The Liberal Democratic Party is pledging ‘complete reform’ of the Gender Recognition Act
Assisting their efforts with donations exceeding £1.3million, is Ferring Pharmaceuticals a company that markets drugs used in gender-identity clinics to delay puberty.
The party has already upset feminists, who worry that the “extreme trans-ideological” policies in its manifesto will put vulnerable women at risk.
The company is owned by the Swedish billionaire Frederik Paulsen and markets the drug, which is used to block puberty among adolescents.
The Lib Dem manifesto pledges “complete reform of the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical reports, scrapping fees and recognition of non-binary gender identities”.
It also promises to “introduce an ‘X’ gender option on passports and extend equality law.
Details of the donations to the Lib/Dems. Other Parties and Stonewall are in on the act billions being spent on gender bending. Women need to be warned of the threat to their existence as a separate gender.
Feb 2015: Russian Consul’s puberty blocker drug firm bankrolls the Liberal Democrats
A Drugs company owned by a Swedish billionaire philanthopist and explorer, who is an honorary Russian consul and lives in Switzerland, has given nearly £500k to the Liberal Democrats.
Frederik Paulsen, who lives in Lausanne, is worth an estimated £3bn and owns Ferring Pharmaceuticals. The company is ultimately controlled from Curacao, a Caribbean tax haven.
Electoral Commission records show that the British arm of the company, based in West Drayton, west London, gave four donations to the Liberal Democrats between December 2013 and June 2014. Three of them exceeded £100,000.
The British arm of Ferring Pharmaceuticals was set up in 1975. Ferring said the company had made the donations because it supported Liberal Democrats policy on Europe. (Sunday Times)
Comment: And the Lib/Dems had the hard neck to criticise Alex Salmond for broadcasting his show on RT!!!
Feb 2016: Shameless Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg has trousered a massive £30k payment from an official “friend of Putin” whose company is based in an offshore tax haven.
Clegg received the bung from Frederik Paulsen, the billionaire chairman of drugs firm Ferring Pharmaceuticals.
Paulsen was personally awarded an “Order of Friendship” medal by Putin himself. The Vlad acolyte who has poured huge amounts of cash into Russia, was given the gong by the Russian Foreign ministry, and is an honorary Russian citizen. Not only that, his company is ultimately controlled from a Caribbean tax haven…
The Liberal Democrats accuse other Party’s and politicians of siding with Putin. Conduct which is at the highest level of hypocrisy given the Party and its leader’s happiness to line their pockets with huge wedges of cashfrom Putin and his friends.
The Trust runs intensive, four-week Fellowship Programmes twice a year in the UK for emerging leaders from 12 countries of the former Soviet Union. The Programmes are built around three pillars – unique insight into UK institutions, personalized meetings and leadership skills development – which together offer both a broad picture and an individual focus.
What is really happening
The political psychology programmes delivered by the Trust are designed to influence the thought processes of individuals confronted with a wide range of political situations so that they select options that most reflect the political system chosen by the Trust. Achieving success means that it has imprinted on the minds of course participants that the ideal is the western-style democracy, with its human rights legislation protecting individual and minority rights and good governance. Shades of “The Manchurian Candidate”.
Baroness Smith: Board member of a number of organisations with interests in Russia and FSU countries. Very influential politically has had a very long career near the top of the British secret services. Widow of the late John Smith, Labour Party Leader.
Catherine Smith: An Advocate. Daughter of Baroness Smith. Vice Chair of JUSTICE Scotland, the Scottish arm of the London NGO. Involved in work promoting the rule of law and human rights in developing democracies and sustainable development in societies in transition.
Craig Oliphant: Senior Adviser at the Foreign Policy Centre, in London. (1)
Stephen Gethins: Former SNP Member of Parliament for North East Fife. Worked with Craig Oliphant in Eastern Europe before entering politics for the SNP.
David Charters: Former diplomat. Particular personal interests include cyber security and evolving forms of conflict.
Alex Just: Transitioned from law to high-level strategic communications.
Prof. The Lord Alderdice: Liberal Democrat member of the Lords since 1996. Currently Director of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Harris Manchester College, Oxford.
In 2006, NATO Special Advisor Chris Donnelly co-founded a charity, the “Institute for Statecraft and Governance” (IfS) together with Daniel Lafayeedney, a man previously condemned as untrustworthy in business matters by a judge.
The IFS which authored and published articles on threats to NATO imperialism, the biggest being Russia, was registered to a semi-derelict mill in the Fife constituency of Board member and ex-SNP MP Stephen Gethins.
In 2015, the IfS established the Integrity Initiative, an organization that also received Tory Government funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, initially to the tune of many millions.
The Integrity Initiative is described by the British government as a counter-Russia-disinformation campaign, which, in typically Orwellian language, means that it is a U.S.-British disinformation campaign.
This is what the Scottish Charity Regulator thought of the organisation:
The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator opened an inquiry into the Institute for Statecraft the 13 December 2018, which after 10 months found that “one of its most significant activities, a project known as the Integrity Initiative did not provide public benefit in furtherance of the charity’s purposes”. It also found that trustees had “breached their trustee duties to act with care and diligence in the interest of the charity, some of them to a serious extent”.
The 77th Brigade and Scotland’s Independence
Black Watch soldier, Brigadier Alastair Aitken, formed the 77th (CYOPS Brigade, referred to in the media as ‘Twitter troops‘ or ‘Facebook warriors‘, which he described as the largest integrated government communications organisation [in] Europe.
Scottish Labour has links
A Scottish Labour Party candidate and former “Better Together” boss has been called on to explain her links to a “military propaganda unit” within the British Army.
Kate Watson is believed to be part of the Berkshire-based 77th Brigade, which was described by one newspaper as a “special force of Facebook warriors”.
She declined to comment, but David Miller, a professor of political sociology at Bristol University said: “The 77th Brigade is involved in manipulation of the media including using fake online profiles.
Respected elder statesman of the SNP give warning and advice
In an article published in the “National” (Dec 2018) George Kerevan wrote:
“In any future Scottish independence referendum will the 77th Brigade be neutral or see the yes campaign as a threat to national security and conduct a campaign to protect the constitutional status quo? SNP MSP’s and MP’s at Westminster should ask these questions now before it’s too late.”
The Glasgow University hosted John Smith Centre
The recent purge of left wing politicians and their leadership brought about the return of power and influence to the “Fabian Society” and its right wing socialists, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ian Murray and many other Unionist Labourites.
One of the most insidious objectives of the Fabians is to create a One World (‘Third Way’) government linking with the “New World Order” (NWO) project financed and controlled by the USA.
In furtherance of their aims the Fabian’s developed and implemented the highly secretive “educational charity”, “Common Purpose”, which now effectively controls many facets of local and mainstream politics and the media (BBC). More on “Common Purpose” here: http://www.stopcp.com and here: http://www.cpexposed.com .
With Blair then Brown in charge of government the NWO/Bilderberg movement enjoyed guarantees that the UK government would manipulate the electorate and parliament to support their efforts without question. War and War and yet more War. All unjustified.
Scots need to be alert to the dangers of unwarranted and misleading statements designed to cause political instability, from persons who actively support the “new” venture which was sprung of Scots without warning. It should be remembered that the late John Smith was a leading Unionist politician and a Bilderberger to boot!!
The Centre’ public sales pitch
A Board comprising members of the Smith family, University of Glasgow alumni, public service practitioners and academic staff oversees the conduct, leadership and management of the Centre.
It sets the priorities; benchmarks best practice; and reviews performance to enable the Centre to achieve its aim to promote trust in politics and public service and to empower and attract more people to contribute to public life.
membership of the fluctuating Board
Catherine Smith (Chair): Catherine is John Smith’s youngest daughter.
Professor Anne Anderson OBE: multi disciplinary educational activist.
Rt Hon Ed Balls: Hard right rich boy and “new Labour” politician
Dr Matt Carter: Blair’s man. Right wing “New Labour” political strategist.
Rt Hon Ruth Davidson MSP: Baroness Ruth. Her rise from nowhere is being guided by ??
David Muir: Ultra right wing “New Labour” strategist. Gordon Brown’s man.
The Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill: Very influential politically has had a very long career near the top of the British secret services. Widow of the late John Smith, Labour Party Leader.
Andrew Wilson: A banker: held a number of posts, including Deputy Chief Economist and Head of Group Communications. at the financially incompetent and ultimately disgraced RBS Group. Founder of the increasingly influential political media company, Charlotte Street Partners.
Kezia Dugdale: Former leader of the Labour Party in Scotland has been appointed Director of the Centre.
Tony Blair’s cynical epitaph to the career of John Smith
Blair told his wife that John Smith would die prematurely and he, not Gordon Brown would win the race to become the next Labour leader. The statement was made in April 2004, only a month before Smith suffered a fatal heart attack.
Blair woke his wife, Cherie, one morning and told her: “If John dies, I will be leader, not Gordon. And somehow, I think this will happen. I just think it will.”
Smith had suffered a serious heart attack in 1988 and Blair argued this was thanks to his lifestyle and, in particular, his heavy drinking.
Branding Smith a “stupendous toper”, Blair wrote: “He could drink in a way I have never seen before or since. If there was an Olympic medal for drinking, John would have contended with such superiority that after a few rounds the rest of the field would have simply shaken their heads and banished themselves from the track.” (The Telegraph)
Born in Northern Ireland in 1958. Relocated to Sheffield. Attended High Storrs Comprehensive School 1970-76. Gained a degree in Music from Liverpool University. Married Derek McVay 1990. One son.
At School: (her own words, nearly)
Absorbed lots of knowledge. Music important – soft spot David Bowie, likes reggae and dub, Bach + Bartok. Rereads Jane Austen, theatre lover, views Shakespeare regularly. Learnt to like poetry – Sylvia Plath, Jackie Kay, John Donne.
Loved history – fascinated with Gender politics. In particular her feminism and yes she is a feminist. Dated back to learning about Elizabeth 1st’s speech at Tilbury,
“I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king”.
Not just knowledge absorbed – learnt to ask not just what or why? But – really? Experience shaped her politics and values, and views about diversity, equality and inclusion.
Cultivated skills and capacities and the propensity to be curious, the ability to analyze – the desire to inform opinion and the appetite to question everything.
Gained 8 “O” levels in one year. Lost focus in the years following. More interested in partying than studying. Poor “A” level results.
Hard to take. Failure brought home the importance of hard work.
Despite poor results secured a place studying music at Liverpool University. Not talented or dedicated enough to be professional performer. Used musical skills to earn cash – in orchestra pit and teaching piano.
Used music degree as means to end, getting onto a post graduate course in London to get into arts administration.
Course included an employment secondment – worked really hard – made herself indispensable – gave up wild life and became totally dependable.
Employment with District councils
Offered employment in arts with local authority in London. Then similar work in Sheffield.
Moved to Edinburgh 1985 – employed with Edinburgh District Council in senior management roles, (1985 and 1987 and from 1989 to 2000).
Ensuring effective delivery of arts, theatre, entertainment and recreation. Similar work with Stirling Council (1988).
On each transfer of employment moved up the management ladder – role and responsibilities became broader and more diverse.
Learnt to seize every opportunity offered – to show enthusiasm – to speak first – to answer yes – to think about whether and how to do it later. Learned to feign confidence – faking it until able to make it.
Edinburgh District Council Scandal -Leslie Evans Nailed In Public
If someone in a position of authority is determined to smear you, it is very difficult to recover. Mud sticks.
Now, it is simply not the done thing for a Councillor to ever criticize an officer at a public meeting.
Politicians may only address their concerns to the Head of Department who is paid shed-loads to take the flack.
Those below departmental head know they can get away with not owning up to manipulations and misrepresentations, because that is what Department heads are for.
Back then, officers didn’t even have their name anywhere in the papers.
However, on this rare occasion, Councillor Steve Cardownie stepped over that thin red line and fingered one such officer.
“Is it possible”, he thundered, that a very senior officer (there could only be one!) had tampered with the report, thereby undermining its validity and “independence”?
You could hear a pin drop. All eyes turned on Leslie Evans, who became bright, bright red with fury and froze, stock still. You could almost see the steam coming out of her ears. Her Video Strategy died before it had lived.
It is said Leslie Evans caused Edinburgh Council to lose millions in the Usher Hall Lottery debacle of ’98, which led to the resignation of Roger Jones, the best and most popular Head of Department the Council ever had.
When Roger was forced to resign over the loss, Leslie had the temerity to give him a leaving card comparing him to Churchill – he was a hero, she said. If she truly felt that way, maybe she could have ‘fessed up and taken the rap, resigning in his place? Not our Leslie.
This is a must read since it provides confirmation of views held by an increasing number of Scots that Leslie Evans is not an appropriate person to hold the position of Permanent Secretary to Scotland’s First minister.
What A Con – The Civil Service and Their Janus Faced Illegal Politics
Leslie Evans reported to Francesca Osowska OBE in David Mundell’s office.
Osowska was formerly Principal Private Secretary (PPS) to the First Minister (Alex Salmond) between 2007/09.
Francesca Osowska, in a number of evasive statements to the Scottish Affairs Committee, glossed over the expensive and extensive work of a large group of (supposedly politically neutral) Civil Servants who actively supported the objectives of the “Better Together” campaign.
A gross misuse of public finances and Civil Servants presumably by David Cameron and Sir Jeremy Heywood.
She also confirmed that Mundell retained funding sufficient to employ up to 100 whole time equivalent (W.T.E.) posts and that salary and incidental costs arising from such employment are (top sliced) from Scotland’s block grant before the allocation of finance to the Scottish government.
The slush fund created is an ever increasing annual financial nest egg, skimmed off Scotland’s block financial grant and used, abused by the Mundell for purposes such as UK government anti-devolution leaflet production, printing and distribution.
And Hiring of Special Advisors (SpAds), usually sons, daughters, other relations, friends of ministers or other MP’s and employment of Civil Servants from other Government Departments in times of need.
Reflect also on the disgraceful actions of the UK Cabinet Office and Treasury Civil servants which contain the proud admission that they had been seconded to the Scottish Office (in Westminster) and were tasked, for an extended period of time to provide active support to the “Better Together” campaign.
Actions that brought about the defeat of Scots who wished only to be an independent nation once again. What a bunch of charlatans.
Joined CS in 2000 soon after devolution – new Scottish Executive. Early 40s represented a major career change – big risk. But had gained experience in public service with local government – government service a cakewalk? – not so – miserable at work – didn’t seem to add value or make any difference. First year fish out of water. Held nerve – stayed resilient.
Permanent Secretary Scottish Government
The retirement of the permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, Sir Peter Housden (1) created a vacancy within the Civil Service.
The competition to succeed him was overseen by the First Civil Service Commissioner and open to candidates across the UK civil service, including in Whitehall.
Ms Sturgeon was presented with a shortlist of vetted candidates and selected Ms Evans.
Evans was appointed as Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government on July 1, 2015.
In this role, she is the principal policy adviser to the First Minister and Secretary to the Scottish Cabinet.
She is also the Principal Accountable Officer for the Scottish Government with personal responsibility for the propriety and regularity of Government finance and for economic, efficient and effective use of all related resources.
Evans is the senior Civil Servant in Scotland and leads more than 5,000 civil servants working for the Scottish Government, supporting development, implementation and communication of government policies, in accordance with the Civil Service Code.
She joined the Scottish Government in September 2000, having spent 20 years working for local authorities in Scotland (City of Edinburgh Council and Stirling Council) and England (London Borough of Greenwich and Sheffield City Council).
Her previous post within the Scottish Government was Director General Learning and Justice. Other positions held include, Head of Local Government Constitution & Governance Division, Head of Public Service Reform Group, Head of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and Director of Culture, External Affairs and Tourism.
(1): Insiders briefed that Sir Jeremy Heywood remained livid over the behavior of Housden during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum.
When he was accused of betraying the Westminster Civil Service brief by “going native”.
He was also criticized by Commons select committee for allowing the publication of swathes of Alex Salmond’s White Paper on independence that were politically “partisan” and failed to meet “factual standards”.
And a Westminster public administration committee said he should not have allowed taxpayers’ money to be used to publish sections that amounted to an SNP “agenda”.
The recruitment and appointment process of the new Permanent Secretary was tasked to the offices of the “First Civil Service Commissioner”, based in Whitehall so that the Westminster government would assured the appointment of their preferred candidate.
So as to be satisfied there would be no repeat of the conduct of Sir Peter Housden one of the new Permanent Secretary’s key tasks would be to rebuild trust with Holyrood’s opposition parties and Whitehall mandarins.
Leslie Evans is the Westminster Government’s “safe pair of hands” at Holyrood.
Over time she will add other Senior managers of the same ilk to her team, effectively emasculating the Scottish Government at Holyrood.
Salmond’s Nark Has Fallen Foul Of The Whitehall Mandarins
What do Whitehall’s top people do when one of their own goes native? When he breaks the code of the mandarins, stops giving his minister unwelcome advice and fails to say “No, Minister”
What they do is exclude him from their inner counsels – as we can see in the strange case of Sir Peter Housden.
Housden, 61, is permanent secretary – top civil servant – to the Scottish government and his political boss is First Minister Alex Salmond.
Officially, he is no different to the other permanent secretaries and regularly attends their Wednesday morning meetings in Whitehall.
Unofficially, though, they regard him – there’s no nice way to put this – as “Salmond’s nark”.
He is not on the crucial committee that is bringing together Whitehall’s campaign against Scottish independence. “Good God, no,” said one insider in shocked tones. “Housden would just report everything back to Salmond.”
