Alex Salmond’s bombshell evidence to the Scottish Parliament accusing Nicola Sturgeon and five of her apparatchiks of a plot to throw him in jail for sexual assault includes what he claims is a smoking gun.
The former first minister’s statement did not contain a knockout blow against Miss Sturgeon, who he accuses of being complicit in a ‘malicious’ effort to bring sexual harassment and attempted rape charges against him of which he was cleared.
Among his evidence is an email sent by Sturgeon’s chief of staff Liz Lloyd to Scotland’s top civil servant Leslie Evans saying Scottish government sexual harassment policy should be expanded to include former ministers.
The email, sent on November 17, came 11 days after the first claims of sexual assault against Mr Salmond.
He says the ‘radical expansion of the policy must have been inserted to allow the complaint against me to be prosecuted’.
The claim is in addition to Mr Salmond’s allegation that Scottish prosecutors are withholding evidence proving Miss Sturgeon’s aides conspired with civil servants to press ahead with taking the claims against Mr Salmond to court despite legal advice he would be cleared.
Mr Salmond’s allies allege the plot was designed to prevent his political comeback and was cooked up by Sturgeon’s allies in a climate of #MeToo allegations across the world.
But in the internal power struggle that threatens to tear the SNP apart just ten weeks before the Scottish election, Miss Sturgeon insists the former first minister has ‘not a shred of evidence’ against her.
Today prosecutors at the Crown Office – Scotland’s equivalent of the CPS – warned the Scottish Parliament they had ‘grave concerns’ Mr Salmond’s explosive statement could amount to contempt of court because it risks identifying his sexual assault accusers.
It could be withdrawn if the Scottish Parliament accepts their concerns.
The former first minister’s statement did not contain a knockout blow against Miss Sturgeon, who he accuses of being complicit in a ‘malicious’ effort to bring sexual harassment and attempted rape charges against him of which he was cleared
He accuses Scottish prosecutors of withholding evidence proving Miss Sturgeon’s aides conspired with civil servants to press ahead with taking the allegations against Mr Salmond to court despite legal advice he would be cleared
The most serious risk to Miss Sturgeon in the unfolding drama is Mr Salmond’s claim in a separate statement she lied to the Scottish Parliament about when she knew about the allegations against him. If proven, she could be forced to resign.
Mr Salmond’s explosive statement names five of Miss Sturgeon’s top aides and civil servants accusing them of colluding against him in a ‘malicious’ plot to have him charged with 13 counts of sexual assault.
He called for some of them to resign and claims their conduct could amount to a ‘conspiracy’ at the highest levels in Scottish government.
He claimed in the submission the ‘inescapable conclusion’ was that there was a ‘malicious and concerted’ attempt to see him removed from public life in Scotland.
Miss Sturgeon’s husband and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, Principal policy adviser Leslie Evans, chief of staff Liz Lloyd, compliance officer Ian McCann and chief operating officer Sue Ruddick were all complicit in efforts to damage his reputation, Mr Salmond says.
SNP Chief Executive, Peter Murrell arrives to give evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee at Holyrood in December
In his latest statement, Mr Salmond alleges that while probing sexual assault claims against him, SNP officials were also drafting the Fairness at Work Policy 2010.
He claims Ms Lloyd drafted an amendment in November 2017 to tweak a policy to include ‘former Ministers, including from previous administrations regardless of Party’.
He makes the link between this email and the claims made against him by the female complainants – meaning he could be prosecuted.
He says there was also a political intervention when Miss Sturgeon and the Permanent Secretary agreed before December 2017 that she should be distanced from the policy and only told when it was done.
Mr Salmond claims: ‘When the Permanent Secretary agreed with the First Minister that she should take over as key decision maker in terms of this new policy she was already aware of the developing complaints against me.
‘Therefore she put herself at the centre of a policy in the full knowledge that I would likely be the first (and perhaps only given the subsequent declaration of illegality) subject of its implementation. Doing so from a position of already being tainted by bias is an extraordinary decision.’
He also says the Scottish government was advised by external counsel in October 2018 that the ‘balance of probability’ was that ‘they were heading for likely defeat’ in its case against him.
He adds: ‘And yet, despite that advice and the cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds of avoidable legal fees, the Scottish Government pressed on with a case they expected to lose.’
