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Scottish leader splurged £20k appealing disclosure of EU membership legal bungle

Showdown with Scottish ICO leads to defeat for Alex Salmond

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Alex Salmond wasted £20,000 of public money trying to stop the Scottish Information Commissioner's Office from revealing that he'd not taken legal advice on a post-independence Scotland's eligibility for European Union membership.

The walrus-like Scottish National Party (SNP) leader used taxpayers' cash to fund a Court of Session appeal against the Scottish ICO, which had ordered Salmond to disclose exactly what lawyers had advised the SNP administration about Scotland's right to join the EU.

Although the administration's appeal against disclosure was abandoned after a statement was made in the Scottish Parliament, Slippery Salmond was found to have been bluffing all along and had failed to seek any “specific” legal counsel on this fundamentally important matter.

In response to a question posed by SNP backbencher Clare Adamson, deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted that £4,000 had been spent on lawyers for the appeal, as well as £1,680 on accountants and £13,812 on paying the Information Commissioner's fees.

The SNP hope to secure a “yes” vote in the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum. A key plank of the SNP campaign is that a newly independent Scotland would be part of the European Union, inheriting that status from Scotland's previous inclusion in the bloc as part of the UK.

Politicians have lined up to stick the boot into the Scottish Naughty Party leader.

John Lamont MSP, Conservative chief whip in Scotland, said: “Now, we finally know that £20,000 of taxpayers’ cash was wasted on the SNP’s folly of going to court to try and [sic] hide information that never even existed.

“Yet, we still have no idea of the content of the SNP’s legal advice on a separate Scotland’s membership of the EU.”

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie added: “SNP ministers thought nothing of blowing the equivalent of a year’s wage for a nursery nurse to try and cover up their EU mess. That says everything about the SNP’s priorities.”

Not to be left out, Labour constitution spokesman Drew Smith continued: “Scotland isn’t just on pause as it waits for next year’s referendum, Scotland is now paying to hide the truth as the SNP’s arguments continue to unravel.”

Salmond has been the target of enormous criticism recently. A recent FOI request revealed he had spent about £250 of public cash on buying a pair of tartan trousers, which Scottish Labour's business manager Paul Martin said proved the SNP boss "regards public money as his own”.

Humza Yousaf, external affairs spokesman for the SNP, defended the rotund Scottish leader by claiming it was OK because previous administrations had also challenged the Scottish ICO.

“When Labour and the Lib Dems were in office in Scotland they took five FOI cases to court in just two years, costing around £30,000, compared to just two cases in five years under this administration," he said.

“Meanwhile, the Westminster Government has not only gone to court to uphold the principle of confidentiality of legal advice, it has used the ministerial veto to prevent the release of information under FOI legislation, including preventing the release of crucial 2003 Cabinet minutes about the justification of the war in Iraq. Scottish Ministers have never used the veto." ®

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