Lawyers for the Scottish Government and for Alex Salmond have this morning informed the Court of Session that his action has been settled and the Court has approved that settlement.
As part of the settlement, I have accepted that the decision reached after the investigation of two complaints made against Mr Salmond should be set aside.
This action is being taken because it has become clear that, in one respect only (albeit an important one), the investigation was procedurally flawed.
However, it is important to stress that this relates to the operational application of the Procedure for Handling Complaints Involving Current or Former Ministers (‘the Procedure’). The Scottish Government considers the Procedure itself to be robust and it remains in place.
After reassessing all the materials available, I have concluded that an impression of partiality could have been created based on one specific point - contact between the Investigating Officer and the two complainants around the time of their complaints being made in January 2018.
The full picture only became evident in December 2018 as a result of the work being undertaken to produce relevant documents in advance of the hearing.
I want to apologise to all involved for the failure in the proper application of this one particular part of the Procedure. There is nothing to suggest that the Investigating Officer did not conduct their duties in an impartial way. Unfortunately, the interactions with the complainants in advance of the complaints being made meant that the process was flawed, however impartially and fairly the Investigating Officer conducted the investigation.
All the other grounds of Mr Salmond’s challenge have been dismissed.
The Scottish Government has acted in good faith at all times and will continue to do so. It was right and proper that these complaints were investigated and I stand by the decision to carry out that investigation.
It is also important to note that the procedural flaw in the investigation does not have implications, one way or the other, for the substance of the complaints or the credibility of the complainers. The Judicial Review was never about the substance of the complaints, but about the process that took place to investigate those complaints.
It is accordingly open to the Scottish Government to re-investigate the complaints and, subject to the views of the complainants, it would be our intention to consider this - however, this will only be once ongoing police inquiries have concluded.
Meantime I have commissioned an internal review of the specific application of this one element of the procedure. We shall learn and apply the lessons of this case to any future complaint addressed under our internal procedure.
My priority remains the duty of care to my staff, including anyone in the organisation who brings forward any concerns about inappropriate conduct, regardless of the identity or seniority of the individual complained about.
Finally I would reiterate that the single procedural flaw which led to this decision is deeply regrettable. In particular, I regret the distress it will cause to the two women who raised the complaints.
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