Alex Salmond case ‘could discourage future sexual harassment complaints’

Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond delivers a statement outside the Court of Session January 08, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond delivers a statement outside the Court of Session January 08, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Opposition politicians have raised concerns about the impact on future sexual harassment complaints of the court ruling in Alex Salmond’s case against the Scottish Government.

Scottish Labour warned of “potential loss of faith in the system” while the Scottish Conservatives said women could be discouraged from coming forward in future.

The latter called for Nicola Sturgeon to “take responsibility” and apologise.

The Court of Session ruled the Scottish Government acted unlawfully in dealing with sexual misconduct complaints against Mr Salmond.

Two complaints were formally lodged in January, which the former first minister strongly denies.

At a hearing in Edinburgh, Lord Pentland said the Scottish Government’s actions were “unlawful in respect that they were procedurally unfair and that they were tainted with apparent bias”.

READ MORE - Alex Salmond case: Scottish Government acted unlawfully over sexual harassment complaint

Scottish Labour Equalities spokeswoman Pauline McNeill said: “The Scottish Government must take steps to ensure this could never happen again.

“Investigations into alleged sexual assault should not fall down on the basis of improper procedure, and we are very concerned about the impact this ruling could have on any woman considering whether to pursue a complaint in future and any potential loss of faith in the system.”

She added: “We must not forget that this case is fundamentally about women and the bravery it takes to come forward to challenge powerful men and powerful institutions.”

Ms McNeill said Mr Salmond should “refrain from claiming victory when the other investigations are still ongoing”, including police inquiries into the complaints.

Scottish Conservative equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “At the centre of this entire affair are two women whose complaints against the former first minister have now fallen apart thanks to the incompetence of the Scottish Government. It’s a complete shambles.

“The Permanent Secretary has apologised for her role in this fiasco. But it is Nicola Sturgeon who must take responsibility.”

She added: “Her government has presided over a mess which only risks discouraging women from coming forward in future. It is a disgrace.

“Shockingly, Mr Salmond has also alleged that there was a systematic attempt by Ms Sturgeon’s government to use this affair to damage his reputation by leaking the allegations against him.

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“In other words, it appears the SNP has decided to carry out a civil war on the taxpayers’ time and expense.”

She added: “Nicola Sturgeon must reflect, change her ways and apologise immediately.”

Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans has said an internal review will be held into the handling of the complaints process.