Alex Salmond inquiry: MSPs must be robust in their search for the truth – Kenny MacAskill MP

As he waits to speak to police officers about leaked WhatsApp messages between senior SNP figures, Kenny MacAskill MP urges MSPs investigating the Alex Salmond affair to demand full disclosure of the evidence if necessary

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 7:00 am
MSPs are investigating the Scottish Government's handling of complaints made against Alex Salmond (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)
MSPs are investigating the Scottish Government's handling of complaints made against Alex Salmond (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Salmondgate continues. A civil case, a criminal trial and now a parliamentary inquiry. You’d think that anything and everything would be out there, for all the world to see. Sadly, that isn’t the case. Despite a Parliament and Government that supposedly pride themselves on openness, much is still hidden and concealed by the SNP chief executive and the Lord Advocate.

I’m certain that MSPs on the parliamentary committee will give short shrift to many who are seeking to avoid proper scrutiny, including senior staff in the party I’ve been a member of for nigh on 40 years. Moreover, as is almost always the way when such secrecy is enforced, truth has a way of coming out.

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A WhatsApp message group orchestrated by senior SNP figures was mentioned in the criminal proceedings at the second preliminary hearing. It wasn’t accepted as evidence to be submitted, but its existence became a matter of public record.

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Alex Salmond inquiry: Former First Minister warned he could face prosecution if he discloses restricted documents

Indeed, knowing of those communications I had written to the Lord Advocate weeks before regarding it. At that stage, the Crown appeared to deny the existence of the precise messages that I was enquiring about but accepted the existence of just such a message group.

Then, a few weeks ago, I received an anonymous letter through the post. There was neither name nor covering letter with it, simply a document that purported to be messages from the SNP chief executive to another senior staffer. The terms suggested pressure be brought to bear on police investigating Alex Salmond, the precise actions I had been asking the Crown previously about and which they had denied. The terms of the messages are clear and the actions, even if not criminal, are entirely inappropriate.

Believing them to be authentic, I sent copies to Alex Salmond and to the Lord Advocate’s offices on 7 September. The former confirmed that they appeared to be genuine but all I received from the Crown was an acknowledgement of receipt. Believing it to be in the public interest that this information be made available to the parliamentary committee, I contacted the clerks forwarding them a copy. I’ve still had no further communication from the Crown though they have publicly intimated that they’re instigating an inquiry into a leak, confirmation if it was ever needed that the document’s genuine.

A meeting I was due to have with the Chief Constable this week has been cancelled as the Crown have initiated this inquiry and I’ll happily chat to any officers sent to do the Lord Advocate’s bidding.

There’s not much more though I can tell them, than what I’ve narrated here. But there’s still much more to come out and it’s for that reason that the parliamentary inquiry needs to be robust and if the SNP chief executive and the Lord Advocate continue to prevaricate, they must insist on full disclosure.

Names and details can be redacted if needs be but nothing else is acceptable given the seriousness of this case and the questions it raises.

Kenny MacAskill is SNP MP for East Lothian

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