Sir Peter Housden Faces Fresh Accusations of Partisanship
The head of Scotland’s Civil Service faced fresh accusations of being politically partisan last night after he told thousands of his officials that he expected Alex Salmond to emerge victorious in the independence referendum.
Sir Peter Housden circulated a briefing, in which he informed civil servants that he expected “substantial negotiations” with UK ministers after the ballot — all but dismissing the prospect of an SNP defeat.
Sir Peter, the Scottish Executive’s permanent secretary and Alex Salmond’s most senior mandarin, predicted that the referendum process would have several stages and told his civil servants that they “don’t need to swallow this elephant whole” as it would “stretch now over a good number of years”.
He then considered what would happen after the referendum and predicted: “The other side of a referendum is likely to involve substantial negotiations.” He continued that it “will certainly require a major constitutional bill in the Westminster parliament to reflect a positive result”.
He did not spell out why he believed the SNP would win in the face of opinion polls that show only about a third of Scots would vote for separation.
Opposition leaders last night renewed their accusations that Sir Peter, who remains part of the British civil service, had “gone native”. The code governing officials prevents them expressing political views or advice.
Independence White Paper Failed To Meet Civil Service Standards
Scotland’s most senior mandarin should have blocked the publication of swathes of Alex Salmond’s White Paper on independence that were politically “partisan” and failed to meet “factual standards”, according to a damning report.
The Commons Public Administration select committee said Sir Peter Housden, the Scottish Government’s permanent secretary, should not have allowed taxpayers’ money to be used to publish parts of the blueprint that amounted to an SNP “agenda”.
At “the very least”, the committee found that Sir Peter should have sought a “letter of direction” from Mr Salmond, a document requested by civil servants when they disagree with a minister’s decision so strongly that they refuse to be accountable for it.
In 2016 Nicola Sturgeon announced that “open government” would be a feature of the Holyrood parliament and new policies were to be put in place.
Leslie Evans had no personnel management qualifications and needed to strengthen her team.
In 2017 she recruited Judith Mackinnon, an experienced human resources manager, to a newly created, (very well remunerated) “Head of People Advice” position.
This is the same person that was previously Head of Human Resource Governance at Police Scotland.
Hardly a recommendation for employment in the Scottish Government given the many scandals in the force in the years she was in post.
Leslie Evans approached Nicola Sturgeon with proposals to draft new procedures in line with the Scottish Governments transparency in government drive.
Authority gained, Judith Mackinnon compiled the policy document, which was duly signed off by Nicola Sturgeon in December 2017.
One one month later, in January 2018, two complaints were made of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond under the new rules.
The incidents were alleged to have taken place at Bute House in 2013.
It was almost as though there had been “malice aforethought” and complainants had been waiting for the new rules to come into force.
There certainly seems to have been no attempt to make the accusation until the policy was active, protecting the accusers from exposure.
No matter the outcome of any subsequent investigation, the political damage to the SNP government would be considerable at a time when a new Scottish Independence Referendum was being mooted.
Alex Salmond was not made aware of the complaints despite the procedure requiring him to be informed, but Evans briefed Nicola Sturgeon and made a Police report.
The police investigation is on-going but there is justifiable concern that the appointment of an investigating police officer to lead the investigation might have been arranged!!!! determining the outcome.
Supported by £100K “crown funding”, Alex instructed legal action against the Scottish Civil Service for the breach of procedure which gave the impression it had been deliberately enacted to damage Alex and the SNP.
At court the Scottish Government accepted that there had been significant procedural errors in the handling of the complaints.
The Judge rebuked the Government and instructed that the matter should be closed.
Costs of the proceedings (possibly around £500K) were charged to the government.
The procedural errors:
A weird sequence of events. Complaints against Alex Salmond made by two female staff about alleged incidents they said occurred in 2013 (four years after the event) and only one month after the new procedures had been put in place.
The government follow up investigation revealed that the recently appointed personnel professional, Judith Mackinnon (who had no direct management authority over them), had solicited the complaints against Alex Salmond, from the two female officers.
She then spoke to them, at length on a number of occasions, in a manner “bordering on encouragement to proceed with formal complaints” against Alex Salmond.
The Government legal team further accepted there had been a “significant amount of inappropriate direct personal contact” between Mackinnon and the complainants.
Evans stated that the nature of the complaints had been brought to her attention by Mackinnon and she appointed Mackinnon to formally investigate the matter and take the appropriate action as required by the new procedure. But in doing so Evans compromised the procedures she and Mackinnon had only recently put in place. Plonkers comes to mind.
The 1707 Act of Union guaranteed the independence of the judiciary and Scottish law in perpetuity. But Westminster Unionist politicians and the House of Lords have rendered Scottish law impotent through the illegal imposition of the laws of “Greater England” on Scots for their own nefarious purposes. The insidious determination of the unionists to wipe out Scottish Law was further advanced in 1999 when the “Crown Office of Scotland” which had been independent from political interference for near 500 years was transferred lock, stock, and barrel to the control of the then Unionist supporting Scottish government. From that time the Scottish Judiciary has been subject to continuous pressure to remove from statute, trial by jury, not proven and other laws.
Removal of the judiciary system free from political control
Recent events in Holyrood have exposed the folly of transferring the administration of the laws of Scotland to the political control of the Scottish Government. The decision must be reversed without delay re-establishing the independence of the judiciary from political interference.
William Gordon Chalmers – the last truly independent Procurator Fiscal of Scotland
Aberdonian William Gordon Chalmers was the permanent head of the procurator-fiscal service from 1974 to 1984 and zealously guarded the power of the Scots over their fiscal service.
He was a man of traditional values but was endowed with great vision to build a service to meet the challenges of the future and cope with an increase in serious crime at a time of economic stringency.
He was proud of his Aberdeen roots, having attended both Robert Gordon’s College and Aberdeen University. And served as an officer with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, in the Second World War in which he was awarded the Military Cross.
After hostilities ceased he became a solicitor and practiced in Aberdeen before joining the procurator-fiscal service as a depute-fiscal in Dunfermline in 1950.
During this period he gained a reputation as a fiscal who was prepared to take on a difficult case and work on it to secure the best possible result.
Although he enjoyed good relations with the police and politicians, he was always careful to ensure his and the fiscal’s independence in the process of investigating and prosecuting crime.
In 1959 he was promoted to Senior Depute Fiscal at Edinburgh then, in 1963, entered the Crown Office as an assistant to the Crown agent before becoming Deputy Crown Agent in 1967 and Crown Agent and Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer in 1974.
In the 1960s the fiscal service was relatively small comprising 80 lawyers throughout Scotland and significant level of backlogged cases was an accepted norm. But not for William Chalmers.
Within a year of taking office he introduced the National Prosecution Service which would deal with sheriff and prepared high court cases while retaining responsibility for the prosecution of cases from government departments and local authorities.
In those early years he identified a distinct lack of alternatives to prosecution and introduced fiscal fines and fixed penalties for less serious offences. He went further and developed a system of warnings to alleged offenders and encouraged the introduction of schemes for certain offenders to be directed to social work and where applicable to make the prompt compensation for their crimes. The latter initiative was appreciated by victims who often became forgotten in the criminal process. During his tenure, the fiscal service went from strength to strength despite in latter years having to cope with a Westminster government intent on reducing public spending.
Retention of a Fiscal Service independent of Government
In his tenure he ensured the “Crown Office” would operate separate from the Scottish Office and achieved this by insisting on being directly funded by the UK treasury.
He was greatly saddened in his retirement, by changes in the fiscal service following devolution, in 1999 which he perceived weakened its independence.
He was was known to many people who had served with him as the “Real Crown Agent” and a fitting memorial to him would be for the “Fiscal Service” to recover its independence in a devolved Scotland.
William Gordon Chalmers, Crown Agent, born 4 June 1922, died 28 May 2003 (The Scotsman-Obituaries)
Nicola Sturgeon was given the honour of leading the campaign for independence.
Referendum campaigning began with polls indicating “No” voters would prevail, a view promoted by the Unionist media and given maximum media space by the BBC, who bombarded Scotland with negative publicity broadcasting many times each day that only around 25% of Scots would commit to supporting independence.
In response, in the first months of 2014, the performance of the team Nicola had put in place was formal, lacklustre and deferential with result that it was completely outfoxed at every juncture by the well-oiled machine that was, “Better Together.”
Responding to months of the Unionist Party’s gutter politicking, negative media and attacks on Scots, Alex Salmond intervened and altering the campaigning strategy gave his support to “Yes” activists to take the lead on campaigning, getting onto the streets to encourage Scots to seize the day and take their country away from a union that had failed them so badly for over 300 years.
The inspired initiative worked a treat and the “Yes” campaign fortunes changed over the summer months of 2014 so much that by late August polls declared the outcome to be too close to call.
The Unionist campaign then faltered due to internal Party political wrangling and panic set in.
Cameron responded by sidelining “Better Together” transferring all decision making to his offices in Westminster, where he implored the Queen, Dukes, Barons, Knights of the realm, heads of Governments of countless countries around the world, just about every civil servant of any note, many hundreds of business leaders and politicians to get behind him and save the Union by pulling every trick in the book no matter how devious or dishonest.
The BBC and other Unionist media outlets assiduously assisted orchestrating skullduggery and delivering it through mass media subversion resulting in the pendulum swinging back in favour of the “No” campaign. But still “Yes” voters appeared to be on a roll with no sign of momentum slowing.
Desperate measures were needed if the Union was to be saved and only a week before the day of voting and therefore “illegal”, the “Unionists” pledged, then heavily promoted “Devo Max” for Scotland, greatly increasing devolved powers, only just short of “home rule”.
The ploy worked. Only days before the referendum vote Bookmakers stopped taking bets on a “no” vote victory. People with influence in the Unionist camp had clearly been advised of the outcome of the referendum before the voters of Scotland had even been to the polling booths.
Scotland subsequently voted “No” to independence on Thursday 18 September 2014.
The result of the referendum became evident not long after the polling stations closed when a resounding “no” vote was returned from a council expected to vote “yes”. A negative result confirmed by similar outcomes from other councils on the East coast of Scotland.
Unionists in Scotland and England were cock-a-hoop and could not contain their delight. Many clamoured for media airtime so that they would be able to rub salt into the wounds of Scots who had backed independence. One such person was “Ruth the Mooth” Davidson who mocked the nation with her release of information that she had been advised of the outcome before the referendum had been conducted.
Her admission was a bombshell. The only way she could have known things had gone so well for the “no” voters was if she or people known to her had opened and counted postal ballots, which had been held secure in England, at the headquarters of the company contracted by the Unionist Government to preserve the integrity of the vote.
A police investigation was completed, in the course of which Davidson confirmed sample voting had been conducted, as speculated, in England at the offices of the company contracted by the Unionist Government but no criminal act had occurred. It later transpired that the Company was owned by a Tory Minister and his associates.
The postal vote debacle further devalued the outcome of the referendum with the revelation that the total number of votes returned in many cases was the highest return in any election worldwide, by a great margin. The shenanigans convinced many Scots that the vote had been rigged in favour of a “no” vote.
Scots were also alarmed and had questioned before the referendum as to the reasons why the Chief Electoral Officer had been seconded to oversee the referendum from her permanent post in England and her subsequent actions appointing fellow English “counting officers” of similar ilk. There was further concern about her unprecedented actions banning exit polling and instructing that there would be no recounts nor appeals at any of the stations.
Cameron claimed victory the morning after and confirmed Alex had accepted defeat. He went on to give the undertaking to honour the Unionist “Vow” to deliver “Devomax” to Scotland. But he also introduced a spoiler in declaring England & Wales would also become “Devomaxed” answering the “Lothian Question” raised by Tam Dayell, but never answered. The House of Commons and Westminster would become a near irrelevance to Scotland who would not be permitted to have a view, discuss or vote on any matter exclusively concerning England or Wales.
Scots were outraged by the deceit of the Unionists who behaved dishonourably before and after the referendum and continued their protestations on social media, the only outlet permitting any expression of views which did not support the Unionist agenda.
Adding insult to injury only days after the referendum Cameron bragged to the Unionist media that “her majesty” had purred with delight when he informed her of the outcome.
A wronged nation is an unhappy nation and Scots were angry at the way in which the future was unravelling under the continued control of the Unionists and they turned in increasing numbers to the SNP demanding a different path. Independence was back on track. But under a new leader.
Within two weeks of the referendum, the membership of the SNP increased to an unprecedented level taking its total well beyond that of any political party in the United Kingdom.
Nicola Sturgeon supporters attributed the increase in the membership of the Party to her influence but in reality, it was due to the ongoing intransigence of Mundell and the Unionists who were delaying and distorting the terms of “Devomax”.
In the 18 September, 2014 referendum Scots rejected independence by 55% to 45%. The day after Alex announced he would be standing down as First Minister and SNP leader. In his time in office, as leader of the SNP, Alex exceeded the expectations of his political remit by improving the SNP political standing in Scotland, turning his party into the most popular in the history of devolution, always on a platform of fighting for Scottish interests.
Nicola Sturgeon would be his successor of choice, but he warned of the dangers inherent in a coronation. His advice went unheeded and Nicola was duly “crowned” not long after.
Her position as leader confirmed Nicola addressed an audience in an auditorium packed to the gunnels with many thousands of members all fully committed to the cause of independence and expecting a rallying call to renew the fight for freedom from their leader. But they were to be disappointed.
She used her acceptance speech as First Minister to reassure her Unionist opponents her administration would be more than just a vehicle for constitutional campaigning. It would provide good government for all Scots always fully operating within the rules put in place by Westminster
She dwelled longest on her achievement of becoming the first woman to lead a Scottish Government. Her election showed “the sky’s the limit” for women and girls across the country, she told the audience before then saying:
“But it is what I do as First Minister that will matter more – much more – than the example I set by simply holding the office.”
Then, Looking up towards her niece Harriet, eight, in the gallery, she added:
“She doesn’t yet know about the gender pay gap or under-representation or the barriers, like high childcare costs, that make it so hard for so many women to work and pursue careers. My fervent hope is that she never will; that by the time she is a young woman, she will have no need to know about any of these issues because they will have been consigned to history. If, during my tenure as First Minister, I can play a part in making that so, for my niece and for every other little girl in this country, I will be very happy indeed.”
She had set her priorities for the future. The fight for independence was to be continued but within the limits of responsible governance. But her primary mission was to advance the cause of women.
What followed was a media frenzy in which Nicola was feted by women’s rights organisations worldwide including invitations to visit the USA and address female leaders and human rights activists the UN. She would become the new “Angela Merkel” and inspire women to a better future in politics and business.
A cross-party commission, led by Lord Smith of Kelvin, was set up agree upon the implementation of the Unionist’s “Vow” which would be the greatest transfer of powers from Westminster to Scotland since the reopening of the Scottish Parliament 15 years before.
So what happened?
The Commission Panel concurred that their discussions and outcomes would be formalised without consultation with external bodies and went on to commit to full devolution of abortion law, the creation of a separate Scottish Health & Safety Executive, lotteries, asylum and a much greater say in the governance of the BBC. Other powers to be devolved included: income tax, personal allowances, bands and rates, employers’ National Insurance contributions, inheritance tax, the power to create new taxes without Treasury approval and a raft of other taxes. An agreed draft of “Heads of Agreement” proposals was published on 21 November 2014.
But many of the foregoing commitments were axed on the final day, at the instigation of Unionist parties, without explanation and it was revealed later that Commission panel members of Unionist persuasion, allegedly independent of Westminster were frequently on the phone taking instructions from their UK party leaders in London, with the LibDems and Tories particularly exercised about welfare proposals and Labour more focused on tax.
The commitment permitting the Scottish government to vary the components of Universal Credit, which merged Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Employment and Support Allowance, was rejected by Westminster.
The decision to devolve abortion policy had been agreed on a 4-1 basis, with only Labour opposed to it. In the draft version of the report dated 11.15am on November 26 – the final day of negotiations – stated: “Powers over abortion will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.” But throughout that same day, Labour kept pushing its opposition in one-to-one meetings with Lord Smith, who then raised it again with the other parties. The Tory members then sided with Labour and the commitment to devolve abortion was removed.
The draft also stated: “Power to establish a separate Scottish Health & Safety Executive to set enforcement priorities, goals and objectives in Scotland will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The body would be required to operate within the reserved UK health & safety framework but would assess, set and achieve the health and safety objectives of most relevance and importance to Scotland.”
The policy, long supported the trade union movement in Scotland was struck out and relegated to the “additional issues” annexe of the final report, which said the Scottish and UK governments would merely “consider” changes.
Also included was the agreement that: “The power to permit the creation and regulation of new lotteries in Scotland will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.” But the final report devolved only the power to “prevent the proliferation” of highly addictive gaming machines known as fixed-odds betting terminals.
Also missing from the final draft was the statement that had said: “There will be greater Scottish involvement in BBC governance beyond the current right to have one Trust member and the current Audience Council Scotland.”
The Commission chairman, Lord Smith of Kelvin, gave the impression he added weight to the views of the three main Westminster parties over panel members. A source saying: “The position that Lord Smith took was that if the parties who were either in the current UK government or might be in the next refused to budge on something, he went with it. The Unionist votes counted for more.”
Devo max was not delivered by the Unionists who decided many important powers would remain with Westminster, including:
The Barnett Formula, setting the block grant from Westminster.
The state pension, including the pension age.
National Insurance, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Corporation tax, fuel duty, oil and gas receipts.
Universal Credit, the new DWP system for delivering working-age benefits, including the rates and sanctions regime- Housing benefit, maternity pay, statutory sick pay, bereavement allowance and child benefit.
The National Minimum Wage.
