Alex Salmond inquiry told may require court action to access secret judicial review documents

The committee leading the inquiry into the Scottish Government’s botched harassment probe into against Alex Salmond has been told it may require court action to gain access to otherwise secret documents.

Thursday, 8th October 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th October 2020, 12:39 pm
The Salmond inquiry is considering court action to obtain documents
The Salmond inquiry is considering court action to obtain documents

The inquiry is examining how the Scottish Government’s harassment complaints procedure led to the concession of a judicial review case brought by the former First Minister, costing the taxpayer more than £500,000,

Convener Linda Fabiani had written to the Court of Session looking for guidance on whether the committee could access documents used by both Mr Salmond and the Scottish Government during the course of the judicial review proceedings.

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The committee has consistently accused the Scottish Government of failing to disclose all the relevant information, while Mr Salmond was warned by the Crown Office he could face prosecution if information linked to the criminal case he faced was made public unlawfully.

Mr Salmond was acquitted of all sexual offence charges during a trial earlier this year.

Responding to the committee’s request for the documents and guidance, the director and principal clerk at the Court of Session, Pam McFarlane said the committee could gain access to the documents, known as ‘productions’, if they were ‘borrowed’ or returned to the Scottish Government and Mr Salmond and then voluntarily provided.

The only other option would be a court order, but Ms McFarlane said it was not possible for her to say whether such a move would be successful.

She said: "I am unable to provide the committee with the remaining documents you seek, without an order of the court directing me to do so.

“However, there still remain a large number of parts of process which I consider to essentially constitute productions, which might usefully be borrowed by the relevant parties and made available to you without further recourse to the court. I could request that the parties borrow their productions back, since the process is at an end, and it would then be a matter of requesting them to deliver them to you.

“As an alternative to parties borrowing their productions and making them available to you, the committee, represented by the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body, may wish to consider making an application to the court for an order authorising access to the documents that the committee wishes to consider in the context of fulfilling its remit. I can make no comment on whether such an application would be granted.”

Ms Fabiani has also written to deputy First Minister John Swinney asking for more information surrounding the judicial review timeline, as well as further documents including minutes of meetings between Scottish Government staff and ministers.

The committee has also asked for details of those meetings to be released, citing the fact texts between the complainers and staff have been provided by the Scottish Government.

The letter states: “In relation to the complaints handling phase the Committee is yet to receive the detailed records. In the absence of individual written submissions from government civil servants, the committee anticipates a detailed timeline for this phase of the inquiry will also be required.”

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