STURGEON FACES SALMOND SEX CLAIMS PROBE
First Minister reports herself to watchdog over role in scandal
NICOLA Sturgeon will be investigated by standards watchdogs over her role in the Alex Salmond sex claims shambles.
It is alleged that she breached the ministerial code of conduct by failing to record details of a series of meetings with her predecessor during which they discussed sexual misconduct allegations against him.
The First Minister yesterday revealed she had referred herself for an official probe into whether she broke strict Scottish Government rules.
If found guilty of breaking the code, Miss Sturgeon would be left fighting for her political life and would come under severe pressure to resign.
However, ultimately the decision on any consequences faced by the First Minister lies with her, as she signs off on the code.
She had been considering whether to refer herself to the independent advisers responsible for investigating possible breaches after opponents demanded that she do so.
The probe will be carried out by the
independent advisers on the ministerial code – including Dame Elish Angiolini – who will decide whether Miss Sturgeon is guilty of a breach and advise on any sanctions.
The First Minister also revealed that the Scottish Government will ‘consult’ on the remit of the investigation with advisers.
She said: ‘Questions have been raised about my meetings and telephone calls with Alex Salmond during the Government’s investigation into the complaints which were made.
‘I have acted appropriately and in good faith throughout, and in compliance with the ministerial code at all times.
‘However, I have reflected carefully and understand that it is also important for parliament and the wider public to be assured of that.
‘I have therefore decided to refer the matter for consideration by one or both of the independent advisers on the ministerial code.’
The Scottish Government was last week forced to apologise following a Court of Session ruling that a probe into two complaints of sexual misconduct involving Mr Salmond was unlawful and potentially biased.
Last night, Mr Salmond refused to comment but a spokesman said he would be ‘happy’ to give evidence in the inquiry.
Political opponents yesterday raised concerns over a ‘whitewash’, as the investigation will not be carried out publicly.
Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw, who has called for a full parliamentary inquiry, said: ‘Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of this matter over the past week has been absolutely abysmal.
‘It strongly suggests that the Scottish Government is trying to hide the facts in order to save the First Minister’s skin and Saturday’s Scottish Daily Mail today’s statement only adds to that impression. It is time for the First Minister to stop dodging, and accept that finding excuses to avoid the many wider and important questions will not wash. It’s time to front up.’
Miss Sturgeon has said the independent advisers will ‘be consulted on their precise remit’ which will be published. The First Minister stated she will not comment further on the issue.
Last week, Miss Sturgeon admitted she held three meetings with Mr Salmond and took two phone calls in which they discussed the content of the Scottish Government’s investigation into allegations against him.
The initial meeting, held at her home near Glasgow in April 2018, was arranged by Miss Sturgeon’s chief of staff Liz Lloyd, who was also in attendance.
It was here that Mr Salmond revealed for the first time that he was under investigation by the Scottish Government over sexual misconduct allegations dating back to his time as first minister. Miss Sturgeon did not record basic facts of the meeting or include it in her monthly list of engagements.
The ministerial code of conduct says private offices should ensure all ‘basic facts’ of meetings with people and organisations about government business should be recorded and included on a monthly list of ministerial engagements.
The SNP leader claims that the discussions related to party business – despite Miss Lloyd’s presence – when the two complaints by civil servants were spoken about.
It is also understood Miss Sturgeon did not reveal details of the investigation to anyone within the SNP, including her husband Peter Murrell, the party’s chief exec-
utive. The First Minister has also disclosed that she only reported her knowledge of the case to Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans two months later.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard welcomed Miss Sturgeon’s decision to refer herself for investigation, but said that Holyrood should be allowed to review the outcome. He added: ‘Transparency is absolutely essential in order for the public to have confidence in the First Minister and the Scottish Government.
‘That is why we should also see a full, public parliamentary inquiry in to what exactly has happened.
‘It is also essential that the Scottish parliament is given the power to fully review the outcome of this investigation into whether she has broken the ministerial code.’ The Scottish Government is also facing a criminal investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) into fears of a data protection breach. The ICO yesterday confirmed a specialist team was looking into a complaint lodged by Mr Salmond. The former first minister is facing a police investigation into two complaints of sexual misconduct made by civil servants.
A third probe by Police Scotland was launched over concerns raised by Edinburgh Airport regarding an incident more than a decade ago.
Mr Salmond strongly denies any wrongdoing.
Stephen Daisley – Page 14
Standards probe: Nicola Sturgeon