Nicola Sturgeons Statement to the Inquiry
I had no general concerns at the time about Scottish Government culture from 2008-14, and certainly not about sexual harassment. However, government is a high pressure environment. Mr Salmond could be challenging to work for and, rightly, he demanded high standards. However, I was present on some occasions when tense situations had to be defused.
Certain matters that I have become aware of through the events of the last couple of years, raise retrospectively, some other concerns.
Note: This is designed to provide justification for her actions. But all allegations of misconduct against Alex Salmond were proved in a court of law, to be false and in some cases spurious.
I have no general concerns about the culture of the Scottish Government now. However, I am not complacent about the potential for instances of inappropriate behaviour within a large organisation. That is why it is important to have clear and robust procedures in place which, subject to any views of this Committee on the Procedure, I believe to be the case. I have no comment to make on the adequacy of the Civil Service Code. I give some personal reflection on the Ministerial Code in Annex A, however, the adequacy of it is a matter the independent panel will be able to consider.
In conclusion, I would like to add the following personal reflections. The Committee will be considering the Scottish Government’s handling of complaints raised under the Procedure.
That is, of course, legitimate. However, the Scottish Government would have had nothing to ‘handle’ had complaints not been raised about Alex Salmond’s conduct. It was the concerns raised about his conduct, an aspect of which, by his own admission, he apologised for, that gave rise to this matter.
Note: Not true: The procedure was put in place at the request of Nicola Sturgeon to address the pressing matter of MSP and former minister, Mark McDonald, who on 4 Nov 2017, was ordered by her, to resign from his ministerial office in response to a complaints that had been made against him about offensive content in a social media message he had sent. He was subsequently suspended from the Party but, to the consternation of Nicola Sturgeon he decided to retain his position as an MSP as an independent member until May 2021.
See Hynd’s exchange of information with a Spad in the Scottish Government: Hynd forwarded the Cabinet Office in London response, to a private secretary in the Scottish Government, who replied: “Oh dear, I did wonder if that would be their reaction. Not sure how long their review will take but the First Minister and Leslie Evans are keen to resolve quickly and discuss on Tuesday. I suspect we don’t have a policy on former civil servants. But we are looking at this in the context of the overall review of policies and the justification for having something about Ministers is the action that Parliament is taking in light of allegations about MSP conduct which includes a recent SG Minister?”. (Mark Macdonald not Alex Salmond) They piggy-backed Alex Salmond and added him to the list. But the procedure was never used against mark MacDonald. Why not?
The first allegation against Alex Salmond did not surface until very late in November 2017 and by this time the team of civil servants and a Spad from Nicola Sturgeon’s Office were discussing the 5th draft of the Procedure.
In my view, when these complaints were raised, the Scottish Government had a duty to investigate them and the fact that a mistake was made in the conduct of the investigation does not change that fact. To have swept them under the carpet because of who they related to would have been wrong.
As far as my personal involvement is concerned, over the last couple of years, I have faced accusations of ‘conspiring’ against Alex Salmond and also of ‘colluding’ with him. I reject in the strongest possible terms both of these suggestions.
Indeed it seems to me that what some want to present as ‘conspiracy’ is in actual fact my refusal to ‘collude’ or ‘cover up’. In what was a very difficult situation, personally, politically and professionally, I tried to do the right thing. Whether I always got it absolutely right is something I still reflect on, and the Committee will consider, but I sought all along to act in good faith and to strike the right balance of judgment given the difficult issues I was confronted with.
In the light of the #MeToo movement, I sought to ensure that the Scottish Government developed a process that allowed allegations of sexual harassment, including allegations of a historic nature, to be fully and fairly considered. I did not do this because I had a concern (as set out in Annex A) that allegations about my predecessor could materialise. But nor did I, in any way, allow such concern to lead me to limit the scope of the procedure.
I agreed to meet a friend of 30 years when I was told he was in distress and wanted to talk to me about a serious matter. And it is certainly the case that I was anxious to prepare my Party as far as possible for an issue that, at different stages, I thought could be about to become public.
However, I did not seek to prevent or influence the proper consideration of the complaints. For the sake of the complainers, the Scottish Government and indeed Alex Salmond himself, I acted in a way that I judged would best protect the independence and confidentiality of the investigation.
However, when I became aware of a serious risk of legal action against my government, I felt I had a duty to make the Permanent Secretary aware of it. My view throughout was that complaints must be properly and fairly considered, no matter who the subject of them might be, or how politically inconvenient the investigations may be. And that remains my view, even though the circumstances and consequences of this particular investigation have caused me, and others, in many cases to an even greater extent, a great deal of personal anguish, and resulted in the breakdown of a relationship that had been very important to me, politically and personally, for most of my life.
