Alex Salmond is facing accusations of secretly changing the Scottish Parliament’s records to cover up the fact he had exaggerated the number of jobs supported by wind and wave farms.
The First Minister told MSPs last month around 18,000 people were employed in the renewables industry but even the trade body that represents wind farm companies put the total at around 11,000.
Instead of publicly admitting the error, he wrote to Holyrood’s administrators asking that they change his answer by altering the official report, a written minute of parliament’s proceedings.
However, he did not simultaneously follow Scottish Parliament guidance that he publicise the correction by telling the MSP whose question prompted his inaccurate answer and the opposition parties.
MSPs only discovered that the jobs total was incorrect and Mr Salmond’s subsequent attempt to alter Holyrood’s records after the error was highlighted by an anti-wind farm campaigner.
The First Minister last night followed the guidance on publicising the change, but only after the alteration had been discovered and condemned.
Opposition parties said the First Minister had “shamed his office” and “lies instinctively”, questioning how voters could trust him to run a separate Scotland.
The latest doubts about Mr Salmond’s honesty came less than a week after he was forced to apologise to MSPs for falsely claiming that college spending increased this year.
He has also faced accusations of lying on national television by suggesting he held official legal advice supporting his claims about a separate Scotland’s EU status when none had been commissioned.
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, said last night: “This is an outrageous attempt by Alex Salmond to rewrite history. The First Minister is arrogant enough to think it perfectly acceptable to try to doctor to parliamentary record in secret.
“It beggars belief that he is willing to mislead parliament and fail to acknowledge in public the true facts until forced to do so. He has shamed his office, diminished this parliament and ridden roughshod over the public’s trust.”
Richard Baker, a senior Labour MSP, said: “It appears Alex Salmond lies instinctively. He doesn’t even apologise – he just gets the Tipp-Ex out and changes the official record.”
The latest blow to Mr Salmond’s credibility originated from First Minister’s Questions on October 25 when Liz Smith, a Tory MSP, challenged his assertion that the spread of wind farms is not damaging Scotland’s countryside.
“There are now, I think, 18,000 people employed directly in renewable energy across Scotland. What will the Conservative Party say to the folk in Machrihanish who are employed to build wind towers?” Mr Salmond responded.
However, by last week the First Minister had realised he had hugely inflated the total and his office wrote a letter to Holyrood officials asking that they change the official report.
The request was sent on November 15, the same day he was forced to apologise to MSPs for misleading them over college funding.
According to guidance issued by the Scottish Parliament, Mr Salmond should have taken “steps to make the correction widely known”.
These include writing to Ms Smith, placing a copy of the correction in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre’s (Spice) library and informing opposition parties’ business managers.
However, Mr Salmond took none of these steps and MSPs remained unaware of the error until Lyndsey Ward, a wind farm protester from Kiltarlity near Inverness, contacted a regional newspaper to state the jobs total was inaccurate.
Miss Smith raised a point of order in the parliament yesterday highlighting the discrepancy and asked whether the First Minister was allowed to amend the official report without “acknowledging to parliament itself that an error has been made”.
Tricia Marwick, Holyrood’s presiding officer, said the change to Holyrood’s records was finally implemented yesterday afternoon and confirmed parliamentary guidance “includes steps that a member should take to publicise the correction when that has been made”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said last night that letters containing the correction “are now being sent” to Ms Smith, Spice and Ms Marwick “in line with the guidance which was adopted by all opposition parties in 2010”.
A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: “The First Minister was making the point that the renewable energy sector in Scotland is supporting many thousands of jobs, and the parliament’s official record has now been updated to reflect the correct current number of jobs.”
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