He said: ‘However, underlying all of this and perhaps the most serious issue of all is the complete breakdown of the necessary barriers which should exist between Government, political party and indeed the prosecution authorities in any country which abides by the rule of law.’
Mr Salmond faced 13 charges including one of attempted rape, one of intent to rape, nine charges of sexual assault and two of indecent assault.
The ex-SNP leader was cleared of all charges by a jury following an 11-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.
The jury returned not guilty verdicts on 12 charges and returned a not proven verdict on a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape.
The former first minister was charged with indecently assaulting Woman A, a senior government official, in 2008.
Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, is pictured as she gives evidence at Holyrood to a Scottish Parliament committee examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond
On occasions in June and July 2008 in Glasgow, he was accused of indecently assaulting her by kissing her on the mouth and touching her buttocks and breast over her clothing; and sexually assaulting her in either December 2010 or December 2011 in Ego nightclub in Edinburgh, by touching her arms and hips over her clothing.
He was charged with indecently assaulting Woman B at Bute House, the Scottish First Minister’s official residence, in October or November 2010.
She had accused him of repeatedly seizing her by the wrists, pulling her towards him and trying to kiss her.
Woman C accused him of assaulting her in a car in Edinburgh during February 2011 by touching her leg with his hand over her clothing, but said that was ‘impossible’ with others in the car who would have seen the incident take place.
Prosecutors charged him with sexually assaulting Woman D on a number of occasions between 2011 and 2013 at various locations, including Bute House and the Scottish Parliament building.
Between May 2011 and June 2013, he was alleged to have sexually assaulted her by touching her buttocks over her clothing and stroking her arms and hair.
Woman F claimed he assaulted her at Bute House in December 2013 and sexually assaulting her in either November or December 2013.
He was accused of making her sit on a bed, lying on top of her, struggling with her and pulling up her dress with intent to rape her.
Liz Lloyd, Nicola Sturgeon’s Chief of Staff, at an SNP event at which Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out the next steps in the SNP’s campaign for Scottish independence, on January 31, 2020
Woman G – a Scottish Government official said he twice assaulted her – once in Glasgow during 2012 and secondly in Bute House in April 2014.
She accused him of smacking her buttocks at a Glasgow restaurant in March 2012. Salmond said: ‘It didn’t happen.’
Meanwhile Woman H said in 2014 Salmond sexually assaulted her attempting to rape her the same year.
In June of that year at Bute House, he had been alleged to have sexually assaulted Woman H by removing his clothing and underwear, pushing her onto a bed, kneeling over her, pinning her to the bed, lying naked on top of her and then trying to rape her.
The former SNP chief was charged with sexually assaulting Woman J – a party worker – in Bute House in September 2014.
Kirk Torrance, 38, then the SNP’s new media strategist and now a technology consultant, told the court he’d seen Woman J at an SNP office the day after the alleged sexual assault.
Asked if she ‘seemed upset, Torrance told the court that Woman J seemed ‘quite the opposite actually’ and appeared to be in good spirits.
Sue Ruddick (pictured) was also complicit in efforts to damage his reputation, Mr Salmond says
The ninth alleged victim – Woman K – said he assaulted her at Stirling Castle in November 2014, by touching her buttock with his hand over her clothing, while they had a photo taken together at the event.
Mr Salmond was cleared of all charges.
In his submission to the inquiry, Mr Salmond said had it not been for the jury system, a campaign to remove him from public life might have ‘succeeded’.
In a different submission, Ms Lloyd ardently rejected being part of a conspiracy and said this was ‘not substantiated by any evidence’.
She also denied leaking details of a Scottish Government inquiry into the allegations to the Daily Record newspaper.
According to Mr Salmond, the ‘most obvious and compelling evidence of such conduct’ is contained in materials the Crown Office ‘refuses to release’.
Allegations, discussions, denials and a ‘forgotten’ key meeting between Sturgeon and Salmond
November 2017: Allegations regarding Alex Salmond’s behaviour are raised with the SNP by Sky News.
Nicola Sturgeon said she spoke to him about this – and he ‘denied it’. No further action was taken.
March 29, 2018: Ms Sturgeon meets Geoff Aberdein in her Scottish parliament office where she has admitted they discussed the possibility of a meeting with Mr Salmond. Ms Sturgeon – after initially forgetting about this meeting – says there was ‘the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature’.
