The former SNP leader – whose referendum campaign almost broke up the UK in 2014 – said he fears people in a seceded Scotland could be persecuted by “arbitrary authority”.
Mr Salmond’s opening statement to the Holyrood inquiry also accused Nicola Sturgeon of using a Covid press conference to “effectively question the result of a jury”.
His attack began a tense afternoon of evidence under oath as he meticulously laid out evidence to support his claims that Ms Sturgeon misled the Scottish Parliament and breached the ministerial code. The First Minister – who gives evidence next week and claims her former friend and mentor does not have a “shred of evidence” – would be expected to resign if the allegations are proved.
The Holyrood committee was set up to examine the Scottish Government’s flawed investigation of sexual misconduct complaints against Mr Salmond. He was awarded £512,250 for legal costs in 2019 after a judicial review found the investigation was “unlawful and tainted with apparent bias”.
After a criminal trial last year, a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh found him not guilty of 12 sexual assault charges. One further charge was not proven.
During his testimony, Mr Salmond calmly levelled dozens of damning accusations against the government, the civil service, the Crown Office and the party he used to lead.
● Some 40 government documents provided to the Holyrood inquiry were not disclosed in the criminal or civil case, despite a search warrant granted by the courts. Mr Salmond said: “That’s obstruction of justice and there are consequences for such things.”
● Some people within the SNP and the government – including Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell – pressurised and “colluded” with witnesses in the police investigation. He said Mr Murrell should resign.
● There is “no doubt” Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code in relation to when she first knew about the complaints against her predecessor. Three other people can corroborate this claim, he said.
● Ms Sturgeon also broke the code if she went ahead with the judicial review despite being told the government would lose. The SNP administration has so far refused to publish its legal advice.
● A female complainer’s name was shared with Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, contradicting what Ms Sturgeon told parliament.
● Scotland’s senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, was in breach of the civil service code. She met one of the complainants and phoned the other before he was told about the probe. Mr Salmond said she should resign.
● James Wolffe QC, the Lord Advocate, should also be considering his position following “a sequence of deliberate suppression of information inconvenient to the government”. A crucial section of Mr Salmond’s evidence was redacted following concerns from the Crown Office and he said Westminster would never have caved in to the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales.
At the outset of almost six painstaking hours of evidence, Mr Salmond said: “I watched in astonishment on Wednesday when the First Minister of Scotland used a Covid press conference to effectively question the results of a jury.
“I note that the First Minister asserts I have to prove a case, I don’t,” said Mr Salmond. “That has already been done. There have been two court cases, two judges, one jury. In this inquiry it is the Scottish Government, a Government which has already admitted to behaving unlawfully, who are under examination. The Government acted illegally but somehow nobody is to blame.
“The failures of leadership are many and obvious but not a single person has taken responsibility, not a single resignation or sacking, not even admonition.
“The Scottish civil service has not failed, its leadership has. The Crown Office has not failed, its leadership has failed. Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.”
Mr Salmond went on: “The move to independence, which I have sought all my political life… must be accompanied by institutions whose leadership is strong and robust and capable of protecting each and every citizen from arbitrary authority.”
He said the past two and a half years since he first learned of the allegations – which were made shortly after the creation of a new complaints policy in the wake of the MeToo movement towards the end of 2017 – had been a “nightmare”.
However, when he was asked by Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole Hamilton if he was “sorry” for some of the “behaviours that you have admitted to, some of which are appalling”, Mr Salmond declined to do so.
Our sister paper, the Daily Record, broke the news of the investigation in August 2018 and the former first minister claimed it was the result of a “politically inspired” leak from the government. He added: “I think it does require further police investigation – I do believe I know the identity but I’m not here to speculate on individuals that I cannot substantiate.”
Later in his testimony, with his voice cracking due to a “slight chest infection”, Mr Salmond moved on to some of his most damning claims against Ms Sturgeon and her husband.
The First Minister told parliament that she first learned about the Scottish Government investigation at a meeting with Mr Salmond at her home in Glasgow in April 2018.