Nicola Sturgeon DID mislead the Scottish Parliament in evidence about Alex Salmond, committee concludes
- Committee of MSPs said First Minister ‘potentially breached ministerial code’
- Ms Sturgeon insisted she did not offer to intervene in the complaints process
- But MSPs believed version of events offered by Mr Salmond and witnesses
Nicola Sturgeon misled the Scottish Parliament over her handling of harassment claims against Alex Salmond, an inquiry has concluded.
The committee of MSPs said the First Minister ‘potentially breached the ministerial code’, which is generally considered a resignation offence.
Their bombshell report came after Ms Sturgeon gave evidence about her role in the Scottish Government’s botched investigation into Mr Salmond in 2018.
Ms Sturgeon had insisted she did not offer to intervene in the complaints process against Mr Salmond during a meeting with him on April 2, 2018.
The committee’s majority verdict was that this was in ‘fundamental contradiction’ to testimonies from Mr Salmond and other key witnesses, according to Sky News, which obtained the report.
Nicola Sturgeon misled the Scottish Parliament over her handling of harassment claims against Alex Salmond, an inquiry has concluded
A successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the investigation being ruled unlawful and ‘tainted by apparent bias’, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees
The report concludes: ‘Her written evidence is, therefore, an inaccurate account of what happened and she has misled the committee on this matter.
‘This is a potential breach of the ministerial code’.
Ms Sturgeon submitted written evidence to the Holyrood Inquiry as well as a gruelling eight-hour oral testimony earlier this month.
MSPs did not go as far as to say Ms Sturgeon ‘knowingly’ broke the code, for which ministers are expected to resign, but the findings will put immense pressure on her position.
Sky News reports the entire report will be officially published in the coming days.
The Holyrood Inquiry was tasked with investigating the Scottish Government’s handling of sexual harassment complaints made against the former first minister.
A successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the investigation being ruled unlawful and ‘tainted by apparent bias’, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees.
Mr Salmond was also later acquitted of 13 charges following a criminal trial.
A spokesman for the First Minister said tonight: ‘The First Minister told the truth to the committee in eight hours of evidence, and stands by that evidence.
‘It is clear from past public statements that opposition members of this committee had prejudged the First Minister at the outset of the inquiry and before hearing a word of her evidence, so this partisan and selective briefing – before the committee has actually published its final report – is hardly surprising.
‘The question of the First Minister’s adherence to the ministerial code is being considered independently by James Hamilton and we expect to receive and publish his report soon.’
Ms Sturgeon gave evidence for eight hours about the Scottish Government’s botched investigation into Mr Salmond in 2018
The report from James Hamilton QC will rule specifically on whether Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code.
Critics accuse her of breaking the code by misleading Parliament on when she first learnt of allegations against Mr Salmond.
Ms Sturgeon previously claimed to have learnt about the allegations when Mr Salmond informed her at her home on April 2, 2018.
It later emerged she had had a meeting with Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, on March 29 in her office.
Ms Sturgeon claimed to have ‘forgot’ this meeting and later explained she thought they were talking about harassment in ‘general terms’.
She is also accused of failing to record crucial meetings, and pursuing the case against Mr Salmond despite lawyers telling her to drop it.
The First Minister has so far refused to preempt speculation of her future and said her priority is dealing with Covid.
In his testimony, Mr Salmond – once a mentor and close friend of Miss Sturgeon – accused his successor and senior SNP figures of orchestrating a concerted plot to bring him down.
Miss Sturgeon has denied this and insisted she was never out to ‘get’ Mr Salmond.
She told MSPs at the inquiry: ‘I feel I may rebut the absurd suggestion that anyone acted with malice or as part of a plot against Alex Salmond. That claim is not based in any fact.’
‘Alex Salmond was one of the the closest people to me in my life – I would never have wanted to get Alex Salmond. I had no motive intention or desire to get Alex.’
The row at the heart of the SNP has reached a crescendo with just months to go before crucial Holyrood elections.
Ms Sturgeon is on course to win a majority – albeit by just one seat, according to recent polls – and will likely use the mandate to demand another independence referendum.
Allegations, discussions, denials and a ‘forgotten’ key meeting between Sturgeon and Salmond
November 2017: Allegations regarding Alex Salmond’s behaviour are raised with the SNP by Sky News.
Nicola Sturgeon said she spoke to him about this – and he ‘denied it’. No further action was taken.
March 29, 2018: Ms Sturgeon meets Geoff Aberdein – Mr Salmon’s chief of staff – in her Scottish parliament office where she has admitted they discussed the possibility of a meeting with Mr Salmond. Ms Sturgeon – after initially forgetting about this meeting – says there was ‘the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature’.
April 2, 2018: Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond meet at the First Minister’s home. According to Ms Sturgeon, this is the first time she heard of the complaints made against him. Despite this, she has insisted that the matters discussed were party business. No minutes were taken at the meeting.
What she previously said: On January 8, 2019, Ms Sturgeon tells the Scottish Parliament she ‘first heard’ about sexual harassment allegations against Mr Salmond on April 2.
In 2018, Andrew Marr asked Ms Sturgeon: ‘Had you heard any stories about him before it broke in the press?’ She responded: ‘Obviously, absolutely not. Until, well I’ve said previously Alex Salmond informed me about these complaints in April, that was the first I had known.’
And what she later said : In 2020, giving written evidence to the Holyrood into her government’s handling of complaints against Mr Salmond, she said she ‘forgot’ about the March 29 meeting until ‘late January/early February’ 2019.
She wrote: ‘From what I recall, the discussion covered the fact that Alex Salmond wanted to see me urgently about a serious matter, and I think it did cover the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature.’
September 14, 2018: A judicial review is launched after complaints by Mr Salmond over the fairness with how the claims against him were handled.
January 8, 2019: The Scottish government conceded defeat in the judicial review a week before it was due to launch. Mr Salmond wins £500,000 in legal fees. The court ruled the probe into Mr Salmond had been unlawful and tainted by apparent bias.
January 2019: Ms Sturgeon tells MSPs that Mr Salmond first told her about a probe into him on April 2.
March 23, 2020: Alex Salmond is cleared of all sexual assault charges and his supporters demanded a full inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of the scandal.
October 7, 2020: Ms Sturgeon claims she ‘forgot’ about March 29, 2018, meeting with Mr Aberdein.
January 24, 2021: Speaking on the Andrew Marr show, Ms Sturgeon denies misleading the Scottish Parliament after ‘forgetting’ to tell MSPs about her meeting with Mr Salmond’s aide on March 29, 2018.
February 2021: The High Court in Edinburgh rules Mr Salmond’s evidence claiming his former chief of staff met with Ms Sturgeon on March 28, 2018, to discuss sexual assault allegations against the former first minister can be released.
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