National Papers

Also known as the gutter press, the papers present the viewpoints of various segments of society, and give MPs an opportunity to write directly to them.
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National Papers

Post by Blakesley »

The papers of the nations, including (but not limited to) The Western Mail (Wales), The Herald (Scotland), The Scotsman (Scotland), and The Belfast Telegraph (Northern Ireland). Cornwall is not a nation for our purposes.
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Re: National Papers

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Ex-SNP Leader Alex Salmond Resigns From Party
29th August 2017

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Former SNP leader Alex Salmond has resigned from the party amid allegations of sexual misconduct. In a statement he said he wanted to avoid internal division within the SNP, which has faced calls to suspend him. He has denied any wrongdoing, and said he intended to apply to rejoin once he had an opportunity to clear his name.

It emerged last week that two Scottish government staff members had lodged complaints in January about his behaviour when he was first minister. Mr Salmond has described the allegations as "patently ridiculous" - and has also criticised the complaints procedure which he claims is "unjust".

On Tuesday he formally began legal action against the Scottish government in the Court of Session over its handling of the misconduct allegations. In a statement released on social media, Mr Salmond said he had been a member of the SNP for 45 years, 20 of them as party leader and seven as first minister. He continued: "I truly love the SNP and the wider independence movement in Scotland. They have been the defining commitment of my life. But today I have written to the National Secretary of the party resigning my membership." Mr Salmond indicated that his resignation was to avoid potential divisions within the party, as his successor Nicola Sturgeon faced opposition calls to suspend his SNP membership. He stated: "I did not come into politics to facilitate opposition attacks on the SNP and, with Parliament returning next week, I have tendered my resignation to remove this line of opposition attack. "Most of all, I am conscious that if the party felt forced into suspending me it would cause substantial internal division."

The current SNP leader and first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said she "felt a huge sadness about the whole situation". In a statement on Twitter, she said the decision was Alex Salmond's alone, and she understood why he had chosen to separate "the current questions he is facing from the day to day business of the SNP and the ongoing campaign for independence". She continued: "The hard fact remains that two complaints were received by the Scottish government that could not be ignored or swept under the carpet."

The Daily Record newspaper broke the news of the sexual misconduct allegations last Thursday. The paper claims to have seen the wording of one complaint which describes an incident alleged to have taken place at the first minister's official residence in Edinburgh, Bute House, in the first week of December 2013. The two women lodged complaints in January this year, just weeks after the Scottish government adopted a new complaints procedure in the light of wider concern about sexual harassment at Holyrood and Westminster.

Mr Salmond claims that the subsequent investigation into the allegations against him by senior Scottish government civil servants was "unfair and unjust". He said he had been given no opportunity to "see and therefore to properly challenge the case against me" and that he had "not been allowed to see the evidence". Mr Salmond has also claimed that someone within the Scottish government has "flagrantly and repeatedly" breached the confidential complaints process by leaking details to the Daily Record. He is now seeking a judicial review of the new complaints procedure and has launched a crowdfunding appeal to fund his legal action.

The Scottish government has insisted the complaints process has been "entirely confidential throughout" and has said it will defend its position vigorously in the courts. The complaints against Mr Salmond have also been passed to Police Scotland which has said it is assessing the information. Mr Salmond was Scottish first minister and SNP leader until September 2014 when he resigned following the "No" vote in the Scottish independence referendum. He returned to frontline politics when he was elected as the SNP MP for Gordon in 2015 and became the party's foreign affairs spokesman at Westminster before losing the seat in the snap general election two years later. Since then he has faced heavy criticism for hosting the Alex Salmond Show on Russian broadcaster RT, which has been described as a propaganda channel for the Kremlin - a claim Mr Salmond has denied.
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Re: National Papers

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Ex-Scottish first minister Alex Salmond charged with attempted rape
24th January 2018

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Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has appeared in court charged with attempted rape and sexual assault.

