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Nicola Sturgeon broke ministerial code, Salmond tells inquiry

Written by on 26 February 2021

Alex Salmond has said he has “no doubt” Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, but did not call for her resignation.

Scotland’s former first minister was giving evidence to an inquiry into the SNP government’s unlawful investigation of sexual harassment claims against him.

“I believe the first minister has broken the ministerial code… it’s not the case that every minister who breaks the ministerial code resigns,” said Mr Salmond.

Alex Salmond has accused Nicola Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code, but she has repeatedly denied doing so Image: Mr Salmond accused Nicola Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code – something she’s repeatedly denied

“I’ve got no doubt Nicola has broken the ministerial code,” Mr Salmond added. “It’s not for me to suggest what the consequences should be – it’s for the people judging that, including this committee.”

Ms Sturgeon, the current first minister and SNP leader, has repeatedly denied claims she misled parliament about when she knew of complaints against him – or that there was a plan at the top of the party to damage his reputation.

Mr Salmond told the committee of MSPs that Ms Sturgeon’s administration had “acted illegally” in its handling of the allegations. The claims led to a trial that cleared him of 13 charges of sexual assault in 2020.

“This inquiry is not about me”, Mr Salmond said, but about the “unacceptable conduct” around the handling of the complaints against him.

He said Scotland’s Lord Advocate should be considering his position, as well as the head of the civil service – permanent secretary Leslie Evans.

Mr Salmond has alleged a “malicious and concerted” effort among senior SNP figures – including Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell – to damage his reputation, but said he had no evidence Ms Sturgeon was involved.

Mr Murrell denies plotting against him.

The former first minister did accuse his successor, however, of using a COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday to “effectively question the result of a jury” and said he was “astonished” by what he saw.

“I note that the first minister asserts I have to prove a case – I don’t,” said Mr Salmond.

“That has already been done. There have been two court cases, two judges, one jury.

“In this inquiry it is the Scottish government, a government which has already admitted to behaving unlawfully, who are under examination.”

Alex Salmond Image: Alex Salmond says the last few years had been a ‘nightmare’

The Scottish government’s botched harassment investigation was found by a judge to be “tainted by apparent bias” after it emerged the investigating officer had prior contact with two of the complainants.

Mr Salmond told the committee that the failures of leadership surrounding the investigation into his conduct were “many and obvious”.

“The government acted illegally but somehow nobody is to blame,” he added. “Scotland hasn’t failed, its leadership has failed.

“The importance of this inquiry is for each and every one of us to help put this right.”

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Salmond ‘astonished’ at Sturgeon’s news briefing

He also claimed the committee had been “systematically deprived of the evidence it has legitimately sought” and had been asked to do its job “with both hands tied behind its back and a blindfold on”.

He told MSPs: “I have no incentive or advantage in revisiting the hurt and shock of the last three years. For two years and six months, this has been a nightmare.

“I have every desire to move on, to turn the page, to resist talking yet again about a series of events which have been amongst the most wounding that any person can face.

“But the reason I am here today is because we can’t turn that page, nor move on, until the decision-making which is undermining the system of government in Scotland is addressed.”

He argued that “some consequences” should follow on from “unlawful conduct”.

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‘A litany of nonsense’: Sturgeon in heated exchange

“I think the leadership of these institutions have serious questions to answer,” he told the inquiry.

“When you get to the stage that a government behaves unlawfully – I mean, this is not something that happens very often.

“I’m on the record politically, when governments have behaved unlawfully, of regarding matters a huge and heinous thing to have happened. It’s not a slight matter.

“Some consequences should follow from unlawful conduct.”

Mr Salmond was awarded a £512,250 payout after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the investigation into harassment claims made against him.

Ms Sturgeon, who has insisted there is “not a shred of evidence” to back up his claims, is scheduled to appear before the committee next Wednesday.