Lastly, since August 2018 I have taken care to say nothing that could compromise other proceedings, including the Committee’s inquiry, even though that has meant being unable to say more about my own actions or challenge misrepresentations about them.
Afternote: Gordon Dangerfield commented: According to her written statement provided to the inquiry and finally published last week, by the time drafting of the complaints procedure began in early November 2017, Nicola Sturgeon knew that allegations against Salmond were in the pipeline.
She was, she says, told then about “allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Alex Salmond”. She continues: “I spoke to Mr. Salmond about this allegation at the time. He denied it…” She was therefore well aware that the new complaints procedure being drafted then by her civil servants was likely to be dealing in due course with complaints against Salmond.
Again, she says so in terms: “All of the circumstances surrounding this episode left me with a lingering concern that allegations about Mr. Salmond could materialize at some stage.” As a result, according to Sturgeon’s own account: “I sought to ensure that the Scottish Government developed a process that allowed allegations of sexual harassment – including allegations of a historic nature – to be fully and fairly considered.”
She concludes: “I did not do this because I had a concern … that allegations about my predecessor could materialize. But nor did I, in any way, allow such concern to lead me to limit the scope of the procedure.” As is now obvious, both of these claims are simply untrue.
Sturgeon did instruct that the procedure was to be developed in the way it was so that it could deal with her “concern” about Salmond. She did “limit the scope of the procedure” because of that concern. She ensured that her Government “developed a process” such that Alex Salmond’s fate would be decided, to all appearances at least, by unelected civil servants.
She “limited the scope” of the procedure by removing herself completely from it. There is simply no other reasonable explanation for why the procedure changed so dramatically in December 2017.
So, although it seems unaccountable to many, there’s really no mystery as to why Sturgeon continues to stand by her hapless civil servants as more and more shocking detail comes to light about their unlawful work on her behalf. Every unlawful thing those civil servants did was done by them so that Sturgeon would not have to do it herself.
It was done so that she could plausibly deny, as she does to this day, that she had anything to do with it. These servants of hers have already, quite rightly, taken a great deal of criticism for their bad faith and incompetence, and as the inquiry continues, they can surely expect a great deal more.
The unswerving loyalty of the person who set them up for this fall is, we should grant, the very least they can expect from her.
Timeline-Scottish Parliamentary Inquiry-Conspiracy against Alex Salmond
Late October 2017: Aamer Anwar alleged the existence of a ‘ticking time bomb catalogue of sexual harassment at Holyrood. Ms H allegedly disclosed to her friend, an SNP politician, details of an alleged sexual assault upon her by Alex Salmond.
30 Oct: Nicola Sturgeon wrote to the Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, asking what additional steps might be taken to protect staff from harassment.
31 Oct: Daily Record/David Clegg received a heads up message from an unnamed source in the Scottish Government regarding sexual offences allegedly committed by Alex Salmond during his time in office. Clegg is a known associate of Liz Lloyd and a senior Spad working for Nicola Sturgeon.
31 Oct: A senior SNP officer, Ms Anne Harvey, based in Westminster was inundated with telephone text messages asking for information about Alex Salmond. suggesting that the fishing expedition had started in earnest well before the involvement of Ms A, Ms B or Ms H. Anne worked with Alex Salmond for many years and was an important witness for the defence, (until her evidence was redacted by the Crown). She was also at the time, a close friend of at least one of the complainers.
31 Oct: Holyrood civil service chiefs excluding the Special Advisor to the First Minister, Liz Lloyd, but including senior civil servant, John Somers, the First Ministers “gatekeeper” were in attendance together with other civil servants at a meeting convened by Nicola Sturgeon with the purpose of reviewing civil service procedures for the handling of workplace complaints. Nicola Sturgeon asked the permanent secretary to undertake a review of government policies and processes to ensure that they were fit for purpose.
31 Oct: James Hynd, Head of Cabinet, Parliament, and Governance, for the Scottish Government was tasked by Leslie Evans on 31 Oct 2017 to update long-standing civil service procedures on sexual harassment covering serving ministers. Instead, acting on his own initiative and without any political direction, he decided to make former ministers the focus of his first draft of the policy, partly because he was in charge of the Scottish government’s ministerial code and there was a “gap” that needed to be closed.
He conceded he was aware of gossip about alleged misconduct involving former First Minister, Alex Salmond, which Salmond had repeatedly denied, before choosing to include former ministers in the new anti-harassment policy. He insisted he alone decided to make former ministers the focus of his first draft of the policy, partly because he was in charge of the Scottish government’s ministerial code. He said he thought it was a “gap” that needed to be closed.
Beginning of Nov: Around this time (possibly earlier) Angus Robertson drafted and introduced new NEC procedures removing candidate selection from Party members centralising the process on Party headquarters officials. Shortly after a number of GRA supporters were installed as candidates for the May 2021 General Election.
