Nicola Sturgeon accused of misleading Parliament over Salmond

15:02pm, Wed 07 Oct 2020
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Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of misleading Parliament after giving evidence to a Holyrood committee investigating complaints against Alex Salmond.

The First Minister’s written evidence to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, which is examining how the Scottish Government dealt with sexual harassment allegations against the former first minister, was published on Wednesday.

Mr Salmond was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault, attempted rape and indecent assault at the High court in Edinburgh in March.

The court case followed a legal battle which saw him awarded more than £500,000 when the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled a Scottish Government investigation into his conduct was “unlawful”.

A meeting that would be seared in most people’s memory was immediately forgot all about

In her evidence, Ms Sturgeon said that on March 9 2018 she had spoken with Geoff Aberdein, former chief of staff to Mr Salmond, in her Holyrood office, about the fact the former first minister wanted to meet to discuss “allegations of a sexual nature”.

She said: “I had forgotten that this encounter had taken place until I was reminded of it in, I think, late January/early February 2019.

“For context, I think the meeting took place not long after the weekly session of FMQs and in the midst of a busy day in which I would have been dealing with a multitude of other matters.”

Previously when pressed by MSPs in Parliament on what she knew and when, Ms Sturgeon repeatedly referred only to an April 2, 2018 meeting with Mr Salmond in her home.

Scottish Conservative Murdo Fraser, who sits on the committee, said the “scraps of evidence” provided were “damning enough” to show Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament.

He added: “We are expected to accept that Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister renowned for her grasp of detail, has the memory of a sieve when she’s told that her mentor of 30 years is facing allegations of sexual misconduct.

“A meeting that would be seared in most people’s memory was immediately forgot all about.

“She then went on to meet with Mr Salmond again and again, on what was clearly Government business, all while pretending it was solely about the SNP.

“It’s now a matter of fact that the First Minister misled Parliament. She did not find out on April 2 and she did not find out from Alex Salmond.”

Jackie Baillie - (Copyright PA Archive)

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie, who also sits on the committee, said: “The First Minister’s evidence to this committee raises many questions and could be described as having as many holes as a Swiss cheese.”

In her evidence, Ms Sturgeon also said she spoke to Mr Salmond in November 2017 about allegations of sexual misconduct after receiving an inquiry from Sky News.

Ms Baillie said this was “despite senior figures in the SNP” knowing of the alleged incident “as early as 2008”.

She asked: “Was this because she ignored the allegations at the time or is it because the information had been sat on by other senior figures in the SNP, including her husband (SNP chief executive Peter Murrell)?

“Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence to the committee will be considered in due course, but what her evidence has exposed is the blurring of lines between the Scottish Government and the SNP, and the fact that they seem to live in each other’s pockets.”

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