April 2, 2018: Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond meet at the First Minister’s home. According to Ms Sturgeon, this is the first time she heard of the complaints made against him. Despite this, she has insisted that the matters discussed were party business.
April 23, 2018: Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond hold a ‘substantive’ phone discussion. During this call, Ms Sturgeon claims that Mr Salmond asked whether she would speak to Leslie Evans about ‘mediation’ with the complainants. A special adviser was in the room at the time.
June 6, 2018: Ms Sturgeon writes to Mrs Evans to inform her that she has held discussions with Mr Salmond.
June 7, 2018: Ms Sturgeon again meets Mr Salmond, this time in Aberdeen ahead of the SNP party conference.
July 14, 2018: Ms Sturgeon meets Mr Salmond at her home near Glasgow.
July 18, 2018: Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond speak again on the phone. Ms Sturgeon said that ‘by this time’ she was ‘anxious – as party leader and from the perspective of preparing my party for any potential public issue – to know whether his handling of the matter meant it was likely to become public in the near future.’
This is the last time Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond speak. During this time they also exchange a number of WhatsApp messages in which they discuss the affair – including Mr Salmond’s decision to seek a judicial review over the government’s probe into the two complaints.
January 2019: Mr Salmond wins sexual harassment inquiry case against Scottish government and is awarded £500,000 in legal fees.
March 23, 2020: Alex Salmond is cleared of all sexual assault charges and his supporters demanded a full inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the scandal.
January 24, 2021: Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, Ms Sturgeon denies misleading the Scottish Parliament after ‘forgetting’ to tell MSPs about her meeting with Mr Salmond’s aide on March 29, 2018.
February 8, 2021: Peter Murrell, the SNP’s chief executive and the First Leader’s husband, is accused of a ‘dismal and shifty’ performance as he gave evidence to the inquiry on Zoom.
February 16, 2021: Mooted date for Ms Sturgeon to appear before the inquiry.
He said: ‘That decision is disgraceful.’
Mr Salmond has called for evidence he obtained ahead of his criminal trial – but was not used in court – to be released by prosecutors, but they have refused.
He said such a move ‘makes it impossible for the Committee to complete its task; and that the ‘only beneficiaries of that decision to withhold evidence are those involved in conduct to damage (and indeed imprison) me’.
Mr Salmond also accuses Mr Murrell of deploying ‘his senior staff to recruit and persuade staff and ex-staff members to submit police complaints’.
He said: ‘This activity was being co-ordinated with special advisers and was occurring after the police investigation had started and after I ceased to be a member of the SNP.’
Mr Murrell has previously denied there was a conspiracy against Mr Salmond.
Mr Salmond has also used his final submission before appearing at Holyrood to demand resignations over the affair, hitting out at the ‘real cost’ to the Scottish people which he believes to be ‘many millions’ of pounds.
He said: ‘No one in this process has uttered the simple words necessary on occasions to renew and refresh democratic institutions – ‘I resign’.’
But last night Miss Sturgeon claimed there was ‘not a shred of evidence’ of a conspiracy.
She told STV News: ‘He has made claims, or he appears to be making claims or suggestions there was some kind of conspiracy against him or concerted campaign against him.
‘There is not a shred of evidence about that, so this is the opportunity for him to replace insinuation and assertion with evidence. I don’t believe he can because I know what he is saying is not true.
‘If he can’t provide that evidence he should stop making these claims about people because they’re not fair.’
She refutes Mr Salmond’s claims that she did breach the ministerial code. She added: ‘The Scottish Government, of course, made a mistake in this. But this week it’s an opportunity for Alex Salmond – I hope he will come to the committee on Wednesday.
An SNP spokesman said: ‘This is just more assertion without a shred of credible evidence.’
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross told MailOnline: ‘The SNP have used every trick in the book to subvert the Scottish Parliament and protect Nicola Sturgeon.
‘Preserving the anonymity of the female complainers is paramount.
‘However, Parliament must have the power to hold the SNP government to account for its actions which failed these women and cost taxpayers at least £1million.
‘There are serious questions about the dual role of the Lord Advocate as a Scottish Government minister and head of what is supposed to be an independent and impartial prosecution service.
‘The people of Scotland deserve so much better than the SNP sleaze of Sturgeon and Salmond.’
