A piece in today’s Times:
The official who led the Scottish government’s unlawful investigation into Alex Salmond has apologised after misleading an inquiry about her contact with complainants in the case.
Judith Mackinnon became the fourth senior civil servant to have corrected or clarified their evidence, which is given under oath, after appearing before MSPs examining the government’s behaviour.
She was the senior investigating officer into two complaints of sexual misconduct against Mr Salmond. Her contact with both women before they formally submitted the complaints was the point on which the Scottish government conceded a judicial review brought by the former first minister.
The Court of Session ruled that the process was unlawful, unfair and tainted by apparent bias. Paragraph ten of the Scottish government’s complaints handling procedure says the investigating officer “will have had no prior involvement with any aspect of the matter being raised”.
Giving evidence to the Holyrood inquiry on Tuesday, Ms Mackinnon told Jackie Baillie, the deputy leader of Scottish Labour, that she did not tell either of the women who later made complaints that she would be the investigating officer.
However, in an email to one of the complainants, called Ms B to protect her identity, which outlined how a complaints procedure would work, Ms Mackinnon said: “We would then interview you (likely to be led by myself – could be by phone) to take a formal statement, and other individuals you may name in your statement.”
The email was published by the Scottish government in a tranche of documents given to the committee.
After The Times contacted the Scottish government about the discrepancy, Ms Mackinnon wrote to the inquiry to apologise “for inadvertently giving an incorrect answer” to MSPs.
“It is shocking that senior civil servants come before the committee and, despite being on oath, fail to give candid answers,” Ms Baillie said.
“Some suffer from selective amnesia and others have to subsequently correct their evidence to the committee because they got it wrong the first time.”
Barbara Allison, a senior civil servant, corrected an “unintended inaccuracy” in evidence on Tuesday after initially denying having received a message from Leslie Evans, the permanent secretary, Scotland’s most senior civil servant, on the day Mr Salmond won his case. The message, that Ms Allison said had been deleted from her mobile phone, said: “Battle maybe [sic] lost but not the war.”
Ms Evans apologised for misleading the inquiry about a meeting with Ms Sturgeon’s closest aide after The Times disclosed she had given inaccurate information.
James Hynd, the civil servant who drafted the policy on sexual harassment, previously wrote to the committee to say his evidence had been “inaccurately” summarised at a later meeting of the inquiry as being “about bullying or sexually inappropriate behaviour by Alex Salmond and other ministers”.
He had agreed with Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Liberal Democrat MSP, that “things were said” about Mr Salmond’s conduct while he was first minister.
Murdo Fraser, the Conservative MSP, said: “They can’t seem to keep track of the story they’re telling. A concerning record of mistruths and misspoken words is developing.”
The Scottish government said: “Mrs Mackinnon has apologised for inadvertently giving an incorrect answer on this issue to Ms Baillie.”
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