Nicola Sturgeon: ‘deeply regrettable government had to settle Alex Salmond challenge’

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “deeply regrettable” that the Scottish Government has had to settle a legal challenge brought by Alex Salmond over its handling of sexual misconduct allegations.

She made a statement to MSPs at Holyrood after the legal challenge brought by her predecessor was settled out of court.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The Court of Session ruled that the Scottish Government’s handling of sexual harassment claims - which are denied by Mr Salmond - were “unlawful”.

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The court had heard that the person who investigated the complaints had involvement with the complainers prior to being appointed investigating officer.

Ms Sturgeon said while there was no suggestion that the “investigating officer did in fact act in a partial way”, she said it was a “well established principle” that such procedures must be seen to be impartial

She said: “It remains my view that the Government was right to begin an investigation when the complaints were made and not allow them to be swept under the carpet because of the identity of the person complained about.

“And while in this one respect the operational application of the procedure was flawed, the Scottish Government considers the procedure itself to be robust and it remains in place.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “It is deeply regrettable, perhaps that is an understatement, that as a result of a failure in the proper application of the procedure, the Scottish Government has had to settle this matter.”

She said Scotland’s most senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary Lesley Evans had “apologised to all involved” in the case.

And she added the case being settled had “no implications one way or the other for the substance or the credibility to the complainers”.

The First Minister stressed her “regret” at the “difficult position the complainants have been put in”.

She stated: “I know the Permanent Secretary has spoken directly to both women and I can only imagine how difficult the decision to raise concerns, as well as the publicity around this investigation and the Judicial Review must have been for them in recent months.

“They had the right to expect the process to reach a lasting conclusion and I am sorry that on this occasion that has not been the case.”

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