The Equality Act, but Scotland would be enabled to set new rules, such as gender quotas within the government.
Overall responsibility to manage risks and shocks to the economy, including retention of the power to levy UK-wide taxes if required.
The SNP response
John Swinney, who had led the negotiations for the SNP Government said:
“We regret that job creation powers, welfare powers, control over the personal allowance or national insurance have not been delivered. We welcome the new powers – as we support all progress for Scotland – and pledge to use them when they are in place in the best interests of the Scottish people. We also welcome the acknowledgement of the ‘sovereign right’ of the people of Scotland, and our ability to proceed to independence if we so choose. But the proposals clearly do not reflect the full wishes of the people of Scotland, and also fall far short of the rhetoric from the “No” campaign during the referendum.
Harking back to the referendum campaign it is important to highlight the illegal and late intervention of former Labour Party Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, only days before the referendum and well within the “period of purgatory” when acting with the authority of the Unionist Government, he promised that in the event of a “no” vote the reward for Scotland would be “Devomax” which would be as close to a federal state as the UK could be.
Brown, no longer a statesman, was given 2 hours of BBC prime time television and a hand-picked unionist supporting studio audience to promote his illegal, game-changing ploy which had been apparently condoned by the Electoral Commission.
Regrettably, the Westminster government and other political Unionist supporters failed to deliver the powerhouse parliament the people of Scotland had been promised. Under the proposals delivered, much less than 30 per cent of Scottish taxes would be to be set in Scotland and less than 20 per cent of welfare spending would be devolved. Most significantly, the proposals did not include the job-creating powers that Scotland so badly needed to get more people into work and grow the economy, nor welfare powers to tackle in-work poverty. This was not “Home Rule” – It was the continuation of Westminster rule.
Of significance for the future the final report contained the following statement:
“Reflecting the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, as expressed in the referendum on 18 September 2014, and in the context of Scotland remaining within the UK, an enhanced devolution settlement for Scotland will be durable, responsive and democratic. And it is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.”
And Scots, fed up to the back teeth with the Unionist Party’s refusal to honour their promise of “Devomax” gave notice of their determination on independence in a UK General Election only a few months later.
The 2015 General Election
At the time of his resignation, reportedly forced on him by a small group of senior SNP managers, Alex Salmond could not have foreseen the landslide SNP victory (gained only six months later) in the 2015 General Election.
A success brought about by the disgraceful backsliding of “Unionist” politicians, their Civil Service helpers and other parties interested only in the containment of Scots within the existing political constraints.
The much-touted joint Unionist commitment to fully implement their “Vow” !!!!……to devolve powers to Scotland, just short of independence, proved to be a “lie” that broke the hearts of many Scots who had voted to remain in the Union only on the substance of “Unionist! promises.
Private polling, in the months before the election, provided an early indication of a marked upturn in the fortunes of the Party and the battle for the hearts, minds and votes of Scots was taken up, once again, by those who would not be denied Scotlands freedom from an oppressive Westminster political machine.
Alex, semi-retired from active politics by many, consulted the Party hierarchy and gained their reluctant support for his challenge for the Banff & Buchan constituency. Which he subsequently won.
An unprecedented 56 SNP MP’s were elected in a landslide, just about eliminating the Unionist Parties in Scotland. The nation had spoken. Independence should have been declared, but repeating the errors of the past, tartan wearing, bagpipe playing SNP MP’s, and their supporters descended on Westminster determined to shake the House of Commons to its core, forcing change leading to another independence referendum. But they had not consulted those that had elected them preferring to embrace the instructions of the SNP leaders who advised Scots that:
“Westminster is going through culture shock in coming to terms with the fact the SNP did so well in the election. That we are here in such strong numbers, elected as Scots who support independence, is also not lost on them. We were elected to pursue an anti-austerity agenda and more devolved powers for Scotland. and we will do just that.”
But they had chosen to misread the will of the Scottish nation which was to abandon the “Treaty of Union”. And yet again, as on previous occasions, they were to be sorely disappointed. The “old lady of parliament” simply adjusted her skirts and swept them aside with contempt.
The influence of a large body of SNP MP’s at Westminster had been of little matter when set against the blatant refusal by the Unionist parties to uphold their 2014 referendum promise to devolve additional powers to the Scottish parliament and when the UK held yet another General Election only a year later the Unionist campaign managers of their Scottish branches agreed to assist each other, cutting back on political campaigning where they had little chance of gaining a seat instead promoting the cause of the Unionist candidates regardless of persuasion. Tactical voting had arrived, with a vengeance. And it worked a treat.
A complacent SNP election team, led by its Chief Executive and Campaigns Manager, Peter Murrell (Nicola Sturgeon’s husband) failed to anticipate the new tactics of the Unionists and lost many good MP’s.
And Murrell has form. Under the leadership of John Swinney, he directed the organisation and delivery of the disastrous 2003 Holyrood election, in which the Party lost eight seats which resulted in the resignation of John Swinney as SNP leader in 2004 and a bid for the leadership of the Party by Nicola Sturgeon, which she was forced to withdraw when Alex Salmond announced his intention to add his name to the list of contenders. She subsequently agreed to take on the role of Deputy leader of the Party and to “stand-in” for Alex as the Party’s “Holyrood leader” while he remained an MP at Westminster.
Few people know Murrell who is rarely seen, except at elections and at Party events, where he is nearly always present in the main auditorium, usually standing in the shadows to the side of the stage whispering instructions to Cabinet ministers as they prepare to make keynote speeches. He is a powerful general blessed with a salary in excess of £100K and a level of authority more comprehensive than the casual watcher could possibly realise.
The Feminist agenda
In the years following her elevation to the leadership of the Party Nicola turned Scottish politics on its head. Female SNP politicians and careerists now dominate the Party hierarchy witnessed in the ongoing Alex Salmon inquiry which revealed the First Minister’s Cabinet to be predominantly female, with seven of its 12 members women. And an all-female team reporting to her, comprising: Chief of Staff, Liz Lloyd, Permanent Secretary, Leslie Evans, Director of People, Nicola Richards and the Head of People Advice, Judith Mackinnon.
There is a growing disquiet among members, supporters and independence activists that the Party has lost its way under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon in the years since the 2014 referendum. And it is no longer the Party of independence having morphed into the Party of Government in Scotland. A role to which the Party founders never aspired.
Critics also highlight that neither Nicola nor her Party Chief Executive husband and has ever attended, fronted or supported any of the many dozens of marches and or rallies organised and delivered across the country in the past 6 years, by many hundreds of thousands of Scottish independence activists.
Conversely Nicola appears to be always available to provide public support and photo opportunities through her attendance at rallies, throughout the UK, organised by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups.
The priorities for the leader of the Scottish national Party should be gaining independence for Scotland. That and nothing else.
Judith Mackinnon left her post in July 2017 and took up employment in a newly created post as “Head of People Advice for The Scottish Government”.
She reported to Nicola Richards, who had been appointed to her new role as “Director of People”. It was she who appointed MacKinnon to be the “Investigating Officer”
An early priority was to assist the process of drafting a complaint procedure and McKinnon would surely have been guided by urgent recommendations contained in the January 2017 Police Authority audit report of a similar complaint procedure she had introduced when employed in a senior personnel role by the Authority.
One particular recommendation comes to mind.
“Misconduct Regulations state that the subject officer must receive immediate formal notification of the 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.”
But recent revelations are uncovering a “can of worms”
It has been revealed that on 29 November 2017, Richards and MacKinnon discussed with “Ms. A”, (one of the women who went on to make a formal complaint of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond in January 2018) the content of a draft procedure they were proposing to introduce so that harassment complaints could be actioned against former Ministers, in retrospect.
The document was sent to the Cabinet Secretariat to be retyped.
On 1 December 2017, Richards, emailed James Hynd, the Head of the Cabinet Secretariat;
“Would you be able to send me the latest version of the process? I agreed with “Perm Sec” that I would test it with some key individuals.”
Hynd, replied within the day, attaching the latest version of the draft procedure as requested. He wrote;
“Here you are.”
Richards and MacKinnon met again with “Ms. A” on 5 December 2017 and again discussed the content of the draft procedure then sought “Ms. A” confirmation that the procedures would have helped her at the time and how to put in place safeguards for the future.
Helped her with what??
Later, on 5 December 2017, Richards met with Permanent Secretary, Evans following which she worked late into the evening making changes to the document.
Just before midnight that day, she distributed the revamped document to James Hynd, “Head of the Cabinet secretariat”, MacKinnon and an unnamed lawyer. Her email stated;
“As discussed today, I’ve made some revisions to the process”
There was evidently some urgency in moving the matter forward to a conclusion, confirmed in yet another email in which Richards wrote;
“I’ve updated the timeline – and this is the final version of the policy I’ve sent to Perm Sec.”
The “air” of finality clearly suggested that the civil servant team, supported by legal opinion were confident it would be signed off and introduced.
Nicola Sturgeon approved the introduction of the procedure on 20 December 2017.
The decision to appoint an “investigating officer” should not have been instructed by Richards on her own!!!! But did she? Assuming the procedures had been adjusted following the Police Authority recommendations she would have been required to sign off the investigation process with one other, a more senior officer. That would be Evans.
And yet another titbit: On 25 August 2020, in evidence given, on oath, to the Salmond inquiry, James Hynd, “Head of the Cabinet Secretariat” stated:
“To be clear – if I was not earlier – the first that I heard about any allegations was, I think, on 24 August 2018, when there were press reports. I knew nothing before then about any complainer or anybody raising concerns. I knew nothing about the appointment of any investigating officer or about any sharing of the draft procedure with any individuals.”
Well, well, well !!!!!!!!! The worm turns!!!
The Police Authority and Judith Mackinnon
MacKinnon was Head of Human Resources governance for the Scottish Police Authority between 2015 & 2017.
Her prime responsibility was to provide assurance to the Authority that they were a responsible employer and a sustainable organization, achieving this goal through the introduction of efficient personnel policies aiding the professional development of management and staff.
The first years following the formation of the Authority were plagued by complaints of harassment and wrongdoing in the force, primarily led by the Unionist Press who seized on every incident, no matter the rights and wrongs of it to undermine the SNP Government.
The Government was forced to order an independent audit of the Authority’s human resources and other departments that had been subject to criticism.
A lack of transparency and clarity surrounding the complaints processes.
The length of time taken to deal with complaints and to undertake preliminary assessments in misconduct allegations.
A lack of communication between the Authority and senior officers who were the subjects of complaint.
Communication between the Authority and senior officers was inconsistent. In some instances, subject officers had been invited to address allegations/complaints whilst in others, an invitation had not been extended.
On a number of occasions, the first officers became aware complaints had been made about them was through media coverage.
Responsibility for ordering a preliminary assessment of misconduct allegations rested with a manager who had little or no relevant knowledge or experience and expertise.
The complaint handling procedure in place is neither effective nor efficient and lacks transparency and unclear guidance resulted in organizational confusion as to whether a matter should be dealt with as a “relevant”.
The average time taken to conclude complaints and preliminary misconduct assessments is excessive and disproportionate to the level of inquiry undertaken or required of the Authority.
Decisions of the Authority lacked clarity and transparency and in many cases did not contain sufficient explanation to demonstrate how a decision had been reached.
Notifying senior officers about misconduct allegations and ‘relevant complaints’ made about them was inconsistent. In some instances, senior officers were not notified but in other cases, they were notified but sometimes at the beginning or on occasions at the end of the process.
Whilst there is no statutory requirement to notify a senior officer about an allegation or to ask him/her to comment on an allegation until after an assessment has been carried out and an appropriate investigator has been appointed.
But the subject officer must receive formal notification of a misconduct allegation once it has been determined that an investigation is required and an investigator has been appointed and before the start of any investigation.
Susan Deacon, (SPA chair), said the report identified a “number of important areas” requiring the authority’s attention. And it was essential that the Authority’s systems and practices were robust and worked effectively to maintain public confidence and trust.
Addressing the concerns of senior officers, procedures would be revised requiring more than one “deciding” officer to ensure key decisions were taken ensuring better oversight of the complaints process.
Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints
“You wrote to three Scottish Government civil servants on 29 October asking questions in
connection with the Committee’s work. As you know, civil servants work on behalf of Ministers,
and so I am responding to your questions on behalf of the Scottish Government.
In relation to your letter to Liz Lloyd…………………………………………………
In relation to the letter to John Somers…………………………………………….
In relation to your letter to the other civil servant……………………………….
In relation to the development of the procedure………………………………..
In relation to the judicial review………………………………………………………
“I would be grateful for your further assistance in addressing my continuing concerns
about some interactions between civil servants and Committee members at the Committee.
As we have previously discussed, civil servants play an important role in supporting Ministers
who are properly held to account by Parliament for the actions of the government. The rules
governing civil servants’ appearances are well established and understood by all parties and
normally work well, in my opinion. Scottish Ministers have a duty of care for civil servants employed by the Scottish Government. While the normal rules that usually govern the way we work together are not observed by all Committee Members, the ability of Ministers to discharge that duty of care for these witnesses is jeopardized.”
Comment: Swinney takes the investigating committee to task over its questioning of three civil servants who may be in possession of information relevant to the inquiry. His assertion that civil servants report to Scottish Government Ministers and as such all questions relating to their work should be addressed to their political masters is for students of the Law to discuss and decide upon but in my opinion, his view is coloured by a need to buy time. But for what purpose?? And compare his defense of Scottish Government civil servants and their actions against the active participation of Westminster based civil servants who aided and assisted “Better Together” campaigners and foreign governments against Scots in the 2014 Referendum Campaign.
Civil Servants Seconded from Westminster to the Scottish Office in 2014
Francesca Osowska: “All activities undertaken by civil servants in my Department would meet a propriety test, yet I think you would agree that in the run-up to a referendum, obviously when Ministers want to be more visible, when we need to ensure that there is a good flow of public information for example, via the Scotland analysis papers that increase our activity and that is why there was an increase between 2013-14 out turn and 2014-15 out turn.”
* But reflect on the proudly broadcast admission of the self-same Civil Servants that they had been seconded to the Scottish Office (in Westminster) and had been tasked, to provide active support to the “Better Together” campaign. Actions that brought about the defeat of Scots who wished only to be an independent nation once again. What a bunch of charlatans.
November 2014: Team of senior civil servants seconded from the Treasury to the Scottish Office to actively participate in the Better Together campaign in the 2014 referendum
Sir Jeremy Heywood took great pleasure in awarding the team “The Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Award 2014” in recognition of their outstanding achievements in helping defeat Scots separatists on an issue of national importance. Glowing with pride after the presentation some of the leaders were quoted:
Mario Pisani Deputy Director at HM Treasury said:
“We all had something in common, we’re trying to save the Union. We just kept it by the skin of our teeth. I actually cried when the result came in. After 10 years in the civil service, my proudest moment is tonight and receiving this award. As civil servants, you are prevented by statute from getting involved in politics. So, for the first time in my life, suddenly we’re part of a political campaign. We were actively involved in everything from the analysis to the advertising, to the communications. I just felt a massive sense of being part of the operation. This being publically recognized (at the Civil Service Awards), makes me feel just incredibly proud.”
Paul Doyle; Senior Treasury Official
“This award is not just for the Treasury, it’s for all the hard work that was done by all government departments in Westminster and in Scotland assisting the “Better Together” campaign on the Scotland referendum agenda. In all my experience of the civil service, I have never seen the civil service pull together in the way they did behind supporting the UK government in maintaining the United Kingdom. It was very special to all of us.”
Shannon Cochrane; Senior Treasury Official
“We’ve learned that politicians are able to task civil servants to work on things that are inherently political and quite difficult. This places the actions of civil servants very close to the line of what is lawful, but it’s possible to find your way through and to make a difference.”
William MacFarlane; Deputy Director HM Treasury, (Budget and Tax Strategy)
“As civil servants, you are not allowed to get involved in the politics of the country. But, for the first time in my life, we’re part of a political campaign. We were involved in everything from analysis to advertising, to communications. I just felt a massive sense of being part of the operation. Recognition of our work being recognized (at the Civil Service Awards), makes me feel just incredibly proud.”
The secondment of 20-30 senior civil servants from the Treasury to provide professional support to the “Better Together” campaign was done without the knowledge of the Scottish Government. Adding insult to injury the Scottish Office met all of their salaries and on-costs using finance provided to Scotland. (The civil Service World) (All comments paraphrased)
Civil Servants and Janus Faced Illegal politicking Against Scots
Francesca Osowska, in a number of evasive statements, neglected to reveal that Civil Servants had, in a gross misuse of public finances, been authorized at the highest level of the UK Government to actively support the objectives of the “Better Together” campaign.
She confirmed that Mundell retained access to funding sufficient to employ up to 100 whole-time equivalents (W.T.E.) posts and that salary and incidental costs arising from such employment are (top sliced) from Scotland’s block grant before the allocation of finance to the Scottish government.
The slush fund created is an ever-increasing annual financial nest egg, skimmed off Scotland’s block financial grant and used, abused by Scottish Office management for anti-devolution leaflet production, printing, and distribution and the secondment of Civil Servants from other Government Departments and employment of Special Advisors (SpAds), often well connected to friends of ministers or other MP’s.
“DeeAnn Kirkpatrick, a civil servant employed in Marine Scotland, made allegations of sexual harassment, racism, bullying, and assault against some of her male colleagues.
An Employment Tribunal decided that her allegations were time spent after three years and aided and supported by senior civil servants of the Human Resources team of the Scottish Government, dismissed the allegations.
The nub is that the substance of DeeAnn’s complaints was never independently investigated.”
