Behind the scenes

Could The Spectator’s Alex Salmond court case bring down Nicola Sturgeon?

Pundits believe legal challenge could trigger release of evidence that implicates Scottish first minister

The inquiry into the Scottish government’s handling of sexual assault allegations against Alex Salmond may be handed fresh - and allegedly damning - evidence as a result of a newly mounted legal challenge by The Spectator.

The magazine is asking for Scotland’s second-most senior judge to amend a court order imposed during the former first minister’s trial last year that “is being held up as a reason why a dossier of allegations against Nicola Sturgeon cannot be put before MSPs”, The Times reports. 

After being acquitted last March of multiple counts of sexual assault and an attempted rape, Salmond described the allegations as “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose”.

“Certain information” that he had been unable to disclose during the trial would “see the light of day” in the future, he added. 

Some pundits interpreted his comments as a threat against Sturgeon over her role in the prosecution. And that theory is being fuelled by suggestions that the information at the centre of the new court battle could include damaging disclosures about Salmond’s successor.

The Spectator is believed to be seeking a ruling from the High Court in Edinburgh in order to publish details from Salmond’s submission to the ongoing Holyrood investigation into the “government’s botched internal inquiry” into the allegations against him, according to The Guardian.

The legal bid comes as Sturgeon is drawn into a war of words with “Conservative and Labour leaders over her private meetings with Salmond where they discussed harassment claims against him”, the paper adds.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has claimed that Sturgeon’s written evidence about the meetings “utterly contradicted” what the first minister had initially told her parliament about them. 

Along with Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s acting leader, Davidson has called for Sturgeon to quit if found to have broken the ministerial code.

The row over whether to release Salmond’s submission has split the committee of MSPs leading the investigation into the government’s inquiry. During a four-hour meeting on Tuesday, the committee voted by five to four against publishing a statement that Salmond claims is key to his case alleging that Sturgeon broke the ministerial code.

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