ONE of Nicola Sturgeon’s closest allies in politics has mounted a strong defence of former First Minister Alex Salmond after he was accused of sexual harassment in government.

Noel Dolan, who was Sturgeon’s most senior adviser, added that the top civil servant in charge of the investigation process should resign if, as he said he expected, Salmond is cleared in the end.

It emerged last week that two people had come forward in January to accuse Salmond of sexual harassment in 2013 when he was First Minister. The allegations led to an internal Government investigation, which led to a referral last week to Police Scotland.

However, Salmond has denied sexual harassment and accused Leslie Evans, pictured right, the Scottish Government Permanent Secretary, of behaving unlawfully in the application of the complaints procedure.

Salmond, who was First Minister between 2007 and 2014, also announced his intention to seek a judicial review of the Government’s actions.

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Sturgeon, his successor, played no role in the investigation process, but has defended her Government’s actions. Dolan became Sturgeon’s policy adviser in Government in 2007 and was her senior special adviser when she was First Minister.

He also worked for Sturgeon in opposition and was widely regarded as her most trusted adviser. He is now retired.

HeraldScotland:

Dolan (left)

HeraldScotland: Leslie Evans

Image: Leslie Evans

Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Dolan said: “I have known Alex Salmond for over 35 years and I’ve never seen any inappropriate behaviour, nor have I heard any allegations of sexual harassment prior to Friday morning. I expect Mr Salmond to be cleared of these allegations, and when that happens I hope Leslie Evans, the Permanent Secretary, will consider her position and resign.”

Salmond said last week of the process: “The Permanent Secretary chose to deny me contact with any current civil servant, many of whom wished to give evidence on my behalf, and access to documentation to allow me to properly challenge the complaints, all of which I refute and some of which were patently ridiculous.

“It is therefore with great reluctance that I have today launched a Judicial Review in the Court of Session which will decide the issue of the lawfulness of the procedure which has been used against me.”

Meanwhile, a newspaper reported yesterday that one of the individuals who had complained told Scottish Government investigators that Salmond ordered her into his Bute House bed and touched her breasts.

A tabloid newspaper yesterday claimed to have seen a detailed complaint by one of the two individuals who had contacted the Government about Salmond. The women alleged multiple incidences of harassment and conduct of an unwanted sexual nature during his time in office.

One part of the complaint alleges that, in December 2013 in Bute House, Salmond ordered her to his bedroom, after which he lay on top of her, kissed her and touched her sexually.

The newspaper report alleged he stopped after repeatedly being asked to desist from the behaviour.

Labour yesterday stepped up their call for the First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to suspend Salmond from the party.

The Sunday Herald spoke to a number of SNP parliamentarians yesterday, many of whom believe Salmond should not be suspended at this stage.

On Friday, Salmond repeatedly refused to say whether he is aware of any other sexual harassment allegations by women aside from the explosive claims that emerged last week.

Salmond insisted he has never sexually harassed any women but said he would not get drawn into whether others had made allegations of inappropriate conduct.

Salmond hosted a 40-minute press conference for print journalists and was questioned on a range of matters relating to the row as well as his private life.

Aside from the already publicised claims, Salmond was asked whether any media organisation had approached him in the last 18 months about allegations of inappropriate conduct in relation to women. He said: “If a media organisation had believed they had a case, no doubt they would have published a case. I haven’t seen anything published in that direction.” Pressed on whether a media outlet had come to him, he said: “I’m not discussing that.”

Asked whether any women had come forward last year to make allegations, he said: “I’d dearly love just to give you a one word answer to that ... but I’m not going to get drawn into anything.”

On whether women had come forward before now, he said: “I’m not getting drawn into that sort of line of questioning.”

He repeated that he had never sexually harassed any women, after which he was again asked if any females had come forward last year: “I’ve made my statement and I am sticking to it.”

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: “Following today’s further revelations and the fact that Alex Salmond has been reported to the police, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, must suspend him from the SNP immediately.

“Not to do so will send the wrong message to members in her party and the people of Scotland. People who experience harassment should be able to come forward in the knowledge there is a safe environment to do so and that the workplace they are in treats their complaint robustly.

“The SNP must do all it can to give complainants the support they need whoever the alleged perpetrator is and make clear that there is safe space for any other survivors to come forward.

“The First Minister has been too slow to act on these shocking allegations. Nicola Sturgeon must take action and she must do it now.”

Tory MSP Annie Wells said: “It’s vital first to stress that we are dealing with allegations which are denied by Mr Salmond. But, if accurate, the fresh details set out in the media this morning are incredibly serious and go beyond harassment and into the realms of assault.

“They show that it is right that the matter has been passed to the police.

“We must respect the women who complained and allow due and fair process to continue so that the facts can be brought out. However, these revelations do raise questions about the way this matter was treated when it is alleged to have taken place, and these also need to be answered. Was a complaint made to the Scottish Government at the time? Was any SNP minister or official made aware of it? Was it only in January of this year that anyone within the Scottish Government or the SNP was informed of this alleged incident? We need to see full transparency from the SNP and the Scottish Government.”