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by Jenni Davidson
25 February 2021
Nicola Sturgeon claims to the ‘best of my knowledge’ the name of a complainant in the Alex Salmond case was not passed on to Salmond’s former chief of staff

Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister's Questions - Image credit: Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA Wire/PA Images

Nicola Sturgeon claims to the ‘best of my knowledge’ the name of a complainant in the Alex Salmond case was not passed on to Salmond’s former chief of staff

Nicola Sturgeon has said that to the “best of my knowledge” the name of one of the women who had made a complaint against Alex Salmond was not passed on to Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein.

Sturgeon was challenged by Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie at First Minister’s Questions on the alleged naming of one of the women.

Baillie said she understood the identity of one of the original two civil service complainants was revealed to the former chief of staff and then passed on to Alex Salmond.

“This is an extraordinary breach of confidentiality,” Baillie said.

“On whose authority was contact initiated with Mr Salmond’s chief of staff? On whose authority was the name of a complainer revealed?

“That action was certainly not about protecting the interests of the women involved.

“Did the First Minister authorise the contact, and if not, then who did?”

Sturgeon said she would answer all those questions when she appeared before the committee looking into the Scottish Government’s handling of the harassment complaints against Salmond.

The First Minister complained that it seemed Baillie “is standing here before I’ve had the opportunity to sit before the committee and accepting at face value Alex Salmond’s account of all of this.”

Sturgeon added: “I do not accept Alex Salmond’s account of much of this, which is why when I sit before the committee I will go through in detail what actually happened and what did not happen.”

She said that “accepting at face value the conspiracy theories and the account of the man accused of harassing [the women] seems to me to be quite a strange way of supporting and standing up for those women.”

Baillie responded: “A complainant was named. That is not a conspiracy theory.”

This was a “gross breach of confidentiality”, she said.

Sturgeon said that it was only claimed by Alex Salmond that a name of a complainant was given.

“That is not the same thing as saying, or accepting, that was the case,” she said.

But Ballie answered: “There is an inconvenient fact here for the First Minister, and it’s not what Alex Salmond claims, it’s not about a conspiracy, it’s the fact that the former chief of staff to Alex Salmond said that in one of these meetings the name of one of the civil service complainants was given to him.”

This point was picked up the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader.

Rennie said: “Jackie Baillie’s just made a very serious point about the handling of the name of a complainer over to Alex Salmond’s chief of staff, so just to be clear, is the First Minister saying categorically that that did not happen, that the name of a complainer was not passed on to the former chief of staff of Alex Salmond before the meeting on the 2 April?”

Sturgeon answered: “To the very best of my knowledge, I do not think that happened.”

Rennie then asked whether Sturgeon had investigated the matter after the allegation arose.

He said: “What I want to understand is, following the revelation that this was an allegation, did the First Minister herself investigate this matter to find out the truth as to whether this information was passed on?

“Because an absence of action on this from the First Minister would be negligence in that respect, because there is corroborating evidence that this did happen, so is the First Minister saying that they are lying?”

Sturgeon responded: “It is not my belief that that happened, but there is a committee process underway right now.

“There is also a process, separate to the committee, where the independent adviser on the ministerial code is looking at these matters, and what I am doing is allowing these process to take their course.

“I think that is the right and proper way for me to proceed.”

Read the most recent article written by Jenni Davidson - Lib Dems to challenge Scottish Government over secret correspondence with the Queen

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