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EXCLUSIVE: Scottish Government runs up £330,000 bill for Alex Salmond inquiries

Former first minister Alex Salmond removes a face mask before giving evidence to a Scottish Parliament Harassment committee
Former first minister Alex Salmond removes a face mask before giving evidence to a Scottish Parliament Harassment committee

The Scottish Government spent more than £330,000 on the inquiries held in the wake of its botched investigation into allegations against Alex Salmond, we can reveal.

A freedom of information request confirmed updated figures for the bill for legal fees in relation to the probes which reached a conclusion earlier this year.

The cost of legal advice for individual civil servants in relation to the Holyrood committee inquiry into the mishandled probe was £151,811, on top of a further £72,000 spent by the Scottish Government on external fees.

In relation to the Laura Dunlop review into the procedure for handling harassment complaints involving current or former ministers, the government confirmed £91,278 went on fees for Ms Dunlop, junior counsel and secretariat.

Former first minister Alex Salmond makes his opening statement to the Scottish Parliament Harassment committee.

A further £7,780 was incurred for “legal and procurement advice taken in establishing the review”.

‘Tainted by apparent bias’

The Scottish Government has previously said the costs of the inquiry by James Hamilton into whether First Minister Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code included £10,750 on legal advice and £30 on communications software.

The inquiries followed a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond which resulted in a Scottish Government investigation into him being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to the former first minister for legal fees in 2019.

In response to our request for details on legal costs, the Scottish Government said: “In accordance with the Civil Service Management Code, civil servants involved in a formal inquiry as a consequence of their employment may be entitled to receive individual legal advice, and a number of staff did as part of their preparation.”

James Hamilton QC

It continued: “The figure provided in relation to legal advice is an estimated cost of external legal advice sought by the Scottish Government in the context of its participation in the Scottish Parliament’s Inquiry.

“Some of the costs cannot be identified definitively as the level of breakdown in invoices does not always allow for this.

“The Scottish Government does not have any business need to require invoices to be broken down to such a level of detail and therefore it is not held.”

‘Serious flaws’

In March, a committee of MSPs concluded that the women who complained about sexual harassment were badly let down with “serious flaws” and “catastrophic” decisions by the Scottish Government.

They set out a list of damning verdicts on the way allegations about Mr Salmond were handled.

The verdict emerged one day after Ms Sturgeon was cleared of claims she breached the official government code of conduct over accounts of the saga she gave to parliament.

Separately, Mr Salmond was cleared of all sexual assault charges he faced after a trial last year.

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