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Harassment complaints against Alex Salmond cannot be swept under the carpet – Sturgeon

Two complaints were made earlier this year against the former first minister, who has described the allegations as “patently ridiculous”.

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Nicola Sturgeon said complaints against her predecessor Alex Salmond could not be ignored (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Nicola Sturgeon said complaints against her predecessor Alex Salmond could not be ignored (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Nicola Sturgeon said complaints against her predecessor Alex Salmond could not be ignored (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Nicola Sturgeon has said harassment complaints against Alex Salmond cannot be “swept under the carpet” despite the difficult situation created for the First Minister and the SNP.

The Scottish Government has confirmed it received two complaints regarding former first minister Mr Salmond, who has described the allegations as “patently ridiculous”.

Mr Salmond intends to take court action against the Scottish Government to contest the complaints process activated against him.

Ms Sturgeon said her relationship with her predecessor “makes this an extremely difficult situation for me to come to terms with”, but that due process must be followed.

She told the BBC: “Everybody knows the length and closeness of my relationship to Alex Salmond and I think people will understand how difficult this is for me and for my party.

“This will be extremely upsetting to members of the SNP up and down the country. It’s a difficult situation but what is important is that complaints are treated seriously, regardless of who the person complained about is.

“That is a principle that cannot be applied selectively no matter how difficult that may be for me, my party or for others.”

Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary at the Scottish Government, said an internal review was launched last year into the Scottish Government’s procedures for handling complaints in the workplace in light of wider concerns about harassment at Westminster and the Scottish Parliament.

As part of that review, a new procedure on handling harassment complaints involving current or former ministers was introduced.

She said two complaints were raised in January against Mr Salmond and he was notified in March about an investigation.

  • Scottish National Party leader from 1990-2000 and 2004-2014
  • First Minister of Scotland 2007-2014
  • Stood down after Scotland voted against independence

The Daily Record reported that allegations about his conduct towards two staff members in 2013 – while he was in office – have been handed to Police Scotland, but the force would not comment on any inquiry.

Mr Salmond has denied the claims and said he has been prevented from properly challenging them by Scottish Government procedure.

Ms Sturgeon said the focus on process “cannot deflect from the fact that complaints were made that could not be ignored or swept under the carpet”.

She said she first heard about the investigation from Mr Salmond in April and had no prior knowledge of complaints being made. Ms Sturgeon was not involved in the investigation.

Asked by the BBC if Mr Salmond is still a member of the SNP, the First Minister said: “These matters will be considered in the fullness of time.

“This has not been a party investigation, I have limited information, for legal reasons that information I am not able to pass to the party, so the situation will undoubtedly develop as more information becomes available, but I am not able to confirm more than I have at this stage.”

In a statement, Mr Salmond 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.

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Ms Sturgeon said her relationship with Mr Salmond ‘makes this an extremely difficult situation for me to come to terms with’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Sturgeon said her relationship with Mr Salmond ‘makes this an extremely difficult situation for me to come to terms with’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Ms Sturgeon said her relationship with Mr Salmond ‘makes this an extremely difficult situation for me to come to terms with’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“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.

“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.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “I have been clear on many occasions that all organisations and workplaces must make it possible for people to come forward to report concerns and have confidence that they will be treated seriously. For that principle to mean anything it cannot be applied selectively. It must be applied without fear or favour, regardless of the identity, seniority or political allegiance of the person involved.”

Ms Evans said: “I note that the former first minister has indicated his intention to challenge the actions taken by the Scottish Government. His statement contains significant inaccuracies which will be addressed in those court proceedings. The Scottish Government will defend its position vigorously.

“As the head of the Civil Service in Scotland, I have been consistently clear that there is no place for harassment of any kind in the workplace.

“In line with work already under way in the organisation to tackle inappropriate behaviour, I will consider carefully any issues about culture and working practices highlighted by these complaints.”

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