Scotland politics

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani to chair Holyrood Salmond inquiry

Linda Fabiani
Image caption SNP MSP Linda Fabiani was chosen to chair the committee

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani has been chosen to chair the Holyrood committee inquiry into the government's handling of complaints against Alex Salmond.

Several inquiries were set up after the government admitted its investigation of internal complaints had been flawed.

A special committee of nine MSPs set up to examine the government probe met for the first time on Wednesday.

However, they will not begin their full inquiry until the criminal case brought against Mr Salmond has been concluded.

The former first minister appeared in court on 24 January facing charges including attempted rape and sexual assault. He insists he is "innocent of any criminality" and said he would defend himself "to the utmost".

An internal inquiry was set up in January 2018 after two female staff members made complaints to the government, dating back to when Mr Salmond was first minister.

The former SNP leader insisted he had been treated unfairly during this process and, after he launched a judicial review in the Court of Session, the government admitted it had acted unlawfully.

MSPs agreed earlier in February to set up a nine-member committee to "consider and report on the actions of the first minister, Scottish government officials and special advisers in dealing with complaints about Alex Salmond, former first minister, under the Scottish government's procedure", as well as "actions in relation to the Scottish ministerial code".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Scottish government admitted that its investigation of Alex Salmond was flawed

Linda Fabiani - a former minister who currently acts as one of Holyrood's deputy presiding officers - was put forward as convener despite complaints from opposition members that the SNP should not lead the group.

The Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems all raised concerns, with MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton saying that "the optics of this are not great".

However no member ultimately opposed Ms Fabiani's nomination, or that of her deputy, Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell.

Ms Fabiani told BBC Scotland that she had "no doubts whatsoever" that "every member, regardless of their political party, will act with integrity", and praised the "wealth of knowledge and background expertise" of the committee.

The group also agreed that any substantial work should be put off until after the criminal case against Mr Salmond has run its course, with only some background work to be conducted in private.

A note from the committee's clerk in the papers for Wednesday's meeting notes that there is "a substantial risk that issues raised during any inquiry could relate to the matters being dealt with in court proceedings".

'Criminal proceedings'

No date has been set for the next hearing in Mr Salmond's court case, but any trial should start with 12 months of his first appearance in January.

The 14 charges against Mr Salmond include two of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one of breach of the peace.

Speaking outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court, the former MP and MSP said: "Now that these proceedings, criminal proceedings, are live it is important to respect the court.

"And therefore, the only thing I can say is I refute absolutely these allegations of criminality and I'll defend myself to the utmost in court."

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