There were strong rumours that Alex Salmond was unhappy at the lack of progress on independence given the strong polling figures in favour of this and was considering a return to front line politics, possibly through the Aberdeen seat vacated by Mark McDonald when he was denied the Party whip in Holyrood. It was also rumoured that Alex would soon be installed as the editor of the Scotsman.
02 Nov: MSP and minister Mark McDonald, was taken in to speak to John Swinney and the First Minister’s chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, and was told his name had come up in “chatter” around “MeToo”.
03 Nov: McDonald met Ms Lloyd, who revealed a complaint had been made against him about the offensive content of a social media message he had sent. Lloyd told him he would need to resign from the Government.
04 Nov: McDonald said Nicola Sturgeon phoned him in the afternoon and told him he would be expected to resign that evening.
04 Nov: McDonald resigned from his role as children’s minister in the Scottish Government.
04 Nov: In the evening, Sky News contacted the SNP Government parliamentary media office enquiring about Alex Salmond’s alleged misconduct with women at Edinburgh Airport. Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans and Liz Lloyd were informed. Both Lloyd and Evans briefed the First Minister of events separately the morning after.
Afternote: Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish government, told the Inquiry that on 5 Mar 2017 she warned the first minister that Alex Salmond had been calling civil servants in connection with a Sky News investigation into an alleged incident at Edinburgh airport in 2007. The officials were a bit bewildered and unhappy about it and she advised the First Minister of her concerns. She was also worried that it could become a story and the Scottish Government needed to be ready because the media was very volatile reporting on everything.
She went on to say that a whole range of people inside the Scottish government had been raising concerns about alleged sexual misconduct involving ministers and the former First Minister and the rumours had began surfacing in early November 2017 at the height of the #MeToo movement and soon after John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, announced a new zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.
The briefing by Evans that rumours of misconduct included the former First Minister concentrated the minds of members of the Inquiry on the context of the closing statement of Ms Evans to suggest that the “new” sexual harassment policy had been “targeted at and designed to get Alex Salmond”.
Ms Evans denied that was the case. But in late 2018, Sturgeon told the Scottish parliament that she first learned Salmond was being investigated “when he told her” during a meeting at her home on 2 April 2018. But the government was forced to admit that she actually met one of Salmond’s closest former aides, Geoff Aberdein, in connection with the matter in her ministerial office on 29 March 2018.
05 Nov: Ms H said she informed Ian McCann, a senior officer at SNP Headquarters of the details of an alleged assault by Alex Salmond, well before the receipt of formal complaints from Ms A and Ms B. Mr McCann responded saying: “We’ll sit on that and hope we never need to deploy it.” Peter Murrell, CEO of the SNP maintains he was not informed of the allegations notified to McCann.
06 Nov: Liz Lloyd was approached by several civil servants who raised concerns that Alex Salmond and his representatives were reportedly contacting other civil servants to ask that they provide supportive statements in relation to the matters raised by Sky News to his legal representatives. The civil servants indicated that the approaches were unwelcome. She was asked if she or some other Special Advisers could ask Mr Salmond to go through appropriate channels rather than approach people direct. She was informed shortly after that the Permanent Secretary’s office had also been approached by the same staff and were taking their request forward, so she made no approach to Mr Salmond.
Afternote-1 : In the 2018 trail of Alex Salmond, Ms H was questioned by the QC for defence as to her reasons for not timeously notifying the police of the alleged attempted rape, she said she only wanted the SNP to know, “so they could use it for vetting purposes should Alex Salmond return to the political front line.” The QC followed up asking Ms H, if was a “coincidence” she’d contacted Mr McCann only a day after an SNP, MSP had ben forced to resign and suggested “You didn’t want Alex Salmond to pass any future vetting process, did you” Ms H responded “I don’t think I linked the two events together. I wasn’t aware he (Mr Salmond) wanted to stand for the Scottish Parliament again. It was not a coincidence in terms of the #MeToo movement and the whole issue of women basically being abused by people in positions of power.”
Afternote-2: The Criminal Trial of Alex Salmond: Ms McCall challenged Ms H on her contacts with a senior SNP official, Ian McCann, and three other women after the Daily Record reported on August 23rd, 2018, that a Scottish government internal inquiry had upheld complaints from two women of inappropriate behaviour by Mr Salmond. Ms H told the court she first approached Mr McCann after the Harvey Weinstein allegations surfaced in the US and the #MeToo movement had gained momentum. She did not specify what Mr Salmond had allegedly done to her but warned Mr McCann there had been incidents involving the former party leader.
