The key allegations Nicola Sturgeon faces – and what she said to rebut them
Nicola Sturgeon was fighting for her political career when she faced MSPs during a marathon eight-hour hearing on Wednesday.
Her opponents believe the multiple accusations she faces over her handling of complaints against Mr Salmond may well be enough to force her from office. The Scottish Tories have already called for her resignation.
However, she denies wrongdoing and the accusation that she broke the ministerial code on multiple occasions.
She also faces a separate inquiry, specifically into whether she broke the ministerial code.
Here are the main allegations facing the First Minister, and what she said to rebut them.
Charge 1: Lying to parliament
Ms Sturgeon has been accused of misleading Holyrood several times – a resignation matter if done deliberately.
This allegation mainly centres around what she knew and when. She has told Holyrood that she did not know about the allegations facing Mr Salmond until April 2, 2018, when he told her about them in her home.
However, Mr Salmond says he can prove she knew about the investigation at least on March 29, as a meeting was arranged at her Holyrood office to discuss them.
Ms Sturgeon has claimed she “forgot” about the meeting on March 29, attended by Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein.
She said on Wednesday that her recollection of the March meeting was “not as vivid as I would like it to be” but that she now remembered that any discussion of allegations facing Mr Salmond were “in general terms”.
Ms Sturgeon admitted she understood scepticism around her claims to have forgotten the March meeting but insisted this was true.
Charge 2: Wasting public money
When Mr Salmond finally won his judicial review in January 2019, a judge said that the civil service investigation against him had been “tainted by apparent bias”.
He was awarded an unusually high amount – £512,250 – in legal costs.
Ms Sturgeon faces the claim that the Scottish Government ignored legal advice and continued fighting the case, adding to taxpayers’ costs, despite knowing chances of success were slim.
Ms Sturgeon said that in all of the legal action the Government was involved in, she had never seen lawyers advise a 100 per cent prospect of success, and that advice said the case was credible upto December 11, 2018.
She said: “I think every time a government defends a legal action it is risking public funds, because there is never a guarantee you are going to be successful.”
Charge 3: Officials leaked a name of a complainer
Mr Salmond has alleged that the name of a complainer was leaked by a senior official in Ms Sturgeon’s administration to Mr Aberdein, who then passed it on to the former First Minister.
Leaking the name of a complainer would be seen as a gross violation of the women’s confidentiality, and could potentially be a criminal offence.
Mr Salmond’s claim has been corroborated by Kevin Pringle, the SNP’s former chief spin doctor, and Duncan Hamilton, a former MSP and Mr Salmond’s lawyer. Mr Hamilton and Mr Pringle have said Mr Aberdein informed them of the identity in a conference call shortly after the meeting with the official.
Ms Sturgeon said she did “not accept” that the leak had happened.
Pressed why Mr Aberdein would lie, she said she was not “casting aspersions on anybody’s bona fides or sincerity” but there were “different accounts” of the meeting.
Charge 4: Offering to intervene
Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly said that she did not offer to intervene in the Government probe on behalf of Mr Salmond.
However, Mr Salmond claims Ms Sturgeon did signal her willingness to intervene at the crucial April 2, 2018 meeting at her home.
Mr Hamilton has claimed he was present when the First Minister made the offer. “My clear recollection is that her words were ‘If it comes to it, I will intervene’,” he said.
Ms Sturgeon insisted that she did not offer to intervene, although she admitted she was perhaps “not as blunt” as she might have been.
“I was perhaps trying to let a long standing friend and colleague down gently,” she said. “Maybe I did it too gently.”
Charge 5: Failing to record meetings
Under civil service rules, ministers have a duty to ensure meetings about government business are properly recorded.
However, Mr Sturgeon’s meetings and calls with Mr Salmond in 2018 were not recorded, despite these being about a government investigation.
The row over recording of meetings may be the least eye-catching, but it could be the easiest charge for opposition MSPs to prove.
Ms Sturgeon said she had weighed up all aspects of the ministerial code, as well as the fact she was not supposed to be involved in the civil service probe, and came to a “defensible, and in my view appropriate” judgement.
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