Nicola Sturgeon: SNP facing ‘biggest row’ in Scottish politics
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MSPs on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee voted five to four that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave an “inaccurate” account of a meeting with her predecessor during the live investigation. The vote is the latest blow for Ms Sturgeon, who has found herself up against her former mentor Alex Salmond during the lengthy inquiry into a botched investigation by the Scottish Government into sexual harassment claims.
The cross-party committee includes four SNP MSPs, two Conservatives, one Labour, one Liberal Democrat and independent Andy Wightman.
The finding amounts to accusations of misleading the Scottish Parliament, but stop short of saying the First Minister knowingly misled.
The report is expected to say the First Minister gave “an inaccurate account of what happened and she has misled the committee on this matter. This is a potential breach of the ministerial code.”
A full report is expected to be published next Tuesday.
Ms Sturgeon told Sky News: “I stand by all of the evidence I gave to the committee, all eight hours’ worth of evidence.
“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.
“Let’s wait and see the final report, but more importantly the question of whether or not I breached the ministerial code is being considered independently by James Hamilton and I hope and expect he will publish that report soon.”
Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond have both taken part in evidence sessions over recent weeks.
Mr Salmond, Scotland former First Minister and former leader of the SNP, has accused Ms Sturgeon of a “malicious scheme”, something his predecessor denies.
The inquiry was set up after Salmond won a legal challenge to the Scottish Government in January 2019 following its own botched internal inquiry into sexual harassment complaints from two female civil servants.
In March 2020, Salmond was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault including one of attempted rape, by a high court jury in Edinburgh.
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What happens now?
Ms Sturgeon has stood by her evidence, and has made no secret of the fact she believes it is a partisan conclusion made to damage her ahead of the upcoming Holyrood Elections.
Still to come is the committee’s report, as well as an independent report by lawyer James Hamilton.
His inquiry report is also expected within the coming days, and has specifically been examining whether she breached ministerial code.
If it is found Ms Sturgeon breached ministerial code, she will come under renewed pressure to resign ahead of the Holyrood elections, which will take place on May 6, 2021.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives are preparing a vote of no-confidence in the First Minister.
Leader Douglas Ross said: “We have called out the first minister based on the overwhelming evidence that she misled parliament.
“We will continue to hold her to the same standards as previous first ministers of Scotland and demand that she resigns.”
Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said: “If it does conclude that the first minister has misled parliament and potentially breached the ministerial code then that is incredibly serious.
“This is about the integrity of our Scottish parliament and upholding standards in public life.
“The separate Hamilton inquiry has yet to report, and all parties must be given due process, however the code which the first minister has promised to follow by the letter is clear – any minister who is found in breach of the ministerial code has a duty to resign.”
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