First Minister faces no confidence vote amidst Salmond scandal

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Ms Sturgeon is facing calls from the Scottish Conservatives to resign, after the government published legal advice surrounding a court challenge by Mr Salmond in 2018

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to appear at an inquiry concerning the mishandling of harassment allegations against previous First Minister, Alex Salmond after it emerged that legal counsel advised the Scottish Government that there was a “very real problem” more than 2 months before they were forced to concede in court.

Mr Salmond has accused Ms Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code by not halting her government’s legal challenge and costing the taxpayer more than £600,000 in legal costs, with Nicola Sturgeon facing heavy criticism and calls to resign. Nicola Sturgeon is under intense pressure to answer multiple allegations that she misled parliament.

Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross said his party would be submitting a vote of no confidence in Ms Sturgeon.

He said: “There is no longer any doubt that Nicola Sturgeon lied to the Scottish Parliament and broke the Ministerial Code on numerous counts.

“No first minister can be allowed to mislead the Scottish people and continue in office, especially when they have tried to cover up the truth and abused the power of their office in the process.

“The weight of the evidence is overwhelming. Nicola Sturgeon must resign.”

However, John Swinney MSP, Scotland’s deputy first minister, slammed claims that the government’s legal advice had been indicative of a clear defeat in court.

He said: “These documents are clear. Our legal advice was optimistic about the government’s prospects for success at the start. It became gradually but progressively less optimistic over time.

“It was only in December that the advice concluded that our case was no longer stateable and we should concede. Indeed, as late as 11 December, Ministers were advised that we should continue.

“Within a matter of days of being advised that the case was no stateable, we have taken the decision to concede. That was right and proper.

“Significantly, however, this comprehensively disproves claims that we had continued the case in defiance of legal advice. That is categorically untrue and these documents put that beyond doubt.”

And a spokesperson for the first minister said: “The first minister will address all of the issues raised – and much more besides – at the committee tomorrow, while the independent adviser on the ministerial code will report in due course.

“But to call a vote of no confidence in the middle of a pandemic, before hearing a single word of the first minister’s evidence, is utterly irresponsible.

“It is for the public to decide who they want to govern Scotland and – while we continue to fight the COVID pandemic – with the election campaign starting in just 20 days, that is precisely what they will be able to do.”

The Scottish Government launched an investigation into the former first minister after a number of women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment. But a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout for legal fees.

Mr Salmond was later acquitted of 13 charges following a criminal trial at Edinburgh’s High Court.

The controversy deepened as respected figures within the SNP corroborated Alex Salmond’s claims surrounding a meeting Nicola Sturgeon had with her predecessor, and handling of allegations in general.

Kevin Pringle, a former aide to Mr Salmond and Duncan Hamilton, a former MSP who is Mr Salmond’s legal adviser, backed up claims by Mr Salmond in his evidence to the committee that the name of a woman who had complained about him was shared with his former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein.

Both men also said that Mr Aberdein had told them he discussed complaints against Mr Salmond in a meeting with Ms Sturgeon on a date before the first minister says she learned of them.

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to address these pressing concerns in her testimony to the inquiry this morning, 3 March.

Featured Image Credit: The National.

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