MSP pushes for investigation into ‘false statements’ from FM on Salmond probe

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond - (Copyright PA Archive)
17:34pm, Mon 12 Oct 2020
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Nicola Sturgeon should be investigated over alleged false statements to the Scottish Parliament, according to a member of the inquiry looking into the handling of sexual harassment complaints against Alex Salmond

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said an ongoing probe – which is separate from his own committee’s investigation – should expand its remit.

The First Minister previously said she first heard allegations of sexual misconduct made against her predecessor from a meeting with him at her home on April 2 2018.

It has since emerged Ms Sturgeon was told of an investigation into complaints against Mr Salmond by his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein at a meeting in her office on March 29.

First Minister’s Questions - (Copyright PA Media)

Mr Salmond was cleared of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh in March.

His successor has been accused of making false statements to Holyrood, although she claims she forgot about the meeting with Mr Aberdein.

Last year, the First Minister referred herself to the independent advisers on the ministerial code after allegations that she did not record the basic facts of meetings with Mr Salmond and Mr Aberdein and that she attempted to influence the investigation of allegations against the former first minister.

Now, Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has asked if the remit of the investigation, led by James Hamilton, can be extended to include alleged false statements made by the First Minister to MSPs.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “This would allow an independent expert, above the party-political fray, to determine whether the First Minister knowingly didn’t tell the truth to our national Parliament.

“If the Scottish Government insist on narrowing the scope of Mr Hamilton’s investigations then the public will draw their own conclusions.

“This sorry saga has exposed a culture of secrecy and obstruction, cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds and perhaps most egregiously, damaged confidence in the ability of the Scottish Government to appropriately handle harassment allegations.”

Fellow inquiry member Jackie Baillie has tweeted her support for the Lib Dem MSP’s calls, saying: “Contradictory statements made by the First Minister suggest that knowledge of the complaints against Mr Salmond were known about even before 29 March.

“That being the case then it is important that the ministerial code investigation is widened, @agcolehamiltonis right about that.”

Ms Sturgeon said in written evidence to the inquiry that she had forgotten the meeting with Mr Aberdein.

When pressed on the matter by the Scottish Tories’ Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson at First Minister’s Questions last week, she said: “I get why people will look at that and raise an eyebrow.

“There is something seared on my memory and it is actually the meeting that took place some three days later when Alex Salmond himself sat in my own home and gave me the details of the complaints that had been made against him and also gave me his response to aspects of those complaints.”

She added: “Forgive me if that has somehow overwritten in my mind a much more fleeting, opportunistic meeting that took place a few days earlier, that is just how it is.”

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