Legal advice related to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Scottish Government’s Handling of Harassment Complaints (SGHHC)

Written advice from external Counsel during the judicial review brought by Mr Salmond and other associated documents.

In normal circumstances, government legal advice is not released. Such is the importance of Ministers being able to receive  frank, private advice, it is almost unheard of for such legal advice to be released.

However, we acknowledge that the issues in the SGHHC inquiry are not normal. During the course of the Inquiry, the integrity of the legal system has been questioned and serious allegations have been made. This material allows people to confirm that these allegations are false.

It is important to note that in any legal case a range of opinions are expressed. The concluded legal position of the Scottish Government is therefore a result of a range of views being considered. It is not the case that the opinion of external counsel alone constitutes the legal advice to Ministers. The Ministerial Code is clear that the primary role lies with the Scottish Government’s Legal Department (SGLD) and, ultimately, with the Law Officers.

The documents the Scottish Government is making available to the SGHHC Inquiry include a further four previously legally privileged documents from the judicial review from 4th September, 17th September and 16th December. As requested by the Committee, these documents include two notes of advice from Counsel and one submission from the Lord Advocate that cover material relevant to the issue of whether the Scottish Government sought to delay the case – known as sisting.

All of the formal written advice notes received from external Counsel during the judicial review that we have identified, as well as a number of other relevant previously legally privileged documents, are now disclosed.

We have published email chains associated with the meetings on 2 November 2018 and the meeting of 13 November 2018, attended by the First Minister and Permanent Secretary.  The emails confirm the focus of the meetings was on finalising adjustments to the arguments for the pleadings in the judicial review.

The letters from the Deputy First Minister to the Convenor of the SGHHC set out the context.

4 September 2018
17 September 2018 - from Lord Advocate
17 September 2018 - from Counsel
18 September 2018
26 September 2018
27 September 2018
30 October 2018
30-31 October 2018
31 October 2018
2 November 2018
3 November 2018
5 November 2018
13 November 2018
6 December 2018
6-7 December 2018
11 December 2018
16 December 2018
17 December 2018
19 December 2018
21-22 December 2018
29 December 2018
31 December 2018
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