AS Nicola Sturgeon refers herself for an official probe, Deputy Scottish Political Editor Rachel Watson assesses why this poses a threat to her leadership.
What happens now?
THE independent advisers on the ministerial code will be informed of the referral. The panel, which includes Dame Elish Angiolini, will then ‘consult’ on the remit of their investigation and decide how to move forward. As the probe will take place behind closed doors, the public will not be made aware of those giving evidence, what they have said or what other evidence the panel seeks. It is expected Miss Sturgeon will give evidence, with Mr Salmond also ‘happy’ to contribute. The outcome of the investigation will, however, be published.
How serious is this?
THIS is a serious threat to Miss Sturgeon’s leadership. If she is found guilty of breaching the ministerial code, she would likely face severe pressure to resign. Opponents could move for a vote of no confidence in her.
What sanctions does Miss Sturgeon face?
THE independent panel, depending on the outcome, will suggest a suitable sanction. However, as First Minister, Miss Sturgeon will have the final say on any consequences she faces.
Could there by further inquiries?
YES, this is just a single investigation into allegations Miss Sturgeon breached the ministerial code. There are calls for a full parliamentary inquiry at Holyrood, which could look at the Scottish Government’s handling of the investigation. This would likely see Leslie Evans, Miss Sturgeon and her chief of staff Liz Lloyd called to give evidence, as well as a number of civil servants. The Government is also facing an investigation by the Information Commissioner into a potential data protection breach.
Why is there an investigation?
MISS Sturgeon has been accused of breaching the ministerial code of conduct as it states private offices should ensure all ‘basic facts’ of meetings about government business should be recorded, including names of those present. Miss Sturgeon failed to record any details of her three meetings and two phone calls with Mr Salmond. This is despite them discussing the Government’s investigation.
Is this unprecedented?
NO. Mr Salmond referred himself for investigation six times when he was first minister. All found he had not breached the code.