Extra £200,000 legal bill ‘could topple’ Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon‘s government spent an extra £200,000 of taxpayers’ money on a doomed legal battle with Alex Salmond, even after lawyers said she was bound to fail.

The damning revelation was being seen as the clearest indication yet that Scotland’s First Minister had breached the Ministerial Code – a resignation offence.

Last night, Scottish Tories warned: ‘She must resign, or we will seek to force her out.’

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of several alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code. One is that she knowingly wasted public money by pursuing a judicial review she knew she would lose

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of several alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code. One is that she knowingly wasted public money by pursuing a judicial review she knew she would lose

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of several alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code. One is that she knowingly wasted public money by pursuing a judicial review she knew she would lose

Mr Salmond won a judicial review against the Scottish Government over its investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him. The court found the inquiry was ‘tainted by apparent bias’.

Last year, he was also cleared of 13 charges, relating to nine women, in the High Court.

Now his successor as First Minister, Ms Sturgeon, has been accused of several alleged breaches of the Ministerial Code. One is that she knowingly wasted public money by pursuing a judicial review she knew she would lose.

Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader, said: ‘The First Minister thought she was a better lawyer than Queen’s Counsel and ignored their advice.

Mr Salmond won a judicial review against the Scottish Government over its investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him. The court found the inquiry was ‘tainted by apparent bias’

Mr Salmond won a judicial review against the Scottish Government over its investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him. The court found the inquiry was ‘tainted by apparent bias’

Mr Salmond won a judicial review against the Scottish Government over its investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him. The court found the inquiry was ‘tainted by apparent bias’

‘The disastrous decision to continue with this case after lawyers said it would lose has cost Scottish taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds. Nicola Sturgeon charged on, knowing the case was doomed, and that is a clear breach of the Ministerial Code. She must resign or we will seek to force her out.’

Ms Sturgeon denied breaching the Ministerial Code when she appeared at Holyrood’s harassment committee on Wednesday. 

Previously, John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, had refused to publish the government’s legal advice. He only relented when faced with losing a vote of no confidence, at Holyrood

Previously, John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, had refused to publish the government’s legal advice. He only relented when faced with losing a vote of no confidence, at Holyrood

Previously, John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, had refused to publish the government’s legal advice. He only relented when faced with losing a vote of no confidence, at Holyrood

She insisted the Scottish Government believed it had ‘a stateable, credible and arguable position’, and this only changed on December 19, 2018, when new documents came to light.

In fact, two days earlier, Roddy Dunlop QC, the government’s own counsel, warned: ‘We are firmly of the view that at least one of the challenges mounted by the petitioner will be successful… We are entirely unconvinced as to what benefit might arise from the hearing in January…’

Ms Sturgeon admitted on Wednesday that if she had continued to pursue the case after December 19, 2018, there would be ‘justification for the charges that are being made to me’. In fact, she did continue.

Between that point, and the end of the year, there were three costly ‘commission and diligence’ hearings, including two in court and one procedural. 

Those hearings are estimated to have cost the taxpayer about £50,000 each, while Mr Salmond ran up expenses, which he was later able to claim back from the government.

It was only in January 2019 that the government conceded the case.

Previously, John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, had refused to publish the government’s legal advice. 

He only relented when faced with losing a vote of no confidence, at Holyrood. Even then, some of the most damning evidence, including Mr Dunlop’s assessment on December 17, was not disclosed until Friday – after Ms Sturgeon’s appearance at the committee.

Both the harassment committee and James Hamilton QC, the Scottish Government’s adviser on the Ministerial Code, are due to produce their reports soon. If he finds that Ms Sturgeon has breached the Ministerial Code, she would be expected to resign. She has refused to say if she would.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Ministers were first advised the case was unstateable following the Commission hearing of 19 to 21 December. Any suggestion they had been advised of this before that date is factually inaccurate.’

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