DeeAnn’s sister Cherry, issued a statement through the Daily Record saying:
“My sister has been left absolutely devastated and feeling betrayed. How can this be justice? It’s a disgrace. She can hardly bear to look at the photograph of herself gagged and taped to a chair. It suits Marine Scotland to say DeeAnn made it all up. She has been broken by this. My sister used to be strong, brave, and outgoing. Now she is a recluse who is afraid of her own shadow.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government responded with a counter-statement saying: “The Scottish Government provides reassurance that policies and processes within the Civil Service are both robust and provide the necessary support to individuals who may wish to raise concerns.”
DeeAnn’s case had unraveled around the time the First Minister wrote to Leslie Evans asking that she put arrangements in place to ensure Civil Servants were adequately protected from any misconduct. And that the revised procedures should contain a novel clause (applicable only to Scotland) conferring on the Scottish Government the right of “lookback without limit of time.”
Note: DeeAnn’s case was thrown out because it had not been placed before the tribunal within 3 years. A copy of Nicola’s letter of 22 November 2017 to Leslie Evans is included below.
22 November 2017 Nicola Sturgeon Letter to Leslie Evans
At Cabinet, on 31 October I asked you to review the Scottish Government’s policies and processes on sexual harassment so that we could be reassured that we have effective arrangements in place in light of justifiable concern about the recent examples of misconduct across public life. You have kept me closely briefed on these issues.
I know that work is moving forward quickly and that you have already put arrangements in place to ensure that any member of staff who has concerns about the way they have been treated has the support and advice they need. You have also advised me that the review is considering how best to build on the work already being done to create an inclusive and respectful culture across the organization.
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.
As you complete your review I believe it would be helpful for you to update Cabinet on the conclusions you have reached and the actions the Scottish Government has taken to provide reassurance that policies and processes within the Civil Service are both robust and provide the necessary support to individuals who may wish to raise concerns. (https://www.parliament.scot/HarassmentComplaintsCommittee/Phase1FN21.pdf)
Comment: The Permanent Secretary reports to the First Minister but is accountable to the UK Government Cabinet Secretary and Leading Civil Servant in London. Any procedure brought forward by Evans to the First Minister would need to be first approved by him and mirror those in place in London and other parts of the UK since there is no deviation in the terms of employment applicable to all Civil Servants in the UK.
More On Events at the Employment Tribunal
The tribunal had been convened to hear evidence from Canadian born, DeeAnn Fitzpatrick, a civil servant who had lodged allegations of racism, bullying, sexual harassment, and misogynism at Marine Scotland, in Scrabster over nearly a decade from 2006. (content paraphrased for ease of reading)
“I have worked for Marine Scotland in Scrabster, since 2006. Over this period I spoke to managers about the racist and misogynistic behavior of some of my male colleagues and asked that they put an end to it, without success.
I was subsequently warned by those self-same colleagues to “keep my mouth shut”.
In 2010 I reported to managers that the behavior of some of my male colleagues had not improved. But again nothing was done.
Shortly after I was assaulted, gagged, strapped to a chair, photographed, and mocked.
I was eventually rescued and freed by a female colleague who told me: “they don’t want a woman, especially a foreign woman here.
A male colleague, Reid Anderson told me: “This is what you get when you speak out against the boys.
I was also labeled an “old troll” and told not to even attempt to “climb the ladder of success” and, I was mocked after I suffered a miscarriage and I received anonymous abusive cards on my birthday and Valentine’s Day between 2015 and 2017.
Managers turned a blind eye to the bullying and sexist treatment I suffered at the hands of my male colleagues.
The events have taken their toll on my health and wellbeing and I have become a recluse – I stay at home suffering from depression and have harbored thoughts of suicide. Thoughts that were so all-consuming that I contacted Dignitas in Switzerland. I had had enough.”
The Scottish Government was solely represented by their Head of People Advice, Judith MacKinnon who advised the tribunal that the persons accused by DeeAnn of wrong-doing had decided not to face their accuser because they were scared of the intense media attention the case had generated.
She further advised that the Scottish Government supported the accused officers since the disciplinary procedures of the Civil Service bestowed on civil servants the right to remain silent and that they could not be compelled to answer questions that might incriminate themselves.
She went on to say that she had read over case notes prepared by DeeAnn’s managers, who had carried out an internal department head led investigation and that she backed their findings that DeeAnn had willingly participated in the “high Jinks” culture prevalent within the department. As such there was insufficient evidence to support DeeAnn’s allegations.
The tribunal pronounced that the allegation pertaining to the incident in which she had been strapped to a chair was time-barred since it had occurred over 3 years before.
It also found that there was insufficient evidence as to who had sent the abusive cards.
The handling of events by the Civil Service Human Resources Department of the Scottish Government was mildly criticized but DeeAnn’s allegations were not upheld.
It was this rejection and final humiliation that forced DeeAnn to speak to the press. she told the Daily Record:
“It is difficult when you have spent your entire career fighting racism, misogyny, and bullies. Then to make matters worse when you report the incidents, you are the one that is being targeted by an ongoing campaign by senior management because you exposed what they have worked very hard to hide.”
Nicola Sturgeon and the “Chair” Incident
Nicola issued a statement saying that she was appalled at the revelations and pictorial evidence published in the Daily Record and ordered the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, Leslie Evans, to personally investigate the incident involving the chair and to report back to her.
Evans reported back (summarized):
“A comprehensive internal review has now concluded that the Scottish Government has robust disciplinary procedures to address behavior that falls below expected standards and I am satisfied that these have been followed thoroughly and objectively in relation to this incident.
A broad set of actions are underway in Marine Scotland to ensure a working environment that meets both the Civil Service Code and Scottish Government Standards of Behaviour.
I do not normally comment publicly on staffing matters but I am issuing this short statement to update the public record given the previous parliamentary and wider interest in this issue.
My unwavering commitment to ensuring a positive workplace for all employees in the Scottish Government remains.”
Comment: An incredulous statement to which nothing was added by the Scottish Government. The lack of response from the Scottish Government was not entirely unexpected since whilst the Permanent Secretary reports to the First Minister she is accountable only to the UK government Cabinet Secretary located in London.
The interview with the Daily Record triggered a charge of misconduct against her and DeeAnn was ordered to attend a disciplinary hearing.
she was unable to attend on the day/date because her father had only recently died and her doctor had said she was not fit to travel.
The hearing was conducted in her absence and resulted in her being sacked.
The notice of dismissal procedure served on her was bizarre since it was carried out by two civil servants who despite travel restrictions being in place because of Covid-19 journeyed by car on a 16-hour return trip from Edinburgh to her home in Caithness to hand-deliver her dismissal letter.
The latest news is that lawyers acting on LeeAnn’s behalf confirmed that she would sue the Scottish government for wrongful dismissal, based on a defense of workplace stress and damage to her mental health and wellbeing.
Local MSP Rhoda Grant Fights Back
The Highlands MSP used a member’s debate on condemning misogyny and harassment at Holyrood to raise the whistleblower’s case in a speech she described as “probably the most difficult” she had ever made.
Rhoda claimed that a manager at Marine Scotland had “referred to women in extremely derogatory terms,” and continued:
“I cannot repeat the language used in this chamber, but it was racist, sexist, vicious, and degrading. DeeAnn has been subject to institutional racism, sexism, harassment, and abuse at the hands of Marine Scotland, a Scottish Government Directorate. And the abuse continued despite her raising the matter at senior levels in government. Over a number of years, the oppressive behavior was constant and undermining and DeeAnn always being held to a different standard than others. I’m told by a colleague that this was deliberate and systematic conduct by others in the office and in the line of command in Marine Scotland, designed to wear her down and force her out.”
Referring to the involvement of the press that had triggered the attention of Nicola Sturgeon who concluded the chair incident to be “completely unacceptable, whatever the circumstances.” She said to the chamber:
“DeeAnn began working for Marine Scotland in 2006 and claimed problems arose when she blew the whistle on the misogynistic behavior of her colleagues towards a younger female colleague. She then became the target of abuse – and her case came to public attention last year when a photograph was revealed showing her gagged and taped to a chair.”
“The first minister’s investigation only looked at the incident with the photograph, and it was not an independent investigation. There needs to be a truly independent inquiry into DeeAnn’s treatment. And my evidence to the inquiry was fed back directly to Marine Scotland who twisted it to be used against DeeAnn. And DeeAnn has still not been informed of the findings of the investigation, and has remained away from work on full pay, but not suspended.”
Rhoda then claimed she had discovered that the “Scottish Government HR intercepted DeeAnn’s e-mails, including sensitive exchanges with her Trade Union representative”, adding that there had been “a fully hatched plan” between Scottish Government HR and DeeAnn’s line management… which showed they intended to move her to the Outer Hebrides. When DeeAnn declared that she could not move because of caring for her ailing mother, they decided to implement their previously discussed plan to dismiss her on trumped-up charges. A move that collapsed when they failed to produce the necessary evidence. And then DeeAnn was threatened with disciplinary action for going to her father’s death bed.
Rhoda said DeeAnn’s issues at work had started after returning to work following the breakdown of a “devastating” relationship with a colleague in another office, which had resulted in a miscarriage, and the issue of a non-harassment order. Her line manager was not supportive, mocked her being off with stress, and threatened to move her to work in the office where her former partner was based – despite knowing that a non-harassment order was in place. She added that she could not repeat the “extremely derogatory” terms in which he referred to women.
Rhoda spoke further saying: “DeeAnn has been subject to institutional racism, sexism, harassment and abuse at the hands of Marine Scotland, a Scottish Government Directorate,” Calling for an independent inquiry into the case, she added: “Despite me raising this at senior levels of government on a number of occasions with the previous Permanent Secretary, with John Swinney, Richard Lockhead, Paul Wheelhouse, and the First Minister – the abuse continued.
Rhoda also revealed that the original case which DeeAnn had reported was a threat to punch another female staff member by a male fisheries officer, who was allegedly encouraged by DeeAnn’s boss “to make sure it’s a good one”.
While they were initially disciplined, the men had successful appeals. Rhoda claimed: “the Scottish Government knows the Senior Fishery Officer secretly recorded the disciplinary panel’s deliberations and learned details that then led to their successful appeal.”
As well as abuse, Rhoda said DeeAnn was: “constantly being held to a different standard than others – toil, holidays, time off for compassionate leave or for medical reasons. On every occasion, she was questioned at length, but others were not. I was told by a colleague that this was deliberate and systematic conduct by others in the office and with the approval of line managers in Marine Scotland. A process designed to wear her down and force her out.”
Rhoda then asked the Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie, if she would push Scottish Government colleagues to set-up an independent inquiry. The Minister declined to say it would be “inappropriate” for her to get involved and that Rhoda should take up an offer to meet with Scottish Government officials.
The BBC Get Involved
Adding credence to DeeAnn’s allegations a reporter with the BBC said they had seen emails confirming DeeAnn had reported the alleged attack to her manager Mr. Paske, soon after it happened, but her complaints were not taken seriously. Mr. Paske told DeeAnn: “I will have a word with Reid Anderson and Jody Paske about this. I am sure they meant no harm and that it was boys just being boys.” When confronted by the BBC reporter, Mr. Paske, who no longer works at Marine Scotland, said:
“The allegations were false. I can’t remember the event you mention, but if it did happen, it would have been office banter, just a craic, certainly, nothing to do with abuse.”
The BBC reported further that one of the accused persons Mr. Anderson was still employed by Marine Scotland and had recently been promoted. and that he had failed to respond to the BBC’s request for comments.
My association with the SNP and the cause of independence for Scotland started not long after the UK and Israel invaded Egypt with the aim of reopening the Suez Canal which had been blocked by President Nasser who had taken Egypt under the wing of the USSR.
The mission was accomplished very speedily, but not without loss allowing UK and Israeli forces to establish fortified control points along the canal and to start the work of clearing shipping sunk at the mouth of the Canal by Nasser.
Then the betrayal. The USA Government fearing Russian involvement told the UK to get out of Egypt without delay and ordered Israel back to its original borders.
Both countries complied with the dictate fearing USA financial reprisals. Over the next year, USA and Russia mediated and the canal was eventually reopened but the cost of shipping negotiating it was markedly increased rendering its continued use questionable.
Anthony Eden resigned not long after the debacle and a few years after a Labour Government introduced the East of Suez policy which brought about the torturous and costly withdrawal of its military forces and influence of the UK in the Middle East and Asia.
Anti-Scottish political regimes of successive UK Governments had resulted in deprivation, hardship and the early deaths of many thousands of Scots over nearly 300 years, and the deployment of Scottish soldiers to Suez was the straw that broke the camels back for me.
The early period of my activism in the cause of independence was not without its troubles as various factions vied for political supremacy. The growth of the party was stunted when it lurched to the right and the Unionist press had a field day awarding the Party the dubious title of “The Tartan Torys”.
The SNP struggled for many a year to gain a foothold in Glasgow and the West of Scotland as Labour became the Party of choice for Scots.
After many years in the doldrums, the SNP party membership finally gained a voice and told the leadership that political posturing by party officials had to end. The SNP united under the cause of independence for Scotland and any unauthorised public airing of political dogma was deprecated.
The time for politicking would be after independence when, it was anticipated the Party might split, each faction seeking the support of the electorate.
Under the leadership of Alex Salmond, the party remained true to the cause of independence, evidenced by the adoption of centralist policies favouring neither left nor right-leaning members.
The Party benefitted from this in gaining an outright majority in the Scottish Parliament. An achievement considered impossible by Westminster Unionist politicians who had put the system in place with the purpose of preventing the SNP from ever gaining power in Scotland.
The single aim of the SNP favoured by Scots culminated, under the leadership of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon in the 2014 Independence Referendum which only just failed to gain the support of a majority of Scots.
Believing he was doing the right thing, Alex resigned his leadership role and handed the reins of power to Nicola Sturgeon.
Days later the disgraceful conduct and outright deceit of the Westminster Government and other Unionists in the referendum campaign was revealed and brought the outcome of the referendum into disrepute. Only 6 months later the Unionists were just about wiped out in a General Election.
In January 2015 SNP membership applications increased tenfold and the surge for independence was back on the agenda.
But the period 2015-2020 has been fallow in terms of independence.
Nicola Sturgeon sidelined an active pursuit of independence for Scotland in preference for the implementation of a left-wing agenda taking the SNP firmly into the Labour Party heartland with the intention of replacing that Party after independence. In effect re-establishing two-party politics in Scotland.
The result of her abandoning the SNP principle of a united front has been increasing unrest and there is a real and present danger that the Party might split before an independence referendum can be held.
But it might just be that Nicola Sturgeon and her supporters within and outwith the SNP are involved in the active pursuit of another agenda.
In part two I will reveal what I believe that agenda to be. And whilst it may stretch incredulity it is entirely feasible. As I will prove.
Late Oct: Allegations of harassment surfaced at Westminster in late October and a whole range of people inside the Scottish Government raised concerns about alleged sexual misconduct involving Scottish ministers and former ministers prompting the announcement of a new zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct by the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney.
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.
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.
08 Nov: 1233. Hynd emailed Richards and MacKinnon a copy of the first draft of the policy “Handling of Sexual Harassment Complaints Against Former Ministers.”
16 Nov: 1205.Hynd emailed the (Private Secretary 1 to Leslie Evans). (Policy on Complaints Against Ministers.” As requested”. James.
17 Nov:Hynd circulated to the civil service senior management team and Liz Lloyd (first sight) a second draft procedure titled “Handling of sexual harassment complaints involving current or former ministers.”
Afternote: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. But Hynd said he took the decision to widen the scope of the revised procedure without reference to anyone since he had responsibility for the Ministerial Code.
17 Nov: Lloyd maintains she did not discuss the procedure or share a copy of it with the SNP.
17 Nov: A letter setting out proposed procedural changes to the civil service code for the handling of sexual harassment complaints was forwarded for comment to the Cabinet Office in London. In the email reply, an unidentified senior civil servant wrote to say that they were: “very uncomfortable to be highlighting a process for complaints about Ministers and former ministers”.
Afternote: The Scottish Government was thrown a lifeline by a very senior civil servant in London who strongly advised against any widening of the proposed new guidelines of employee harassment to include former ministers or in this case former First Ministers since this could only rope in Alex Salmond and there was no precedence within the civil service of a formal internal inquiry into the conduct of a senior officer who was no longer in the employ of the state. That so clear a warning was ignored beggars belief.
17 Nov: Although events are unclear at this time and this is conjecture, the correspondence between the Permanent Secretary and London must have encouraged Evans to instruct Hynd to desist from any further development of a retrospective draft lookback procedure and to stick to the remit she had given him on 31 Oct.
17 Nov: Lloyd and an unnamed senior civil servant, (probably Somers) agreed that an “instruction” should be compiled and sent from the First Minister to the Permanent Secretary to provide clarity that consideration of a policy relating to ministers and former ministers was within the scope of the original cabinet commission. And, in furtherance of this, after an exchange of emails, the two officers amended the content of the draft “instruction” to ensure it harmonized with the latest draft procedure so that when considering it, it would be clear that the draft policy would scope incidents earlier than 2007. A copy of the final draft note was forwarded to the First Minister’s office for her consideration over the weekend to ensure work on the procedure could continue.
20 Nov:Miss 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 Miss A, he informed his line manager Barbara Allison.
21 Nov: Somers and two unnamed officers met with Miss 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 Miss 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: 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: 15 Sep 2020: In her opening 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 2: 15 Sep 2020:Allison said she was a “huge advocate” of informal resolution, stating that if a matter could not be resolved through this means then absolutely people must have recourse to a formal process. She then told the Inquiry that she was first notified of concerns in late 2017 when two unnamed female civil servants raised them with her. Late 2017 is a wishy-washy statement and she should be instructed to provide dates and circumstances since it is to be assumed that one of the civil servants would be Miss A who was adamant in an earlier interview with Somers that she did not wish to make an official complaint. And where did the second civil servant spring from?
