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David Davis: Whistleblower evidence makes ‘strong case’ Alex Salmond was victim of criminal conspiracy

Former first minister Alex Salmond.
Former first minister Alex Salmond.

A former UK cabinet minister says senior SNP figures should be investigated over possible “collusion, perjury and criminal conspiracy” in relation to the handling of complaints against Alex Salmond.

David Davis told the Commons he had evidence supplied by a whistleblower that suggested there had been “interference” from the highest levels of the party in the process.

He said it raises questions about Nicola Sturgeon’s testimony before the Salmond inquiry as to when she became aware of complaints against the former first minister.

Using the protection of parliamentary privilege, the MP read from text messages, which he said showed a “concerted effort” by SNP staffers to drum up complaints.

‘Criminal conspiracy’

Mr Salmond, who was cleared at trial last year of sexually assaulting nine women while he was Scotland’s first minister, alleges “a malicious and concerted attempt” by people within the party he led to remove him from public life in Scotland and even have him “imprisoned.”

“These are incredibly grave charges,” Mr Davis said. “The whistleblower clearly agrees with those charges. He or she starts their communication with the assertion that the evidence provided, and I quote ‘point to collusion, perjury, up to criminal conspiracy’.

David Davis
David Davis MP.

He went on: “No single sequence of texts is going to provide conclusive proof of what the whistleblower described as a ‘criminal conspiracy’, but it does show a very strong prima facie case, which demands further serious investigation, by which I mean, at the very least, a thorough review of all the emails and other electronic records for the relevant personnel at all relevant times.

“For example, these texts show that there is a concerted effort by senior members of the SNP to encourage complaints.”

The issue of dates

Turning to the key question of when the first minister became aware of the claims against her former friend and mentor, he said: “I have it on good authority that there exists from February 6 2018 an exchange of messages between civil servants… suggesting that the First Minister’s chief of staff is interfering in the complaints process against Alex Salmond.

“If true, this suggests that the chief of staff had knowledge of the Salmond case in February, not in April, as she has claimed on oath. The First Minister also tied herself to that April date in both parliamentary and legal statements.

“She was, of course, aware earlier than that. The question is just how aware and how much earlier.”

The former Brexit secretary hit out at the Crown Office for ordering redactions of Mr Salmond’s submission to the Holyrood inquiry.

‘Critical failings’

He said: “The redactions are clearly not designed to protect the complainants, they are designed to protect the first minister from accountability to the inquiry.”

He added: “Of course there should be protections over sensitive material exposed in criminal trials, we agree that.

“But those protections should not prevent a parliamentary committee from doing its job of holding government to account.

“Together, these litany of acts have repeatedly frustrated the committee and denied the public full transparency and accountability.

“They fit squarely into a pattern of evasiveness and abuse of process.”

David Davis said the Holyrood inquiry exposed “some critical failings at the heart of the Scottish Government”.

He added: “The Holyrood inquiry has exposed some critical failings at the heart of the Scottish Government, they failed with a complaints process, they failed at key legal advice, they failed to honour commitments to ensure a transparent parliamentary review.

“But perhaps more worrying, the inquiry has revealed the limits of what the Scottish Parliament can expose, there is a deficit of power and with it comes a deficit of responsibility.”

Mr Davis called for amendments to the 1998 Scotland Act to bolster the powers of Holyrood.

Replying for the Government, Scotland Office minister Iain Stewart did not comment specifically on the allegations made by Mr Davis.

Every message involving SNP staff has been seen by the committee previously.”

A spokesman for Nicola Sturgeon

A spokesman for First Minister Ms Sturgeon said in a statement: “As with Mr Salmond’s previous claims and cherry picking of messages, the reality is very different to the picture being presented.

“Every message involving SNP staff has been seen by the committee previously. Their views have been widely reported as dismissive of them.”

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