Scottish Government had leaned on prosecutors to put pressure on the parliament to censor written evidence put forward by Mr Salmond was “absurd”.

— Scottish Conservatives (@ScotTories) February 25, 2021📢 @RuthDavidsonMSP:

"This is beyond Sturgeon v Salmond.

"This is the biggest crisis in our institution since devolution began." pic.twitter.com/1efp7PiWCd

Mr Smith added: "A lot of allegations are being made, and of course, allegations need to be taken seriously, but when they are rebutted we need to take that as what it is.

"I think there is a sustained attack on devolution, in principle and in fact, under way right now which is being used by the Conservatives to undermine the idea Scotland should have any decision-making capacity at all.

"I think anyone in the SNP side who is giving ammunition to this unseemly campaign, should think about which party they are running with."

He also appeared to suggest - incorrectly - that it would be impossible for the Scottish Government to release the legal advice it received about Mr Salmond's judicial review.

While there is a convention that legal advice is not released, this can be overridden and it has been published several times in the past.

Challenged over why the SNP Government had defied two votes in Holyrood over the legal advice, he said the Scottish Government had to act "within the law".

He added: "No government, no executive, anywhere, ever, will publish its own legal advice. That's to allow its own legal officers to give proper advice, confidentially, knowing it's not going to be made public."

The Scottish Government has previously released legal advice it received to inquiries about the Edinburgh Trams, contaminated blood scandal and historical abuse.

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