Calls are being made for answers after it was reported a Scottish Government official asked to change an account of when they knew about harassment complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond.

Sky News has reported that an unnamed official – who works for Nicola Sturgeon – asked for a press statement to be changed relating to the claims.

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has called for answers on the situation from the First Minister.

First Minister
Key to the matter is when Ms Sturgeon learned about complaints made against her predecessor’s behaviour (Jane Barlow/PA)

He tweeted: “Statements have been manipulated and the truth has been deliberately hidden.

“This is a clear attempt at a cover-up and an abuse of power at the heart of government.

“The First Minister must answer for it.”

After multiple women came forward in the wake of the MeToo movement in 2017 with concerns about Mr Salmond’s alleged behaviour, the Scottish Government launched an investigation that was subsequently found to be unlawful.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled the investigation was “tainted by apparent” bias due to prior communication between investigating officer Judith Mackinnon and two of the women who came forward, resulting in a £512,250 payout to Mr Salmond.

Scotland’s most senior civil servant, permanent secretary Leslie Evans, also had contact with complainants.

Key to the matter is when Ms Sturgeon learned about complaints made against her predecessor’s alleged behaviour, and if she has misled Parliament about this.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We can’t comment on written submissions that have not been published by the committee and that we have not seen.”

Meanwhile, it was heard Police Scotland advised the Scottish Government not to launch investigations into potentially criminal allegations of harassment, warning staff were not trained to investigate or “engage with victims”.

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor also said the Government asked Police Scotland “a number of hypothetical questions” about its harassment policy that appeared to be about a “specific set of circumstances”.

In written evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the Government’s botched investigation of harassment claims against the former first minister, Ms Taylor said the force recommended referring complainants to support services rather than investigating the allegations.

The Government continued to ask the police questions about the criminal justice process between December 2017 and August 2018, Ms Taylor added.

She wrote: “It was highlighted that [Scottish Government] staff were not trained to undertake such investigations, or to engage with victims.

“No details of potential victims or perpetrators were provided by SG and, throughout the contact, Police Scotland encouraged SG to refer victims to appropriate support services.”

When Ms Evans was asked about involving the police in any complaints during a committee evidence session in August, she said: “We took advice from Police Scotland because we wanted to ensure that the procedure was appropriate and sympathetic, and that it was effective in terms of encouraging people to use it.”

Harassment allegation committee hearing
Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans giving evidence to the committee (Russell Cheyne/PA)

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “At this time the Scottish Government was dealing with internal employment matters, not a criminal investigation, and our HR staff are experienced in carrying out investigations on sensitive issues within an employment setting.

“As the procedure makes clear, we may refer to the police if we see evidence that raises concerns of potential criminality.

“As set out in our evidence to the Committee in November 2020, taking legal advice into account we referred the allegations to the Crown Office for onward transmission to the Police.”