Women who made complaints against Salmond 'dropped' by Scottish government

Credit: PA

The women who made complaints of harassment against Alex Salmond said they felt they were "dropped" by the Scottish Government after they conceded the judicial review -and felt like the saga would damage the possibility of other women coming forward.

The complainers, referred to as Ms A and Ms B, appeared before the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, which produced its final report on Tuesday.

The pair said they had not received any support from the Scottish Government after it conceded the legal challenge brought by Mr Salmond,

The former first minister was cleared of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh in March last year, after being arrested in January 2019.

Mr Salmond then complained his treatment by the Scottish government was unfair and an investigation found that the process was "tainted with apparent bias" resulting in a half-million pound pay out for the former first minister.

The women who made the initial complaint said they believed the handling of the complaints had been "damaging" to the possibility of other women coming forward for similar complaints.

On Tuesday the Committee concluded the handling of the complaints against Mr Salmond was "seriously flawed."

They said women had been badly let down by the government and said Nicola Sturgeon misled Holyrood over her involvement in the scandal.

Many of the findings were unanimous, but some, including the one critical of Ms Sturgeon, saw votes split down party lines with the four SNP MSPs outnumbered by five representatives from other parties.

The Committee's findings were separate from the investigation led by James Hamilton QC which concluded Ms Sturgeon did not break the ministerial code.

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, leaves her home in Glasgow Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Quoted in the committee’s report, one of the complainers told the committee: "I was quite taken aback by the lack of contact and support from the Scottish Government after the conclusion of its process.

"We were given regular updates over the period of the judicial review, but after that we were basically just dropped.

"We went through the entirety of the police investigation and the criminal trial with next to no contact from the Scottish Government, let alone any kind of support.

"There might be good reasons for that, but I certainly expected something, given that the government initiated the police referral and given the duty of care for us as staff members or former staff members, which the government had placed a lot of emphasis on during the process.

"I was quite taken aback because it felt as though we were just left to swim."

The women also told the committee they hoped to create a "precedent" of women coming forward to make complaints, but they fear the handling of the complaints may have hampered that.

"I was really hoping that if you raised a complaint … you would be helping to set a healthy precedent that, actually, no minister is exempt from the standards and policies that should regulate appropriate behaviour,” she said.

"I would hope that you can bring forward complaints against even the most powerful people and they will be taken seriously, and that, through that precedent, a culture can be built that makes people feel that things are possible.

"Unfortunately, I suspect that that has been hindered rather than helped by the way that things developed.”

Mr Salmond won compensation for this treatment by the Scottish government. Credit: PA

The witnesses told the committee that, even with "the most perfect procedure", there still needs to be a culture in the organisation enabling prospective complainers to use it.

The women told the committee they found party political comments made about the inquiry to be "difficult".

They said: "It has been difficult throughout the process to have, from the various parties’ press releases and social media [posts], the impact on us in relation to our motivations for coming forward and our involvement with the party of Government.

“In the future, I want a bit of a moratorium on party politics when it comes to dealing with matters of this sort.”

The women announced on Sunday they would make a formal complaint after a leak of portions of their evidence to a newspaper.