Nicola Sturgeon with her husband Peter Murrell. Flickr/Scottish Government
Alex Salmond has accused Nicola Sturgeon’s husband of being part of a plot to have him imprisoned. Peter Murrell, sometimes dubbed Penfold to Sturgeon’s Danger Mouse, is chief executive of the SNP, the party his wife leads.
In a blistering witness statement published – finally – by the Scottish Parliament on Monday evening, the former First Minister and ex-leader of the SNP, says there was a “deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned.”
He names names.
“That includes, for the avoidance of doubt, Peter Murrell (SNP Chief Executive), Ian McCann (Compliance officer) and Sue Ruddick (Chief Operating Officer) of the SNP together with Liz Lloyd, the First Minister’s Chief of Staff. There are others who, for legal reasons, I am not allowed to name.”
Salmond is due to give oral evidence at Holyrood on Wednesday. He was acquitted of sexual assault at a trial in Edinburgh last year, and now alleges that the charges were the result of an attempt to finish off his political career, and any hopes of a comeback in case he challenged his one-time protégé Sturgeon.
In his witness statement to the Scottish Parliament’s Harassment Complaints Committee, Salmond is coruscating on the alleged role played by the Permanent Secretary, the most senior civil servant in Scotland, Leslie Evans. She is close to Sturgeon, although there are suggestions that she may have to resign on the basis of a long-standing convention in political scandals, namely “deputy heads must roll.” Evans has had her term of employment extended until 2022 despite the Salmond scandal.
Salmond also lambasts the Crown Office, the public prosecutor. In Scotland the Lord Advocate is head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and also senior Scottish law officer advising the Scottish government. Critics say this creates a conflict of interests.
“The Crown Office has intervened three times to deny this Committee information for which it has asked,” says Salmond. “This has been done by reliance on legislation which was never designed to obstruct the work of a Parliamentary Committee acting in the public interest and investigating the actions of the Scottish Government.”
He accuses officials and government advisors of obfuscation and worse: “Given this attitude to disclosure by the Scottish Government and Crown Office, it becomes highly surprising that when this Committee exerted section 23 powers to require documents it was given irrelevant information for which it had not asked and could never be published while relevant information remained undisclosed. It is also clear that Government SPADS were briefing the media on this information before members had even seen it. This is not the behaviour of a prosecution department independent of government influence.”
Salmond adds: “The Crown Office under current leadership is a department simply not fit for purpose.”
Salmond is furious, and no wonder say friends and quite a few former opponents. His liberty was imperilled, he says.
Sturgeon rejects Salmond’s allegations. But an explosive ten days is in prospect, with the Scottish elections only ten weeks away. The First Minister will give her own evidence to the committee next week.
Read the whole Salmond statement here.