He faced a total of 14 charges at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, also including breach of the peace and indecent assault. The 64-year-old made no plea during the hearing and was released on bail. Outside court, Mr Salmond said he was "innocent of any criminality" and added that he would defend himself "to the utmost". Police had been investigating following a Scottish government inquiry into complaints of sexual harassment against Mr Salmond. Mr Salmond, who was first minister from 2007 to 2014, was interviewed by police on Wednesday. He arrived at the court shortly before 14:00 on Thursday for a short hearing, which took place in private. Mr Salmond was accused of two charges of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one breach of the peace. Speaking outside the court following the hearing, the former MP and MSP said: "Now that these proceedings, criminal proceedings, are live it is important to respect the court. "And therefore, the only thing I can say is I refute absolutely these allegations of criminality and I'll defend myself to the utmost in court."

No date has yet been fixed for the next hearing in the case. The news comes two weeks after Mr Salmond was at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, where the Scottish government conceded that its internal investigation of complaints against him was flawed. The former first minister had launched a judicial review against the government he once led over how it had handled its inquiry, saying he had been treated unfairly. That case was focused on the government's processes, not the substance of the complaints - which Mr Salmond has denied.
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Re: National Papers

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Alex Salmond receives £512,000 costs after ‘botched investigation’
31st January 2018

Scottish government makes payment after court defeat over sexual misconduct inquiry

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The Scottish government has paid Alex Salmond more than £512,000 to cover his legal costs after he won a bitterly contested court battle over its sexual misconduct investigation. The government admitted in court it had botched its internal inquiry into claims of inappropriate conduct against Salmond while he was first minister, after he launched legal proceedings in 2018. Government lawyers said a senior human resources official overseeing the investigation into whether Salmond had broken its harassment rules had also spoken to the two complainants before the investigation began, making the investigation unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Scottish government said: “We can confirm that final settlement of £512,250 has been made to Mr Salmond for legal costs arising from his petition for judicial review.” The Scottish government has already said its own spending on external legal fees amounted to £118,523, taking its total legal bill to £630,773, excluding all its internal costs. That legal case is not directly related to the decision this year to prosecute Salmond on 14 alleged offences including two of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one of breach of the peace.

Salmond has denied all the charges, with the case expected to be heard at the high court in Edinburgh in January 2019. However, the Police Scotland investigation was triggered by the decision by Leslie Evans, the permanent secretary at the Scottish government, to send the results of its internal inquiry to the police. The Scottish parliament has launched a separate special investigation into the decisions taken by Evans and other officials, as well as the role played by Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, during the internal inquiry. Sturgeon has admitted to meeting and talking to Salmond about the internal inquiry five times, including private meetings with him at her home which were set up by her chief of staff, Liz Lloyd. Donald Cameron, a Scottish Conservative MSP who sits on the Holyrood committee, said it was outrageous so much money had been spent by the government on the case. “This scandal cannot simply be swept under the carpet, and parliament must get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” he said.
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Re: National Papers

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Alex Salmond cleared of all sexual assault charges
23rd March 2019

Alex Salmond has been cleared of sexually assaulting nine women while he was Scotland's first minister.

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A jury found the former SNP leader not guilty on 12 of the sexual assault charges facing him, while another was found not proven. A further charge of sexually assaulting a 10th woman had previously been dropped by prosecutors. Mr Salmond had said he was innocent of all the charges against him throughout the two-week trial. The women who made the allegations against Mr Salmond included an SNP politician, a party worker and several current and former Scottish government civil servants and officials. During his evidence to the court, he said the claims made about his alleged conduct were "deliberate fabrications for a political purpose" or "exaggerations". And he said he had "never attempted to have non-consensual sexual relations with anyone in my entire life".

Mr Salmond's defence team had claimed during the trial that a senior Scottish government official known as Woman A, who was one of his accusers, had contacted some of the other complainers before Mr Salmond was charged. Defence lawyer Gordon Jackson QC told the jury: "That stinks. It absolutely stinks". Mr Jackson also said his client had not always behaved well and could have been "a better man on occasions" - but had never sexually assaulted anyone.