Ms McCall pressed Ms H to explain why she quickly made contact with other accusers after the Record story and after Mr Salmond disclosed he was suing the Scottish government over its inquiry. She asked Ms H whether two other accusers encouraged her to contact the police. In a text to another accuser two days after the Record story, Ms H wrote: “I’m mulling too. But I have a plan. And means we can be anonymous but see strong repercussions.” Challenged on what she meant, Ms H said she and the other accuser “had discussed in the past issues around Mr Salmond’s behaviour”. Ms McCall asked why she contacted another accuser who was a participant in a “ring around” of people who had worked with Mr Salmond. Ms H said she was trying to find out what was happening. “I was trying to figure out what the party and police process was, so I could figure out our path forward,” Ms H said.
08 Nov: Ms B telephoned Barbara Allison, the Government’s Director of Communications and asked to be allowed to speak to Nicola Sturgeon about Alex Salmond. Allison advised Richards and Evans, the next morning.
08 Nov: 1233. The first draft of a new harassment policy “Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints Against Former Ministers.” written by top official James Hynd, circulated, It stated that if a complaint was lodged against a former minister and he/she was a member of the party in power, the First Minister should be informed immediately.
09 Nov: The Alex Salmond Show was aired on RT.
10 Nov: Leslie Evans appointed Gillian Russell, Scottish Government, Director of Safer Communities as the “confidential sounding board” for complainers.
08–10 Nov: Ms A and Miss B registered their their allegations of sexual harassment on them by Alex Salmond. Gillian Russell, with the consent of complainer Ms A updated Ms Richards, Director of People, who then updated Leslie Evans, and Deputy Director of People Advice, Judith Mackinnon. Ms Russell and Ms Allison were instructed to liaise with Ms A and Miss B to establish if they wished to formally report the alleged incidents to Human Resources. On 29 Nov they confirmed that they did so wish.
13-15 Nov: In an exchange of emails with senior civil servants, Hynd advised, “officials will also need to alert the First Minister if a complaint is lodged against a current minister because she’d “want to know straight away”.
16 Nov: Mark McDonald was suspended from the Party Nicola Sturgeon after a second complainer came forward against him.
16 Nov: 1205. Hynd emailed (Private Secretary 1 to Leslie Evans). (Policy on Complaints Against Ministers.” As requested”. James.
16 Nov: Hynd sent a copy of the proposed policy to the UK Government’s Cabinet Office seeking “thoughts/advice”.
17 Nov: Sky News investigated Alex Salmond over an alleged 2008 incident at Edinburgh Airport. Rumoured to be the “killer heels” non-incident the investigation was abruptly binned by Sky News as petty pap.
17 Nov: Hynd circulated to the Scottish Government civil service senior management team, and Liz Lloyd (first sight, at her request) a second draft procedure titled “Handling of sexual harassment complaints involving current or former ministers.”
17 Nov 1048: A Cabinet Office official responded saying: “This feels very uncomfortable to be highlighting a process for complaints about ministers and former ministers”. And went on to ask if the policy could wait until they had conducted their own review, and also questioned whether the policy for ministers was “more than you have in place” for civil servants. “Might be getting Nicky’s take on the question about Civil Servants.”
17 Nov: Hynd forwarded the Cabinet Office in London response to a private secretary in the Scottish Government, who replied: “Oh dear, I did wonder if that would be their reaction. Not sure how long their review will take but the First Minister and Leslie Evans are keen to resolve quickly and discuss on Tuesday. I suspect we don’t have a policy on former civil servants. But we are looking at this in the context of the overall review of policies and the justification for having something about Ministers is the action that Parliament is taking in light of allegations about MSP conduct which includes a recent SG Minister?”.
Afternote 1: Questioned by the Inquiry Hynd said: “Given the commission from the Cabinet, given that Nicola Sturgeon had written to the presiding officer and was keen to take national leadership on the matter and given that Leslie Evans was keen that her duty of care to staff was as full and comprehensive as it might be, delaying until what turned out to be until September 2018 did not feel like an option to me.” Note: But procedures for civil servants was not updated to include retrospective consideration of harassment allegations.
Afternote 2: Lloyd stated that the inclusion of herself in the circulation of the draft created a requirement to identify and amend the ministerial code, if necessary since the code is the responsibility of the First Minister. She had not shared or discussed the draft procedure with any member of the SNP. Lloyd and the First Minister’s, Principal Private Secretary (PPS) John Somers, decided to compile an “instruction from the First Minister” which would be sent to Ms Evans providing clarity that implementation of a policy relating to ministers and former ministers was within the scope of the original cabinet commission. And a final draft note was forwarded to the First Minister’s office for her consideration and signature over the weekend to ensure work on the procedure could continue.
20 Nov: Complainer, Ms A, arranged a meeting with Somers at which she told him of experiences in the past that she wanted to share in a way that would improve the organization and make sure that no one else would have to go through that sort of thing again. She stressed she was not making a complaint, she simply wanted to assess her options for how she could best share the information. An option would be to speak to the First Minister which was why she had approached him. Somers said he felt “overwhelmed” by the disclosure and with the permission of Ms A, he informed his line manager Barbara Allison and the director of safer communities, Gillian Russell.
