STUR­GEON FACES SALMOND SEX CLAIMS PROBE

First Min­is­ter re­ports her­self to watch­dog over role in scan­dal

Scottish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Rachel Wat­son Deputy Scot­tish Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

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

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