Scottish Government blocks release of Nicola Sturgeon letter about Salmond investigation

Alex Salmond succesfully challenged the Scottish Government in Court. Picture: Getty Images
Alex Salmond succesfully challenged the Scottish Government in Court. Picture: Getty Images

The Scottish Government has blocked the release of a letter from Nicola Sturgeon to the nation’s top civil servant about its investigation into Alex Salmond, on the basis that it would prejudice his trial.

The First Minister wrote to Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans on 6 June last year, two months after her predecessor told her he was being investigated over allegations of harassment.

In our assessment, release of this information could prejudice a case currently in court in Scotland

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT

In her letter she is understood to have told Ms Evans she was aware of the inquiry and that Mr Salmond may be about to launch legal proceedings against the government.

Ms Sturgeon was first told about the investigation by Mr Salmond on 2 April at a meeting at her house in Glasgow. She then spoke to him again on the phone on 23 April.

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Her letter to Ms Evans, which has never been published, was sent the day before she had another meeting with her predecessor as SNP leader ahead of the party’s conference in Aberdeen.

In response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted by i, the Scottish Government said releasing the text of the letter risked prejudicing Mr Salmond’s ongoing criminal trial.

Last month the former First Minister was charged with 14 offences including two attempted rapes and nine sexual assaults, which he strongly denies. The date for the next hearing has yet to be set.

Mr Salmond also denied the harassment allegations being investigated by the Scottish Government prior to the announcement of the criminal charges.

Judicial review

The former First Minister won his judicial review against the Scottish Government over its handling of the complaints, after a judge ruled its inquiry had been “tainted by apparent bias”.

The FoI request was submitted by this newspaper to the Scottish Government on 17 January, after Mr Salmond won his judicial review and a week before he was charged by prosecutors.

The official response said publication was being blocked because “disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the administration of justice”.

It added: “The disclosure of some information could prejudice court proceedings.

“We recognise that there is some public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate.

“However, this is outweighed by the substantial public interest in ensuring that the courts in Scotland can operate without trials being prejudiced.

“In our assessment, release of this information could prejudice a case currently in court in Scotland.”