SNP committee members reject harassment inquiry findings ahead of publication
THE SNP members of the Holyrood harassment committee have all but rejected the inquiry’s finding, accusing the opposition members of “railroading through their prejudged assertions based purely on political considerations.”
The party’s decision to distance themselves from the conclusions follows a number of leaks ahead of the final report being published on Tuesday.
In a statement released late on Friday afternoon, three of the four SNP members on the committee - Alasdair Allan, Maureen Watt and Stuart McMillan – accused the five opposition members of using their majority to insert "11th-hour predetermined political assertions that have no basis in fact" into the final report.
Convenor Linda Fabiani did not sign the statement, though she had earlier expressed her “dismay” at the leaks.
The latest extraordinary development comes as the Tories offered Nicola Sturgeon a “last chance” to resign. The party said that if she chooses not to stand down next Tuesday, that they will then force a vote of no confidence on Wednesday.
According to the leaks, the inquiry voted down party lines, concluding that it is “hard to believe” Sturgeon did not know of concerns about Salmond’s behaviour before November 2017.
They also voted five to four that the First Minister misled them when she said she didn’t offer to intervene to help her predecessor when he came to her on April 2 2018.
Misleading the committee therefore means she misled the parliament.
This is potentially a breach of the ministerial code of conduct, which says that any minister found to "knowingly mislead the parliament will be expected to offer their resignation."
Though, crucially, the word "knowingly" was not included in the motion agreed by the committee.
In their statement, the SNP MSPs said: "This committee was meant to carry out a dispassionate search for the truth.
“But, at the very last minute, without full consideration of the evidence, the opposition railroaded through their prejudged assertions based purely on political considerations.
“On the question of the First Minister offering to intervene, there are two sides of the story and we have evidence from both sides, but opposition MSPs chose not to reflect that by selectively referencing only the evidence which supported their preconceived narrative.
“We have also heard clear, consistent evidence that the First Minister had no knowledge of concerns of inappropriate sexual behaviour by Alex Salmond before November 2017.
“Yet, without a shred of evidence to the contrary, the opposition simply used their majority on the committee to insert 11th-hour predetermined political assertions that have no basis in fact. That is simply disgraceful and wrong. “
Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said there was “no question” that the SNP leader had misled parliament.
She said: "If Nicola Sturgeon has a shred of integrity, she should be considering her position.
"She has every opportunity to do the right thing and resign.
"No First Minister is above the fundamental principles of honesty and trust.
"There is no question that Nicola Sturgeon has misled parliament and broken the promises she made to tell the truth.
"The SNP’s erratic outburst today against the committee shows the panicked spiral they are now in."
Davidson also launched a defence of Andy Wightman, a former Green MSP who now sits as an independent. His vote is crucial in swinging a majority in the committee. He has at times sided with the SNP members, and at other times with the opposition.
Earlier in the day, the First Minister’s spokesman had accused the committee’s opposition members of resorting “to baseless assertion, supposition and smear”.
Davidson said: "Their suggestion seems to be that Andy Wightman, arguably the MSP most likely to rigidly stick to his principles, is some kind of underhand political opportunist.
"It is an extraordinary attack on a committee, and its members, before it has even reported.
"If it was possible, the SNP’s defence looks even less credible now.
"They are lurching from whataboutery to unhinged criticism of a well-respected, independent-minded parliamentarian.”