SNP demand that Andy Wightman substantiate Alex Salmond leak claim

FORMER MSP Andy Wightman has accused the SNP of leaking the findings of the Holyrood Harassment Commission investigation into the Alex Salmond affair in an effort to “discredit unhelpful stories”.

Last March, just days before the publication of the final report, Sky News received some findings from the cross-party inquiry into the Scottish government’s failed handling of allegations of harassment against the former prime minister.

They reported that MSPs in the committee had decided by a vote of five to four that Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence “was an inaccurate account of what happened and that she misled the committee on this matter”.

At the time, the prime minister said the leaks were “partisan” and suggested it was an opposition member who had shared the findings.

Linda Fabiani, the SNP MSP who chaired the committee, said they were “selective” and “partisan”.

Over the weekend, Wightman, who was a member of the commission, said he was sure the Prime Minister’s party was responsible for the leak.

The SNP rejected the claims, saying they had no “snippet of foundation”.

It was a year after the leak and Wightman took to Twitter to share his thoughts.

“A year ago, Scottish politics were gripped by shocking leaks from the ScotGov Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee ahead of the publication of its report.

“The leaking of some of the commission’s conclusions took place late in the afternoon on Thursday, March 18, and the contents of the then draft report were reported by Sky’s James Matthews that evening at 1858.

“This remains one of the most serious violations of the MSP Code of Conduct to have ever occurred. I have been at the center of events and am now confident that I know who was responsible.

“In the immediate aftermath of the leaks, the SNP’s spin doctors conducted an intense campaign to discredit opposition MSPs in the committee. SNP members have themselves deliberately violated the Code of Conduct and defamed us. Private briefings went out to undermine me in particular.”

Mr Wightman said the SNP took advantage of the leak.

“The SNP playbook is often aimed at controlling information disclosure, discrediting useless stories, and perpetrating personal attacks on those with whom they disagree.

“Opposition MSPs had no interest in leaking the committee’s findings in advance. This would only serve to undermine the impact of the report’s publication.

“The vile smears and lies being spun by the SNP communication machine, plus the timing of documents I circulated, lead me to conclude that it was an SNP committee member who leaked these findings to the SNP media in order to spend the next 4 days destroying the committee.

“In the coming months we will learn more, I hope, about what exactly happened.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “Not a single SNP member on the committee has leaked anything from the investigation – to suggest that this is the case is ludicrous and without a shred of basis.”

Ms Fabiani said she was not responsible for the leak. She told The Herald: “If Mr. Wightman has any evidence, he must provide it to the appropriate authorities.”

In addition to Ms Fabiani, Alasdair Allan, Maureen Watt and Stuart Macmillan of the SNP were all on the committee.

In addition to Wightman, the other Tories members were Murdo Fraser and Margaret Mitchell, Labor’s Jackie Baillie and Alex Cole-Hamilton of the Lib Dems.

After a draft of part of the report was leaked to the media, Mr Allan, Ms Watt and Mr Macmillan attacked the rest of the committee, saying: “For the opposition, this was never about the truth. It was never about the evidence and, shamefully, it was never about the women.

“These are all being sacrificed for political ends. This is the politics of despair.”

The commission was set up after former Prime Minister Alex Salmond set aside the government’s inquiry into complaints against in a judicial review, leaving the taxpayer a £512,000 bill for his costs.

The MSP’s Code of Conduct requires all draft committee reports to be kept confidential unless the committee decides otherwise.

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