Alex Salmond has lashed out at his successor and former protege Nicola Sturgeon, saying Scotland’s leadership “has failed” and is not fit to take the country to independence.
In his long-awaited appearance before a Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment claims made against him, the former first minister alleged a “calculated and deliberate suppression of key evidence”.
The former SNP leader also said any move to independence must be accompanied by institutions whose leadership can protect citizens from “arbitrary authority.”
Saying he disagreed Scotland was a “failed state”, he took aim at Sturgeon, saying: “The Scottish civil service hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.
“The Crown Office hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.
“Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.”
Claiming Sturgeon’s government was no longer true to the principals of openness, accountability and transparency, Salmond claimed Sturgeon used a Covid press conference to “effectively question the result of a jury”.
Salmond is testifying on the botched government investigation which was found to be “tainted by apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had prior contact with two of the women who made complaints.
He has also claimed Sturgeon misled parliament and breached the ministerial code, by using a Covid press conference to “effectively question the result of a jury”.
He said: “I watched in astonishment on Wednesday when the first minister of Scotland – the first minister of Scotland – used a Covid press conference to effectively question the results of a jury.”
Salmond, who was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault in a criminal trial, was awarded a £512,250 payout after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the government investigation into harassment claims made against him.
He said the failures of leadership surrounding the investigation into his conduct are “many and obvious”.
The former first minister told the committee: “This inquiry is not about me, I have already established the illegality of the actions of the Scottish government in the Court of Session, and I have been acquitted of all criminal charges by a jury in the highest court in the land.
“These are both the highest courts in the land, the highest criminal court and the highest civil court.
“The remit of this inquiry is about the actions of others, whose investigation into the conduct of ministers, the Permanent Secretary, civil servants and special advisers.
“It also requires to shine a light on the activities of the Crown Office.”
He went on to claim that the committee in its inquiry has been “systematically deprived of the evidence it has legitimately sought”.
Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole Hamilton and SNP MSP Maureen Watt asked Salmond is he was “sorry” for his alleged behaviour towards women.
Cole Hamilton asked Salmond: “Laying aside the charges of which you’ve been acquitted, and the allegations that you deny, of the behaviours that you have admitted to, some of which are appalling, are you sorry?”
Salmond replied: “In my statement I pointed out the government’s illegality has had huge consequences for a number of people, and specifically mentioned the complainants in my opening statement.
“Over the last three years, there have been two court cases, two judges and a jury, and I’m resting on the proceedings of these cases.”
The former FM rejected calls from his successor that he should provide evidence to back up his claims of a conspiracy.
He stressed it was the Scottish Government which had been “found to have acted unlawfully, unfairly and tainted by apparent bias” by the Court of Session.
Sturgeon has previously insisted there is “not a shred of evidence” that there was a conspiracy against Salmond and has denied lying to parliament.
Just weeks before Holyrood elections in May and with support for independence at a record high north of the border, the dramatic Sturgeon-Salmond split is sending shockwaves through Scottish politics.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross tweeted: “I am no fan of Alex Salmond. He is not a man I respect.
“But he is right about at least one thing – truth and honesty in government matters. And we’re not getting it from Nicola Sturgeon.”
Sturgeon is set to give evidence to the same committee next Wednesday.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.