Nicola Sturgeon demands David Davis apologises over 'factually inaccurate' allegations
NICOLA Sturgeon has called on David Davis to apologise for spreading "conspiracy theories" on behalf of Alex Salmond.
In a heated session of First Minister’s Questions, the SNP leader accused the Tory MP of being one her predecessor's “cronies” and a member of the “old boys' club.”
On Tuesday night, the former Brexit secretary used the protection given to MPs by Westminster’s parliamentary privilege to share information about the Scottish Government’s botched handling of harassment claims against Salmond.
He told MPs the information - leaked to him by a whistleblower - had been given to the Holyrood committee, but they had refused to publish.
He also read out texts which suggested Sturgeon’s chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, had “interfered” in the civil service probe.
The Tory MP for Haltemprice and Howden also accused the Scottish Government of removing a “critically relevant email” from an “information bundle that was going to the court and which had already been approved by government counsel.”
However, both of those claims were disputed by the government.
They said the email had in fact been provided, and a statement from one of the complainers rejected the suggestion Lloyd had interfered on her behalf.
Holyrood Tory leader, Ruth Davidson asked about the allegations over the court papers. “Is that something that the First Minister knows happened? And is that not a summary dismissal offence?”
Sturgeon told MSPs: “Having David Davis, a Tory MP, reading out in the House of Commons, under the protection of parliamentary privilege, his old pal's Alex Salmond's conspiracy theories about the sexual harassment allegations against him must be the very epitome of the old boys club.
“I have to say holding this government to account is vital, but anyone who chooses to cheer that on should not pretend to have the interest of the women concerned at heart.
“On to the specific question about the withheld document, that claim as the government actually confirmed yesterday, is just factually inaccurate. David Davis claimed that a document was withheld. In fact, once we tracked down exactly what document was being talked about what we discovered was that document was not withheld that document was handed over to the court, on the 21 of November, 2018, production number 7.79
“So there's the answer to Ruth Davidson's question. Parliamentary privilege might confer all sorts of protection, unfortunately for Mr. Davis, it doesn't turn falsehoods into fact.”
Davidson said she didn’t “deal in conspiracies” but in facts. She accused the government of trying to cover up their failings, pointing to an as yet unpublished letter obtained by the Holyrood inquiry, "sent to the very top of government" which "discusses whether officials, really do have to comply with their duty of candour. "
"So let me quote directly from it, they thought it better, more credible, less shifty looking if we proceed as proposed, and it goes on, it will probably all end up being out there anyway and better to face it transparently than having this dragged out reluctantly, and portrayed as a failed attempt to cover up.
"First Minister, why did the government go ahead with the attempt to the cover up anyway?"
Sturgeon said that referred to a discussion over amended pleadings, which the government then did.
She added: “David Davis made serious specific allegations in the House of Commons this week, and they have completely fallen apart, and I actually think that should be something he is apologising for, he's been tweeting this morning where he's no longer even trying to defend the specific allegations, he's just shifting the goalposts. Shifty is definitely a word I would use today but I would use it in relation to David Davis, and Ruth Davidson.”
The First Minister admitted that the government had made a “serious mistake,” but, she added: “It's a mistake that was made in the course of the government trying to do the right thing. In the world of the old boys' club that mistake would never have been made, because the allegations would never been investigated, they would have been swept under the carpet instead.”
Davidson said: “Day by day, week by week, drip by drip, more evidence comes to light over how this matter has been mishandled by the First Minister, and by her government. Allegations of legal documents being deliberately concealed. We've got the lawyers acting for the Scottish government who are making false statements to court because key evidence was withheld.”
She repeated Davis’s claim that Sturgeon’s chief of staff had interfered in the investigation.
“The one thing that's not happening is anyone in this government taking the responsibility that they should," she added. "Circumstances demand that somebody loses their job. This could be the permanent secretary, it could be the First Minister's chief of staff, it could be the First Minister herself, but really shouldn't it be all of them?”
The First Minister pointed Davidson towards the complainer's statement, which said “categorically that what was being suggested by David Davis was and I'm quoting here, fundamentally untrue and deliberately misrepresented.”
Sturgeon added: “Ruth Davidson, week after week stands up here and claims that for her, it's all about the women. Well, can I suggest to Ruth Davidson that if that is true, it's about time she started listening a bit more to the women at the heart of this and a bit less to Alex Salmond and his cronies.”
David Davis has been approached for comment.