Britain’s reputation on the world stage could be brought into “disrepute” by Holyrood’s handling of the Alex Salmond inquiry, a former UK minister has claimed.
Dr Liam Fox, who served as trade secretary under Theresa May, used a point of order in the House of Commons on Wednesday to deride the Scottish Government’s handling of the saga.
Dr Fox’s criticism comes after the Scottish Parliament agreed to belatedly redact large sections of Mr Salmond’s written evidence in which he accused Nicola Sturgeon of misleading Holyrood and breaching the ministerial code.
The redaction followed a letter from the Crown Office expressing concern about possible contempt of court.
In a point of order, Dr Fox said: “Yesterday, the former first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond accused the Scottish Government of ‘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’.
“This would be damning in a tin pot dictatorship, but this is happening in a part of the United Kingdom.
“Given that the Scottish Parliament derives its authority from legislation passed in this Parliament, what mechanisms do we have to ensure that the conduct of the Scottish Government does not bring politics in the whole of the United Kingdom into international disrepute”.
Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing responded: “Dr Fox has raised some very significant issues concerning the relationship between the legislature, the executive and the courts, that is the doctrine known as the separation of powers which is a very bedrock of our constitutional settlement.
“It is not, of course, for the occupant of the chair to make any judgment about what Dr Fox has specifically said or indeed the quotation which he used, but this House is, of course, always concerned with safeguarding democratic standards and I’m sure that Dr Fox will use his ingenuity to find a way of bringing this matter once again before the House when it can be fully examined.”
The redactions earlier this week prompted Mr Salmond to pull out of his scheduled appearance to give oral evidence to the Holyrood inquiry that is examining the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment allegations made against him, although he has now offered to attend on Friday instead.