Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints
I refer to your public statement of 29 September regarding the progress made by the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints and the allegations the Committee has levelled against the Scottish Government.
As you know, the First Minister has rightly recused herself from decision making in relation to the Committee and, as a result, I am the Minister with direct responsibility for the Scottish Government’s engagement and cooperation with the Committee. As such, I feel it is essential that I correct the record in a number of specific regards.
First, it is simply not the case that the Scottish Government has obstructed the Committee. The Scottish Government has already provided the Committee with over 1,000 pages of material, responding directly to the questions asked by the Committee, and Scottish Government witnesses have provided over 10 hours of oral evidence so far. While I appreciate there is a genuine difference of view over the legal privilege issue, the factual position remains that every Scottish Government witness called has attended the Committee and every request for written material has been met and will be met to the full limit of the law, the Ministerial Code and other conventions.
I wrote to the Committee on 21 September providing significant additional material that the Committee had requested, including a detailed timeline of events in relation to the Judicial Review. That letter specifically informed you that, far from seeking to block the Committee’s work, the Scottish Government will go to court to seek the legal authority to release further material in relation to the investigation of the complaints that is under the jurisdiction of the Courts.
I note that yesterday I received a letter from you, on behalf of the Committee, that states you are “pleased that the Scottish Government is now releasing a number of documents”. Your letter also correctly notes and accepts the legal constraints that the Scottish Government is obliged to operate under.
While you go on to note previous frustration felt by the Committee, I am struck at the contrast between the Committee’s allegations on 29 September and the Committee’s private acceptance in your letter of the reality of the Scottish Government position. I am at a loss to understand the gulf in both tone and substance between the two.
Notwithstanding this, the Scottish Government remains committed to cooperating fully within the bounds of the law, the Ministerial Code and relevant conventions and looks forward to the issues noted above being resolved.
Given your public statement on 29 September, I will be publishing this correspondence.
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