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Alex Salmond accuses Crown Office of ‘abuse of legislation’ over failure to publish key evidence

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Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond is accusing its Crown Office of an “abuse of legislation” in blocking the publication of key documents.

In his final submission to a parliamentary inquiry he will claim that Scotland’s prosecuting authority has misused the law to block the material’s release.

A source close to Mr Salmond says it includes Scottish government memos and text messages between SNP officials, which he wanted to share with a committee of MSPs looking into the government’s handling of harassment complaints against him.

The Crown Office has rejected requests to release the documentation. In response, an official warned that anyone divulging the contents is liable to prosecution, pointing out that the law forbids publication of information disclosed to an accused person in criminal proceedings.

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond gives new leader Nicola Sturgeon a hug after her speech at the annual SNP party conference at Perth Concert Hall, Scotland.
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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to appear as a witness before the Holyrood committee

Sky News has seen an extract from a final written submission Mr Salmond will send to the Holyrood inquiry.

In it he states: “The Crown Office have intervened three times to deny this committee information which it has asked for.

“This has been done by an abuse of legislation which was never designed to obstruct the work of a parliamentary committee.

“I know this to be true because I was first minister when the legislation was passed in 2010.”

A source close to the former first minister added: “These warnings are from an unelected official citing legislation passed by this parliament for quite different reasons and using it to deny information to a committee of elected parliamentarians.

“Some of the information Alex had intended to provide were government documents which should have been provided to the committee in the first place. This position is extraordinary and totally unacceptable.”

Material was gathered by Crown Office officials prior to the criminal prosecution of Alex Salmond last March. He was acquitted of charges of sexual assault following a trial.

In response to Mr Salmond’s claims, a spokesperson for the Crown Office said: “The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has engaged constructively with the committee and with Mr Salmond’s lawyers.

“To protect public confidence and trust it is vital that information held for the investigation and prosecution of crime is handled carefully, thoughtfully and lawfully.”

Separately, Mr Salmond successfully challenged a Scottish government investigation into harassment complaints against him in 2018-2019. A judicial review ruled the investigation was “unlawful” and the taxpayer was left with a bill of more than ¬£600,000.

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The Scottish government has repeatedly refused to release its full legal advice in relation to Mr Salmond’s 2018 civil court challenge, despite the country’s parliament voting twice that it should.

A Scottish government spokesperson told Sky News: “Decisions taken by the Crown Office are made independently from the Scottish government.

“The Scottish government is taking unprecedented steps to provide the committee with the information it has requested in line with data protection, confidentiality and legal restrictions.

“We have already provided the committee with around 2,000 pages of relevant material, responding directly to the questions asked by the committee, and Scottish government witnesses have provided over 21 hours of oral evidence so far.

“The first minister has set out detailed written evidence to the committee and looks forward to answering their questions when she appears.”

The Scottish parliament committee looking into the handling of complaints against Mr Salmond is considering whether it will hear oral evidence from him.

He had refused to appear before the committee after it refused to publish the contents of a previous written submission, due to legal concerns.

However, members of the inquiry committee will this week consider whether they can legally publish the evidence in question, which would clear the way for his appearance.

He would be followed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is scheduled to be the last witness to appear before the Holyrood committee.

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