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February 24, 2021

Salmond’s lawyer questions evidence redactions

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P
Pa
February 24, 2021

EDINBURGH: Alex Salmond’s lawyers have demanded legal justification for the Scottish Parliament redacting swathes of his written evidence and warned the decision has jeopardised his planned appearance before a Holyrood committee today (Wednesday).

Parliament took down evidence from its website in which Salmond alleged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, purportedly after contempt of court concerns were raised by the Crown Office.

Despite the written submission being in the public domain for approximately 16 hours, it was replaced with a redacted version with five sections censored. The former first minister’s lawyers have now written to parliament asking to see the legal advice it received about redacting the evidence.

The letter also states the decision could mean Salmond is advised not to attend Wednesday’s evidence session of the Holyrood inquiry into the government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment allegations against him.

“Our client’s submission was carefully reviewed by us and by counsel before submission,” David McKie of Levy and McRae solicitors wrote. “There is no legal basis for the redactions that we are aware of which you now propose having gone through that extremely careful exercise.”

The redaction of a further 474 words from Salmond’s submission about whether the First Minister breached the ministerial code suggests there is a “material risk” if he appears to give oral evidence as planned, McKie wrote. He argued Salmond is “entitled” to have his evidence published and added: “If any aspect of it is removed, it compromises his oral evidence.”

McKie also described the decision to subsequently redact evidence as a “significant surprise and concern”, and said the Crown Office’s intervention “only serves to reinforce” Salmond’s fears about the prosecution body’s actions.

He added: “We therefore require to see urgently the legal basis for the proposed redactions in order that we can properly advise our client and make further representations. These could have a material bearing on whether he is able to attend tomorrow.

“As matters stand, we have advised him that the apparent intervention from the crown suggests that there has to be a material risk to him in speaking to his submission. He cannot be placed in legal jeopardy.”

After the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) “collectively” decided to remove and redact the evidence, a Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “The SPCB agreed to republish the submission in redacted form in line with representations from the Crown Office.

“We cannot comment any further on the redactions as the Crown Office has advised that its correspondence on this matter must be kept confidential.”