Nicola Sturgeon has been urged by a former adviser to release all secret Salmond inquiry evidence or risk derailing the SNP’s independence drive – even if it means people losing their jobs.
Campbell Gunn, who was a senior aide to both Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon, said it would be far less damaging in the long run to take the “short-term hit” that would follow the release of sensitive documents.
He argued that if “one or two people” lost their jobs as a result of the revelations, then that must be a “political price worth paying” to avoid the harm caused by “drip-drip” allegations over several months.
A Holyrood committee has been investigating the botched Scottish Government inquiry into harassment claims made against Mr Salmond.
It was launched after Mr Salmond successfully took the Scottish Government to court over the way allegations of harassment against him were treated during its internal inquiry.
In a separate criminal case, Mr Salmond was cleared of sexually assaulting nine women when he was first minister.
MSPs on the committee have criticised the government for failing to make documents available.
The messages appeared to show Ms Sturgeon’s husband, SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, backing police action against Mr Salmond.
Their existence came to light when they were passed to SNP MP Kenny MacAskill, the former justice secretary, who argued that Mr Murrell should be suspended and investigated.
Writing for us, Mr Gunn warned the Scottish Government the perception of a “cover-up” could prove perilous, but that the “remedy is simple and straightforward”.
He wrote: “Avoid the drip-drip of allegations over a long period of time, by getting everything – whether damaging or not – into the open immediately.
“Take the short-term hit for long-term gain. If that means one or two people are forced to resign or are sacked by the first minister, then surely that’s what has to happen.
“No-one wants to see Scotland head for independence more than me. And I firmly believe that Nicola Sturgeon is, by a distance, the best person to lead us to that goal.
“But her position is being jeopardised by the almost daily allegations that there were murky goings-on behind the scenes which led to the sexual harassment and criminal charges being laid against Alex Salmond.”
Mr Gunn said the government had been “fortunate in the timing” of the probe, because it had been overshadowed each day by the coronavirus crisis.
The solution for the Scottish Government is clear. Don’t cover up. Get everything out in the open.”
However, he believed the emergence of “new and damaging revelations could continue for months, perhaps beyond the end of the year”.
The former special adviser and political editor said the media’s focus “may well return to the Salmond affair” by then.
He added: “So, here’s a piece of free advice from a former adviser. The solution for the Scottish Government is clear. Don’t cover up. Get everything out in the open.
“Take the inevitable media hit. It will last only a few days or a couple of weeks, instead of months.
“If the revelations result in one or two people losing their jobs, that must surely be a political price worth paying.”