21 Nov: Somers and two unnamed officers met with Ms A and agreed she would take the matter up directly with his line manager Barbara Allison, with a proviso that if she felt she was not being taken seriously or no one was listening to her, she should get back in touch with Somers who would set-up a personal meeting for her with the First Minister. He never heard from her. He went on to say that he did not tell the First Minister that Ms A had confided in him because it wasn’t his experience to share and had he done so he would have put the First Minister in a state of knowledge about something she could not have taken action upon at that point?”
Afternote 1: His decision not to inform the First Minster denied Miss A the informal meeting she had asked for and escalated events from informal to formal. His reasoning was flawed since it was based on a rebuttable assumption. His choice of words is also significant. “at that point” could be a reference to the draft policy which he was working on with Lloyd. He fine well knew what he was doing.
Afternote 2: In her statement to the inquiry the Scottish Government’s Director for Communications, Ministerial Support & Facilities, Barbara Allison, who was Director of People from 2009 to 2016, said that Alex Salmond was a “visionary and dynamic” and although demanding and difficult to work for people also expressed that they enjoyed working for him. She had never heard of sexual misconduct concerns about him while he was the First Minister. Nor had she heard of any concerns being escalated to the status of formal complaints while she was in charge of human resources.
Afternote 3: Allison said she had not raised any issues of bullying or harassment with either Evans or Nicola Sturgeon and for clarity, she emphasized to the inquiry that she was not aware of any issues about sexual harassment” and added that she was a “huge advocate” for informal resolution, stating that if a matter could be resolved through this process, then “absolutely people must have recourse to a formal process”. She went on to tell the Inquiry that she was first notified of concerns in November 2017 when two unnamed female civil servants, (Ms A and Ms B) raised them with her.
22 Nov: Somers emailed the First Minister’s “instruction from the First Minister” to Leslie Evans, the Head of the Civil Service in Scotland. It read:
“As is clear from the continued media focus on cases of sexual harassment, in many instances, people are now making complaints regarding actions that took place some time ago. I wanted to make clear that in taking forward your review, and the new arrangements being developed, you should not be constrained by the passage of time. I would like you to consider ways in which we are able to address if necessary any concerns from staff, should any be raised, about the conduct of current Scottish Government ministers and also former ministers, including from previous administrations regardless of party. While I appreciate that the conduct of former Ministers would not be covered by the current Ministerial Code, I think it fair and reasonable that any complaints raised about their actions while they held office are considered against the standards expected of Ministers. I would be grateful for confirmation that this particular aspect is being included as part of the review you are leading.”
Note: The letter of instruction makes no sense since the newly written draft procedure was already in place and circulated within the senior Civil Servant management team. And James Hynd, the person who wrote the new procedure was not copied into the correspondence.
24 Nov: A fifth draft of Hynd’s, policy delegated authority to the Permanent Secretary to investigate complaints but made it clear the First Minister should also be alerted. A copy was also sent to the First Minister.
23 Nov: Nicola Richards sent an e-mail to Leslie Evans, copied to Judith Mackinnon “we would need to consult with the individual before disclosing to another party or the Police because of the risk of the matter getting into the press and the individuals being identified. We have a duty of care for our staff which means we shouldn’t do something that puts them at risk, so if they don’t want us to share information or go to the police, it would be very difficult to justify (sic) doing so (without putting them at risk of being identified and wider impacts.) This was subsequently changed on 9th January 2018 to read “SG as employer will not refer specific cases to police without the knowledge/consent of the employee.”
24 Nov: Lloyd, Somers, Hynd and a member of the Permanent Secretary’s office, attended a meeting to further discuss the content of the “instruction from the First Minister” and to establish and agree clear lines of responsibility between the First Minister and the Permanent Secretary. A second purpose was to reword the second draft procedure inserting changes designed to prevent the First Minister from stopping the Permanent Secretary, who has a duty of care to civil servants, from investigating a sexual harassment complaint made by a civil servant against a minister if the Permanent Secretary judged there was something to investigate.
Additional input from Liz Lloyd included the view that it was essential that the First Minister should be made aware of an investigation or allegation into a serving minister, before the event, in order to determine if, under the ministerial code, that minister could remain in post whilst an investigation was conducted. Yet she later stipulated that on that date she had no knowledge, of any of the allegations against Alex Salmond that were subsequently investigated under the new procedure.
