Nicola Sturgeon will be inquired about an undeclared meeting with her top civil servant after it emerged notes of their discussion might have been damaged.
Scotland’s first minister held a minimum of one conference with her federal government’s permanent secretary four months before she says she knew of harassment grievances against Alex Salmond, her predecessor.
The meeting in November 2017 wasn’t consisted of in a timeline of events the Scottish federal government provided to Holyrood’s harassment committee, despite MSPs asking for information of all conferences.
Now Sky News has seen declarations, offered under oath by the long-term secretary Leslie Evans, stating that she might have taken down a conference with the first minister but would not have kept it since: “I ruin all my notebooks.”
An opposition MSP has told Sky News she will query this when the very first minister offers evidence to the Holyrood committee investigating the government’s mishandling of its 2018 examination into harassment problems versus Mr Salmond.
Labour’s Jackie Baillie MSP described it as “deeply troubling and quite unbelievable”.
However, a Scottish government spokesperson has told Sky News that not all government company is recorded or minuted.
Ms Sturgeon informed the Scottish parliament that she first found out of harassment complaints versus Mr Salmond on 2 April 2018.
Questions surrounding damaged note pads return 4 months prior to that.
By that time, 2 female civil servants had actually currently gotten in touch with Scottish federal government officials regarding complaints versus Mr Salmond.
Ms Sturgeon and Ms Evans fulfilled on 29 November 2017.
It wasn’t included in a timeline offered by the government to the Scottish parliament’s harassment committee, which is looking into the federal government’s mishandling of an internal investigation into grievances versus Mr Salmond.
Details of the conference are discussed, however, in documents associated with Mr Salmond’s legal challenge against the investigation, which he won.
The “pleadings” from his judicial evaluation refer to Ms Sturgeon and Ms Evans as “the interested party” and “the very first participant”.
It states that they talked about “development of the proposed procedure,” which was being prepared to deal with problems of harassment.
Their meeting on 29 November 2017 occurred after 2 females had gotten in touch with Scottish government authorities about Mr Salmond, one three weeks formerly and the other a week previously.
At that time, a draft of the problems treatment recommended that Ms Sturgeon must be outlined problems versus former ministers, although that was changed later.
Sky News has actually seen previously unpublished files connected to Mr Salmond’s judicial review procedure, in which Ms Evans was questioned under oath.
They are from a so-called “Commission and Diligence” hearing that happened on 21 December 2018, for the purpose of obtaining pertinent federal government documents.
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Ms Evans was asked by legal counsel for Mr Salmond about records of meetings she had with the first minister in relation to the harassment treatment generally, or the specific complaints versus Mr Salmond between 21 November and 12 December 2017.
The following exchange occurred:
Counsel: “Are you able to say whether, definitively, whether there are any files of any sort which fall within the scope of that?”
Ms Evans: “About contact in between myself and the first minister?”
Counsel: “Yes, yes.”
Ms Evans: “No, I am not aware of that. There is contact in between myself and the very first minister on the treatment but I do not keep notes.
” I do not keep files on my conferences with the very first minister which although I bear in mind, I do not maintain them. I do not maintain my notebooks.”
Counsel: “Does that mean that it’s possible that there would have been, at some phase, a note taken by you which falls within that Call (ask for files) but which no longer exists?”
Ms Evans: “Yes.”.
Counsel: “And why would you not have maintained that, Ms Evans?”.
Ms Evans: “I do not keep any of my notes with, from my notebooks. I damage all my note pads.”.
Counsel: “I understand that this is a completely hypothetical since we don’t know whether any such note was taken however if we hypothesise, for example, that there was a meeting in between you and the first minister on 22 November (it was subsequently found out a conference happened on 29 November 2017), that you did take a note and that it did consist of details within the scope of the call, when you have got rid of the notebook relative to the date of the conference?”.
Ms Evans: “I damage all my note pads after they’re complete. They are aide memoires to me, and actions and choices, commissions emerging are equated in the authorities records, my notes are not the authorities record.”.
Whilst the lack of a record doesn’t prove or negate anything about the material of conference( s), some opposition politicians have actually expressed suspicion.
Ms Baillie, a member of Holyrood’s harassment committee who will question the very first minister when she provides evidence on Wednesday, informed Sky News: “I believe we need a complete description.
” Already, I’m concerned that the government didn’t see fit to tell us, as part of the timeline, about the first minister satisfying her irreversible secretary to go over advancement of the harassment policy.
” It’s clearly germane to the work we do which is to check out the work they were doing.
” I wish to know, from the very first minister, what was talked about at the meeting on 29 November 2017, were notes taken of it and were those notes damaged? It’s a concern for the two people present at those discussions.”.
” This contrasts the practice of most civil servants that keep records of important conferences, especially of conferences with ministers. It is deeply disturbing and rather unbelievable that she damages these records immediately.
” Nicola Sturgeon said that she became aware of the complaints against Alex Salmond in early April, but here we have possibly important notes of a meeting in between her and the permanent secretary damaged months earlier.
” If Nicola Sturgeon became mindful of the complaints at this time and the notes of the meeting were damaged, then her entire story is based on fraud.”.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “It’s remarkable that Scotland’s chief civil servant would confess to destroying essential government documents in a hurry.
” The damage of evidence indicates we may never ever know what Nicola Sturgeon understood and when.
” This revelation exposes the murky, secretive approach that has actually run rampant throughout the SNP government.”.
A Scottish federal government representative said: “In the regular course of government service not all conversations and meetings are minuted.
” Authorities might take notes and where decisions or commissions develop they are taped for action or the authorities record – there were no such decisions or commissions in this case and there is for that reason no record of this meeting.”.
Ms Sturgeon is because of face concerns from the Scottish parliament’s harassment committee on Wednesday.
It comes after Mr Salmond accused her of breaching the ministerial code several times in his evidence session last Friday.
She denies breaching the code.