Alex Salmond to take legal action due to ‘conduct’ of Leslie Evans and make complaint to police on Daily Record leak
Alex Salmond has said he will launch fresh legal action “as a direct result of the conduct” of permanent secretary Leslie Evans around her role in the handling of harassment complaints against him.
In a statement reacting to the conclusions of both the Holyrood inquiry and the report by barrister James Hamilton, the former first minister also said he would make a formal complaint to the police around the alleged leak of the decision report to the Daily Record newspaper.
Mr Salmond had indicated his plans to bring legal action against Ms Evans during the course of the parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of the Scottish Government.
However, the nature of the legal action has not been disclosed by the former first minister.
The former leader of the SNP said the findings of the reports “must be accepted, just like the verdicts of juries and the judgements of courts”.
Mr Hamilton’s report into the conduct of Nicola Sturgeon led to the First Minister being cleared of breaching the ministerial code, while the parliamentary committee on the handling of harassment complaints listed a litany of failures by the Scottish Government.
Much of the criticism in the committee report was directed at Ms Evans. The report also found the First Minister had misled the committee on the details of a meeting between her and Mr Salmond.
However, Mr Salmond said much of the evidence that he stated he wished would come to light following his trial in Edinburgh had not done so.
Mr Salmond was acquitted in the trial last year that followed his successful judicial review case against the Scottish Government’s investigation into alleged incidents of sexual harassment.
Responding to the inquiries’ findings, he said: “The inquiries are over and despite their manifest limitations, the findings are in and must be accepted, just like the verdicts of juries and the judgements of courts.
“A year ago, outside the High Court, I said that there was evidence which I wished to see the light of day. Some of that key material, including the government legal advice, eventually emerged through the Parliamentary Committee. Much of it did not.
“A month ago, I gave public evidence to the Parliamentary Inquiry itself. I called for some in leadership positions to consider their position.
"It is in the public interest that such action be taken to prevent a damaging erosion of trust in the institutions of government. As the record shows, I did not call for the resignation of the First Minister.”
Announcing his plans to take legal action against the permanent secretary, Mr Salmond said the decision was made following an indication Ms Evans and others in senior positions have a “clear intention” to “carry on regardless”.
However, the former first minister did not give details on the basis of the legal action nor whether the action would be specifically brought against Ms Evans herself or the wider Scottish Government.
Potential legal routes include suing the Scottish Government for the losses incurred due to the failures of Ms Evans highlighted in both the judicial review process and the inquiry reports.
This could potentially see the Scottish Government, due to Ms Evans’ corporate role, sued on the basis of negligence.
The basis for legal action will only become clear once a petition is lodged with the Court of Session.
Mr Salmond said: “I was previously forced to take the permanent secretary to the Court of Session over the illegality of her actions and was successful. Despite being found responsible for that unlawful and unfair process and incurring a vast and avoidable cost to the taxpayer of over £600,000 in legal expenses, the permanent secretary did not offer her resignation on January 8, 2019.
“Now, more than two years later, and despite the most damning condemnation from a committee in the history of the modern Scottish Parliament, the permanent secretary still refuses to accept real responsibility.
“Instead, the waste of public resources has continued to grow as has the impact on all the people concerned.
“This cannot stand. I have therefore taken legal advice and will shortly be instructing my lawyers to bring proceedings in the Court of Session arising as a direct result of the conduct of the permanent secretary. I hope it is the only legal action that I am required to take.
“I have complete faith in the outcome of that court process, coming as it does with all the proper powers of recovery of documents and thus the ability to properly interrogate those individuals responsible, the absence of which so restricted the Parliamentary Committee.”
Mr Salmond said he also planned to make a complaint to the police over the nature of the alleged leak of details of the original complaints to the Daily Record newspaper, adding that he had “every confidence that Police Scotland will pursue that matter with rigour”.
He said: “Secondly, the report of Mr James Hamilton makes clear that the question of the leak of the story of the original complaints in August 2018 was not part of his remit, but should instead be referred to the police.
“The Parliamentary Committee Report was fully condemnatory of that same leak, noting the extreme level of damage to all concerned. I agree.
“I intend to make no further public comment on these issues and will leave the police and the courts to do their job.
“Instead I intend to move on, just as Scotland should now move on to debate the key election issues before us all, principally economic recovery from the pandemic and the future independence of our country.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is noted that Mr Salmond accepts the findings of the inquiries.
“The Scottish Government has been clear that it will reflect carefully on the reports published in recent days and that lessons will be learned. The First Minister retains her confidence in the permanent secretary, who has operated at all times in line with the Civil Service Code and legal advice received.
“It would be inappropriate to comment on a hypothetical legal action or in relation to a matter which Mr Salmond has said that he may raise with the police.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Scottish Government is clear that both an Information Commissioner’s Office investigation and an internal leak inquiry found no evidence to support Mr Salmond’s claims that there was any leak from the Scottish Government about the complaints made against him.”