Claims that Alex Salmond was the victim of a political conspiracy have been shown to be credible and a judge-led inquiry should be established to uncover the full truth, a prominent academic has said.
Azeem Ibrahim, executive chairman of the Scotland Institute think tank, believes that a Holyrood inquiry into a botched civil service probe into sexual misconduct claims against the former First Minister should be abandoned, with its work hampered by a lack of transparency from witnesses.
He said that instead, a judge-led probe should be set up, with the power to compel witnesses and force the release of documents, arguing the reputation of Scottish democracy is at stake.
The Holyrood inquiry is due to resume taking evidence this week. It will shift the focus of its probe from the establishment of a policy into sexual harassment complaints, which allowed former ministers to be investigated, to the government’s handling of a judicial review brought by Mr Salmond.
The case cost taxpayers more than £500,000, after the government abandoned its defence and a judge said the investigation into Mr Salmond had been “tainted by apparent bias”. He was later exonerated in a criminal case.
Mr Ibrahim, also Director at the Center for Global Policy in Washington, D.C, and an adviser to several world leaders, highlighted messages sent by Peter Murrell, SNP chief executive and Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, as problematic.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he said: “This looks like we could be having a case of trumping up charges against political opponents, and using the legal system to fight personal political rivalries – the sort of thing people do in semi-authoritarian regimes, not in civilised democracies.”
He added: “The only way to clear the fog of suspicion on this whole sorry saga is a proper judicial inquiry, entirely separate of any political influence, and with all the powers it needs to reveal any and all wrongdoing and hold people accountable.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We welcome the opportunity which the parliamentary inquiry and the externally led review bring to address issues which have been raised. We are committed to a learning process and will ensure that lessons from these proceedings are fully recognised.”
The SNP was approached for comment.