Nicola Sturgeon: SNP facing ‘biggest row’ in Scottish politics
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MSPs on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee voted 5-4 that the First Minister gave an “inaccurate” account of a meeting with her predecessor during the live investigation. The Express understands this would amount to misleading the Scottish Parliament over when she first knew of sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond.
The report will be published in full on Tuesday. It is expected to confirm she “misled” the committee but will stop short of saying she did so “knowingly”.
A Scottish Parliament source told the Express: “Everyone on the Committee took into account all of the evidence supplied and provided by the First Minister.
“It was agreed that the First Minister provided an inaccurate account of the matters concerned during her evidence session earlier this month.
“This has been an extremely long process and we are poised to put the matter to bed.”
The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up after a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government’s investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees in 2019.
Alex Salmond was also separately acquitted of all 13 charges of sexual assault against him in a criminal trial.
The SNP leader has faced questions about when she became aware of the internal government investigation of her predecessor, having originally told parliament it was at a meeting with him at her home on April 2.
However, it emerged Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein had spoken to Ms Sturgeon about – in her words – “a harassment-type issue” four days earlier when arranging the subsequent meeting.
She told the committee she wished her memory of the earlier meeting was “more vivid”, but “it was the detail of the complaints under the procedure that I was given on April 2 that was significant and indeed shocking”.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross last night called for the Scottish First Minister to quit and said a no-confidence vote would be brought forward.
He said: “The Committee will publish its findings in the coming days and we will wait for that report.
“But we have already detailed that Nicola Sturgeon lied to the Scottish Parliament and for that, she must resign. All we’re waiting for is confirmation.”
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The Scottish Conservatives had pledged to bring a vote in previous weeks but held off bringing it forward until last night.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar added: “I am not going to prejudge the outcome of the committee report and we await its findings but if it does conclude that the First Minister has misled Parliament and potentially breached the ministerial code then that is incredibly serious.”
But Ms Sturgeon defended her evidence session last night and said a “very partisan leak” from the Alex Salmond inquiry is “not that surprising”.
Speaking last night, she said: “I stand by all of the evidence I gave to the committee, all eight hours’ worth of evidence.
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“What’s been clear is that opposition members of this committee made their minds up about me before I muttered a single word of evidence, their public comments have made that clear.
“So this leak from the committee – very partisan leak – tonight before they’ve finalised the report is not that surprising.”
She added that she is awaiting the result of the James Hamilton QC investigation into whether she broke the ministerial code.
The decision is likely to increase pressure on Ms Sturgeon to stand down before May’s election, although it is unclear whether the act was deemed a resignation-worthy offence.
A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said the committee – which has four SNP members and five from other parties – is still considering its report.
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