29 Nov: Gillian Russell wrote to Ms A “as agreed, I sent your narrative on in confidence to Nicky (Richards) and Judith (Mackinnon). I have now been asked by Nicky and Judith if you would be prepared to speak to them following receipt of your narrative. As part of this discussion Nicky would like to share with you the developing policy for handling complaints against former and current ministers. This would give you an opportunity to test whether this would have helped at the time and also to consider next steps.” Later that day Ms A agreed to do so but reterated her wish to speak first personally with Nicola Sturgeon.
29 Nov: Ms Richards, met with Ms Evans, who then went on to have a “private summit meeting with the First Minister, “to discuss events to-date, including the allegations of harassment by Alex Salmond and all other relevant aspects of the development of the proposed procedure”.
Afternote: The meeting had been convened with the express purpose of re-drafting parts of the draft harassment procedure including removing any reference to the early involvement of the First Minister and the inclusion of former Ministers. This was an official meeting to discuss Government policies and Nicola Sturgeon’s private secretary was present to record a minute.
Alex Salmond’s team requested a copy of the minute of the meeting only to be told that the notebook in which the minute had been recorded had been destroyed. An act of vandalism unprecedented in Government. So the Inquiry and Alex Salmond will never know, for certain what was discussed and decided. Given the significance of the meeting it is also inexplicable that it does not have a place of any significant standing in the timeline of events pertaining to the development of the process.
30 Nov: Richards emailed Hynd, the Head of the Cabinet Secretariat: “Would you be able to send me the latest version of the process I agreed with Leslie Evans that I would test against some key individuals?”
01 Dec: Hynd sent the “eighth” harassment policy draft to Ms Richards.
05 Dec: Richards, met with Ms B and after shared the draft procedures gained from her confirmation that had the procedures been in place at the time she was sexually harassed it would have been of great benefit providing clear instructions as to the courses of action available to her.
05 Dec: Mackinnon, met with Ms A and after sharing the draft procedures gained from her confirmation that had the procedures been in place at the time she was sexually harassed it would have been of great benefit providing clear instructions as to the courses of action available to her.
05/06 Dec: Richards, redrafted the “eighth” draft procedure following her meeting with Ms B, this time removing the First Minister from the complaints process regarding former ministers. She completed the re-draft at 11:34pm on the evening of 5 Dec and forwarded it, under cover of an email, to Evans, Hynd, MacKinnon, and an unnamed lawyer. The email stated: “As discussed today, I’ve made some revisions to the process.”
06 Dec: At 0528 hours Evans emailed Richards, Hynd, and a third person writing, “Spoke with John S (Swinney?) last night. We agreed you would send up tweaked codes in draft without any letters just now. and as discussed, info on the steps and touchpoints involved in the process also useful. Keep me posted back in the office tomorrow but happy to talk. John (Swinney?) also I’m sure.”
Evans told the inquiry team that she did not see a “natural role” for a Special Advisor in the Scottish Government response to the judicial review brought by Alex Salmond. But a freedom of information response listed 17 meetings at which lawyers involved in the judicial review met with Nicola Sturgeon or senior staff, with Liz Lloyd present at three meetings in Oct and Nov 2018.
Evans, faced with the facts, was forced to correct her evidence to confirm that Nicola Sturgeon’s political special advisor, Liz Lloyd, did fully participate in meetings at which the allegations against Alex Salmond were discussed.
Afternote 2: Somers told the inquiry that he had no involvement in the development of the procedure used against Alex Salmond. This is not true. Somers, in his capacity as Sturgeon’s Principal Private Secretary, had a key role in developing the policy at a critical time.
5 Dec 2017: The “letters” that Somers was subsequently instructed “not” to send to Sturgeon were the “tweaked codes” which Somers and Hynd had been instructed by Evans to draft in line with the procedure as it had existed prior to her discussion with Somers, and for the purpose of intimating the new procedure to former Ministers and former First Ministers when it would be approved by the First Minister in due course. The “letters” disappeared from the development process after the discussions and the Scottish Government has persistently refused to disclose the contents.
Exactly what comprised the “steps and touchpoints involved in the process” was discussed by Evans and Somers but the content remains guesswork since no-one at the Inquiry asked Somers, or has ever asked Evans, what was meant by these terms. But what is clear is that both Evans herself and Somers were “happy to talk” to Richards, Hynd, and the third person about these “steps and touchpoints” in the radically recast procedure.
There is a hugely significant context of the very obvious involvement of Somers, acting on behalf of Sturgeon, in the development, actually, in the complete recast of the procedure. For now, it is worth noting that Somers’s evidence on affirmation was given, as Somers himself pointed out, with the specific advance endorsement of the Scottish Government.
05 Dec: First contact between the SG and Police Scotland was initiated by the Deputy Director of People, Ms Judith McKinnon, who on 5th December emailed the Detective Chief Superintendent (DCS), Head of Public Protection at Police Scotland.
