SNP splits erupt as ex-leader Alex Salmond readies for inquiry grilling

Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond accused senior officials in the Scottish government and Scottish National Party close to his successor Nicola Sturgeon of engaging in a “malicious and concerted effort” to “banish” him from public life.

The explosive claims come ahead of Salmond’s appearance in person before a Scottish parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday. The inquiry, along with another official probe led by a barrister, is investigating whether the Scottish government mishandled harassment allegations against the former leader — claims that led to his prosecution and eventual acquittal of all charges.

The inquiries could be damaging for the pro-Scottish independence SNP and for Sturgeon, who has accused Salmond of peddling “insinuation and assertion.”

Setting out his lines of attack in advance, Salmond claimed a “deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned.” Without Scotland’s courts and justice system, Salmond claims, the effort would have succeeded.

Salmond took aim at a host of SNP figures, including its chief executive — and Sturgeon’s husband — Peter Murrell. The Scottish government’s most senior official Leslie Evans also comes under attack, with Salmond saying she “seems oblivious to the scale of disaster she has inflicted on all concerned” — as does the Crown Office, Scotland’s independent public prosecution service.

“Perhaps the most serious issue of all is the complete breakdown of the necessary barriers which should exist between government, political party and indeed the prosecution authorities in any country which abides by the rule of law,” he argued.

Salmond claimed “documentary evidence exists” to support all of his explosive allegations and that where “legally allowed,” he will be happy to “direct the committee to such documents.”

With multiple references to potential resignations in the document, it’s clear Salmond expects top officials to lose their jobs when the Holyrood committee submits its report into the government’s handling of complaints in the next few months.

The saga took another twist on Tuesday when Scottish parliamentary authorities removed one part of Salmond’s evidence following a complaint from the Crown Office. A parliamentary spokesperson said it would be republished later with added redactions.

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: “Following representations from the Crown Office on Monday evening, the SPCB [Scottish Parliament Corporate Body] agreed collectively this morning that it will remove the Alex Salmond submission on the Ministerial Code from its website with immediate effect and republish it later today in a redacted form. The SPCB will respond formally to the Crown Office shortly.”

As far as Sturgeon’s own position is concerned, her future is likely to rest on the contents of a report from the separate but linked inquiry currently looking at whether she misled the Scottish parliament.

If the report rules she broke the ministerial code by lying to the Holyrood about when she found out about complaints against Salmond, the expectation would be that Sturgeon resigns. It’s unclear when the report will be published.

In a preemptive strike, Sturgeon told broadcasters just hours before the submission was published that claims of a conspiracy are not true and have been put forward “without a shred of evidence.”

The first minister said her predecessor had an “obligation” to present evidence for his claims when he appears in the Scottish Parliament Wednesday.

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