The Scottish government acted unlawfully when investigating sexual harassment claims against Alex Salmond, the country’s highest civil court has ruled.
The allegations – which Salmond strongly denies – first came to light last year.
The government has now admitted that its probe into the claims was “flawed” after the Court of Session in Edinburgh heard how the person charged with investigating already had links to the complainers.
Speaking on Tuesday, permanent secretary Leslie Evans – Scotland’s most senior civil servant – admitted that this could have created an “impression of partiality”.
“There is nothing to suggest that the investigating officer did not conduct their duties in an impartial way,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the interactions with the complainants in advance of the complaints being made meant that the process was flawed, however impartially and fairly the investigating officer conducted the investigation.”
Evans added: “The Scottish government has acted in good faith at all times and will continue to do so. It was right and proper that these complaints were investigated and I stand by the decision to carry out that investigation.”
But after winning his legal case, Salmond called for Evans to quit her post over the investigation.
“All of this was unnecessary,” he said. “Throughout the process we offered mediation, legal arbitration, so that this matter could be properly settled without having to come to the highest court in the land. At every stage that was rebuffed by the Permanent Secretary.
“I notice in their submissions that the advocate for the Government said the Government accepted institutional responsibility – not personal. Therefore I suggest the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government now accepts that responsibility and considers her position.”
In the court, Judge Lord Pentland said the decisions in August were “unlawful in respect that they were procedurally unfair and that they were tainted with apparent bias”.
The Scottish government will now consider whether to reinvestigate the sexual misconduct claims. But Evans added this would “only be once ongoing police inquiries have concluded”.
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