Labour MSP calls for Murrell ‘perjury’ investigation over Salmond texts

The Scottish Labour interim leader wrote to the high court Procurator Fiscal on Monday.

Peter Murrell in committee
Peter Murrell in committee

Jackie Baillie has urged the Crown Office to investigate whether or not the SNP’s chief executive has “committed perjury”.

Peter Murrell appeared before the committee set up to scrutinise the botched handling of complaints against Alex Salmond in December.

Previously, text messages had come to light from him regarding the Alex Salmond allegations but Mr Murrell, husband of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, said no other messages in the same vein existed.

Jackie Baillie
Jackie Baillie wrote to the high court Procurator Fiscal (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

The committee set up to lead the inquiry last week issued an unprecedented Section 23 order to the Crown Office to secure the release of documentation, including text or WhatApp messages between SNP chief operating officer Sue Ruddick and anyone in the Scottish Government about the sexual harassment complaints procedure.

Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie said on Monday: “The Crown Office has indicated to the committee that they have text and WhatsApp messages.

“This was raised by Gordon Jackson QC at the preliminary hearing of the criminal trial of Alex Salmond, and Nicola Sturgeon said in an interview yesterday with Andrew Marr that there were no more relevant messages, suggesting that there are other messages.

“However, it is not her place to decide this – it is for the committee to make that call.

“The committee is also aware of information placed in the public domain that text and WhatsApp messages exist – just not the content of those messages.”

In a letter to high court Procurator Fiscal Kenny Donnelly, Ms Baillie said an “urgent” investigation into Mr Murrell’s statements should be launched.

She wrote: “Given that his evidence was taken under oath, I regard this as a very serious matter and I understand from parliamentary lawyers that committing perjury is considered to be a criminal offence.

“As the Crown Office have all the text and Whatsapp messages secured during the evidence-gathering phase of the criminal trial against Alex Salmond, you will be in a position to know whether any more exist than the two already in the public domain.

“If that is the case, and particularly if there are more in which Mr Murrell is involved, I am concerned that his evidence to the committee was not accurate.

“I would therefore be very grateful if you would confirm that you will undertake an urgent investigation into whether Peter Murrell has committed perjury.”

The Crown Office said it would respond to Ms Baillie “in due course”.

The Scottish Tories have backed calls for the investigation, with Murdo Fraser – a member of the committee – saying: “The SNP’s story changes every time they or their civil servants appear in front of the Salmond inquiry.

“What is clear is that Peter Murrell’s story simply does not add up and he has serious questions to answer.

“It is time we got to the truth of the matter about what senior SNP figures knew and when, rather than them trying to decide what is relevant information.

“The Crown Office must urgently investigate the SNP chief executive’s evidence in order to guarantee that this committee was presented with a true version of events.”

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