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Nicola Sturgeon insists harassment committee can call on her for evidence 'whenever it likes'

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Nicola Sturgeon insists harassment committee can call on her for evidence 'whenever it likes'

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted that the Holyrood committee investigating the handling of harassment complaints can call on her for evidence “whenever it likes”.

Sturgeon revealed that she has already given written evidence to the committee, after being challenged by opposition MSPs on her record of transparency on the matter.

But she refused to answer questions about controversial messages allegedly sent by her husband Peter Murrell, who is also the chief executive of the SNP.

Scottish Conservative leader in Holyrood Ruth Davidson asked Sturgeon during First Minister’s Questions why the Scottish Government and the SNP has been so slow to provide certain documents to the committee.

The committee is investigating what went wrong with a Scottish Government probe into complaints of harassment against former first minister Alex Salmond, after the government was found to have acted unlawfully and was forced to award Salmond over £500,000 in legal expenses.

In recent days the committee has expressed frustration at being "hampered" in its investigation by "obstruction" from various parties including the Scottish Government and Salmond.

Sturgeon told MSPs that she had recused herself from decision making on the government’s process because part of the investigation involves questions surrounding her own conduct.

She added that over 1,000 documents had already been supplied and also revealed that she had provided written evidence to the committee over two months ago, which the committee has not yet made public.

But asked about Murrell’s willingness to cooperate with the committee, Sturgeon said: “I don't think it is reasonable for me to be asked questions about things that other people might or might not have done”.

It is claimed that Murrell said in private messages dated January 2019 that pressure should be put on the Metropolitan Police who had at that time received complaints against Salmond in London.

Davidson asked Sturgeon to clarify whether the messages were really from her husband.

Sturgeon responded, saying that the committee should “call the people who the messages are purporting to come from and ask them the questions.”

She added: “Call me and I will answer for myself.”

Davidson accused Sturgeon of being part of a cover up of a “shabby abuse of power”.

Sturgeon said that it was “outrageous” that she was being accused of not being transparent with the committee, insisting that she was trying to “respect the process” and accused the Conservatives of playing politics with the investigation.

She said: “The committee can convene this afternoon, and I will answer questions for my conduct before that committee.

“It is outrageous that I am in a position right now, of having given written evidence to this committee two months ago, it hasn't been published, that's not down to me.

“I've not been invited to give evidence to the committee, and yet I am somehow being accused of not being prepared to answer questions and in Parliament being expected to answer on behalf of other people.

“If people want to take this seriously then treat the committee process with respect and take it seriously.”

She added: “I can't be held responsible for the fact that evidence that I've submitted hasn't yet been published, I can't be held responsible for the fact that the committee hasn't yet invited me to give evidence.”

She said: “The committee can call me any time it likes. I will turn up on the date it asks, to the committee room it asks and I will give evidence to the committee. It hasn't yet asked me to do so.”

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