Scotland politics

Holyrood committee set up for Salmond inquiry

Salmond Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Holyrood probe is entirely separate to the criminal charges against Alex Salmond

A special committee has been set up at Holyrood to look into how the Scottish government handled complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond.

MSPs are looking into the collapse of an internal probe after the government admitted its process had been unlawful.

The study of government processes is entirely separate from the 14 criminal charges brought against Mr Salmond.

He insists he is innocent of any criminality, and said he would defend himself "to the utmost" in court.

The Holyrood committee will comprise nine MSPs, and is set to be chaired by the SNP.

Conceded defeat

Its remit is to be decided in due course, although it is unlikely the inquiry proper will begin until after the criminal case against Mr Salmond has concluded.

He appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 24 January, facing two charges of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one breach of the peace.

Outside the court, the 64-year-old said he was "innocent of any criminality whatsoever" and said he would "defend myself to the utmost in court".

The criminal charges came two weeks after the government conceded defeat in a judicial review of its complaints process brought by Mr Salmond.

The government was forced to admit at the Court of Session that the way its internal inquiry was conducted had been flawed. This case focused entirely on the government's processes, and not the substance of the complaints - which Mr Salmond denied.

Image copyright Andrew Cowan
Image caption MSPs are to hold an inquiry into how the government handled its internal investigation

The court defeat sparked four separate investigations, including a government review of what went wrong, the parliamentary inquiry, a study of whether Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, and an Information Commissioner's Office probe over how information became public.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Parliament said members of the parliamentary bureau - a group of MSPs who manage business at Holyrood - had "unanimously agreed to the establishment of a nine-person committee".

Opposition parties had argued against the SNP being allowed to chair the committee.

Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said he was "pleased progress has been made" with the committee, but said he was "disappointed the SNP has refused to forfeit convenership".

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said the election of the convener was ultimately down to the committee, saying it was "still open for an MSP from an opposition party to chair" it.

And Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said it was "now up to the SNP to put forward a convenor who can command the respect of parliament".

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