Alex Salmond resigns from the SNP to avoid dividing the party

Salmond: “Most of all I am conscious that if the Party felt forced into suspending me it would cause substantial internal division.”

FORMER first minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond has resigned his membership of the SNP to avoid dividing the party, following allegations of sexual misconduct, which he refutes.

Salmond issued the shock statement on Wednesday (29 August) evening, stating that he would seek to rejoin the party “as soon as I have had the opportunity to clear my name”, launching a crowdfunder to raise funds for his legal action in the Court of Session against the Scottish Government over the handling of the allegations by the head of the civil service in Scotland, permanent secretary Leslie Evans.

He said that it was “obvious” SNP leader and first minister Nicola Sturgeon felt under pressure to suspend him from the party, something he thought was wrong in principle, but he had “not come into politics to facilitate opposition attacks on the SNP”.

“I have tendered my resignation to remove this line of opposition attack,” he said. “Most of all I am conscious that if the Party felt forced into suspending me it would cause substantial internal division.”

READ MORE – Nicola Sturgeon: Sexual misconduct complaints against Alex Salmond “could not be ignored”

Sturgeon has stated the Scottish Government will defend the procedure she established last December to handle complaints against ministers and former ministers “vigorously”, and that the complaints “could not be ignored or swept under the carpet”. 

The first minister was informed last week that Evans had completed her investigation into the complaint, which was received in January, and it is understood it has been taken to the Police. Salmond has stated that the Permanent Secretary had behaved unlawfully in her application of the complaints procedure, and that he had still not been allowed to see the evidence against him. 

Responding to his resignation, Sturgeon issued a statement saying she felt a “huge sadness” about the situation and understood that party members “would be upset by the news”, but reiterated that the complaints “could not be ignored”.

“It is important now that any legal processes are allowed to take their course,” she added.

Salmond was the first SNP leader to take the party into government, becoming first minister in 2007 before winning a majority government in 2011, and leading the party into the independence referendum in 2014. He resigned as first minister and SNP leader following the defeat of the Yes campaign which he led in the 18 September ballot, and was replaced in both roles by Sturgeon.

READ MORE – Leah Franchetti: 'Blood sport' reporting of Salmond sexual harassment claims makes me wonder if the media missed #MeToo

Salmond´s resignation statement reads in full:

“I have been a member of the Scottish National Party for 45 years, 20 of them as party leader and seven as First Minister of Scotland. I hope I have done the party and the broader cause of independence some service.

“Apart from a political spat back in the 1980s, that has been a period of continuous membership. 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.

“I read carefully Nicola Sturgeon’s statement on Sunday and watched her television interview of a couple of days ago. She made it clear that the SNP have never received a single complaint about my personal conduct in my many decades of membership. And the Scottish Government have confirmed that they did not have any such complaint before this January, more than three years after I left office as First Minister. That is the record of 30 years of public service. So let me be clear again. I refute these two complaints of harassment and I absolutely reject any suggestion of criminality.

“I believe that all such issues must be treated seriously, confidentially and through a fair process. In this case confidentiality has been broken greatly to my detriment and in a way which puts at serious risk the anonymity of both complainants. It urgently needs to be established who breached that duty of confidence and why.

“It seems obvious that Nicola feels under pressure from other political parties to suspend me from SNP membership, given recent party precedents.”

“It seems obvious that Nicola feels under pressure from other political parties to suspend me from SNP membership, given recent party precedents. For my part I have always thought it a very poor idea to suspend any party member on the basis of complaints and allegations. Innocent until proven guilty is central to our concept of justice.

“However, 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.

“In my letter to the National Secretary I state that it is my absolute intention to reapply for SNP membership just as soon as I have had the opportunity to clear my name. I hope that is by the end of this year. In the meantime I would urge no one else to relinquish their SNP membership.

“Most of all I am conscious that if the Party felt forced into suspending me it would cause substantial internal division.”

“My entire focus for the next few weeks is preparing for Judicial Review, against the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, the initial stages of which began yesterday. My intention is to secure fairness because that is necessary to clear my name.

“I am enormously grateful for the messages of support and encouragement I have received, including from people of other political persuasions. I can assure them all that I will keep on going.

“The costs of a Judicial Review in the highest court in the land are huge. Many have asked how they can help directly. Therefore I have established a crowd funder to assist with costs. All sums received will contribute exclusively to progressing the Judicial Review and any money left over will be used to support good causes in Scotland and beyond.

“Finally, I will continue to serve the independence movement in whatever role and whatever capacity I can. It is a rare thing to be devoted to a cause more important than any individual, it is a precious thing to cherish it and my intention now - as it has always been - is to protect and sustain that cause.”

Picture courtesy of The Scottish Government

ENJOY READING COMMONSPACE? Click here to get our daily newsletter so you never miss a story