Alex Salmond Inquiry: John Swinney dismisses Sue Ruddick texts read out by David Davis as ‘essentially irrelevant’
John Swinney has labelled previously-unseen text messages that call into question the Salmond inquiry testimony of the First Minister’s Chief of Staff “essentially irrelevant.”
It comes after David Davis MP used parliamentary privilege on Tuesday to read out the leaked texts, allegedly downloaded from the mobile of the SNP’s Chief Operating Officer, Sue Ruddick.
The former Brexit Secretary told MPs that the messages showed Liz Lloyd, the First Minister’s Chief of Staff, knew about the allegations against Mr Salmond months before the date she originally asserted under oath.
Speaking in an adjournment debate, Mr David said: “I have it on good authority that there exists from February 6, 2018 an exchange of messages between civil servants Judith McKinnon and Barbara Alison, suggesting the First Minister’s Chief of Staff is interfering in the complaints process against Alex Salmond.
“If true, this suggests the Chief of Staff had knowledge of the Salmond case in February, not in April, as she has claimed on oath.”
But speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, John Swinney said he understood that the texts had already been dismissed “as essentially irrelevant” by the Scottish Parliamentary committee investigating the botched investigation into sexual harassment claims made against Alex Salmond.
He insisted that the comments about Ms Lloyd recited by Mr Davis did not relate to the two complainants involved in the probe, and added that, at the time, Nicola Sturgeon’s Chief of Staff “was not aware there was any connection to the former First Minister.”
Mr Swinney further insisted that Ms Sturgeon had given “an open and candid account” of her involvement in the 2018 investigation process.
“I think the First Minister overseas spent eight hours at the harrassment committee giving comprehensive answers to every question that was put to her, and she stands by all of that information,” he added.
Yesterday, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the allegations could “blow another enormous hole in the First Minister’s story.”
He said: “If the First Minister’s side were aware of complaints against Alex Salmond in February 2018, an outrageous breach of those women’s privacy and confidentiality has occurred.
“February 2018 is also two months before Nicola Sturgeon originally claimed to find out about complaints.
“If her chief of staff knew then, and was interfering in the investigation, it blows another enormous hole in the First Minister’s story.”
Mr Ross said any interference by civil servants into the Salmond investigation would be a “sacking offence”.
He added: “It further raises the question if anyone told Nicola Sturgeon that her chief of staff was interfering in the investigation.
“If they did, a number of lies have been told to the Scottish Parliament.
“f they didn’t, it still makes Nicola Sturgeon’s story of when she claims to have found out about complaints even more implausible.”
On Tuesday evening a spokesperson for First Minister said: “As with Mr Salmond’s previous claims and cherry picking of messages, the reality is very different to the picture being presented.
“Every message involving SNP staff has been seen by the committee previously.”
They added: “Their views have been widely reported as dismissive of them.”