Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond has accused public prosecutors of trying to block crucial evidence from being seen by a parliamentary inquiry into the handling of complaints against him by the Scottish National government he used to lead.
Salmond’s comments came during a long-awaited appearance before a committee of the Scottish parliament that has escalated a bitter dispute between him and first minister Nicola Sturgeon. Some in the SNP fear the rift could derail the party’s push for Scotland’s independence from the UK.
The former first minister opened what was expected to be a four-hour-long committee appearance on Friday with a statement in which he described the past two years as a “nightmare”.
The dispute centres on a botched Scottish government investigation in 2018 into harassment complaints against Salmond. In 2019, the Scottish government accepted that the investigation had been “tainted by apparent bias”. At a separate criminal trial last year, Salmond was acquitted of all of the 13 sexual offences charges against him.
“This committee has been systematically deprived of the evidence it sought,” Salmond said on Friday. He accused the Crown Office public prosecutor service of trying to suppress evidence that he said would show Sturgeon misled parliament.
He has previously accused the closest associates of Sturgeon, his former protégé, of involvement in a “deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort . . . to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned”.
Sturgeon has dismissed suggestions that there was a conspiracy against Salmond as a “heap of nonsense”.
Crown office leadership appeared to have “no understanding of the separation of powers” or “indeed of the rule of law itself”, Salmond added.
The dispute at the heart of the party, which has governed Scotland since 2007, threatens to undermine the SNP’s chances of a sweeping victory in May’s Scottish parliamentary elections. The party hopes a landslide would be a platform to push for a swift second independence referendum.