MSPs agree to publish Alex Salmond's inquiry submission

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Alex Salmond

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A key obstacle to Alex Salmond appearing before the inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints against him may have been removed.

MSPs on Holyrood’s management group have agreed that a controversial submission to the inquiry by the former first minister can be published.

The submission accuses his successor, Nicola Sturgeon, of misleading parliament.

Mr Salmond had said he would not appear at the inquiry unless it was published.

The inquiry committee had previously refused to do so, citing legal concerns.

But the Scottish Parliament’s corporate body ruled on Thursday afternoon that “on balance it is possible” to publish the submission.

The move could see Mr Salmond give evidence to MSPs on Wednesday of next week.

Ms Sturgeon would then appear the following week, with the first minister previously saying she was “relishing” the prospect of putting her side across and rebutting “conspiracy theories” about her.

The Holyrood inquiry was set up to investigate what went wrong with the government’s internal investigation of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond, after he successfully took them to court.

The former SNP leader has also raised questions about Ms Sturgeon’s role in the process, claiming she had “repeatedly” misled parliament about when she learned about the complaints and had therefore broken the ministerial code.

Mr Salmond said he would only face the Holyrood inquiry if the submission making these claims – which has been widely publicised – was formally published by the committee, so he could refer to it in his oral evidence.

However members twice voted along party lines to reject this, meaning a planned evidence session with Mr Salmond had to be called off earlier this month.

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond

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After the second vote, the committee agreed to refer the matter to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, a group of MSPs responsible for the running of Holyrood.

And that group has now agreed that “on balance it would be possible to publish the submission by Alex Salmond on the ministerial code”.

This could open the door to Mr Salmond giving evidence after all, with the former first minister having “cleared his diary” for a session on 24 February.

A spokeswoman for the inquiry committee said a letter would be sent inviting him to give evidence that day.

She also said the submission would be published “early next week” once it had been processed in line with evidence-handling rules – which may mean parts are redacted.

‘Utterly bewildered’

Opposition members – who had been defeated in the committee votes over publishing the submission – welcomed the move, with Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser saying it was “the right decision”.

Labour’s Jackie Baillie added: “This decision is most welcome and should pave the way for Mr Salmond appearing before the committee next week.”

However the SNP hit out at the decision, with MSP George Adam saying that people across Scotland would be “utterly bewildered” that the corporate body had “ignored clear legal advice”.

After Mr Salmond, the only witness left to give evidence to the inquiry will be the first minister herself.

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly rejected accusations of wrongdoing, saying: “I do not consider that I breached the ministerial code – I will make that case very, very robustly”.

Her spokesman said the publication of the submission “changes nothing” for the first minister, because “she has always expected to be questioned on its contents”.

He added: “The only frustration is that she has still not had the chance to rebut the claims and conspiracy stories that have been levelled at her – and has lost count of how many times she has agreed to appear before the committee, only for the date to be postponed.”