The new leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats said he regrets taking part in the Scottish Parliament committee examining the Scottish Government’s botched probe into harassment allegations against Alex Salmond as it “probably harmed and upset the women at the heart of it more”.
Alex Cole-Hamilton was a member of the high-profile committee which involved the former first minister and his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon both being scrutinised in separate day-long evidence sessions, among other senior Scottish political figures including Ms Sturgeon’s husband, SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.
It was set up following Mr Salmond winning more than £500,000 in a civil case after a judge ruled the Scottish Government’s handling of an investigation, launched after two female civil servants complained about his behaviour, was “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias”.
The committee began taking evidence after the outcome of a separate criminal trial, where a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh acquitted him of all 13 charges, including sexual assault, indecent assault and attempted rape, in March 2020.
The committee found the Scottish Government’s handling of complaints was “seriously flawed” and women had been let down.
Mr Cole-Hamilton told the Scotland on Sunday: “At the end of the day, I don’t think we achieved a great deal. I think that it probably harmed and upset the women at the heart of it more, even more, if that’s possible. And I, I regret my involvement in it. I would rather not have been part of it.”
He said he found it “stressful”, adding: “It was high pressure. I mean, it took up so much oxygen, so much time. But also, I’d been supporting a complainer privately who approached me, and I could see what every twist and turn of it was doing to her.
“And I thought, well, that must be happening to all of the women at the heart of this. And you know, I think when you realise the process, which is taking twists and turns and subject to massive media speculation and intrigue, and you see privately the visceral human cost of that. It was just… it was awful.
“I realised quite quickly what it was doing to people and that takes its toll.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton also told the paper he does not believe Mr Salmond should now be leader of the Alba Party, as confirmed at the party’s conference in Greenock on Saturday.
He said: “I think that’s the worst part of it. I mean, Alex Salmond is a man desperate to clear his reputation.
“I’m not sure that he deserves that opportunity, because irrespective of court judgments, and the rest of it, this is the man who has admitted some terrible, terrible behaviour and caused a lot of upset and heartache to women who deserve to be able to move on with their lives.”