SNP not legally able to suspend Alex Salmond, says Nicola Sturgeon

Scottish first minister says party has not received a complaint for it to act upon

Nicola Sturgeon has said the Scottish National party is not legally able to suspend Alex Salmond over allegations of sexual harassment after facing calls from other parties to take action.

The first minister and SNP leader said the complaints were being investigated by the Scottish government, which was unable to share details of the complaint or the names of Salmond’s two accusers to third-party organisations.

Salmond, a former SNP leader and first minister, has repeatedly denied he is guilty of harassment or criminality, but opposition parties insist that since the claims have been passed to the police, the party should suspend his membership.

The Daily Record, which first broke the story, has alleged that, in one of the incidents under investigation, Salmond touched the breasts and bottom of a female civil servant at Bute House, his then official residence in Edinburgh, in December 2013.

Two women lodged complaints against Salmond in January 2018 using new anti-harassment procedures introduced for the Scottish government by Leslie Evans, the Scottish government’s chief civil servant, in the wake of harassment scandals at Westminster.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Sturgeon said: “In this case, unlike in some previous cases, the investigation into complaints about Alex Salmond has not been conducted by the SNP and no complaints have been received by the party.

“Also, for legal reasons, the limited information I have about the Scottish government investigation cannot at this stage be shared with the party – and rightly it is the party, not me as leader, that has the power to suspend membership.”

Sturgeon added: “In summary, the party has no legal basis at this time to suspend Alex Salmond’s membership. Of course, should that situation change, the matter will be reconsidered, as it would be for any member. The party’s rules apply to all members and no one is above them.”

Salmond has already retaliated against the Scottish government by lodging a judicial review of its handling of the complaints against him, accusing them of breaching his confidentiality by leaking details of the investigation – a charge the Scottish government denies.

He welcomed Sturgeon’s statement on Twitter, saying: “I agree with Nicola that every single person in Scotland, regardless of who they are, should be treated fairly and equally. That included being given confidentiality and treated with fairness.

“Clearly it has not been maintained in this case but subject to sustained leaking of the most unfair kind. That helps no-one but harms everyone. It is therefore crucial to find out who in government was responsible.”

Statement in response to Nicola Sturgeon pic.twitter.com/YZmfm0o2m5

— Alex Salmond (@AlexSalmond) August 26, 2018

Annie Wells, the equalities spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “We are still none the wiser as to the way the … [incident] was treated when it was alleged to have taken place, nor do we know when anyone in the SNP or the Scottish government was informed about the incident.”

Rhoda Grant, for Scottish Labour, demanded that the Scottish government reveal all details of meetings between Salmond and Sturgeon where the complaints were discussed. Salmond said he had met her face to face three times, and implied they had had other contacts too.

Contributor

Severin Carrell Scotland editor

The GuardianTramp

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