Scottish Labour has condemned the “culture of secrecy” in Holyrood after former First Minister Alex Salmond threatened to take the SNP government to court over its refusal to publish key documents from his court case.
Responding to a letter sent by Salmond’s lawyer to the committee on the Scottish government’s handling of harassment complaints, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said it highlighted a “failure to be fully transparent”.
Although the committee has been specially convened to investigate potential government wrongdoing, the SNP administration has been using legal privilege to stop key documents relating to the case from being released.
Commenting on the case, Baillie suggested that the SNP needs to “come clean” about the situation. She said: “This explosive letter reveals the extent of the Scottish government’s failure to be fully transparent with the committee and the public.
“The invoking of legal privilege by powerful figures has become a regular fixture in this investigation, and too many vital documents have been withheld from committee members.”
The letter to the committee said there was “no reason” the Scottish administration could not provide the documents and suggested that Salmond could “return to court” to have the information passed to the committee.
Salmond’s lawyer offered to take the Holyrood government to court “on behalf of the committee” – but only with the proviso that the committee itself be prepared to cover the legal costs.
Baillie added: “We simply cannot have the endemic culture of secrecy that permeates the Scottish government and civil service inhibiting the progress of this committee any further.
“It is time for those who hold vital information to come clean with the committee so that we can get to the bottom of this affair together. The continued evasion is undignified, undemocratic, and simply unacceptable. The secrecy must end. The truth must out.”
It emerged in 2018 that the SNP had investigated complaints of sexual misconduct against Alex Salmond when he served as the First Minister of Scotland between 2007 and 2014.
In a court defeat of the Holyrood government last year, the SNP’s investigation into Salmond was judged by a legal review to be both unlawful and biased. The investigation cost taxpayers £500,000.
There have been several allegations of malpractice regarding the case that has led to the establishment of an investigatory committee of MSPs, of which Baillie is a member.