First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon refers her­self for in­quiry.

FM refers her­self to stan­dards panel amid calls for full in­quiry

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

The first min­is­ter is to be in­ves­ti­gated over whether her con­ver­sa­tions with Alex Sal­mond while he was the sub­ject of a Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment probe breached min­is­te­rial rules.

Ni­cola Stur­geon re­ferred her­self to the panel of in­de­pen­dent ad­vis­ers on the min­is­te­rial code yes­ter­day.

The SNP leader in­sisted she did not break the code by hav­ing five off-the­book meet­ings and phone dis­cus­sions with Mr Sal­mond, when the sex­ual mis­con­duct in­ves­ti­ga­tion she was barred from play­ing any role in was on­go­ing.

Harass­ment al­le­ga­tions re­lat­ing to the ex-first min­is­ter’s time in of­fice were made in Jan­uary 2018 by two women.

Last week, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the com­plaints was ruled un­law­ful by the Court of Ses­sion af­ter the SNP ad­min­is­tra­tion ad­mit­ted it had bro­ken its own pro­ce­dures.

Ms Stur­geon said yes­ter­day: “It is in the in­ter­ests of the women who have com­plained that the on­go­ing po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions are al­lowed to con­tinue with­out any risk of prej­u­dice. That must be the pri­or­ity for ev­ery­one.

“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 last time the panel ruled on a po­ten­tial breach of the min­is­te­rial code was six years ago, when Mr Sal­mond and his min­is­ters were cleared of wrong­do­ing sur­round­ing le­gal ad­vice on an in­de­pen­dent Scot­land’s mem­ber­ship of the EU.

The fo­cus of the in­quiry will be de­ter­mined fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tion with the ad­vis­ers, who are Dame Elish An­gi­olini, an ex-Lord Ad­vo­cate, and James Hamil­ton, a for­mer direc­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions in Ire­land.

Scot­tish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the FM had “done the right thing” but also called for a full par­lia­men­tary in­quiry.

“Trans­parency is now ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial in or­der for the pub­lic to have con­fi­dence in the first min­is­ter and the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment,” he added.

Jack­son Car­law, the in­terim leader of the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives, ac­cused Ms Stur­geon of try­ing to avoid dif­fi­cult ques­tions by not call­ing a full in­quiry.

“To be clear, there is no rea­son why such an in­quiry need im­pact on the sep­a­rate po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Mr Sal­mond,” Mr Car­law said.

“And any at­tempt by the SNP to use that sep­a­rate in­quiry to evade le­git­i­mate ques­tions would be quite wrong.”

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages.

First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon has re­ferred her­self to the min­is­te­rial watch­dog over her meet­ings with Alex Sal­mond while he was the sub­ject of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into sex­ual mis­con­duct.

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