The Me2 Campaign and the Response of the Scottish Government
Late Oct 2017: Allegations of harassment surfaced at Westminster. Scottish Government officials were concerned that similar allegations might surface in Scotland. This prompted the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney to announce a new policy of “zero-tolerance to sexual misconduct”.
31 Oct: Senior Holyrood based civil servants attended a meeting convened by Nicola Sturgeon for the purpose of reviewing civil service procedures for the handling of workplace complaints.
James Hynd, Head of Cabinet, Parliament, and Governance, for the Scottish Government undertook to update long-standing civil service procedures on sexual harassment covering serving ministers.
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, because he was in charge of the Scottish government’s ministerial code and he perceived 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.
08 Nov: Hynd emailed Richards and MacKinnon a (for your eyes only) copy of the first draft of the policy “Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints Against Former Ministers.”
16 Nov: Hynd emailed a (for your eyes only) copy of the Draft Policy on Complaints Against Former Ministers.” to Leslie Evans.
17 Nov: Hynd circulated a second draft procedure titled “Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints Involving Current or Former Ministers” to the civil service senior management team.
Liz Lloyd, Special Advisor to the First Minister was added, at her request, to the circulation list.
Afternote: Lloyd stated that the inclusion of herself in the circulation list was necessary since the First Minister was responsible for the ministerial Code.
But Hynd said he took the decision on 31 October 2017 to widen the scope of the revised procedure without reference to anyone since he had responsibility for the Ministerial Code.
Note: As at 17 Nov, a second version of the James Hynds’s revised draft procedure, “Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints Involving Current or Former Ministers” was in the hands of all relevant senior Civil Servants and Liz Lloyd. This being the case there was no need for any additional input to the team. But Liz 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. 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.
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: 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.
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.
08 Sep 2020: Evans previously told the inquiry team that she would 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 last year 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 take part in meetings at which the allegations against Alex Salmond were discussed.
Summary: So far as I was able to ascertain these events have never been raised, addressed or discussed at any meeting of the Inquiry team and I am wondering if the subject matter is simply gossip. If accurate the exchanges of correspondence would reveal much more than that which is already in the public domain.