Afternote 3: 15 Sept 2020: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”.
21 Nov:Sturgeon, Evans, and other names redacted persons met and discussed the draft procedure. Minutes of the meeting are not available.
22 Nov:Somers formally emailed Sturgeon’s “instruction” 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.”
24 Nov: Hynd,Lloyd and a member of the Permanent Secretary’s office, and a member of the First Minister’s office attended a meeting to further discuss the content of the “instruction” and to establish and agree on clear lines of responsibility between the First Minister and the Permanent Secretary preventing 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. Further input from 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.
24 Nov:Lloyd later ascertained that she had no knowledge at this time of the incidents that were subsequently investigated under the new procedure.
Afternote: 08 Sep 2020: Evans had 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 Lloydpresent at three meetings in Oct and Nov 2018. Faced with the revelation Evans was forced to correct her evidence to state that Nicola Sturgeon’s political special advisor, Liz Lloyd, did take part in meetings about the case.
29 Nov:Richards and MacKinnon met with Miss A and discussed the content of the revised procedure they were proposing to introduce so that harassment complaints could be retrospectively actioned against former Ministers. Changes were agreed and the document was sent to the Cabinet Secretariat to be retyped.
01 Dec: Two days later 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?” Later that day Hynd replied, “here you are” attaching the latest version of the revised draft procedure.
05 Dec:Richards and MacKinnon met again with Miss A to discuss the content of the latest revised draft procedure seeking and gaining 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: Richards met with Evans and other colleagues to discuss the draft document and agree on changes, where necessary. She then worked late into the evening updating the document. Just before midnight that same day, she forwarded the revised procedure, under cover of an email, to the Head of the Cabinet Secretariat, Hynd, MacKinnon, and an unnamed lawyer. The email stated: “As discussed today, I’ve made some revisions to the process.”
Afternote: Eight drafts were compiled and before and after copies of each revised/new procedure will be retained on a central database. The inquiry would be well advised to request copies so that changes made after the meetings with the first two complainants would be identified and their impact assessed.
6 Dec 2017: 0528. In the very early hours of the morning 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.”
Afternote: 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. The “tweaked codes” which Somers and Evans had agreed to “send-up” to Sturgeon constituted the recast procedure which changed at a stroke everything which had been developed by Hynd and others to that point, by removing the First Minister completely from the process. The “letters” which were now not to be sent to Sturgeon were letters which Hynd had been instructed by Evans to draft, in line with the procedure as it had existed prior to this discussion with Somers, and for the purpose of intimating the new procedure to former Ministers and former First Ministers when it was approved by the First Minister in due course. Following the discussion between Evans and Somers on the night of 5 Dec 2017, these letters simply disappeared from the development process, and the Scottish Government has never disclosed them to this day, at least not in the papers which have been made available to the public by the inquiry. Exactly what comprised the “steps and touchpoints involved in the process” which were evidently also discussed by Evans and Somers remains a matter of guesswork since, of course, no-one at the inquiry asked Somers yesterday, or has ever asked Evans, what was meant by these terms. 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 procedure as now radically recast. There is a hugely significant context of this 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 endorsement in advance of the Scottish Government. On 6 Nov 2020, Deputy First Minister Swinney wrote to the inquiry: “Somers was not involved in the development of the procedure…” Poor John Swinney. He gets all the dirty jobs. Extracted from:(https://gordondangerfield.com/author/deckcarrington)
07 Dec: Around this date, MacKinnon met with Miss 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.
Afternote:Hynd said he had made the running and compiled the “new” retrospective harassment procedure. But records indicate Richards and Evans made the running.
Afternote:25 Aug 2020: Selective amnesia!!! Hynd,Head of Sturgeons Cabinet Secretariat, in his evidence, given under oath to the Alex Salmond inquiry stated:
“To be clear if I was not earlier – the first that I heard about any allegations was, I think, on 24 Aug 2018, when there were press reports. I knew nothing before then about any complainer or anybody raising concerns. I knew nothing about the appointment of any investigating officer or about any sharing of the draft procedure with any individuals.”
12 Dec:Evans wrote to Sturgeon:
“You wrote to 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. (The agreement is added to the end of this article). 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 the following: 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 FM. 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 the following. 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 2to Evans emailed Hynd, Richards, MacKinnon, and Head of Branch, Peoples Directorate 1 the following. (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 the following. Policy on Complaints Against Ministers. Dear all. With sincere and deepest thanks to Private Secretary 2 to Evans, here is another ‘final’ version.
20 Dec: Copies of the revised procedures on handling harassment complaints about current or ex-ministers were sent to Somers and some other senior officers. The revised procedure was signed off later that day, by Nicola Sturgeon.
Events in 2018
16 and 24 Jan: The Scottish Government received two formal complaints of alleged misconduct by Alex Salmond at Bute House in 2013 during his time as First Minister. The complaints came from two separate individuals.
Afternote: Outside observers conjectured that the complainants had been waiting for the revised rules to take effect so that they would be protected from exposure and no matter the outcome of any subsequent investigation, the political damage to the SNP government would be significant at a time when a new Scottish Independence Referendum was being mooted.
Jan: 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?
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.
06 Mar:Lloyd and Geoff Aberdein, (who served as Alex Salmond’s chief of staff during his time in office) met at the request of Lloyd. This was an informal discussion between friends and any reference to Alex Salmond in that discussion was in the context of media inquiries made around the time.
26 Mar: Lloyd and Aberdein met again at the request of Lloyd, during which she said she suspected the Scottish Government had received an official complaint about Alex Salmond. She did not know the full details of any potential complaint and had not alerted the First Minister to her suspicions about a potential complaint.
Mar:Alex Salmond was formally notified of the nature of the complaints that had been made against him and that an on-going probe had been underway for some months.
29 Mar: Geoff Aberdein testified under oath in the Salmond trial that he was contacted in mid-March by phone by Nicola Sturgeon’s office to discuss historic allegations against Alex Salmond, and was asked to a meeting with the First Minister on 29 March. Aberdein testified he was so concerned that he arranged a conference call with Kevin Pringle and Duncan Hamilton QC to discuss this.
Nicola Sturgeons version of the truth: On 29 March 2018 I met with Geoff Aberdein in my office at Holyrood. Aberdein was in Parliament to see a former colleague and while there came to see me. I had forgotten that this encounter had taken place until I was reminded of it in, I think, late January/early February 2019. For context, I think the meeting took place not long after the weekly session of FMQs and in the midst of a busy day in which I would have been dealing with a multitude of other matters. However, from what I recall, the discussion covered the fact that Alex Salmond wanted to see me urgently about a serious matter, and I think it did cover the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature. Around this time, I had been made aware separately of a request from Mr Aberdein for me to meet with Alex Salmond.
These two stories are utterly incompatible. Unless we are to believe that Nicola’s office set up a meeting for her without her permission, without telling her the subject, and without subsequently telling her they had set it up. We would also have to believe that Nicola’s private office knew of the allegations for weeks without telling their boss. I can tell you for certain, that is not how the Civil Service works.
The matter is capable of proof. Geoff Aberdein testified he held a conference call with Kevin Pringle and an eminent QC, Duncan Hamilton, ahead of the Sturgeon meeting. Presumably he would have informed Mr Hamilton of the genesis of the meeting to explain why he needed advice. Let the Fabiani inquiry call both Aberdein and Hamilton to give testimony.
It is important to note that if Aberdein is telling the truth then Nicola Sturgeon’s private office was phoning him about allegations about Salmond weeks before Nicola Sturgeon subsequently claimed to parliament that she first heard anything of all this. Of course, they could have known many months or years before that, but the Aberdein testimony gives us mid-March 2018.
The meeting was also a breach of protocol since the Ministerial Code expressly forbids the conduct of political party business within the Holyrood premises
21 Jan 2021 – Follow up:
Four independent witnesses have testified to Sky News (One of them a QC), that senior member of Sturgeon’s staff asked Aberdein to falsify a statement to remove their prior knowledge of the allegations against Salmond. Yet all of this, the most important evidence of the entire inquiry, has been excluded from publication and from consideration by the committee because it involves inextricably one of the anonymous accusers.
02 Apr: Sturgeon stated that her husband Peter Murrell, Party Chief Executive and her top government aide Lloyd were present at their home in Glasgow together with Alex Salmond,Geoff Aberdein, (who had arranged the meeting at the request of Lloyd), and Alex Salmond’s Solicitor, Duncan Hamilton. The foregoing persons left the room allowing Sturgeon and Alex Salmond to meet in private. Sturgeon claimed that was when Alex Salmond first revealed that he was being probed over harassment claims and expressed to her his concerns about the process of investigations against him. He also briefed her about proposals he had submitted to the Scottish Government for mediation and arbitration.
Afternote 1: Murrell, who had not been invited to attend said he arrived home during a “government business” meeting. Although he had a “sense” it was about something serious he did not ask and Sturgeon did not reveal that Alex Salmond was facing sexual harassment allegations. Adding she was immensely busy and they did not discuss her duties as the First Minister. But she had convened the meeting in her capacity as Party leader and as such Murrell should have been briefed. Somers, Sturgeon’s principal private secretary, said that if it had been an official meeting in her role as First Minister, it would have been in her ministerial diary and minuted. But it was not. The veracity of the account is questionable.
Afternote 2: Interviewed on 18 Aug 2020 by the inquiry team Evans said Sturgeon had been first alerted to Alex Salmond’s’ behavior in Nov 2017 when she learned that Sky News was investigating an “incident ” at Edinburgh Airport.
23 Apr: Sturgeon and Salmond had a “substantive” phone discussion. During which he asked if she would speak to Leslie Evans about “mediation” with the applicants. A special adviser was in the room at the time.
6 Jun: Sturgeon wrote to Evans to inform her that she has had talks with Alex Salmond.
07 Jun: Sturgeon and Alex Salmond met again, in Aberdeen, ahead of the Scottish National Party conference.
14 Jul:Nicola Sturgeon met with Alex Salmond at her home. Her husband Murrell was present but he said he spent most of the time in the kitchen so he wouldn’t be involved.
18th Jul: Sturgeon and Alex Salmond engaged in a telephone conversation. Sturgeon said that “at this point” she was “concerned – as the Party leader and from a perspective of preparing her Party for a potential public issue – that his handling of the matter meant that it was likely to become public in the near future.”
Afternote: Paragraph 12 of the “new” procedure explicitly excludes the involvement or interference of the First Minister in any part of the investigation and the three meetings and two telephone conversations Nicola Sturgeon had with Alex Salmond after the start of the investigation and before its conclusion would be construed as interference.
Afternote 2: Sturgeons letter to the inquiry is here: Nicola_Sturgeon it provides details of correspondence between herself and Alex Salmond. If she had only accepted his advice and allowed an arbitration process to be completed things would have turned out very differently.
22 Aug:Evans informed Alex Salmond that there was no scope for mediation and arbitration and that she was “considering the public interest” before publishing the results of the investigation.
23 Aug: Alex Salmond immediately launched proceedings seeking imposition of an interim interdict on the Scottish Government preventing the release of any information pertaining to the allegations or investigation so that he would be able to request a judicial review of the decision process which he said was an “unjust” and “unlawful” investigation procedure conducted with malice aforethought since his efforts at “conciliation, mediation and legal arbitration” had been “rejected”.
23 Aug: Details of the charges of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond were illegally released to journalist David Clegg, a writer for the Daily Record. The spoiler was designed to pre-empt the imminent issue of an interim interdict preventing any disclosure of any matter pertaining to the investigation. Clegg passed the information to the Editor of the Daily Record who immediately published an “exclusive” report. Alex Salmond wrote to Evans demanding an inquiry into how details of the complaint against him were leaked to the media.
Afternote 1: 25 Mar 2020: The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found no evidence of civil servants or ministers breaching rules around the former SNP leader’s personal data after he raised concerns about how the allegations against him first appeared in the Daily Record.
Afternote 2: The timing of the leak is crucial. We know from material given to the Holyrood inquiry that Alex Salmond’s lawyers had repeatedly told the Scottish Government that their investigation into the allegations was unlawful and that the matter should instead be dealt with privately by arbitration and/or mediation. The Scottish Government had flatly refused these suggestions and insisted on going to court where the allegations would have become public – right up until the eve of the hearing, when it suddenly conceded, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds to the taxpayer. It has steadfastly resisted disclosing its legal advice on the subject. But one of the things known is that Salmond was about to seek, on the morning of 24 August 2018, to have an interim interdict issued by the Court Of Session which would have prevented the Scottish Government from issuing any statement naming Salmond. The Scottish Government was informed of that fact at 5pm on the 23rd. Within three hours of that notification, Davie Clegg had the whole story and posted this to his Twitter account: “The dam broke on this when I put some of the allegations to Salmond at 8pm tonight and informed him we were planning to publish in tomorrow’s Daily Record. Salmond responded at 9.30pm with his statement on the legal action. This was then sent to other newspapers as a spoiler.” So where could it have come from? At this stage, very few people would have known in any major detail about the investigation. They included the two complainers, the First Minister herself, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, investigating officer Judith MacKinnon, civil servant Barbara Allison, and finally, the First Minister’s chief of staff Liz Lloyd, who since March 2018 had been a central liaison between Nicola Sturgeon and Salmond’s representative and former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein. If we rule out Salmond and Aberdein that’s just seven people (along with a very small handful of other civil-service mandarins who’ve got no axe to grind). Do any of them, we wonder, have any notable connection to or relationship with Davie Clegg? Hmm, what’s this? Mandy Rhodes, Editor of the Holyrood magazine, posted this to her Twitter account on 11 Jul 2016. Hoi! David Clegg. When did you become a rising young leader?
Front row, from left to right: Kezia Dugdale, Liz Lloyd, Jenny Gilruth, Ross Thomson, and Davie Clegg.
Now, we of course have to emphasize that none of the above demonstrates any sort of wrongdoing by anyone. It’s just a happy bunch of good pals enjoying a free glamorous summer holiday serious and important fact-finding trip like anyone would. Cost to the US £8,000 for each person. It most certainly doesn’t prove that Liz Lloyd – one of the vanishingly small number of people who knew the details of the Salmond investigation at that point – leaked them to Davie Clegg hours before a court interdict, to make sure that they got into the public eye and enabled the press to luridly smear and monster Salmond on the basis of false allegations for months before he could prove his innocence, conveniently serving the interests of both the newspapers and the Scottish Government. We’re equally sure that there’s nothing sinister in the US government being so nice to so many SNP figures, and that they want nothing in return. See the rest of the article here: (https://wingsoverscotland.com/all-the-jolly-boys-and-girls/#more-120497)
29 Aug:Alex Salmond resigned from the SNP stating he wanted to avoid internal division within the Party.
14 Sep: Police confirmed they had launched a formal probe into the women’s allegations.
25 Oct:Sturgeon, Evans Lloyd, and other names redacted, persons met to discuss matters arising from recent events.
02 Nov:Sturgeon, Evans Lloyd, and other names redacted persons met to discuss matters arising from recent events.
13 Nov:Sturgeon, Evans Lloyd, and other names redacted persons met to discuss matters arising from recent events.
14 Dec:Alex Salmond won a legal bid forcing the Scottish Government to hand over documents related to the case against him.
23 Dec 2020: Belated judicial Review report provided to the Inquiry
With precisely the grim level of cynicism we’ve now come to expect as standard, the Scottish Government released a key document relating to the Salmond inquiry two days before Christmas. It contains legal advice relating to the judicial review brought by Salmond regarding the Scottish Government’s investigations into false allegations of misconduct against him,. It is extremely heavily redacted. But a few interesting passages remain. The document, dated 28 December 2018, is a report from Sarah Davidson, the then-Director General of Organisational Development and Operations, one of those vague job titles that covers a multitude of sins.
It is, officially, the document which advised the Scottish Government to concede the case, on which it had by that point already spent an amount of money it refuses to reveal to the Scottish public – but which can be reasonably estimated at upwards of half a million pounds, given that we know Alex Salmond had spent a similar sum by then on his side of the argument.
29 Dec: Judicial Review: Report compiled by: Sarah Davidson: DG Organisational Development and Operations
Next Steps 1. You asked me to coordinate the provision of urgent advice in order to allow you to consider how to proceed in relation to the Judicial Review which is set down to commence before Lord Pentland in the Court of Session on January 15th. In doing so, I have drawn heavily on contributions from the Chief Financial Officer, and from the Director of Communications, Facilities and Ministerial Support. I am grateful to them all for responding so promptly to this request.
2. As you are aware, Counsel has offered advice on a number of occasions in relation to the prospects of the Scottish (SG ) arguments prevailing in court. This advice has principally turned on counsels views on the appointment and actions of the Investigating Officer. The full chronology and summaries of that advice are set out at Annex A.
3. The key point to note is the “watershed moment” of last Friday (21st December 2018), at which point the SG’s case became , unstateable, (1) given what emerged that day about the degree and nature of the contact between the IO and the prospective complainers prior to their formal complaints having been made. This information was contained in documents which were identified and produced for the Commission and Diligence Hearing last week, and had not been elicited by previous document searches. While there is no reason to believe that the IO was motivated by anything other than her desire to fulfil her role properly, we recognise that her actions give rise to a perception that there was an unfairness in the operation of the procedure in this case.
