Scotland politics

A Scottish government review finds no data breach in Salmond case

Alex Salmond arriving at court Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The former first minister outside the Court of Session where he won his case against the Scottish government

The Scottish government has insisted it has found no evidence of a data breach relating to harassment allegations made against Alex Salmond.

The former first minister had wanted to know how the claims - which he strenuously denies - had become public.

The government said it carried out a full review in August and was "satisfied" that "information relating to the case" was processed properly.

On Tuesday Mr Salmond won a legal fight against the government.

At the Court of Session in Edinburgh it admitted acting unlawfully while investigating the claims.

The Scottish government conceded that it breached its own guidelines by appointing an investigating officer who had "prior involvement" in the case.

Mr Salmond, a former leader of the SNP, wrote to the Scottish government's permanent secretary Leslie Evans in August last year shortly after the allegations against him emerged, calling for an investigation into what he described as the leaking of information in what was meant to be a confidential process.

The Scottish government confirmed that it ordered a review of the handling of Mr Salmond's data and concluded there was no evidence of any breaches.

A government spokesman said the process for considering the allegations against Mr Salmond was ongoing for eight months and was "kept entirely confidential throughout that period".

He added: "The Scottish government has never commented on the content of the allegations against Mr Salmond and we will not do so.

"As a precaution and in line with our legal obligations, we instructed a detailed review into our handling of Mr Salmond's data in August, 2018.

"We are satisfied that information relating to this case has been processed in accordance with our legal and information handling obligations, and that there is no evidence of any data breach."

Speaking at the time he sent his letter to the permanent secretary calling for a review, Mr Salmond said: "Confidentiality is at the heart of a just procedure and is necessary for both complainers and those complained about.

"If it is breached, then who is going to complain in future with confidence and how can the person complained about secure any fairness?"

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Alex Salmond won his legal challenge at the Court of Session

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon is facing pressure over her meetings with Mr Salmond while the Scottish government was investigating the sexual harassment claims against him.

Opposition parties want more detail on what was discussed in the meetings and phone calls between the pair.

The Scottish Conservatives want a Holyrood inquiry into the fallout from Mr Salmond's successful legal action.

Ms Sturgeon has said she had no role in the civil service investigation.

Scottish Labour has written to Ms Sturgeon to ask for more information on her three face-to-face meetings and two phone calls.

Former mentor

The party's equalities spokeswoman, Pauline McNeill, said: "Your decision to meet and hold phone calls with Mr Salmond on multiple occasions about the investigation could have compromised the investigation."

But the first minister has robustly defended her position.

In her parliamentary statement, Ms Sturgeon said: "I was always clear that I had no role in the process and I did not seek to intervene in it at any stage - nor indeed did I feel under pressure to do so."

Ms Sturgeon said she met her former mentor twice at home, as well as once in Aberdeen before an SNP conference, and also spoke to him twice on the phone while investigations were ongoing.

Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw said a Holyrood inquiry should take place if questions on the case are not properly answered.

"The questions facing the SNP government are mounting up.

"A Holyrood inquiry to find out what went on here may be the only way forward," he said.

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