An email response was sent on the same date and a physical meeting was arranged, which took place on 6th December, attended by the Deputy Director of People, Ms Judith McKinnon,, the DCS, the Chief Superintendent (CS), Local Policing Commander for Edinburgh Division and Detective Superintendent (DSU) for Edinburgh Division.
In addition to the email contact between Ms Judith McKinnon and the DCS and latterly to the DSU on the dates above, a number of telephone conversations and email exchanges took place between McKinnon, and the DSU on 30th January 2018; 31st January 2018; 18th April 2018; 19th April 2018; 1st August 2018; 2nd August 2018 and 3rd August 2018. The initial email contact indicated that advice was being sought on the SG approach to sexual harassment procedures responding to the #metoo movement, and, SG obligations in response to allegations made by staff or former staff which may constitute a criminal offence.
06 Dec: McKinnon, was provided with information in respect of the existing reporting mechanism within the Scottish Parliament. The mechanism had been established in response to UK wide media reporting of alleged inappropriate conduct involving members of the UK Parliament.
The mechanism had been established in response to UK wide media reporting of alleged inappropriate conduct involving members of the UK Parliament. A ‘hotline’ number had been launched by the Scottish Parliament that day which directed callers to support agencies and, where appropriate, the police. The ‘hotline’ did not report matters directly to the police but would instead direct callers to contact ‘101’ or ‘999’ in an emergency. McKinnon, was also provided with the advice that any potential victim or complainer should be provided with details of support and advocacy services. which would allow concerns to be discussed with an experienced advocacy worker with knowledge of the criminal justice process and to support the individual to report matters to the police. Advice was also given that where criminality was suspected, individuals should be directed to support and advocacy services, to enable them to make informed decisions about whether or not to report matters to the police. This advice was reiterated on several occasions throughout the ongoing contact between December 2017 and August 2018.
A number of hypothetical questions were posed during email and telephone contact around the criminal justice process. Police Scotland advised that, without specific details, no appropriate response could be given and no assessment of risk could be made. It was further emphasised that individuals should be directed to the relevant support services as it appeared that the hypothetical questions were predicated upon a specific set of circumstances and the SG response to that set of circumstances, rather than development of a generic procedure. The hypothetical questions also suggested more than one victim of potential criminality and as such, it was stressed that, without knowledge of the detail, any risk that a suspect might present, could not be properly assessed or mitigated. It was highlighted that SG staff were not trained to undertake such investigations, or to engage with victims. No details of potential victims or perpetrators were provided by SG and, throughout the contact, Police Scotland encouraged SG to refer victims to appropriate support services. Police Scotland was not invited to provide comment in relation to a draft ‘procedure’ or framework for the handling of harassment complaints, nor was any draft or final document shared with Police Scotland.
On Tuesday 21st August 2018, complaints against the former First minister were formally referred to Police Scotland by the Crown Agent. This took place during a meeting at the Crown Office, Edinburgh, involving the Crown Agent, the Chief Constable and the DCS, Head of Public Protection. The SG did not refer matters directly to Police Scotland.
Evidently the Scottish Government had no interest in developing a comprehensive procedure covering harassment in the workplace. Discussions between Scottish Government representatives and the police centred on a number of hypothetical incidents each of which provided indication that a particular former senior politician was the subject under discussion. The police backed off and raised warning signals about the SG methodology. Police Scotland went on to advise that the Scottish Government was not qualified or trained to undertake investigations on its own and any alleged victims should be directed to “support and advocacy services” who could help them decide what to do and whether to involve the police. The Scottish Government, ignored the advice and went on to conduct its own illegal and biased investigations and found Salmond guilty, and then when that illegality was about to be exposed it reported the complaints to the police AGAINST the express wishes of the complainers, and also against the rules it had itself written after taking the advice of the employees’ trade union.
Procedure: Para 19: Throughout the process, all available steps will be taken to support the staff member and ensure they are protected from any harmful behaviour. However, if at any point it becomes apparent to the SG that criminal behaviour might have occurred the SG may bring the matter directly to the attention of the Police. Also, if it became apparent that the matter being raised formed part of a wider pattern of behaviour, it may be necessary for the SG to consider involving the Police in light of the information provided. SG, as employer will not refer specific cases to the police without the knowledge/consent of the employee. Should either of these steps be necessary the staff member would be advised and supported throughout.
07 Dec: MacKinnon met with complainant Ms B.
10 Dec: Evidently there was a deadline for the submission of the procedure for the signature of the First minster and this was confirmed in yet another email and document enclosure and to the same people in which Richards wrote: “I’ve updated the timeline and this is the final version of the policy I’ve sent to Evans.” The “air” of finality clearly suggested that the civil service team, supported by legal opinion were confident it would be signed off and introduced.
