The parliamentary committee investigating government conduct in the Alex Salmond allegations has reportedly reached a verdict, concluding that the First Minister mislead parliament
Sky News reported last night that Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, has been found to have mislead parliament ahead of the official release of the committees findings.
The Holyrood inquiry into the affair found the First Minister gave “an inaccurate account” of her actions and so misled the cross-party investigation.
However it stopped short of saying she did so “knowingly”, the threshold for resignation under the Scottish Ministerial Code.
The First Minister has faced investigation into her conduct regarding the handling of the Alex Salmond sexual harassment claims and subsequent trial over the last few weeks after giving evidence to the committee, a week after Alex Salmond did so.
The committee has been deliberating over the issue of the First Minister deliberately misleading parliament in light of evidence presented to parliament that suggest legal counsel advocated a cessation to proceedings, which the SNP-majority government ignored.
In oral and written evidence Ms Sturgeon denied offering to intervene in the harassment complaints process, but the committee is reported to have concluded that she did.
The First Minister was reportedly found to have mislead parliament by a vote of 5-4 within the committee.
The committee’s final report is expected to be published next Tuesday and Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman said the reports were based on partisan briefings.
“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,” he said.
The Scottish government’s ministerial code states that a minister who knowingly misleads the Scottish parliament is expected to offer their resignation.
A judicial review found that the Scottish government’s handling of the complaints against Mr Salmond was biased and unlawful and the exercise cost the authorities more than £500,000 in legal bills.
Mr Salmond was subsequently charged with 13 sexual offences and was acquitted on all counts after a criminal trial. He claims that figures around Ms Sturgeon were part of a malicious effort to destroy his reputation.
Ms Sturgeon claims that she first heard about the complaints against Mr Salmond when they met at her home on April 2nd, 2018. But Mr Salmond said his former chief of staff briefed the first minister about the allegations at a meeting on March 29th which led to the later meeting being set up.
Mr Salmond said that during their meeting the first minister had offered to intervene on his behalf.
“She said she would when it was the appropriate time. As I say, the conversation was not about if she would intervene, but when.”
Ms Sturgeon told the committee that she had made clear to Mr Salmond that she would not intervene and her spokesman on Thursday stood by that claim.
Ms Sturgeon is likely to face pressure to resign, with the Scottish Tories resolving to bring forward a vote of no confidence in Ms Sturgeon before Holyrood breaks for the election on March 25.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “We cannot set a precedent that a First Minister of Scotland can mislead the Scottish Parliament and get away with it.
“We have to trust that the First Minister will be truthful. We no longer can.
“We have called out the First Minister based on the overwhelming evidence that she misled Parliament.
“We will continue to hold her to the same standards as previous First Ministers of Scotland and demand that she resigns.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar added: “I am not going to prejudge the outcome of the committee report and we await its findings, but if it does conclude that the First Minister has misled Parliament and potentially breached the ministerial code then that is incredibly serious.
“This is about the integrity of our Scottish Parliament and upholding standards in public life.
“The code which the First Minister has promised to follow by the letter is clear – any minister who is found in breach of the ministerial code has a duty to resign.”
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