Note 1: What it’s claiming – and readers can make their own judgement about how believable a claim this is – is that the Scottish Government’s extremely expensive legal counsel only found out a few days before they were due to go to court that Judith Mackinnon had had extensive contact with the two complainers prior to being appointed as the Investigating Officer.
(The two QCs acting for the Scottish Government were Christine O’Neill as “junior” counsel, and Roddy Dunlop as senior, two of the country’s most eminent advocates. Alert readers may recall Dunlop from his successful work on two high-profile cases of recent years, on behalf of Alistair Carmichael and Kezia Dugdale.)
So it’s interesting to ponder what’s missing. (We don’t actually know how long any of the redactions are, because they’ve all been replaced with “[Redacted]” rather than blacked out. They could be a single word or a dozen paragraphs.)
The most obvious thing would be a word like “frankly”, but why would anyone want to redact that? Similarly there’s no conceivable reason to redact something like “in the opinion of counsel”, and it’s very difficult to plausibly add anything to that sentence which might identify anyone whose identity is being kept secret.
The only reason to blank out something there is if it’s in some way incriminating, such as – and we emphasise this is pure illustrative speculation on our part – “contrary to what counsel had been led to believe by the Scottish Government”.
It’s perhaps worth mentioning in passing that the word “unstat[e]able” is one with a very particular meaning for anyone practicing law. What it basically means is that if you deliberately conceal evidence or misrepresent something about the case to the court, or allow your client to, you’ll be struck off.
4. Counsel has said in terms that there was nothing about the way in which havers gave evidence to the Commission that would suggest that they were acting in bad faith in relation to the production of information, but it is clear that the process of searching for and producing relevant documentation under the duty of candour has not been systematic and comprehensive. (2) It is for this reason that the full picture of and the risk of the perceptions that these could give rise to, only became visible to Counsel and to SGLD at the end of last week.
Note 2: Now, there’s nothing actually redacted in the paragraph above, but there’s certainly something missing from it. Who, a casual reader might wonder, has been failing to be adequately “systematic and comprehensive” in terms of their “duty of candour” to properly inform the legal counsel the Scottish Government is shovelling your money at? Who was in charge of this process? Who designed it and who was carrying it out?
Conceding the petition 6. If a decision is taken to concede the petition, the process would involve a Counsel to Counsel discussion of settlement, with a view to agreeing a Joint Minute setting out the basis of conceding and appropriate declarators (making clear what is and is not the basis of the concession), and agreeing expenses. In parallel, the Court would be advised of decision not to proceed with our defence on the basis that there were ongoing discussions about disposal.
7. In such circumstances, the decision which was being Judicially Reviewed would be set aside and referred back to the decision maker. In this case, for a range of reasons (not least the views of the complainers about going through the process again), consideration needs to be given to whether the SG could restart and re-run the procedure and ensure fairness. The Petitioner may look for assurances that this will not happen, but it is premature to decide or indicate whether and how this would happen, and the views of the complainers would of course be something you would want to take into account.
8. The Petition contains a number of pleas-in-law, most of which SG would not be conceding.
9. While we will be simply indicating a decision to concede when announced, the terms of disposal by the Court will be adjusted by counsel in the days ahead (in a Joint Minute) and we will seek to narrow the terms to the minimum of conceding that the decision cannot legally stand and is set aside and, as above, the pleas-in-law which the court will uphold in doing so. We would not be negotiating in any way about future decisions. If the Joint Minute cannot be agreed, the court will itself make an Order to the same effect.
10. In handling terms, once a decision has been taken it would be beneficial to intimate the concession as soon as practicably possible following the events of last week: it would be essential for the Court to be told at the same time as the Pentland next week. This would be easier on Monday or Thursday when the Court is open, but might still be possible, although less straightforward, on Tuesday or Wednesday when the Court is closed. The Court would not look favourably on any public statement being made before Lord Pentland was advised of the position.
Implications of conceding 11. Clearly, conceding the petition gives rise to a new set of issues and risks which would require to be managed. The immediate practical implications are dealt with in the section below on communications and handling.
12. It is impossible of course to be certain how the Petitioner will react, although we can certainly speculate about how he may seek to portray the concession in public statements. The only limitation in practice on what information he may deploy in the public domain are the reporting restrictions on naming the complainers. It is less easy to imagine what, if any, legal remedies he might pursue and there are limits to the value at this stage of second-guessing how he will respond, on what grounds, or with what prospects of success. These issues are of course not germane to the decision on how to proceed.
PAO Considerations 13. In reaching a decision in relation to these proceedings, you will also want to have regard to your duties as Principal Accountable Officer. The overall Accountable Officer test addresses the four key considerations of regularity, propriety, value for money and feasibility. You will be familiar with these of course, but the application of each as they might apply in current circumstances is summarised at Annex B.
14. In considering the PAO tests, you will wish to take account, in particular, of both the costs to date and further projected costs that might be necessary to continue to defend the action to its conclusion. You will also wish to give consideration to the possibility of having to meet even greater opposing counsel costs should you decide not to concede now and the Petitioner is ultimately successful in both his petition and recouping his costs.
Communications and handling 15. As noted above, in the event of a decision being taken to concede the petition, there are strong arguments for moving to confirm this quickly. In order to allow you reasonable time to consider this advice, we are using Thursday 3rd January as a central planning assumption, but can of course update this if required. Further detailed handling advice including a draft statement has therefore been developed In considering the PAO tests, you will wish to take account, in particular, of both the costs to date and further projected costs that might be necessary to continue to defend the action to its conclusion. You will also wish to give consideration to the possibility of having to meet even greater opposing counsel costs should you decide not to concede now and the Petitioner is ultimately successful in both his petition and recouping his costs.
16. Although not within the scope of this advice, there are clearly a number of lessons to be learned by the organisation and we can discuss in due course how best to ensure that this is done.
17. Subject to decisions taken and further refinement, an SG statement might therefore read along the following lines, (subject to agreement by the Lord Advocate): investigated is robust, fair and necessary and that it would have been found to be so had it been tested by the Court. However, we acknowledge that the operational application of the procedure may have fallen short. We have therefore [today] informed the court and the petitioner that we have decided to concede the Petition on this basis. We will consider and decide on our next steps in the light of this decision.
18. We are also mindful of our duty of care obligations to the complainers and to other members of staff who would be affected by the concession and its aftermath in different ways. This will include our next steps in relation to the complaints raised by Ms A and Ms B which still, of course, sit with us for determination. Work is being undertaken to identify all those who would require to be informed about a decision to concede and the support that might be offered to them. We can discuss this with you when convenient.
Conclusion 19. Having reviewed the material contained in this note, you may conclude that the Scottish Government is in a position where the only sensible and defensible action is to concede the petition and to plan for managing the attendant reputation and legal risks. The risks associated with proceeding to defend the Judicial Review could appear to be greater.
20. I hope that this advice provides you with the necessary basis on which a formal decision to concede on the terms set out in paragraph 8 above can be reached.
21. Colleagues and I stand ready to discuss any aspect of this note.
Permanent Secretary Copy to: Ken Thomson, DG Constitution and External Affairs Director of Legal Services Chief Financial Officer Director, Communications, Facilities and Ministerial Support
Annex A Salmond v Scottish Ministers and Permanent Secretary This summary sets out the development of advice from counsel, in relation to the following two issues1) Whether paragraph 10 of the Procedure requiring the IO to have had no prior of the IO, though not a member of SG staff in 2013, indicate that she was involved in discussions of any nature around the time of the complaints being made and the IO being appointed (issue 1)
2) Whether, if issue 1 is answered in the negative, the actual acting’s of the IO in her discussions with one or both complainers in the period from November 2017 to January 2018 created in the eyes of a reasonable, objective outsider an impression that of a real risk (whether in fact correct or not) that there was an unacceptable possibility of bias in her role as an impartial gatherer of the facts a concept known as apparent bias (issue 2).
Annex B: PAO Considerations When a course of action is it not immediately obvious, the need to make a difficult decision calls for judging risks, balancing competing objectives and dealing with uncertainty. It is the and weighing all the factors. Rather than rely on piecemeal advice, it is usually most helpful to bring all the considerations which have been applied together in an overall Accountable Officer test that addresses the four key considerations:
Regularity: (of expenditure) The key test here is whether there are legal powers. Given this would have been flagged by SGLD at the outset if there was any doubt, unless anything associated with the types of expenditure being incurred has changed significantly, it is unlikely that the initial test applied here will now be in doubt as a consequence of the current status of the case.
Propriety: The key test here is whether expenditure falls within the boundary of what parliament for the use of taxpayers money. Just because expenditure is regular, does not automatically mean that it can be assumed to meet a propriety test too. Unlike the regularity test, it is possible for the propriety test to shift over time. Three specific areas are worthy of consideration here:
Expenditure must be sustainable, which includes whether sufficient public resources are available and are likely to continue to be available. Any doubt here calls into question whether further spending would meet the propriety test in the future.
If risks deemed acceptable to people, resources, assets etc. at the outset have escalated to the point whether they are no longer manageable or able to be sufficiently mitigated, again there is a question about whether the initial propriety test can continue to be met.
Finally, consideration must also be given to the reputation of the Civil Service or the Government itself where action that might initially have been considered within the bounds of acceptability might now result in unacceptable damage to that reputation, again the propriety test is in doubt.
Value for money: This can often be a subjective test that can again shift over time, in particular if the costs shift beyond initial expectations. There is no identifiable point at which initially justifiable expenditure tips over to no longer being unjustifiable, even when the initial benefits associated with that spending remain constant (e.g. would a 10% increase be acceptable but a 20% not?). Where both costs escalate beyond initial estimates and the benefits associated with the action taken deteriorate to a level where they are questionable that should be a stark warning to the Accountable Officer that overall value for money may no longer be justified. It can often make sense to bring into account unquantifiable factors when considering benefits, in the value for money assessment, as is likely to be the case here, in particular the impact on reputation and behaviours of either action or inaction. Accountable Officers are always urged to treat these factors with caution and when they are in play there is usually, as noted above, resonance with propriety.
Feasibility: This test is normally reserved for governments ability to practically deliver on its initially intended course, but there is some relevance here too. In particular, whether that intended course can continue to be carried out both effectively and credibly and is likely to be successful in securing its initially intended result at reasonable cost. Where either or both are in doubt, again there is a risk to whether this test can continue to be met. It is worth noting that there are clear overlaps with value for money and/or propriety here. These four tests must be taken and considered together and the overall judgement is whether the Accountable Officer can confidently defend spending (or further spending) as a satisfactory use of public resources and do so in a dispassionate fashion. It is also important to carry out this test periodically as circumstances change, rather than rely simply on the initial judgement, in particular if one or more of the four tests no longer complies with the standards expected and/or there is a material change that calls into doubt that initial assessment.
Annex C Judicial Review (Day One plus seven illustrative handling plan)
Day One Thursday, January 3
12noon. Communication between Counsel or SGLD and Levy and MacRae notifying SG position.
Immediate release of statement to Press Association. Immediate statement on SG website.
Immediate internal communications statement on Saltire.
Other actions Reactive media calls to be handled by News desk but nothing to issue before following process outlined below.
All calls to be logged by News desk no initial response given. 4pm – All calls to be taken in to central hub discussion attended by Communications SGLD and HR. This to ensure consistency across replies and due consideration given to consequences of responses.
All subsequent responses and to whom to be logged by News desk.
A previously cleared Q and A will be held by Communications upon which to draw for responses or to build on for responses.
Consideration to be given to movements of FM and Perm Sec on the day, as well as that of named key players who may also be approached by media. Support to be offered by Communications.
Bids Permanent Secretary not to undertake bids. Statement sets out position.
Duty Communications Officers on duty over the period will not handle calls on this matter. They will forward any calls directly to either or who will work shifts handling duty calls in the initial period.
Day Two Friday January 4
Consideration to be given to movements of FM and Perm Sec on the day, as well as that of named key players who may also be approached by media. Support to be offered by Communications.
Media monitoring pull together press cuts.
9am Meeting to consider media reaction, next steps.
12noon Communications meeting to consider lines
4pm Communications meeting to consider lines.
Duty to route any queries about the above to in the first instance
Day Three Saturday Jan 5
Consideration to be given to movements of FM and Perm Sec on the day, as well as that of named key players who may also be approached by media. Support to be offered by Communications.
10am Conference call to assess coverage and any next steps.
Duty to route any queries about the above to in the first instance.
Day Four Sunday Jan 6
Consideration to be given to movements of FM and Perm Sec on the day, as well as that of named key players who may also be approached by media. Support to be offered by Communications.
10am Conference call to assess coverage and any next steps.
Duty to route any queries about the above to in the first instance.
Day Five Monday Jan 7
Consideration to be given to movements of FM and Permanent Secretary on the day, as well as that of named key players who may also be approached by media. Support to be offered by Communications.
9am Meeting in SAH to discuss coverage.
Mid-morning FM is in Perth to announce additional funding for Tay Cities. Media attendance will be considered in advance in discussion with FMPO and Spads on Thurs, Jan 3 or Fri Jan 4.
12noon Communications meeting to consider lines.
4pm Communications meeting to consider lines.
Day Six Tuesday Jan 8
Consideration to be given to movements of FM and Perm Sec on the day, as well as that of named key players who may also be approached by media. Support to be offered by Communications.
Media monitoring pull together press cuts.
9am Meeting in SAH to discuss coverage.
12noon Communications meeting to consider lines.
4pm Communications meeting to consider lines. Duty to route any queries about the above to in the first instance
Day Seven Wednesday Jan 9
Consideration to be given to movements of FM and Permanent Secretary on the day, as well as that of named key players who may also be approached by media. Support to be offered by Communications.
Media monitoring pull together press cuts.
9am Meeting in SAH to discuss coverage
12noonCommunicationsmeeting to consider lines
4pm Communications meeting to consider lines.
Duty to route any queries about the above to in the first instance
Day Eight Thursday, January 10
Meeting to consider lines. Duty to route any queries about the above to in the first instance
Comment: on the report:
It may or may not be important to remember that in December 2018, when this report was produced, Salmond still hadn’t been charged by the police – that didn’t happen until the middle of January 2019.
Had the Scottish Government been advised in October that its prospective case in the judicial review was untenable, its last hope of avoiding either an embarrassingly comprehensive defeat or an almost equally embarrassing climbdown would have been if some other events had overtaken the judicial review and caused it to be shelved. Events such as, purely illustratively, a criminal prosecution.
Was the Scottish Government advised to concede the case in October 2018, but kept stalling and spending money in the hope of dragging it out until a criminal prosecution took the judicial review off the table entirely? This document doesn’t tell us.
But such a strategy would presumably have been quite poorly received by its legal advisers, whose hard-won reputations would be at stake if they were asked to present such a laughable case in front of a senior judge like Lord Pentland.
Does anything in the document tell us how counsel felt?
The short, innocuous-looking paragraph above is in fact probably the most explosive unredacted revelation in the whole document. Because what it says is that the Scottish Government’s legal counsel had given it an ultimatum – “concede this case or we quit”.
Such a step is almost unheard of. For a pair of QCs to walk away from a client rather than be humiliated (or worse) in court would be an event of earthquake proportions – especially when that client was a government.
And yet here it is, in unredacted black and white. The Scottish Government’s counsel could no longer endure the case they were being asked to present in court, and was forced to deliver a threat to its own client.
(Dunlop was perhaps already rather stung after having had to repeatedly and painfully apologise to the court because he’d been misinformed by his employers.)
And yet we’re expected to believe that these learned people, charging hundreds or thousands of pounds an hour, had been strung along at public expense for months on end without being told absolutely key facts, which were known to everyone else and their dog who was involved.
It’s not hard to see why this document was released two days before Christmas. But as we say, we’re only guessing about what all the bits we’re not allowed to see could contain. So perhaps, as a light-hearted festive parlour game, readers could offer some more innocent explanations in the comments below. (Wings over Scotland)
Events in 2019
03 Jan: The Alex Salmond legal team advised the court of their intention to call civil servants to give evidence under oath. An out of court discussion took place between the two legal teams about an evidence session planned for 07 Jan in the course of which civil servants reporting direct to Sturgeon would be required to give evidence to the court under oath. Later that day the Scottish Government conceded.
08 Jan: The Scottish Government defense team admitted at court that there had been a significant level of inappropriate direct personal contact between Mackinnon and the complainants and that this had resulted in procedural errors being incurred and that the process of soliciting the complaints from two women “bordered on an encouragement by Mackinnon, to proceed with formal complaints against Alex Salmond.” In his final statement, the Judge rebuked the Government and instructed that the matter should be considered closed. Costs of the proceedings (possibly around £500K) were charged to the government.
Evans later admitted the government’s handling of the investigation had been unlawful and had the appearance of bias because it was led by a senior personnel official, Mackinnon, who had had prior contact with both complainants.
Afternote: 15 Sep 2020: Answering a question Allison denied Evans had sent her an email message “We may have lost the battle, but we will win the war.” not long after Alex Salmond had won the judicial review. She later corrected the record in a letter she wrote to the Inquiry Committee saying:
“I answered to the best of my recollection, which was that I had not received the message. The message in question was dated over 18 months previous, and I was on holiday at the time at which it would have been sent. “However, the committee did not seem satisfied with my response and I wrote to the Committee on 21 September advising that I would ask for a further search for this message to be carried out. I asked the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal’s Service to provide me with a copy of the material which they retrieved from my mobile phone in the context of the criminal trial. I received that material on 23 October. That material confirms that I did indeed receive the message. I would like to take the opportunity to correct the unintended inaccuracy in my previous statement. I received this message on 8 January 2019 “Thanks, Barbara – battle may be lost but not the war. Hope you are having a lovely & well-deserved break. L.” I sent a reply on the same date. “Thanks Leslie. It is lovely here. My mind and thoughts are with you all there tho. Best wishes. Bx.” Allison went on to admit that she had retained messages on her phone relating to the investigation from 2017 but could not say why she had deleted the text from Evans.
