ALEX Salmond has claimed the leadership of Scotland has failed the country and suggested it is not fit to lead it to independence.

In his opening statement to the Holyrood inquiry into his legal fight with the Scottish Government, the former first minister said personnel, not institutions were at fault.

He told MSPs: "The failures of leadership are many and obvious but not a single person has taken responsibility, not a single resignation or sacking, not even admonition.

"The Scottish civil service has not failed, its leadership has. The Crown Office has not failed, its leadership has failed. Scotland hasn't failed, its leadership has failed."

He said he wanted Scotland to be independent, but he also wanted it to be somewhere with robust safeguards where citizens were not subject to “arbitrary authority”.

He said: "This committee, in my opinion, is a chance to asset what type of Scotland we are trying to create.

“Few would now dispute that our country is a better place for achieving our parliament.

“However the move to independence which I have sought all my political life and continue to seek must be accompanied by institutions whose leadership is strong and robust and capable of protecting each and every citizen from arbitrary authority.

“Such a principle is a central component of the rule of law, it maters to every person in Scotland as much as it always has done.

"It is the bedrock of our democracy, of justice and of fairness.”

Source: Scottish parliament TV

The inquiry is examining the Scottish government's botched handling of sexual assault allegations made against him in 2018.

He had the exercise overturned in a judicial review in 2019 and was awarded £512,000 in legal costs.

He was later charged with sexual assault and cleared on all counts at a High Court trial last year. 

He criticised Nicola Sturgeon for effectively questioning that verdict at Wednesday’s Covid briefing, when she suggested it did not accurately reflect his conduct.

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.”

However he said he was not accusing her of a “cover up”, but did have other criticisms of her and her husband, the SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.

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Mr Salmond has accused Mr Murrell and others close to Ms Sturgeon of being part of a concerted, malicious effort to remove him from public life and even have him jailed. 

He has also accused Ms Sturgeon of misleading Holyrood about their contacts in 2018, and of breaking the Scottish Ministerial Code, a resignation offence she denies.

He said the past two and a half years had been a “nightmare”.

He said there had been a “calculated and deliberate suppression of key evidence” to the inquiry.  

He said the failures of leadership surrounding the investigation into his conduct are “many and obvious”.

He told the inquiry: “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.”

READ MORE: Live: Alex Salmond gives crunch evidence to Holyrood inquiry

He went on to claim that the committee in its inquiry has been “systematically deprived of the evidence it has legitimately sought”.

But Mr Salmond 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.

He said: “I note that the First Minister asserts I have to prove a case, I don’t. That has already been done. There have been two court cases, two judges, one jury.

“In this inquiry it is the Scottish Government, a Government which has already admitted to behaving unlawfully, who are under examination.”

He said the Government had developed the harassment complaints procedure used against him in a rushed "panic" as the #MeToo movement took off in late 2017.

It proved an "abject, total, complete disaster", he said.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs yesterday that, as far as she knew, there had been no leak of a complainer's name to Mr Salmond's former chief of staff in March 2018.

However Mr Salmond said that had happened, and that  his former chief of staff had told him so, and that "three other people know that to be true".

He repeatedly refused to answer questions about his behaviour towards women, saying he had been through two court cases, with two judges and one jury, and would rest on the outcome of those processes.