Speaking outside court after his acquittal, Mr Salmond said: "As many of you will know, there is certain evidence I would have liked to have seen led in this trial but for a variety of reasons we were not able to do so. "At some point, that information, that facts and that evidence will see the light of day." He also said his faith in the Scottish legal system had been "much reinforced", and thanked his legal team and everyone else who had supported him. Mr Salmond added: "Whatever nightmare I have been through over the last two years it is as nothing compared to the situation we are all going through. "If you can, go home, take care of your families, God help us all."

Nicola Sturgeon, who replaced Mr Salmond as first minister and SNP leader in 2014, told BBC Scotland that the jury's verdict must be respected and that she will welcome the parliamentary inquiries that are to be held into her government's handling of the allegations against Mr Salmond. She added: "I am a strong believer in a rigorous, robust independent judicial process where complaints of this nature, if they come forward, are properly and thoroughly investigated, due process takes its course and a court reaches a decision. "I have no doubt that there will be further discussion around this issue in due course, and I will welcome that, but that time is not now. "This country faces a crisis right now that is bigger than anything we've ever faced before, and as first minister my duty to the public is to focus 100% on steering us through that crisis - and that is what I intend to do."

The Scottish government admitted during a judicial review in January of last year that it had acted unlawfully while investigating sexual harassment complaints made against Mr Salmond by appointing an investigating officer who had "prior involvement" in the case. Mr Salmond, who hosts a TV show on controversial Russian broadcaster RT, was arrested by the police and formally charged earlier the same month. He resigned from the SNP in August 2018, but made clear at the time that he intended to apply to rejoin the party that he led for a total of 20 years once he had cleared his name.

Mr Salmond remains an iconic figure for many within the party and the wider independence movement, and raised more than £100,000 in just three days from an online crowdfunder to pay for his judicial review against the Scottish government. The jury's verdict was welcomed by SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, who said that there were now "serious questions about the background to these cases". Ms Cherry added: "Some of the evidence that has come to light both in the judicial review and at this trial raise very serious questions over the process that was employed within the Scottish government to investigate the alleged complaints against Mr Salmond. "I am sorry to say some of the evidence also raises serious question marks over how these complaints were handled by the SNP."

The jury returned not guilty verdicts on 12 of the sexual assault charges, including one of attempted rape, and returned a not proven verdict on a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape. The not proven verdict is an unusual and highly controversial feature of the Scottish legal system which in practice is exactly the same as a verdict of not guilty. The charges were all alleged to have happened while Mr Salmond was serving as Scotland's first minister, with several alleged to have happened at the first minister's official Bute House residence in Edinburgh. Mr Salmond was first minister between May 2007 and November 2014, when he stood down in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum and was replaced by Nicola Sturgeon.
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Re: National Papers

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Scottish Conservatives plan John Swinney no confidence vote

The Scottish Conservatives say they will push for a vote of no confidence in John Swinney "on Tuesday or Wednesday".

Leader Ruth Davidson said she also wanted to see a similar vote against Nicola Sturgeon unless further legal advice in the Alex Salmond case was released. The Scottish government published legal advice related to its court battle with Mr Salmond last week. Mr Swinney had previously argued such advice should remain confidential. But the deputy first minister then said he had taken the "exceptional step" to rebut "false allegations" made about the Scottish government's legal advice over the judicial review brought by Mr Salmond. The move came after all opposition parties indicated they would back a motion of no confidence in Mr Swinney last week if he did not comply, with the SNP government facing defeat. But Ms Davidson said that threat had only resulted in a "partial" release of "vital evidence", adding that the deputy first minister's position had now become "untenable". The Scottish Conservatives said they planned to hold a vote of no confidence in Mr Swinney on Tuesday or Wednesday, with a similar vote in Ms Sturgeon "shortly afterwards". Holyrood's other opposition parties could back the move if further documents are not released, they said.

