Inquiry concludes Sturgeon 'misled parliament' over Salmond
NICOLA Sturgeon has been accused of misleading parliament, by a majority of MSPs on Holyrood’s harassment committee.
According to Sky News, the cross-party inquiry reached the conclusion today ahead of the publication of its final report on Tuesday.
Members voted by five to four that Sturgeon misled the committee itself and therefore 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."
However, the word "knowingly" is not included in the motion agreed by the committee.
It’s understood the MSPs believe she misled them during her evidence, when she insisted she had not offered to intervene in a Scottish government investigation into harassment complaints made against Alex Salmond.
Salmond claims she did when the two met at her house on 2 April 2018.
The advocate and former SNP MSP, Duncan Hamilton QC, corroborated Salmond’s account, telling the committee Sturgeon had said: "If it comes to it, I will intervene."
In written evidence, he said: “From a legal perspective, that was the most important aspect of the meeting. I therefore remember it clearly.”
In her oral evidence, Sturgeon said Salmond and may have taken the wrong impression because she had been trying to "let a long-standing friend and colleague down gently".
She said: "Perhaps I did that too gently and he left with an impression that I did not intend to give him. I think that I was clear, and I certainly intended to be clear."
The committee's finding reads: "The committee notes there is a fundamental contradiction in the evidence in relation to whether, at the meeting on the 2nd April 2018, the First Minister did or did not agree to intervene.
"Taking account of the competing versions of the event, the committee believes that she did in fact leave Alex Salmond with the impression that she would, if necessary, intervene.
"This is corroborated by Duncan Hamilton, who was also at the meeting. Her written evidence is, therefore, an inaccurate account of what happened and she has misled the committee on this matter.
"This is a potential breach of the ministerial code under the terms of section 1.3 (c)."
A spokesman for the First Minister said Sturgeon “told the truth to the committee in eight hours of evidence, and stands by that evidence.”
He added: “It is clear from past public statements that opposition members of this committee had prejudged the First Minister at the outset of the inquiry and before hearing a word of her evidence, so this partisan and selective briefing – before the committee has actually published its final report – is hardly surprising.
“The question of the First Minister’s adherence to the ministerial code is being considered independently by James Hamilton, and we expect to receive and publish his report soon.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Parliament said: “Further to media reports on the Committee’s findings, the Committee is still finalising its report. There will be no further comment on the report ahead of its publication.”
The First Minister is also being investigated by former Irish prosecutor James Hamilton QC. His probe on whether she broke the ministerial code is expected next week.