Salmond to launch legal action against Scotland’s top civil servant

Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political ReporterWed, 24 March 2021, 8:31 pm

Alex Salmond has announced he plans to take legal action against the head of the civil service in Scotland.

The former first minister said Leslie Evans failed to take “real responsibility” for failings highlighted in two reports this week.

Two inquiries published their findings in recent days, with James Hamilton finding that Nicola Sturgeon did not breach the ministerial code, while the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints found the First Minister misled parliament.

Leslie Evans appearing before the Salmond inquiry
Alex Salmond said Leslie Evans (pictured), the Permanent Secretary, has not taken ‘real responsibility’ for the failings uncovered in the inquiry (Russell Cheyne/PA)

The committee concluded there was an “individual failing” of Ms Evans because she knew of the prior contact between the officer investigating the complaints against Mr Salmond and those who made them.

In a statement on Wednesday, Alex Salmond says the action is necessary to “prevent a damaging erosion of trust in the institutions of Government”.

He said: “I have waited to see the response from those individuals to the publication of the inquiry reports.

“Unfortunately, it appears that the clear intention is to carry on regardless.”

He added: “The parliamentary committee has made clear that the catastrophic failures in this matter are not just systemic, but can properly be laid at the door of individuals, and in particular, the Permanent Secretary [Leslie Evans].

“I was previously forced to take the Permanent Secretary to the Court of Session over the illegality of her actions and was successful.

“Despite being found responsible for that unlawful and unfair process and incurring a vast and avoidable cost to the taxpayer of over £600,000 in legal expenses, the Permanent Secretary did not offer her resignation on January 8 2019.

“Now, more than two years later, and despite the most damning condemnation from a committee in the history of the modern Scottish Parliament, the Permanent Secretary still refuses to accept real responsibility.

“Instead, the waste of public resources has continued to grow as has the impact on all the people concerned.

“This cannot stand. I have therefore taken legal advice and will shortly be instructing my lawyers to bring proceedings in the Court of Session arising as a direct result of the conduct of the Permanent Secretary.”

Mr Salmond said he had “complete faith” in the courts, because it would have the power to recover documents in a way the parliamentary committee could not.

The James Hamilton report concluded the leak of the complaints to the Daily Record newspaper in August 2018 was not within his remit and should be referred instead to Police Scotland, a step the former first minister said he would now be taking.

“I will accordingly now make that complaint to the police and allow them to discover who within the Scottish Government was responsible for passing these details to the Daily Record newspaper,” he said in his first public statement since the publication of the reports.

Adding: “I have every confidence that Police Scotland will pursue that matter with rigour.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is noted that Mr Salmond accepts the findings of the inquiries.

“The Scottish Government has been clear that it will reflect carefully on the reports published in recent days and that lessons will be learned.

“The First Minister retains her confidence in the Permanent Secretary, who has operated at all times in line with the Civil Service Code and legal advice received.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on a hypothetical legal action or in relation to a matter which Mr Salmond has said that he may raise with the police.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Scottish Government is clear that both an Information Commissioner’s Office investigation and an internal leak inquiry found no evidence to support Mr Salmond’s claims that there was any leak from the Scottish Government about the complaints made against him.”

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