Police Scotland stated that the allegations had been referred to them by Evans representing the Scottish Government and an inquiry, as to whether there was criminality involved on Alex Salmond’s part, led by DCS Lesley Boal, given the title Operation Diem, had commenced in Sep 2018. It is not yet known if and when the inquiry will end.
15 Jan: David Clegg: Inside track of how Salmond v Sturgeon row created a political earthquake for the SNP
Sturgeon is being investigated by ethics watchdogs over a series of meetings she held with Alex Salmond while he was the subject of a Scottish Government investigation into sexual harassment claims. The initial meeting was brokered by Sturgeon’s chief of staff Lloyd and Salmond’s former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein. When Lloyd and Aberdein met for coffee on 06 Mar 2018, it was officially a catch-up between two old friends. The pair had worked closely together for seven years as key cogs in the SNP machine that brought Scotland to the brink of independence. But their discussion that afternoon started a chain of events that led to an official standards probe into Scotland’s First Minister, calls for a full parliamentary inquiry and sparked a poisonous civil war at the heart of the SNP.
Aberdein served as chief of staff during Alex Salmond’s time as the first minister, while Lloyd held a variety of senior positions in communications and policy development. When Salmond resigned following defeat in the independence referendum of Sep 2014, Aberdein departed for the private sector and Lloyd took over as Sturgeon’s chief of staff.
But internal party dynamics soured dramatically in the years that followed. By the time of that coffee on 6 Mar, Sturgeon and Salmond – once the closest of political allies – were barely on speaking terms. Salmond’s unpredictable and unhelpful behaviour after resigning office had infuriated Sturgeon. The problem only got worse after he lost his Westminster seat in the June 2017 snap general election. Salmond blamed Sturgeon’s underwhelming campaign for his defeat. Sturgeon was also left embarrassed by risque jokes Salmond made during his Edinburgh fringe show. But the final straw was Salmond’s decision to launch a talk show on Kremlin-backed TV station RT, without consulting Sturgeon.
Meanwhile, the Harvey Weinstein allegations were dominating the international news agenda and Scottish media outlets were beginning to investigate long-standing rumors about Salmond’s conduct with women. This appears to have been the crux of a misunderstanding between the two camps that poisoned relations even further. During the 06 Mar meeting, Lloyd told Aberdein she hoped there was no basis in rumors Salmond was plotting a political comeback. She suggested this would be very difficult given his status on RT. Crucially, she also made reference to the sexual misconduct claims.
We understand Aberdein reported Lloyd’s comments to Salmond. Shortly afterward, Salmond was informed about the Government investigation into claims of sexual misconduct dating back to his time as the first minister and assumed this is what Lloyd had been referring to in the meeting with Aberdein. Lloyd insists she had no knowledge of the Government probe at that stage and was instead referring to questions the press office had been fielding.
What happened next will form the basis of the standards probe being carried out into Sturgeon’s handling of the claims. A meeting between Sturgeon and Salmond was set up via Lloyd and Aberdein. It took place on 02 Apr 2018 in Sturgeon’s Glasgow home. Aberdein and former SNP MSP Duncan Hamilton were there but did not sit in on the meeting. Sturgeon says the first they heard of the Government probe was when Salmond revealed the details. But opponents have criticized Sturgeon’s decision to meet Salmond on two further occasions and take two calls with him despite knowing he was under investigation.
These contacts will be assessed by the independent advisers to the ministerial code of conduct. There are also questions about what Salmond asked of Sturgeon during those meetings and calls. Meanwhile, a separate police investigation into the allegations continued. Whatever the outcome, the saga has caused an irreparable rift between Salmond and Sturgeon that threatens to divide the wider independence movement.
25 Jan: Peter Murrell, Chief Executive of the SNP and husband of Sturgeon is an active user of internet social media and exchanging information and views with a group of “WhatsApp” friends. In a message sent on 25 January 2019, the day after Alex Salmond was first charged with multiple sexual assaults, he posted two messages:
(1): “Totally agree folk should be asking the police questions a report is now with the Procurator Fiscal on charges leaving the police twiddling their thumbs. So it would be a good time to be pressurizing them. Would also be good to know that the Metropolitan Police are looking into events in London.”
(2): To be honest the more fronts Salmond is having to fire-fight on the better for all complainers. So Crown Prosecution Service action would be a good thing.”
Afternote: Following his acquittal of all charges Alex Salmond claimed that there had been an internally led SNP conspiracy against him. These messages from the Chief Executive Officer of the Party give credence to the claims.
Murrell also claimed to know nothing of the content of discussions at two meetings between Sturgeon and Alex Salmond about the alleged assaults despite them being held in his home in Glasgow. He insisted Sturgeon had told him she could not discuss the details of the meetings but they were held to discuss SNP business and as such he had every right to know what was going on. His account does not ring true.
In recent months there has been growing unrest within the Party about the conduct of the small cliche at its head who have been actively changing internal rules to prevent Sturgeon’s critics from being selected ahead of the 2021 Scottish General Election. But the behavior backfired when elections to the NEC returned a majority of new officers who are not in support of the Sturgeon Murrell agenda. It appears that Peter Murrel will be subjected to a vote of no confidence very soon.
May: Lloyd promoted by Sturgeon from Band 3 – with a maximum salary of £84,000 – up two levels to Band 4, increasing her salary by 25%, from £83,000 to £104,000 a staggering £21,000 increase. A reward for blind loyalty?
Events in 2020
04 Aug: Nicola Sturgeon provided a statement to the inquiry. This is attached, in full. It reads:
I refer to your letter of 7 July. Please treat this covering reply and attached annexes as my response to the questions posed in your letter.
With regard to paragraph 5 of Annex B of your letter, noting that “the Committee and all participants must comply with the court order made by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, on 10 March 2020”, I have excluded from this letter any information that, as far as I am aware, might disclose the identity of any of the complainers in HMA v AEA Salmond.
However, I do not know if my submission would pose a risk in ways I am not aware of, or if other evidence submitted would risk jigsaw identification.
Therefore, prior to publication of all or part of this submission, I would like assurance on the steps the Committee has taken to ensure that nothing in it, either on its own or taken together with anyone else’s evidence, would risk identification.
The Committee previously asked me to retain all information relevant to the Inquiry. I enclose at Annex B a transcript of WhatsApp messages between myself and Alex Salmond.
This is the only information I hold relevant to the Committee’s Inquiry. I have no objection, as regards my own interests, to the publication of these messages in full.
However, I seek an assurance from the Committee that any issues relating to Alex Salmond’s data rights or legal privilege will be properly considered before publication, including whether his consent is required.
Subject to the above, I will be happy to discuss any aspect of my response with the Committee in an oral session. I have structured my response in line with your paragraph headings.
Please note that any and all involvement I had in my capacity as First Minister in the Complaints Policy Development, Complaints Handling Procedure and Judicial Review – and any relevant documentation in respect thereof – will be included in the Scottish Government’s submissions to the Committee.
The information I provide in this response relates to my actions in a party/personal capacity. This includes my decision to advise the Permanent Secretary of information I acquired in my party/ personal capacity, where I considered that the interests of the Scottish Government required it.
I refer in this submission to the letter I wrote to the Permanent Secretary on 6 June 2018. A copy of this should be requested from the Scottish Government.
COMPLAINTS POLICY DEVELOPMENT
As a personal reflection and for context, the development of the Scottish Government’s “Handling of harassment complaints involving current or former Ministers” (hereinafter referred to as “the Procedure”) took place against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, which started in late 2017 in the wake of allegations extending back over several years about certain high profile individuals.
The concerns being expressed globally at that time were that too many organizations did not have procedures in place that allowed allegations of sexual harassment to be raised or properly investigated; that women’s voices were often not heard or listened to; that organizations too often closed ranks in defense of men accused of inappropriate behaviour; and that it could be particularly difficult for ‘historic’ allegations to be raised.
The media had also reported concerns about the prevailing culture in Holyrood. The Scottish Government was just one of many organizations across the globe confronted with these questions at that time, and considering its procedures and culture in light of them.
You will also recall that a Scottish Government minister resigned in early November 2017 over concerns about sexually inappropriate conduct.
As First Minister, I wanted to ensure that the Scottish Government had robust procedures in place to allow any concerns or complaints by those in its employment to be properly and fairly considered, without fear or favour and regardless of the seniority or political affiliation of any individuals who might be the subject of such concerns or complaints.
My role as First Minister in the development of the Procedure will be set out in the Scottish Government’s submission to the Committee. Any involvement in my role as First Minister will be included in the Scottish Government submission on the handling of the complaints. I provide further information on a personal/party capacity in Annex A.
The detail of my involvement in decisions associated with the Judicial Review will be set out in the Scottish Government’s submission to the Committee.
The Committee is aware that I have made a self-referral to the independent panel of advisers on the Ministerial Code. However, I address the requests in this section in Annex A to this letter. Annex B includes communications in the form of WhatsApp messages between me and Alex Salmond. My letter to the Permanent Secretary dated 6 June 2018 should be requested from the Scottish Government.
PARTY POLITICAL MATTERS
I had no communication with the SNP relevant to the subject matter of the Committee’s inquiry, other than approving the party’s public comments after the matter became public in August 2018.
My husband was obviously aware of Alex Salmond’s presence in our home on 2 April and 14 July 2018, but he was not present at the meetings and I did not share the detail with him.
As I outline in Annex A, when I agreed to meet with Alex Salmond on 2 April 2018, I believed that what he was about to tell me may require a public response from the SNP. Indeed, I suspected that he may be about to resign from the SNP. In the event, it was clear to me at the 2 April meeting that his approach to handling the matter was not likely to result in it becoming public at that stage.
Accordingly, there was nothing for me to alert the SNP to, and it was not appropriate for me to disclose the fact or detail of the complaints and investigation under the Procedure. In relation to ensuring that there is a clear distinction between my role as First Minister and my role in the SNP, I have regard to the terms of both the MSP and Ministerial Codes of Conduct.
My Special Advisers abide by the terms of the Special Advisers’ Code of Conduct and the Civil Service Code. In relation to the question about Scottish Government communication and records, this is covered by Scottish Government procedures on the recording and retention of information.
The SNP communicates with its post holders in normal ways – including meetings, emails, and phone calls. The safeguard to ensure this is distinct from government communications is the relevant Codes that MSPs, Ministers, and Special Advisers are bound by. To be clear, members of the public often email my SNP or MSP accounts about government business, and I forward these to my ministerial private office.
On any other occasions when I email my ministerial private office or special advisers from my personal email – eg with diary queries or information requests – these will be to a Scottish Government email account and retained in line with standard procedures. And all government business, no matter the platform/medium it is conducted on/through, is subject to Freedom of Information legislation.
I had no general concerns at the time about Scottish Government culture from 2008- 14, and certainly not about sexual harassment. However, the government is a high-pressure environment.
Alex 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. 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 organization. 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 apologized for – that gave rise to this matter. 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 materialize. 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. (Nicola Sturgeon 4 August 2020)
Afternote: 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 coming. 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. (https://gordondangerfield.com/2020/10/11/salmond-inquiry-the-blunder-that-gives-the-game-away)
First Draft Procedure prepared by James Hynd
Handling of sexual harassment complaints against former Ministers
01. The Fairness at Work policy sets out the Scottish Government’s commitment, as an employer,
to provide a workplace free from unfair discrimination and to ensure the fair treatment of staff. The policy and associated procedures are being reviewed to ensure that they provide the necessary assurance to staff that complaints of any sort, including complaints of sexual harassment, will be given full and fair consideration.
02: The Fairness at Work policy does not deal directly with the handling of complaints raised by
staff in relation to former Ministers. This note sets out how complaints of this sort should be handled. In doing so, it acknowledges that these complaints are likely to be historical and that the nature of the relationship between the civil service and the former Minister will have changed (for example, former Ministers are no longer covered by the terms of the Scottish Ministerial Code). While these factors may place limitations on how a complaint may be considered or resolved, it remains important that complaints of this type receive equal consideration and that all necessary support is provided to the staff member.
03: Where a member of staff wishes to make a complaint against a former Minister the following
process will be used as a guide to take the issue forward:
04: Sources of Advice:
04.1: In considering how to proceed, the staff member may wish to speak to a senior line manager, up to and including their DG or if a member, a Trade Union.
05: Making a Complaint
05.1: At all times the staff member is free to make a complaint directly to the Police. Any Police investigation or criminal proceedings will take priority over any internal SG complaint handling process, although we will continue to offer support to the staff member. (If at any point it becomes apparent to the SG that criminal behaviour might have occurred, the SG will bring these matters directly to the attention of the Police.)
05.2: Where the staff member wishes to make a complaint they should provide as much information as possible about the matter to the (Director of The People Directorate), including details of possible witnesses. The (Director of The People Directorate) will either:
05.2.1: nominate a member of the SCS who has had no prior involvement in any aspect of the complaint, or.
05.2.2: If the member of staff prefers, pass the complaint to the SG’s external complaint procedure.
05.3: The role of Senior Civil Servant or external complaint service will be to review the
circumstances of the complaint and to discuss with the staff member how they wish the
complaint to be handled. Any serving SG members of staff identified as possible witnesses will
be interviewed at this stage.
06: Following this stage, the Senior Civil Servant/external complaint service will discuss their
findings with the staff member. At this point, their choices include:
06.1: Asking that a formal note of the complaint is recorded without further action. The SG
may, however, decide that some form of follow up action requires to be taken:, or
06.2: Indicating that they wish the complaint to be put to the former Minister and for
interviews to be held with any witnesses no longer in the SG.
07: The Permanent Secretary will be advised at that point about the nature of the complaint and
whether the matter is being taken up with the former Minister in question. If the former Minister is
a member of the Party of the current Administration the First Minister will also be advised.
08: If the former Minister agrees to cooperate, they will be provided with details of the complaint
and interviewed by the Senior Civil Servant/external complaint service. Any non-SG witnesses will also be invited to be interviewed at this time.
09. A report will then be prepared for the Permanent Secretary setting out the information that
has been obtained during the above process. The Permanent Secretary will consider the report from the perspective of ensuring the welfare and support arrangements for the staff member.
10. If the former Minister is a member of the Party of the current Administration the First Minister
will consider the report from the perspective of the actions of the former Minister. issues:
Sharing of the report with the complainant and former Minister?
Will complainant/SG be advised of any action against former Minister?
An appeal by the complainant to a DG?
11. If the former Minister declines to engage with the process they will be advised that a
complaint against them in the terms set out by the complainant will be formally recorded within the SG. Where the former Minister is a member of the Party of the current Administration the First Minister will be advised and will consider the matter from the perspective of the actions of the former Minister
The Final Procedure.
Handling of Harassment Complaints Involving Current or Former Ministers.
01: An individual may choose to raise an issue involving a current or former Minister through a number of mechanisms. These may include a trusted senior manager, direct to HR, or a Trade Union representative. If the approach is made through these routes it should be escalated to the Director of People for consideration and so that sources of support can be offered to the individual.
02: At this early point, it will be important to support the individual to consider the outcome they are seeking. At this point the staff member’s choices include:
02.1: Asking that their concern is acknowledged but without further action being taken, in order to recognize their experience and to assist our organizational commitment helping to prevent the circumstances from arising again (although, as set out at note (ii) below, the SG may require to take follow up action where deemed necessary in light of the concern being raised). The details of the concern, along with the staff member’s decision not to proceed with a formal complaint, will be held on file; or: 2.2 Indicating that they wish to make a formal complaint.
Formal complaints against current Scottish Government Ministers.
03: The Scottish Ministerial Code sets out the general principle that Scottish Ministers are expected to behave in a way that upholds the highest standards of propriety. Ministers are personally responsible for deciding how to act and conduct themselves in the light of the Code and for justifying their actions to Parliament and the public. The First Minister is, however, the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of a Minister, including in their interactions with civil servants, and of the appropriate consequences of a breach of those standards. Ministers can only remain in office for so long as they retain the First Minister’s confidence.
04: Alongside Ministerial responsibilities under the Code, the Scottish Government as an employer has a duty of care to staff. Where a formal complaint of harassment is raised about the conduct of a current Minister, the Permanent Secretary will inform the First Minister. In line with her responsibilities under the Ministerial Code, the First Minister has instructed the Permanent Secretary that complaints of this nature should be investigated using the process set out at
paragraphs 6-8, and to provide a report of the facts as provided by those concerned, or to establish if it is possible to seek a mutually agreed resolution between the parties involved.
05: In situations relating to complaints against a current Minister, the Permanent Secretary will also take appropriate steps to:
(1) Ensure that the staff member making such a complaint receives the necessary support throughout the process:
(2) Put in train any further action that might be required within the civil service as a result of the issues raised by any complaint.
06: In the event that a formal complaint of harassment is received against a current Minister, the Director of People will designate a senior civil servant as the senior officer to deal with the issue. That person will have had no prior involvement with any aspect of the matter being raised. The role of the senior officer will be to undertake an impartial collection of facts from the parties involved, including the Minister and any witnesses, and prepare a report for the Permanent Secretary. The report will also be shared with the staff member and the Minister.
