Alex Salmond told Nicola Sturgeon complaints of sexual harassment had been made against him, the First Minister has confirmed.
In a statement released after her predecessor denied allegations about his conduct towards two staff members in 2013 – while he was in office – the SNP leader said her relationship with Mr Salmond made the situation” extremely difficult…for me to come to terms with.”
In statements released within minutes of each other on Friday morning, both Ms Sturgeon and Scottish Government Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans confirmed the complaints were made against Mr Salmond in January.
The Daily Record reported on Thursday night that the allegations have been passed to Police Scotland.
Mr Salmond has launched a court action to contest the complaints process that was activated against him.
Ms Evans said she was prevented from making the complaints public on Thursday because of a legal action by Mr Salmond.
She added that a statement released by the former First Minister attacking the complaints procedure “contains significant inaccuracies.”
Ms Sturgeon did not confirm when she was first told of the allegations.
She said: “Although I have been aware for some time of the fact of the investigation – initially from Alex Salmond – I have had no role in the process, and to have referred to it before now would have compromised the integrity of the internal investigation, which I was not prepared to do.
“However, I was informed by the Permanent Secretary earlier this week that she had completed her investigation and that she intended to make the fact of the complaints public.
“Alex Salmond is now challenging the Scottish Government’s procedure in court. The Scottish Government refutes his criticisms of its process and will defend its position vigorously.
“However, this focus on process cannot deflect from the fact that complaints were made that could not be ignored or swept under the carpet.
“I have been clear on many occasions that all organisations and workplaces must make it possible for people to come forward to report concerns and have confidence that they will be treated seriously.
“For that principle to mean anything it cannot be applied selectively. It must be applied without fear or favour, regardless of the identity, seniority or political allegiance of the person involved.
“My relationship with Alex Salmond obviously makes this an extremely difficult situation for me to come to terms with. I am also acutely aware how upsetting this will be for my party.
“However the over-riding priority must be to ensure fair and due process. I would also ask that the privacy of those who have complained be respected.”
Mr Salmond said he had, on the advice of senior counsel, attempted to persuade the permanent secretary she was “behaving unlawfully” in how she applied the complaints procedure, introduced following sexual harassment scandals at Westminster and Holyrood.
A Judicial Review has now been raised in the Court of Session by Mr Salmond.
He said: “This is a procedure so unjust that even now I have not been allowed to see and therefore to properly challenge the case against me. I have not been allowed to see the evidence.”
The former SNP leader added added: “The permanent secretary chose to deny me contact with any current civil servant, many of whom wished to give evidence on my behalf, and access to documentation to allow me to properly challenge the complaints, all of which I refute and some of which were patently ridiculous.
“The procedure as put into operation by the permanent secretary is grossly unfair and therefore inevitably will lead to prejudicial outcomes.”
Ms Evans referenced the Scottish Government’s complaints procedure, which The Courier revealed was made public two hours after the claims about Mr Salmond were reported, having sat on its private intranet site since last December.
She confirmed the Scottish Government received two complaints in January in relation to Mr Salmond, who the permanent secretary said was notified of the complaints in March.
Ms Evans said: “I informed Mr Salmond and the people involved on Wednesday August 22 of my conclusions and that I was considering the public interest in making the fact of the complaints and investigation publicly known.
“Mr Salmond was subsequently given notice that I intended to make a statement referring to the fact of the complaints.
“Following legal proceedings instigated by Mr Salmond yesterday that statement was delayed. However, given that Mr Salmond subsequently dropped those proceedings I am now able to confirm the fact of the complaints.
“I note that the former First Minister has indicated his intention to challenge the actions taken by the Scottish Government. His statement contains significant inaccuracies which will be addressed in those court proceedings. The Scottish Government will defend its position vigorously.
“You will appreciate that for legal reasons the Scottish Government is limited in what can be said.
“The First Minister has had no role in this process. I advised her of the conclusions of my investigation on Wednesday and she is of course aware that I am making this statement today.
“As the head of the Civil Service in Scotland, I have been consistently clear that there is no place for harassment of any kind in the workplace.
“In line with work already underway in the organisation to tackle inappropriate behaviour, I will consider carefully any issues about culture and working practices highlighted by these complaints.”