Sturgeon asks Salmond for truce as she faces inquiry
NICOLA STURGEON appealed to Alex Salmond yesterday for a public truce in their battle over the sexual misconduct claims he faces as she bowed to demands for an inquiry into allegations she broke ministerial rules.
With the SNP embroiled in a civil war, the First Minister urged Mr Salmond and his team to stop a “continuing commentary” over the complaints and pledged her government would do the same. She argued the war of words between the two camps could compromise a police investigation into the allegations by two civil servants, dating from his time as first minister. He denies any criminality.
But the Scottish Tories warned her against trying to use the police probe to stymie the new inquiry into claims she broke the ministerial code of conduct during five secret discussions with Mr Salmond about the scandal.
Ms Sturgeon yesterday finally bowed to pressure to refer herself for investigation over three meetings, including two at her home, and two phone calls she held with her former mentor. Ms Sturgeon said she agreed to the Labour request for a referral, made three days previously, to show she “acted appropriately and in good faith throughout”.
But she has admitted no minutes were kept of her discussions with Mr Salmond about her government’s inquiry into the misconduct allegations, despite the code specifying that a record should be made if government business was significantly mentioned.
She also disclosed that she failed to tell Leslie Evans, her most senior mandarin, about the first meeting for more than two months and no officials were present for any of the discussions.
Ms Sturgeon has argued that she did not have to abide by the code’s provisions because they were SNP, not government, meetings.
The Scottish government admitted last week in court that its inquiry into Mr Salmond was unlawful as the investigating officer had “prior involvement” with the women before they complained a year ago.
Ms Sturgeon argued that the priority must be ensuring an ongoing police investigation into the sexual misconduct claims can continue “without any risk of prejudice”.
She said: “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.”
Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Conservatives’ interim leader, said “there is no reason” why the two investigations should overlap and any attempt “to evade legitimate questions would be quite wrong”.