Alex Salmond 'formed belief' that requests to settle complaints through arbitration were being blocked, says Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon has said that Alex Salmond had “formed a belief” that she was blocking his requests to settle complaints of harassment through an arbitration process rather than through Scottish Government procedure.
In her written evidence to a committee investigating the matter, Sturgeon said that Salmond had asked her to “encourage” the Permanent Secretary to accept his calls for the allegations to be dealt with through arbitration, something she says she refused to do.
Sturgeon also claimed that she had “forgotten” about a meeting with Salmond’s aide in which the allegations of sexual misconduct were first brought to her attention, despite having a “lingering concern” that such allegations could emerge.
The written evidence was published as part of a committee investigation into the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against Salmond.
In her submission, Sturgeon discussed her role in what she described as a “very difficult situation - personally, politically and professionally” as her friend and the former first minister was investigated for allegations of sexual misconduct.
Sturgeon and Salmond met three times over several months, twice at her home and once in Aberdeen. They also spoke over the phone and exchanged messages.
She told the committee that she did not know about the Scottish Government investigation into Salmond until he told her about it during a meeting in her home in April 2018.
She said she was “shocked and upset” to learn of the investigation.
But she admitted to meeting one of Salmond’s aides in parliament on 29 March, who told her that Salmond urgently wanted to meet her.
Sturgeon said that she now recalls that there was suggestion that “the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature”.
But she said the reason she had agreed to meet him was because he seemed to be “in a state of considerable distress” and that she worried he might be planning to resign from the party.
However Sturgeon also admitted that she felt a “lingering concern” since November 2017 that such allegations could emerge, after a media request was received on the matter of Salmond’s past behaviour.
Sturgeon said that she did not tell Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans that she knew about the investigation until 6 June.
She said this was because she was worried about “the risk of inadvertently and unintentionally influencing” the investigation if it was known that she knew about it.
A series of WhatsApp messages between Salmond and Sturgeon were published alongside.
The messages show Sturgeon and Salmond arranging several meetings and phone calls between late April and early July of 2018.
It is clear from the messages that Salmond wished the complaints against him to be settled privately through legal arbitration rather than through the Scottish Government’s complaints handling procedure, which had recently been updated to allow for complaints to be made against former ministers.
He told Sturgeon that the Scottish Government had “everything to gain” from arbitration and said that Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans was “entirely missing the point” of his request when she sent Salmond a letter rejecting the option.
Sturgeon claims that over time Salmond had “formed a belief that it was me who was blocking arbitration”.
She added: “I told him that was not the case and I was not involved in the decision.”
Salmond later urged Sturgeon to encourage Evans to accept his request for arbitration.
He said: “I hope you will do so but time is now very short.”
Sturgeon said: “He asked me if I would make the Permanent Secretary aware that I knew about the investigation and encourage her to accept his request for mediation.
“I said that I was not willing to do so.”