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Two complaints accuse Alex Salmond of sexual harassment

The Scottish Government has confirmed it received two harassment complaints in January.

Two complaints have been made accusing former First Minister Alex Salmond of sexual harassment.

The Scottish Government said the complaints  - which date back to December 2013 - were made in January and reported to Mr Salmond in March.

Mr Salmond has denied the claims, describing them as "patently ridiculous" and has taken legal action to challenge the complaints process.

STV's Holyrood editor Colin Mackay told Scotland Tonight on Thursday he had spoken to the former SNP leader, who he said was "very angry" about the claims.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has revealed she has known about the allegations for "some time".

She said she was told earlier this week that the complaints were to be made public.

Shocked: Sturgeon said it was an 'extremely difficult' situation.
Shocked: Sturgeon said it was an 'extremely difficult' situation.

Sturgeon said: "Complaints were made in January relating to Alex Salmond by two individuals.

"These complaints have been considered since then under a procedure covering ministers and former ministers that was agreed by me in December 2017 in the wake of public concern about harassment.

"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.

'The Scottish Government refutes his criticisms of its process and will defend its position vigorously.'
Nicola Sturgeon

"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."

Surgeon admitted the complaints couldn't be "swept under the carpet", adding the situation is "extremely difficult" for her to comes to term with.

Alex Salmond: He has challenged the claims.
Alex Salmond: He has challenged the claims.

She added: "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.

'My relationship with Alex Salmond obviously makes this an extremely difficult situation for me to come to terms with.'
Nicola Sturgeon

"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."

Complaints: Salmond has challenged them.
Complaints: Salmond has challenged them. PA

Leslie Evans, permanent secretary at the Scottish Government, revealed the complaints were received in January before Mr Salmond was told two months later.

She said: "Last November, I agreed with the First Minister that, in light of wider concerns about harassment in Westminster and the Scottish Parliament, an internal review would be carried out into the Scottish Government's procedures for handling complaints in the workplace.

"As part of that review, a new procedure on handling harassment complaints involving current or former ministers was introduced.

"Following the conclusion of an internal investigation I can confirm that the Scottish Government received two complaints in January in relation to Alex Salmond.

"Mr Salmond was notified of the complaints in March and the details of the procedure under which the complaints would be addressed."

Leslie Evans: Investigation under way.
Leslie Evans: Investigation under way.

She added: "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.'
Leslie Evans

"His statement contains significant inaccuracies which will be addressed in those court proceedings. The Scottish Government will defend its position vigorously."

Mr Salmond said: "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."

Police Scotland would not confirm the extent of the complaints.

A spokesman said: "Police Scotland is not going to comment on whether an inquiry is ongoing."

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