Alex Salmond demands inquiry gives him immunity against prosecution so he can tell 'whole truth'




  • In US
  • 2021-01-15 19:51:36Z
  • By The Telegraph
Alex Salmond is due to appear before a Holyrood inquiry - PA
Alex Salmond is due to appear before a Holyrood inquiry - PA  

Alex Salmond's appearance in front of an inquiry during which he was expected to level serious allegations against Nicola Sturgeon has been thrown into doubt after he demanded a guarantee he would not be prosecuted.

Levy & McRae, the former First Minister's solicitors, wrote to the Holyrood committee conducting the inquiry warning that their client could leave himself open to prosecution if he mentioned evidence disclosed to him as part of his defence in his criminal trial.

They said this meant he could not tell the committee the "whole truth", leaving himself open to a perjury charge as witnesses to the inquiry give evidence under oath.

In their letter, they said that Mr Salmond is "currently unable to discharge in full" his responsibility to offer evidence under oath "without fear of prosecution".

The former First Minister had requested "binding assurances" from Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, Scotland's most senior law official, that he would not be prosecuted if he gave evidence.

But it is understood the Crown Office believes there to be no legal basis for any assurances of immunity from prosecution for Mr Salmond's appearance before the committee.

Mr Salmond has already made a written submission to the committee in which he accused Ms Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code of conduct, a resignation issue, and described her account of a key meeting with him at her home as "simply untrue."

Alex Salmond has demanded immunity against prosecution to testify to a Holyrood inquiry - Getty Images Europe
Alex Salmond has demanded immunity against prosecution to testify to a Holyrood inquiry - Getty Images Europe  

His legal team also dug their heels in over the date on which he would give evidence, rejecting a second demand by the inquiry convener's that he appear next week and suggesting Feb 16 instead.

Levy & McRae said the demand was contrary to advice from Holyrood's presiding officer that all in-person committee meetings be suspended for the rest of the month thanks to the Covid pandemic.

They noted that the committee was in agreement with Mr Salmond that "only an in-person meeting is suitable for this evidence", meaning the session could not be conducted virtually.

Mr Salmond won a judicial review in 2019 when Scotland's highest civil court found that the way the Scottish Government investigated sexual misconduct allegations against him was unlawful.

The SNP administration he once led paid him £512,250 of taxpayers' money to cover his legal costs after the judge Lord Pentland ruled the inquiry was "procedurally unfair" and "tainted with apparent bias".

The committee's inquiry into the debacle was kickstarted after when Mr Salmond was acquitted of sex charges at the High Court last year.

The Scottish Parliament committee examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond - Getty Images Europe
The Scottish Parliament committee examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond - Getty Images Europe  

In the letter, David McKie of Levy & McRae, said: "We understand the position to be that our client must tell 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth' under threat of a charge of perjury if he does not do so. Is that your understanding?

"If so, how do you propose he does so when that inevitably involves reference to material in the criminal proceedings and when doing so leaves him open to prosecution?"

A Scottish Parliament spokesman said: "While there is rightly a strong presumption against committees meeting in person, the Presiding Officer understands that there may be a small number of circumstances where essential committee business cannot be effectively undertaken by any means other than meeting in person.

"As the convener made clear to Mr Salmond's solicitor, the committee would be happy to work with Mr Salmond to find a way to allow him to give evidence in a safe and secure way.

"The committee will meet in private next Tuesday to consider its work programme including Mr Salmond's latest response. However, the Committee is clear that all evidence to it must comply with the relevant legal obligations."

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