A spokesperson for the Scottish government said all formal written advice from external counsel during the judicial review had now been disclosed. But speaking on BBC Scotland's Sunday Show, Ms Davidson said the Holyrood inquiry still needed to fill in the gaps in what happened at key meetings about the case involving the Scottish government. "The [no confidence] vote is not off the table because after an eight-hour evidence session - where the first minister said she'd answered all the questions which clearly she hadn't - the Scottish government issued more evidence that we'd been calling for. "Why was that evidence not made available before the first minister came in front of the committee?" Ms Davidson said there was still a "blank" to fill regarding a meeting between the first minister and her permanent secretary on the case. "There was no minutes taken? I don't think anyone believes that's the case, so we are still pushing the deputy first minister... this week on that vote of no confidence, to release all the evidence that the committee needs to get to the truth of this matter." The legal advice published this week shows that Scottish government lawyers had "reservations" about its court battle with the former first minister more than two months before it conceded the case. The judicial review was examining whether the government's handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond was legal. The review found against the Scottish government, resulting in them having to pay Mr Salmond's legal fees of more than £500,000.

The Scottish government said it had taken "unprecedented steps" to provide the committee with the information it had requested, releasing a "huge amount of documentation". A spokesman added: "We have now disclosed all of the formal written advice notes received from external counsel during the judicial review, as well as a number of other relevant previously legally privileged documents. "As the deputy first minister has set out, these documents, taken in their entirety, utterly disprove the conspiracy theory that the Scottish government delayed the concession of the judicial review or ignored advice from counsel. "The information in the documents is consistent with information already shared with the committee in evidence."

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said they would "seriously consider" backing a vote of no confidence in Mr Swinney unless the documents demanded by parliament were produced. The Greens said their position remained that the government must provide all the evidence required by the committee. Labour are also understood to have concerns over the withholding of some documents.
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Re: National Papers

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Former SNP leader Alex Salmond launches new political party

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond has announced the creation of a new pro-independence party which will contest the Scottish Parliament election.

The former first minister said he would be among the candidates who will stand for the Alba Party on regional lists, Holyrood Constituencies, and for the Westminster Parliament. Mr Salmond said the aim was to build "a supermajority for independence" at Holyrood after the election in May. Other parties described Mr Salmond as "discredited" and questioned his suitability for public office.

The announcement came at the end of a dramatic week at Holyrood. On Wednesday, Mr Salmond said he would take fresh legal action over the conduct of the Scottish government's top civil servant. A report by MSPs on Tuesday described the government's handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond as "seriously flawed". The previous day, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had been said to have been in breach of the ministerial code over her involvement in the Alex Salmond saga.

Mr Salmond said that under his leadership, the Alba Party was seeking to "build a supermajority for independence in the Scottish parliament which also holds the SNP to account". "The party's strategic aims are clear and unambiguous - to achieve a successful, socially just and environmentally responsible independent country," he said. "We intend to contribute policy ideas to assist Scotland's economic recovery and to help build an independence platform to face the new political realities." It plans to field at least four candidates on the regional lists in every part of the country. People have two votes in Holyrood elections - one for a constituency MSP, and another in a regional ballot designed to make the overall result more proportional. Mr Salmond claimed that if Alba won regional list seats, this could lead to there being 90 or more MSPs at Holyrood who support independence and if it won constituency seats they could be a check on the SNP as it rebuilds faith in Scottish institutions.

He said Prime Minister William Croft would "find it much more difficult to say no to a parliament and a country." The SNP said there were "real questions" about Mr Salmond's suitability to return to public office. A spokesperson said: "This is perhaps the most predictable development in Scottish politics for quite some time. "The interests of the country must come first and should not be obscured by the self interest of someone who shows no sign whatsoever of reflecting on serious concerns about his own conduct."

Joining Mr Salmond on stage were Joanna Cherry, the former SNP now Alba MP for Edinburgh South West and Kate Forbes, the MSP for Skye, Lochaber, and Badenoch. Ms Cherry has been announced as the Westminster Leader of Alba while Ms Forbes shall be the temporary Holyrood Leader. Mr Salmond has not announced if he will stand for Westminster, Holyrood, both, or neither.
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