'Beyond belief' that Nicola Sturgeon forgot about key Salmond meeting, Ruth Davidson says
It is “beyond belief” that Nicola Sturgeon forgot about a key meeting with an aide to Alex Salmond in which she was first alerted to allegations of sexual misconduct against Salmond, Ruth Davidson has said.
The Scottish Conservative leader at Holyrood questioned Sturgeon during First Minister’s Questions about her claims on the timeline of events surrounding an investigation into Salmond.
Sturgeon admitted that people may “raise an eyebrow” at her claim to have forgotten about the meeting but she insisted that she had “nothing to hide”.
Davidson’s questions related to written evidence Sturgeon submitted to a committee inquiry looking into what went wrong with a Scottish Government investigation into complaints of harassment made against Salmond.
In her evidence, Sturgeon said 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.
Davidson asked whether this version of events sounded “credible” in light of the seriousness of the allegations.
Sturgeon said that a later meeting in which Salmond visited her in her home and told her of the investigation were “seared into” her memory and had “over-written” the earlier meeting.
She said: “It is actually the meeting that took place some three days later, when Alex Salmond himself sat in my own home and gave me the details of the complaints that had been made against him and also give me his response to aspects of those complaints.
“That is what is seared in my memory and I think most reasonable people would understand that.”
She said that the previous meeting, which occurred in her parliament office following a session of FMQs had been “fleeting and opportunistic”.
“That is just how it is,” she added.
Davidson said this response “did not bear the lightest of scrutiny,” and asked whether the content of the meeting would truly be something the First Minister would forget.
“It is beyond belief,” Davidson added.
Sturgeon repeated that it was the later meeting with Salmond himself that stood out in her mind and added that she would be happy to discuss the matter in more detail before the committee.
She said: “I have nothing to hide in all of this”.
Sturgeon added that insinuations that she was either conspiring against Salmond or colluding with him are “complete nonsense”.
She said that the focus should be on the fact that “serious complaints” were made, which the government had a responsibility to investigate.
She said: “Let's not forget what lay at the heart of this: serious complaints that the government were right to investigate – wrong to make an error in how it did that – but right to investigate and not to cover it up, or try to cover up in any way those complaints.
“So let's not forget the people that lie at the heart of this whole sorry saga.”
Responding to Davidson’s allegation that there had been an “abuse of power” in the process, Sturgeon said that the investigation had actually been “a good use of power”.
Sturgeon said: “I understand why it may suit some people to say that this is all some great conspiracy. I'm not entirely sure why anybody in possession of their own critical faculties would see this as anything other than complaints being investigated and everybody trying to do the right thing in very difficult circumstances.”
“The government didn't do right in all stages because it got an aspect of that wrong. But any suggestion that it should just have somehow been covered up or not dealt with properly, I absolutely reject.”