Behind the scenes

Can Nicola Sturgeon put Salmond case behind her?

Scottish Tories insist she is not ‘free and clear’ but no confidence vote expected to fail

In the space of 24 hours, two reports on the Sturgeon-Salmond affair have been released, with what appear to be two opposing conclusions.

The first, an independent report from James Hamilton, former head of Ireland’s public prosecution service, yesterday cleared Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code in her response to sexual harassment complaints against her predecessor Alex Salmond.

The second, by a cross-party Scottish parliamentary committee, published today, found that she had misled MSPs in her account of a key meeting with Salmond – who was cleared of all the harassment charges at trial.

The Scottish Conservatives will “press ahead” with their plans for a motion of no-confidence in the first minister later today following the “damning parliamentary report”, says The Daily Telegraph. Scottish Tories leader Douglas Ross insisted yesterday that she “is not free and clear”. 

However, Sturgeon looks set to “easily defeat” the vote, says the Financial Times, with the political impact of the committee’s findings likely to be “blunted” by the earlier Hamilton report. The Greens are refusing to back the motion in light of the independent inquiry’s findings.

Indeed, Sean O’Grady of The Independent believes Sturgeon can “breathe a small sigh of relief for now”. He describes Hamilton’s judgment as “unequivocal”, while the committee of Scottish parliamentarians has an opposition majority and was split on party lines. 

The first minister is likely to get the chance to fight for a fresh overall majority, and “personal vote of confidence from the Scottish electorate”, in the Holyrood elections on 3 May, says O’Grady – although he adds that “the last few weeks have hardly been edifying”.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar noted yesterday: “This entire process has deeply damaged public trust in our politics at a time of national crisis, and there are absolutely no winners today.”

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