David Davis MP invokes parliamentary privilege to read out messages which point to a conspiracy against Alex Salmond
As published by the Daily Telegraph:
Nicola Sturgeon’s chief of staff meddled in a sexual harassment probe into Alex Salmond almost two months before the First Minister claims she first became aware he was being investigated, it has been claimed.
David Davis, the Tory MP, invoked parliamentary privilege in the Commons on Tuesday night to make a series of potentially devastating claims about the Salmond affair, saying a whistleblower had passed him information purporting to show “perjury up to criminal conspiracy”.
He read out messages from two civil servants, said to have been sent on February 6, 2018, which suggest Liz Lloyd, Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff, was “interfering in the complaints process against Alex Salmond”.
The message said “Liz interference v [very] bad”.
The timeline is crucial as Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly claimed, under oath and in Holyrood, that she did not become aware of the probe into Mr Salmond until the following April, when he told her about it at her Glasgow home. Mr Davis said this was not true.
The former Brexit secretary, who is known to be a friend of Mr Salmond’s, also read out text messages between senior SNP officials which he said, while not proving the former First Minister’s claims to have been the victim of a conspiracy, raised a “very strong prima facie case” that required a “serious investigation”.
He suggested that the police should be asked to investigate the claims, and said the messages suggested Peter Murrell, Ms Sturgeon’s husband, “coordinated” other senior party figures “in the handling of specific complainers”.
However, it is the allegation around Ms Sturgeon’s knowledge of when she became aware of the investigation that poses the greatest immediate risk to her political future. A probe into whether Ms Sturgeon deliberately misled the Scottish Parliament, a resignation matter, is expected to be published within days.
Mr Davis said the exchange between civil servants, Judith Mackinnon and Barbara Allison, “suggests the chief of staff had knowledge of the Salmond case in February, not in April, as she has claimed on oath.”
He said: “The First Minister also tied herself to that April date in both parliamentary and legal statements. She was of course aware earlier than that. The question was just how aware, and how much earlier.”
Ms Sturgeon has claimed repeatedly that while she had a “lingering concern” that allegations of a sexual nature may emerge about Mr Salmond, due to a previous media inquiry, she did not know he was being investigated until he told her about it at her Glasgow home on April 2, 2018.
She has claimed she forgot about an earlier meeting in late March 2018 when Mr Salmond says the investigation about him was discussed.
Mr Davis also read out messages exchanged by senior SNP figures about the later criminal probe facing Mr Salmond. The ex-SNP leader has claimed messages, disclosed to him ahead of a trial, show a conspiracy against him and the “construction” of evidence. However, he has been banned from releasing them.
Mr Davis said Ian McCann, the SNP’s compliance officer, expressed “great disappointment” to Sue Ruddick, the SNP’s chief operating officer, that “someone who promised to deliver five complainants to him by the end of that week had come up empty.”
In January 2019 Ms Ruddick expressed to McCann the hope that one of the complainers would be “sickened enough get back in the game” after Mr Salmond won his court challenge against the Scottish Government probe. Later that month, she confirmed to Mr Murrell that the complainer was now “up for the fight” and “keen to see him go to jail,” it was claimed.
Ms Ruddick also expressed concern about what would happen “when my name comes out as fishing for others to come forward”, after a police investigation had commenced.
Mr Davis added: “There is more but it would take the whole of this debate [to read them out].
“Meddling on an ongoing police inquiry is at best improper and at worst criminal. It requires proper investigation. If the committee does not feel it can do the job, perhaps we should ask the police to do it instead.”
A spokesman for the First Minister said the exchange by civil servants “does not relate” to the two women who came forward with complaints about Mr Salmond. “At that time, she was not aware that there was any connection to the former First Minister,” he added.
The spokesman said: “As with Mr Salmond’s previous claims and cherry picking of messages, the reality is very different to the picture being presented.
“Every message involving SNP staff have been seen by the committee previously. Their views have been widely reported as dismissive of them.”