Andrew Neil, chairman of the Spectator which went to the High Court in Edinburgh to have Mr Salmond’s evidence published, tweeted: ‘Using lame and bogus jigsaw identification excuses, it’s almost as if the Crown Office was acting on behalf of Scot Gov to stop important/embarrassing information from reaching the public domain, where it belongs.’
He added: ‘The important point to grasp here is that if the Crown Office succeeds in un-publishing Salmond’s submission then the Inquiry cannot consider it when it comes to finalising its conclusions. Devious.’
Yesterday, Rape Crisis Scotland demanded the Scottish parliament should convene an ’emergency’ meeting to rethink the decision to publish Mr Salmond’s submission.
Chief executive Sandy Brindley warned it was ‘inexplicable’ Holyrood chiefs would ‘knowingly publish’ material which could risk identifying someone who had complained about Mr Salmond.
Last night a spokesman for Mr Salmond said: ‘We have now reached agreement with the parliamentary clerks on the publication of Mr Salmond’s evidence.
‘This clears the way for Mr Salmond to attend an oral hearing on Wednesday.’
Ms Sturgeon is expected to give evidence at the inquiry next week.
Nicola Sturgeon’s aides who Alex Salmond accuses of being complicit in efforts to damage his reputation
Nicola Sturgeon’s husband and SNP Chief Executive Peter Murrell
Peter Murrell has been chief executive of the SNP since 1999.
The 56-year-old was educated at Craigmount High School and Glasgow University before moving into politics.
He later worked in the Banff and Buchan constituency office of former First Minister Alex Salmond, who he now faces accusations from.
He met Ms Sturgeon in 1988 at the constituency office and they became a couple in 2003.
The pair got married in July 2010 at Òran Mór Glasgow.
Chief of Staff Liz Lloyd
Nicola Sturgeon’s Chief of Staff Liz Lloyd is no stranger to controversy.
Only last month the special adviser was blasted for tweeting criticism of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
As a civil service she is supposed to remain apolitical.
The rules say she ‘must not take public part in political controversy’, including on ‘social media’.
Now she is also wrapped up in accusations she was part of a ‘witch hunt’ to destroy Alex Salmond.
Ms Lloyd has been at the top of Scottish politics for nearly a decade – being a Spad for nine years and chief of staff for six years.
Before that she was head of the SNP’s media operations for four years and an adviser to MSP Jim Mathers for three years earlier.
Edinburgh University educated Lloyd studied an MA in American studies and an MSc in European and comparative public policy before entering politics.
Her LinkedIn calls for: ‘a strong, successful and independent Scotland.’
Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans
The head of Scotland’s civil service could be sacked from the role as MSPs prepare to ‘throw her under the bus’.
Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans is expected to be slammed in a report on Holyrood’s handling of the Alex Salmond affair.
There are reportedly plans underway to get Ms Evans out of office earlier than her scheduled leave next spring.
A source told The Sunday Times MSPs on the special committee are ‘preparing to throw her under a bus’.
Ms Evans is a 62-year-old civil servant from Northern Ireland who moved to Sheffield as a child before studying music at Liverpool University.
She started living in Scotland in 1985 and joined the government in 2000 after 20 years working in local authorities.
She was the first woman to land the top civil service job – from May 2015 – and earns around £175,000 a year.
Chief Operating Officer Sue Ruddick
The mother of three is the chief operating officer for the Scottish National Party.
She worked in London as chief of staff for the SNP Westminster Group before heading up to Scotland.
Ms Ruddick had before that been a parliamentary press and research assistant after being a part time swimming teacher.
The Aberdeen University educated politico has a master’s degree in history and also took courses in German, Spanish, sociology, psychology and international relations.
Her LinkedIn profile says: ‘A pro-active and talented Communications Professional with extensive experience in corporate image development and business administration.
‘Proven track record of successful design, implementation and management of innovative communication strategies leading to significant increases in efficiency and gains for the company.’
Compliance Officer Ian McCann
Ian McCann is the point of contact at SNP Headquarters in Edinburgh, according to the party’s website.
His Twitter bio says: ‘Two kids, two chins, eclectic taste in film and music. I mostly avoid discussion of politics, but if I do, I reserve the right to joke.’
He often retweets First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and is followed by SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.