12 Dec: Leslie Evans and Nicola Sturgeon met and discussed the “new” procedures procedures.
12 Dec: Evans wrote to Sturgeon: “You wrote me on 22 Nov regarding the review of the Scottish Government’s policies and processes on sexual harassment. As we have discussed, we have a shared commitment to ensure that the arrangements that are in place are effective and contribute to the work already in hand to promote an inclusive and respectful culture across the Scottish Government.
Your letter, in particular, asked me to consider as part of the review, ways in which any concerns raised by staff about the conduct of current or former Ministers could be addressed. I have developed, for your agreement, a process for how complaints of harassment, including sexual harassment, might be taken forward.
This new process aims to ensure that I am able to fulfill my duty of care to staff by taking the necessary steps to support the member of staff and to put in train any further action that might be required within the civil service as a result of the issues raised.
As far as current Ministers are concerned, the process will also assist you in taking forward your responsibilities under the Scottish Ministerial Code.
It also sets out how complaints against former Ministers will be handled. Given that the process engages the responsibility of the First Minister for the application of the Ministerial Code, we will seek approval for the ongoing application of the process on each occasion the Ministerial Code is updated.
I should be grateful to learn if you are content to adopt the process set out in the annex. As you have requested, I am happy to update the Cabinet about the outcome of the review whenever you wish.
14 Dec: 0841. Richards emailed Private Secretary (2) to Evans, Hynd, Mackinnon, and the Head of Branch, Peoples Directorate: Policy on Complaints Against Ministers. I’ve amended the letter and policy in line with our exchange. If this looks OK I’d like first for us to run this past the unions before the final exchange with the First Minister.
I think I would just share the part about current ministers because that is what would form part of our revised F@W policy. I think the former minister’s process is more for us to know what we would do rather than to have out there as a published policy. Although we would share it if asked.
I copied in Head of Branch, People Directorate (1) and Judith because I’ll be on leave from close today. It would be good to get this tied up quickly. Head of Branch, People Directorate (1) – in preparation for sharing this with the unions could you abstract the current ministers part? cheers Nicky.
14 Dec: 1043. Hynd emailed Richards, Private Secretary 2, Mackinnon and, Head of Branch Peoples Directorate 1: Policy on Complaints Against Ministers. Thanks for this. Some formatting wrinkles had crept in which I have now sorted in the attached version (‘final’). Other than the removal of references to ‘sexual’, the text remains the same as that which went to the First Minister and on which she commented.
14 Dec: 1120. Private Secretary 2 to Evans emailed Hynd, Richards, MacKinnon, and Head of Branch, Peoples Directorate 1: Policy on Complaints Against Ministers. I’ve just spoken with Hynd about another few small adjustments – just to ensure using consistent terms throughout. Nothing substantive. Hynd is kindly making those adjustments and will circulate the final version shortly so Head of Branch, People Directorate 1 you may wish to hold off your preparation of the version for Unions meantime.
In terms of timing to the First Minister, we will put the procedure to the First Minister once we have the green light from Richards. If we want to appraise the Permanent Secretary of timings and sharing with Unions, she is tied up in interviews today till 15:00 and then on leave until Tuesday – but contactable.
14 Dec: 11:32. Hynd emailed Private Secretary 2 to Evans, Richards, Mackinnon, and Head of Branch, People Directorate 1: Policy on Complaints Against Ministers. Dear all. With sincere and deepest thanks to Private Secretary 2 to Evans, here is yet another ‘final’ version.
20 Dec: The First minister signed off the new procedure.
16-23 Jan 2018: Ms A and Ms B lodged formal complaints against Alex Salmond under the new procedure. The Scottish Government launched a probe into the conduct of Alex Salmond, headed by MacKinnon, who had been appointed to the role of “Investigating Officer” by Richards.
Afternote: The action of Richards contravened long-standing misconduct regulations which state that the subject officer must receive immediate formal notification of any misconduct allegation once it has been determined that an investigation is required and an investigator has been appointed but before the start of an investigation so that the subject officer can be provided with an opportunity to address it if it is their wish and the decision to appoint an “investigating officer” should not have been instructed by Richards on her own!!!! But did she?
Judith Mackinnon was assigned the duty of Investigating Officer despite having prior contact with the complainers an appointment the Scottish Government later admitted in court was an unlawful instruction given that the Investigating Officer had prior involvement with the complainers.
Afternote: Evans, who led the Alex Salmond sexual misconduct investigation told the inquiry it would have been “inappropriate” for her to know the identities of the two female complainants before the investigations were complete. Yet Richards, in her evidence, said that Permanent Secretary Evans met Miss A and Miss B and discussed their complaints in the context of the newly expanded complaints procedure which meant former ministers and MSPs could now be investigated for misconduct. Evans also explained her consideration of the initial investigation report and informed both complainants of her decision and what this meant in terms of the next steps in the procedure.