Alex Salmond set to elaborate on claims that Nicola Sturgeon misled Scottish Parliament

February 26, 2021

Scotland's former first minister Alex Salmond is set to elaborate today on claims that his successor Nicola Sturgeon misled parliament. 

Mr Salmond will give evidence to Holyrood's harassment committee following his written submission which levelled accusations against Ms Sturgeon as well as senior figures in her government and party.

He has accused the current first minister of misleading parliament over what she knew - and when - about harassment complaints against him in 2018, and that she breached the ministerial code as a result.

Follow live updates on Sky News as Alex Salmond gives evidence to the committee from 12.30pm

Mr Salmond also claims that she breached the code on a number of other occasions, notably by failing to act on legal advice in a court action that cost the taxpayer more than £600,000.

A minister breaching the ministerial code is expected to offer their resignation. Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly denied doing so.

He also accused senior figures in the SNP - a so-called "gang of four" - of making a "malicious and concerted attempt" to remove him from public life.

In his written submission, he claimed that Peter Murrell, party chief executive and husband of Nicola Sturgeon, deployed senior figures to recruit and persuade staff members to submit police complaints against him.

Mr Murrell has previously denied plotting against Mr Salmond and the SNP responded to his claims by saying: "This is just more assertion without a shred of credible evidence."

How far Mr Salmond is able to expand on his allegations before the Holyrood committee is uncertain, given redactions made in his written submission. In theory, only published evidence can be referenced in witness testimony and form part of the committee's final report.

Four hours have been set aside to hear Mr Salmond's testimony, in which he will be questioned by the harassment committee's nine MSPs. It was set up to investigate the Scottish government's mishandling of a 2018 internal inquiry into harassment complaints that two female civil servants made against him.

Mr Salmond challenged the legality of the government's investigation and a judge ruled it had been "unlawful" and "tainted by bias".

Redactions in Mr Salmond's written submission were made after Scotland's Crown Office, its prosecuting authority, expressed legal concerns over publication. On the eve of Mr Salmond's inquiry appearance, MSPs used the legal privilege afforded by the parliament chamber to discuss evidence that has been redacted from public view.

Jackie Baillie MSP, interim leader of Scottish Labour, who sits on the harassment committee, asked the first minister about redacted allegations that the name of a civil servant who had complained about Mr Salmond was revealed to his former chief of staff and then conveyed to Mr Salmond.

She said: "This is an extraordinary breach of confidentiality.

"On whose authority was contact initiated with Mr Salmond's former chief of staff? On whose authority was the name of the complainer revealed?"

Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, followed up with the question: "Is the first minister saying that the name of a complainer was not passed on to the former chief of staff of Alex Salmond?"

Ms Sturgeon, addressing the question for the first time publicly, replied: "To the very best of my knowledge, I do not think that happened."

She was asked by Mr Rennie if she investigated, following the allegation.

Nicola Sturgeon replied: "It is not my belief that that happened. But there is a committee process under way right now. There is also a process separate to the committee where the independent adviser on the ministerial code is looking at all of these matters and what I am doing is allowing these processes to take their course."

UK Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News: "Clearly, the political temperature is very high indeed. You have two of the most major figures falling out in a public spat.

"The priorities of the people of Scotland are fighting the virus and trying to live with it and get back to normal along with the rest of the United Kingdom.

"I think they will be at best puzzled and at worst dismayed by this constant political intrigue, coming against the background of an obsessive wish by the SNP to call another independence or separation referendum.

"Those issues clearly are not in tune with the priorities of the people of Scotland. I am afraid it is showing a political establishment in Edinburgh that is increasingly out of touch with the reality of day-to-day life on the ground."

He also stressed the importance of the independence of government institutions following concerns over the actions of the Scotland's Crown Office, its prosecuting authority, following its decision to redact evidence by Mr Salmond.

The Scottish Parliament agreed to belatedly redact large sections of Mr Salmond's written evidence in which he accused Ms Sturgeon of misleading Holyrood and breaching the ministerial code, following a letter from the Crown Office expressing concern about possible contempt of court.

Mr Buckland said: "It's very important I think for everybody to step back and look at their respective roles and make sure that the integrity, the independence of institutions like the Crown Office... are maintained. No government, however strong they might think they are, should think they have a right to trample over that independence."

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