• Madeleine Murphy

Taxpayers to Foot cost of Mishandled Alex Salmond Harassment Inquiry

This week it was announced that the Scottish Government would be footing the £512,000 cost of former First Minister Alex Salmond’s legal expenses, following a completely botched inquiry into harassment claims against him. (1) Put differently, due to yet another failure on behalf of the Scottish Government, that is £512,000 of the taxpayer’s money wasted, put to no use other than straight into Salmond’s pocket.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government had admitted acting unlawfully while the investigation into claims against Mr Salmond, which he denies, was active. The unlawful nature of this investigation comes from an evident breach of their own procedural guidelines, owing to the fact that senior civil servant, Leslie Evans, had been involved in the case. Acting lawyer at the time for the Scottish Government stated that Evans, a dedicated professional, did have contact with complainers against Salmond beforehand. The judge thereby ruled that the government’s actions had been first unlawful as they were procedurally unfair, but also were tainted with apparent bias. (2)

In response to the failures of the government that came to light earlier in the year, Sturgeon took surprisingly no concrete action, but did instead offer words of apology. She noted that it was “deeply regrettable” that the government had found themselves in such a situation, adding that she did also feel regret for the complainants. (3) Sturgeon did, however, assert that Leslie Evans did remain to have her full support. Evans also released her own apology, but also insisted in her own way that there was “nothing to suggest that the investigative officer did not conduct their duties in an impartial way”. (4) At the time, Mr Salmond’s reaction was to ask Evans to strongly reconsider her position working for the government, and warned that due to the mishandling of the case, the public could have to pay upwards of £500,000. (5)

Flash forward from January to the present day, only two days ago did a spokesman for the Scottish Government confirm that, indeed, a final settlement of £512,250 had been given to Salmond for legal costs arising from his petition for judicial review. (6) Salmond’s own spokesman proceeded to comment that the huge amounts which have had to be paid reflect an “agreement by which the investigation of Mr Salmond was declared by the Court of Session as unlawful”. (7) What should also be noted is that there has been no evidence as of yet to show what Salmond will do with his controversial £100,000 raised directly from crowdfunding, which he had started to also aid in covering legal expenses.

The taxpayer pay out to Salmond showcases the direct result of a procedural mistake made on behalf of the Scottish Government, which could have been prevented if its own guidelines had been followed. The First Minister has made no comment regarding these recent events. Despite this, it is undoubtedly still a situation to keep an eye on, with Salmond’s high court hearing following charges consisting of two counts of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one for breach of the peace, expected to take place in January 2020. (8)

Sources used:

1. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/08/13/alex-salmond-receives-500000-legal-costs-government-ran/

2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-46428570

3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-46428570

4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-46428570

5. https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/alex-salmond-receives-500-000-in-legal-costs-from-scottish-government-over-botched-conduct-probe-1-4982877

6. https://www.itv.com/news/2019-08-13/alex-salmond-receives-500-000-legal-costs-payout-from-scottish-government/

7. https://www.itv.com/news/2019-08-13/alex-salmond-receives-500-000-legal-costs-payout-from-scottish-government/

8. https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/alex-salmond-sexual-harassment-investigation-500k-pay-out/

At the time of writing, Madeleine is a second year student at the University of Strathclyde. She is studying Politics with International Relations. Areas that interest her most are UK politics and foreign policy.