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Five things we learned from Nicola Sturgeon’s testimony to Salmond inquiry

First minister denies wrongdoing as demands for ‘no confidence’ vote grow

Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls to resign after appearing before a government inquiry following claims from two other witnesses that she lied to the Scottish parliament.

Testimonies given yesterday by two former special advisors “contradict the first minister of Scotland about when she knew of a sexual harassment investigation into her predecessor” Alex Salmond, The Times reports.

But Sturgeon came out fighting today as she gave her version of events to MSPs probing the handling of abuse claims against Salmond, insisting that she was never “out to get” her former ally. Here are five key claims made at the inquiry. 

1

No intervention

Salmond claimed last week that SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, who is married to Sturgeon, “deployed senior figures to recruit and persuade staff members to submit police complaints”. 

However, Sturgeon today “told MSPs she did not intervene in the process of the Scottish Government’s investigation”, The Telegraph reports. To do so would have been an “abuse” of her position, she said.

She also said that she had agreed to meet with Salmond as rumours of the allegations against him began circulating, after his former chief of staff “told her he was worried about Mr Salmond’s state of mental health and that he was considering resigning from the party”, the paper adds.

“Given what I was told about the distress Alex was in, it was suggested to me that he intended to handle matters, it is likely that I still would have agreed to meet him as a friend and as his party leader,” she said.

2

Not the leaker

Salmond has called for a police investigation into how details of the complaints against him were handed to the Daily Record in August 2018. The former Scottish leader claims the leak came from within the government and was politically motivated.

Sturgeon said that she did “not know where the leaks came from”, adding: “I can tell you where I know they didn't come from, they didn't come from me, they didn’t come from anybody acting on my authority or on my instruction or at my request.”

She added: “Since I first became aware of what Alex Salmond was facing, the thought of it becoming public, the thought of having to comment on it horrified me, absolutely horrified me, made me feel physically sick.” 

3

Big mistake

Sturgeon admitted that the government made “a mistake, a very serious mistake” in how the investigation into Salmond’s alleged wrongdoing was handled, but insisted that she was not “out to get” her predecessor.

A successful judicial review by Salmond saw the investigation ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout for legal fees. However, Sturgeon told the Holyrood inquiry that there was not “a shred of evidence” to support Salmond’s claim of a “malicious and concerted” effort to remove him from public life.

4

Complaints policy

Sturgeon also played down claims by Salmond that she moved to have the Scottish government’s harassment policy rewritten in an effort to target him.

Salmond claims that the complaints procedure was signed off in February 2018, about four months after the SNP were first made aware of the allegations him, in October 2017. 

But Sturgeon said that the policy was signed off in December 2017 and that the first “formal complaints were [made] in January 2018”.

“The procedure was in place from the 20th December,” she told the inquiry. “It wasn’t published until February but it was in place and clearly being used.”

5

No confidence

Sturgeon is under growing pressure after a former special advisor gave evidence yesterday “backing up” some of Salmond’s claims, says The Times. 

Former SNP MSP Duncan Hamilton, who is now Salmond’s lawyer, “said that Sturgeon initially offered to intervene and help Salmond embark on a mediation process with the women”, the paper reports. Sturgeon has denied this claim in parliament - so should it be proved to be true, she will have breached the ministerial code.

Following Hamilton’s testimony, Scottish Conservative Douglas Ross leader said that “Sturgeon must resign” and that the Tories would be “submitting a vote of no confidence in the first minister”. A spokesperson for Sturgeon called the threat “utterly irresponsible”.

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