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by Jenni Davidson
10 February 2021
Nicola Sturgeon refuses to say whether she would resign if she was found to have breached the ministerial code

Nicola Sturgeon - Image credit: Scottish Parliament youtube

Nicola Sturgeon refuses to say whether she would resign if she was found to have breached the ministerial code

Nicola Sturgeon has refused to say whether she would resign if she was found to have breached the ministerial code.

Challenged on it at FMQs by interim Labour leader Jackie Baillie, Sturgeon said she was “not to going to engage on the hypothetical”.

She accused the opposition of having “prejudged” the issue and suggested they were not interested in what she or anyone else had to say.  

During FMQs the First Minister was pressured by both the Conservatives and Labour over her 2018 meetings with Alex Salmond about the investigation of harassment complaints made against him.

Sturgeon has said the meetings were taken in her capacity as SNP leader, but her husband, SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, has told the committee looking into the Scottish Government handling of the complaints that he was not involved in the meetings because they were government business.

The First Minister herself is due to give evidence to the committee on Tuesday.

Separately, an inquiry is ongoing over whether Sturgeon broke the ministerial code over the meetings and statements she made about them to parliament.

No government officials were present at the meetings, no notes taken and the First Minister did not inform the Permanent Secretary of the Scottish Government about them at the time, which would be a breach of code if they were official government meetings rather than party ones.

Noting that Murrell has said the meetings were government business, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson asked: “Did Peter Murrell tell the truth under oath?”

“Yes, he did tell the truth,” Sturgeon answered.

She suggested the motivation for opposition parties trying to damage Murrell was because of how “integral” he had been to the success of the SNP.

The First Minister added that she would get her opportunity to set out her account to the committee next Tuesday. “I relish that opportunity,” she said.

Later Sturgeon added: “I want to sit in front of the committee. I’ve had accusations levelled at me for two years.

“I’ve not been able to answer those fully because of ongoing criminal proceedings and latterly out of respect to the process of this committee.

“It’s not me that’s refusing to sit in front of the committee. I’m relishing the prospect of doing that.

“People can hear my account and they can make up their own minds.”

Sturgeon said it was important to subject herself and the government to scrutiny and, in a clear reference to Salmond’s recent refusal to appear before the committee, she called on “anybody who’s got anything to help with the process of this committee to sit before that committee and do what I am going to do and give an account on the record, on oath, because I’m not the one who is refusing to do that.”

Referring to the failures in the Scottish Government investigation of the harassment complaints, Davidson said the whole affair “stinks to high heaven and someone should take responsibility for these failings”.

Sturgeon was challenged by Baillie on whether she would resign if found by James Hamilton QC to have breached the ministerial code, but she refused to say either way, suggesting Baillie had also prejudged the issue.

Sturgeon said: “When the outcomes of those are published then people can ask me then and I can set out what I intend to do, but I do not believe I breached the ministerial code and that is my position right now and I think I’m entitled to due process just like everyone else.”

Pressured again by Baillie to say what she would do, she added: “I don’t believe I did breach the ministerial code and therefore I’m not going to engage on the hypothetical.

“When James Hamilton issues his report we can have an open discussion on the basis of whatever findings he arrives at, just as we’ll no doubt have an open discussion when the committee arrives at whatever findings it arrives at.”

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Justice

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