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Wednesday 17 March 2021

Dunlop Review welcome but “misses a crucial opportunity to recommend a fully independent process”

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National Officer for Scotland Allan Sampson has said the FDA “broadly supports” the recommendations of Laura Dunlop QC’s review into the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints but criticised the report for missing “a crucial opportunity to recommend a fully independent process for handling all complaints against ministers and former ministers”.

Dunlop was commissioned by the Scottish Government to conduct the review, following the concession of the judicial review brought by former First Minister Alex Salmond on the handling of harassment complaints made against him.

In her report, Dunlop makes 10 recommendations on how to improve the complaints process. Sampson said the conclusions that “complaints of sexual harassment should face no time bar, that former ministers should remain subject to the procedure and that the current policies should be merged for clarity” were” “particularly welcome”.

However, he cautioned that these recommendations “will require further consideration as to how these can be integrated in to the current procedures” and highlighted that only a fully independent process would win the confidence of both ministers and civil servants.

“Her report… seeks to make a distinction between the necessity for independence related to former ministers without addressing the inherent conflicts and weaknesses in relation to serving ministers, which have been brutally exposed by the events of the last three years,” he explained. “A fully independent process to deal with complaints against both former and current ministers will provide confidence to civil servants and ministers alike that any complaint would be determined by merit alone, free from accusations of a ‘cover up’ or ‘conspiracy’ that have been thrown around with abandon in recent months.”

Sampson added that confidence in the procedure of handling complaints against ministers “needs to be urgently restored” and this can only be achieved if “independence, clarity and transparency” are established.

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