The actions of senior ministers are “undermining the system of government in Scotland,” former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond claimed Friday.
Addressing a parliamentary inquiry into the handling of sexual harassment complaints against him, Salmond accused the Scottish government of conspiring to “tarnish” his reputation, and making a “calculated and deliberate” attempt to suppress evidence. He was cleared of 13 counts of sexual assault in a court case last year.
These shortcomings called in question the suitability of the Scottish government — led by his successor and one time friend Nicola Sturgeon — to steer Scotland to independence, the 66-year-old suggested.
In a nod to the constitutional stakes involved in the case, he said he disagreed with those who suggested Scotland was in danger of looking like a “failed state.”
“Scotland hasn’t failed. It’s leadership has failed,” he said, in a clear jab at his successor, Nicola Sturgeon.
“Our move to independence … must be accompanied by institutions whose leadership is strong and robust and capable of protecting each and every citizen from arbitrary authority,” Salmond told lawmakers on the Holyrood committee.
The government has admitted it acted illegally in the way it handled the allegations against Salmond, “but somehow no one’s to blame,” he said, pointing out there had been no resignations as a result. “[It is] a huge and heinous thing that has happened. It is not a slight matter and some consequences should follow.”
The explosive intervention plunges Scotland’s independence movement into disarray, intensifying a civil war between Salmond and Sturgeon which has torn the Scottish National Party (SNP) down the middle.
Speaking during his trial in March 2019, Salmond described the accusations as “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose”, and hinted at an attempted character assisnation on the part of senior SNP figures. He successfully pursued a judicial review of the government probe, with taxpayers having to foot the £500,000 bill.
The dispute escalated sensationally last month when Salmond accused Sturgeon of misleading parliament over the affair — a charge he alluded to at the Friday hearing.
“Ministers telling the truth to parliament matters,” the former leader said. “The day such things come not to matter would be a dark and dangerous one for Scotland.”
If proven to have lied, Sturgeon, having breached the ministerial code, would be expected to resign — an unimaginable blow to Scotland’s independence movement.
Sturgeon, who will appear before the committee next week, denies her predecessor’s claims.