07: The Permanent Secretary will inform the First Minister of the outcome of the investigation. It will be for the First Minister to decide the appropriate response to any complaint about a Minister in light of the report produced following the investigation. The Permanent Secretary will also consider the report and take any actions required within the civil service to protect staff and ensure a positive working environment.
08: Current Ministers will be expected to cooperate fully with such an investigation. If the Minister declines to co-operate with the process the matter will be investigated as far as possible without their involvement. They will be advised of the complaint against them and the outcome of the investigation undertaken. This will be recorded within the SG. The First Minister will be advised where a current Minister has declined to cooperate and will be responsible for any further action.
09: Where a formal complaint of harassment is raised against the First Minister, the Permanent Secretary will instigate an investigation as set out above in line with the employer’s duty of care to its staff and to assist the First Minister in discharging their responsibilities under the Code. The Permanent Secretary may draw upon the Independent Advisers on the Ministerial Code (the Rt. Hon. Dame Elish Angiolini QC DBE or James Hamilton) to reach a view on whether the First Minister has been in breach of the Code. The Permanent Secretary will take any action necessary to protect staff.
Formal complaints against former Scottish Government Ministers
10: In the event that a formal complaint of harassment is received against a former Minister, the Director of People will designate a senior civil servant as the senior officer to deal with the issue. That person will have had no prior involvement with any aspect of the matter being raised. The role of the senior officer will be to undertake an impartial collection of facts, including written statements from the complainant and any witnesses, and to prepare a report for the Permanent Secretary.
11: If the Permanent Secretary considers that the report gives cause for concern over the former Minister’s behaviour towards current or former civil servants the former Minister should be provided with details of the complaint and given an opportunity to respond. The former Minister may wish to provide a statement setting out their recollection of events to add to the record. They may also request that statements are taken from other witnesses. If additional statements are collected the senior officer will revise their report to include this information and submit this to the Permanent Secretary. The Permanent Secretary will consider the revised report and decide whether the complaint is well-founded. The outcome of the investigation will be recorded within the SG. The Permanent Secretary will also determine whether any further action is required; including action to ensure lessons are learned for the future.
12: For complaints involving a former Minister who is a member of the Party of the current Administration, the Permanent Secretary will inform the First Minister both in this capacity and in their capacity as Party Leader, of the outcome when the investigation is complete. In their capacity as First Minister, they will wish to take steps to review practice to ensure the highest standards of behaviour within their current Administration.
13: Where the former Minister was a member of an Administration formed by a different Party, the Permanent Secretary will inform the relevant Scottish Party leader of the outcome of the investigation and any action taken.
14: The final report will be provided to the staff member and the former Minister.
15: If the former Minister declines to co-operate with the process the matter will be investigated as far as possible without their involvement. They will be advised of the complaint against them and the outcome of any investigation undertaken. This will be recorded within the SG.
16: The First Minister will be advised where a current or former Minister who is a member of the Party of the current Administration has declined to cooperate and will be responsible for any further action.
17: Where the former Minister was a member of an Administration formed by a different Party, the Permanent Secretary will inform the relevant Scottish Party Leader of the outcome of the investigation and that the former Minister has declined to cooperate. It will be the responsibility of the Party to consider any further action.
Note: (i) At all times the staff member is free to make a complaint directly to the Police. SG will co-operate fully with any Police investigation or criminal proceedings and may continue to investigate the complaint without awaiting the outcome of criminal proceedings. We will continue to offer support to the staff member.
(ii) Throughout the process, all available steps 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 becomes apparent that the matter being raised is 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. Should either of these steps be necessary the staff member will be advised and supported throughout. (Scottish Government December 2017)
Formal investigation of allegations of breaches of the Ministerial Code of Conduct by the First Minister
This is a submission from Alex Salmond to James Hamilton made following the latter’s repeated request that Alec assist in his examination of possible breaches of the Ministerial Code by the First Minister. The submission was also shared with the Parliamentary Committee due to its relevance to Phase Four of their Inquiry into complaints handling by Civil Servants, Government Ministers and Special Advisers. WhatsApp messages between Alex and Nicola Sturgeon had been previously provided to the Parliamentary Committee and did not form part of the submission, with the exception of a message dated 13th July 2018 which was attached unredacted at, (Appendix A)
Terms of Reference for Mr Hamilton framed to deliver a not guilty verdict – Alex Salmond Wrote
Mr Hamilton wrote to me on 8th September, 29th October, 16th November, 4th and 19th December. I replied on 6th and 17th October, 23rd November and 23rd December.
I finally agreed under some protest to make this submission. The reason for my concern is that the remit drawn up for Mr Hamilton focuses on whether the First Minister intervened in a civil service process.
As I have pointed out to Mr Hamilton, I know of no provisions in the Ministerial Code which makes it improper for a First Minister to so intervene.
To the contrary, intervention by the First Minister in an apparently unlawful process (subsequently confirmed by the Court of Session) would not constitute a breach precisely because the First Minister is under a duty in clause 2.30 of the Ministerial Code to avoid such illegality on the part of the Government she leads.
Further, to suggest intervention was a breach would be to ignore and contradict the express reliance of the procedure on the position of the First Minister as the leader of the party to which the former minister was a member in order to administer some unspecified sanction.
It will accordingly be a significant surprise if any breach of the Ministerial Code is found when the terms of reference have been tightly drafted by the Deputy First Minister to focus on that aspect of the First Minister’s conduct.
By contrast, I have information which suggests other related breaches of the Ministerial Code which should properly be examined by Mr Hamilton.
I have asked that he undertake that investigation. I have drawn his attention to the apparent parliamentary assurance from the First Minister on 29th October 2020 that there was no restriction on Mr Hamilton preventing him from doing so.
Mr Hamilton has failed to give me a clear response as to whether these related matters relevant to the Ministerial Code, but out with the specific remit, are going to be considered.
However, in his letter of 4th December he did indicate that he was inclined to the view that such matters could be considered and will take into account arguments for their inclusion. It is on that basis I make this submission.
In doing so, I would note that it does not serve the public interest if the independent process of examination of the Ministerial Code (which I introduced as First Minister) is predetermined, or seen to be predetermined, by a restrictive remit given by the Deputy First Minister.
A restricted investigation would not achieve its purpose of genuine independent determination and would undermine confidence in what has been a useful innovation in public accountability.
I would accordingly urge Mr Hamilton to embrace the independence of his role and the express assurance given to the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister that he is free to expand the original remit drafted by the Deputy First Minister and to address each of the matters contained in this submission.
Breaches of the Ministerial Code.
Beyond the terms of the remit set for Mr Hamilton by the Deputy First Minister, there are other aspects of the conduct of the First Minister which, in my submission, require scrutiny and determination in relation to breaches of the Ministerial Code.
I was contacted by phone on or around 9 March 2018 and further the following week by Geoff Aberdein, my former Chief of Staff. The purpose of the contact was to tell me about meetings he had held with the First Minister’s Chief of Staff, Liz Lloyd, at her request.
In the second of these meetings she had informed him that she was aware of two complaints concerning me under a new complaints process introduced to include former Ministers. She named one of the complainers to him. At that stage I did not know the identity of the other complainer.
On receipt of the letter from the Permanent Secretary first informing me of complaints on 7th March 2018 I had secured Levy and McRae as my solicitors and Duncan Hamilton, Advocate and Ronnie Clancy QC as my counsel.
Even at this early stage we had identified that there were a range of serious deficiencies in the procedure. There was no public or parliamentary record of it ever being adopted. In addition it contained many aspects of both procedural unfairness and substantive illegality.
There was an obvious and immediate question over the respect to which the Scottish Government even had jurisdiction to consider the complaints. In relation to former Ministers (in contrast to current Ministers) it offered no opportunity for mediation. The complaints procedure of which I was familiar (‘Fairness at Work’) was based on the legislative foundation of the Ministerial Code in which the First Minister was the final decision maker.
I wished to bring all of these matters to the attention of the First Minister. I did not know at that stage the degree of knowledge and involvement in the policy on the part of both the First Minister and her Chief of Staff.
Mr Aberdein had been asked by Ms Lloyd to be her contact with me and they jointly arranged a meeting with the First Minister in the Scottish Parliament on 29th March 2018. This meeting was for the purpose of discussing the complaints and thereafter arranging a direct meeting between myself and the First Minister.
There was never the slightest doubt what the meeting was about. Any suggestion by the First Minister to the Scottish Parliament (Official Report, 8th October 2020) that the meeting was ‘fleeting or opportunistic’ is simply untrue.
It was agreed on the 29th March 2018 at the meeting in the Scottish Parliament attended by Mr Aberdein and the First Minister that the meeting between myself and the First Minister would take place on 2nd April at her home near Glasgow. Self-evidently only the First Minister could issue that invitation to her private home.
In attendance at the meeting on 2nd April 2018 were Mr Aberdein, Mr Hamilton, Ms Lloyd and myself. The First Minister and I met privately and then there was a general discussion with all five of us.
My purpose was to alert the First Minister to the illegality of the process (not being aware at that time of her involvement in it) and to seek an intervention from the First Minister to secure a mediation process to resolve the complaints.
I was well aware that under the Ministerial Code the First Minister should notify the civil service of the discussion and believed that this would be the point at which she would make her views known. The First Minister assured us that she would make such an intervention at a appropriate stage.
On 23rd April 2018, I phoned the First Minister by arrangement on WhatsApp to say that a formal offer of mediation was being made via my solicitor to the Permanent Secretary that day. In the event, this offer was declined by the Permanent Secretary, even before it was put to the complainers.
By the end of May, it was becoming clear that the substantial arguments my legal team were making in correspondence against the legality of the procedure were not having any impact with the Permanent Secretary.
My legal team advised that it was impossible properly to defend myself against the complaints under such a flawed procedure. They advised that a petition for Judicial Review would have excellent prospects of success given the Government were acting unlawfully.
However I was extremely reluctant to sue the Government I once led. I wanted to avoid the damage both to the Scottish Government and the SNP which would inevitably result. To avoid such a drastic step, I resolved to let the First Minister see the draft petition for Judicial Review. As a lawyer, and as First Minister, I assumed that she would see the legal jeopardy into which the government was drifting. I therefore sought a further meeting.
On 1st June 2018 the First Minister sent me a message which was the opposite of the assurance she had given on the 2nd April 2018 suggesting instead that she had always said that intervention was “not the right thing to do”.
That was both untrue and disturbing. On 3rd June 2018 I sent her a message on the implications for the Government in losing a Judicial Review and pointing to her obligation (under the Ministerial Code) to ensure that her administration was acting lawfully and (under the Scotland Act) to ensure that their actions were compliant with the European Convention.
The First Minister and I met in Aberdeen on 7th June 2018 when I asked her to look at the draft Judicial Review Petition. She did briefly but made it clear she was now disinclined to make any intervention.
My desire to avoid damaging and expensive litigation remained. My legal team thereafter offered arbitration as an alternative to putting the matter before the Court of Session. That proposal was designed to offer a quick and relatively inexpensive means of demonstrating the illegality of the procedure in a process which guaranteed the confidentiality of the complainers.
It would also have demonstrated the illegality of the process in a forum which would be much less damaging to the Scottish Government than the subsequent public declaration of illegality.
I was prepared at that time to engage fully with the procedure in the event my legal advice was incorrect. In the event, of course, it was robust. I explained the advantages of such an approach to the First Minister in a WhatsApp message of 5th July 2018.
I received a message via Geoff Aberdein from her Chief of Staff Liz Lloyd (the initial the First Minister has redacted from my relevant WhatsApp message is “L”) on the 13th July 2018 that the First Minister wanted to see me again and we met once again at her house at her request the following day, 14th July 2018. This is shown at Appendix A.
There was no-one else at this meeting. She specifically agreed to correct the impression that had been suggested to my counsel in discussions between our legal representatives that she was opposed to arbitration. I followed this up with a WhatsApp message on the 16th July 2018.
On 18th July 2018 the First Minister phoned me at 13.05 to say that arbitration had been rejected and suggested that this was on the advice of the Law Officers. She urged me to submit a substantive rebuttal of the specific complaints against me, suggested that the general complaints already answered were of little consequence and would be dismissed, and then assured me that my submission would be judged fairly.
She told me I would receive a letter from the Permanent Secretary offering me further time to submit such a rebuttal which duly arrived later that day. As it turned out the rebuttal once submitted was given only cursory examination by the Investigating Officer in the course of a single day and she had already submitted her final report to the Permanent Secretary.
My view is now that it was believed that my submission of a rebuttal would weaken the case for Judicial Review (my involvement in rebutting the substance of the complaints being seen to cure the procedural unfairness) and that the First Minister’s phone call of 18th July 2018 and the Permanent Secretary’s letter of the same date suggesting that it was in my “interests” to submit a substantive response was designed to achieve that.
In terms of the meetings with me, the only breaches of the Ministerial Code are the failure to inform civil servants timeously of the nature of the meetings.
My view is that the First Minister should have informed the Permanent Secretary of the legal risks they were running and ensured a proper examination of the legal position and satisfied herself that her Government were acting lawfully.
Further once the Judicial Review had commenced, and at the very latest by October 31st 2018 the Government and the First Minister knew of legal advice from external counsel (the First Minister consulted with counsel on 13th November) that on the balance of probability they would lose the Judicial Review and be found to have acted unlawfully.
Despite this the legal action was continued until early January 2019 and was only conceded after both Government external counsel threatened to resign from the case which they considered to be unstateable. This, on any reading, is contrary to section 2.30 of the Ministerial Code.
Most seriously, Parliament has been repeatedly misled on a number of occasions about the nature of the meeting of 2nd April 2018.
The First Minister told Parliament (see Official Report of 8th,10th & 17th January 2019) that she first learned of the complaints against me when I visited her home on 2nd April 2018. That is untrue and is a breach of the Ministerial Code.
The evidence from Mr Aberdein that he personally discussed the existence of the complaints, and summarised the substance of the complaints, with the First Minister in a pre arranged meeting in Parliament on 29th March 2018 arranged for that specific purpose cannot be reconciled with the position of the First Minister to Parliament.
The fact that Mr Aberdein learned of these complaints in early March 2018 from the Chief of Staff to the First Minister who thereafter arranged for the meeting between Mr Aberdein and the First Minister on 29th March to discuss them, is supported by his sharing that information contemporaneously with myself, Kevin Pringle and Duncan Hamilton, Advocate.
In her written submission to the Committee, the First Minister has subsequently admitted to that meeting on 29th March 2018, claiming to have previously ‘forgotten’ about it. That is, with respect, untenable.
The pre-arranged meeting in the Scottish Parliament of 29th March 2018 was “forgotten” about because acknowledging it would have rendered ridiculous the claim made by the First Minister in Parliament that it had been believed that the meeting on 2nd April was on SNP Party business (Official Report 8th & 10th January 2019) and thus held at her private residence.
In reality all participants in that meeting were fully aware of what the meeting was about and why it had been arranged. The meeting took place with a shared understanding of the issues for discussion – the complaints made and the Scottish Government procedure which had been launched.
The First Minister’s claim that it was ever thought to be about anything other than the complaints made against me is wholly false.
The failure to account for the meeting on 29th March 2018 when making a statement to Parliament, and thereafter failing to correct that false representation, is a further breach of the Ministerial Code.
Further, the repeated representation to the Parliament of the meeting on the 2nd April 2018 as being a ‘party’ meeting because it proceeded in ignorance of the complaints is false and manifestly untrue. The meeting on 2nd April 2018 was arranged as a direct consequence of the prior meeting about the complaints held in the Scottish Parliament on 29th March 2018.
The First Minister additionally informed Parliament (Official Report 10th January 2018) that ‘I did not know how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint, I did not know how the Scottish Government intended to deal with the complaint and I did not make any effort to find out how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint or to intervene in how the Scottish Government was dealing with the complaint.’
I would contrast that position with the factual position at paragraphs 20 and 27 above. The First Minister’s position on this is simply untrue. She did initially offer to intervene, in the presence of all those at the First Minister’s house on the 2nd April 2018.
Moreover, she did engage in following the process of the complaint and indeed reported the status of that process to me personally.
I also believe it should be investigated further in terms of the Ministerial Code, whether the criminal leak of part of the contents of the Permanent Secretary’s Decision report to the Daily Record was sourced from the First Minister’s Office.
We now know from a statement made by the Daily Record editor that they received a document. I enclose at Appendix B the summary of the ICO review of the complaint which explains the criminal nature of the leak and the identification of 23 possible staff sources of the leak given that the Prosecutor has “sympathy with the hypothesis that the leak came from an employee of the Scottish Government”.
My reasoning is as follows. The leak did not come from me, or anyone representing me. In fact I sought interdict to prevent publication and damage to my reputation. The leak is very unlikely indeed to have come from either of the two complainers.
The Chief Constable, correctly, refused to accept a copy of the report when it was offered to Police Scotland on August 21st 2018 by the Crown Agent. It cannot, therefore have leaked from Police Scotland.
Scottish Government officials had not leaked the fact of an investigation from January when it started.
The only additional group of people to have received such a document, or summary of such a document, in the week prior to publication in the Daily Record was the First Minister’s Office as indicated in paragraph 4.8 of the ICO Prosecutor’s Report. In that office, the document would be accessed by the First Minister and her Special Advisers.
I would be happy to offer further information on this submission.
Rt Hon Alex Salmond 31st December 2020
Four members of the Holyrood Inquiry committee followed up on the Alex Salmond letter and wrote to the Deputy First Minister requesting that he formally widen the scope of the Ministerial code investigation to address to resolve concerns pertaining to the wishy washy statements issued from his office that the present remit of the Hamilton investigation was sufficient in its scope. Which was incorrect. Copy attached