Alex Salmond, Scotland’s former first minister, has turned down a request to give evidence next week to a Scottish parliament investigation into a controversial inquiry into his alleged misconduct, citing health concerns with the Covid pandemic.
A Holyrood committee has been investigating the Scottish government’s mishandling of an internal inquiry into claims by two female civil servants of sexual misconduct against Salmond after the court of session ruled procedural irregularities meant the inquiry was unlawful.
The government inquiry led to a deep rift between Salmond and his successor, and former close friend, Nicola Sturgeon, one that has become increasingly bitter.
About 14 months after the government’s internal inquiry was thrown out by the court, Salmond was cleared at the high court in Edinburgh of 14 sexual offences, including one alleged attempted rape, involving the same two officials and eight other women, including several in the Scottish National party.
After 11 previous oral evidence sessions involving some of Scotland’s most senior civil servants, including several with the permanent secretary, Leslie Evans, the committee has now called on Salmond to give evidence under oath next Tuesday.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, was expected to appear the following Tuesday but that is likely to be rearranged if Salmond’s appearance is delayed.
Salmond has rejected that date, arguing that an in-person appearance at Holyrood would breach current Covid lockdown restrictions, and asked to be quizzed instead on Tuesday 16 February.
Salmond’s lawyer, David McKie of Levy McRae, said that would allow more time for the committee to get key documents which came to light during Salmond’s prosecution last year to be released by Scottish ministers and prosecutors.