Stur­geon asks Salmond for truce as she faces in­quiry

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Si­mon John­son SCOT­TISH PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR

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”.

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