Tories issue court threat to secure Alex Salmond legal advice

The Tories are preparing to take the Scottish Government to court in an unprecedented move to secure the release of legal advice ministers received in the Alex Salmond court case.

Alex Salmond won a judicial review against the Scottish Government
Alex Salmond won a judicial review against the Scottish Government

Scots Tory leader Douglas Ross says he has instructed the party to start preparations for a court case after the Scottish Government lost a vote in Parliament demanding the release of the legal advice in relation to a judicial review which it lost against Mr Salmond. He went to court in 2018 over the Scottish Government's handling of internal complaints made by two civil servants about his behaviour. Mr Salmond was separately cleared of a string of sexual assault charges in court earlier this year.

The judicial review defeat cost the Scottish Government more than £600,000 in legal costs and an inquiry established at Holyrood into the issue has called for the legal advice to be released.

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Deputy First Minister John Swinney is considering the implications of the vote in Parliament.

But Mr Ross said has now stepped up the pressure on ministers.

"I have instructed the party to start preparations for launching legal action if the government refuses to listen to the Scottish Parliament and release these key documents,” he revealed.

“They have already ignored one vote in the Scottish Parliament. If they ignore a second vote this week, the Scottish Conservatives as the lead opposition party will seek to deliver what MSPs across the Scottish Parliament have demanded.

“The committee is being obstructed and blocked from doing its job. The First Minister’s promises to “co-operate fully” have been broken.

“If the government continues to abuse its power to shut down scrutiny, the Scottish Conservatives will look to force their hand so we can find out how more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money was lost.”

It’s understood that the court action could take the form of another judicial review. It will be funded from Tory party coffers, not the public purse.

Linda Fabiani, convener of the specially established committee of MSPs which has been established to investigate the Scottish Government's handling of internal complaints against Mr Salmond, has also criticised the government repeatedly for not co-operating and refusing to release key documents. The committee even briefly halted its work earlier this year amid concerns over a lack of information being provided. Tensions flared last week when Mr Swinney blocked two civil servants from appearing before the committee.

Both Mr Salmond and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon are scheduled to appear before the committee to give evidence next month.

But a spokesman for ministers said: “The Scottish Government is taking unprecedented steps to provide the Committee with the information it has requested in line with data protection, confidentiality and legal restrictions – and it is completely incorrect to suggest otherwise.

“The Deputy First Minister has clearly set out the detailed consideration that the Government is giving to the issue of whether legal advice can be revealed and also the extensive steps that are being taken to secure the release of further documentation.”

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