Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, faces a vote of no confidence next week after a parliamentary committee reportedly found that she misled parliament.
The committee inquiring into how Ms Sturgeon's government handled sexual harassment complaints against her predecessor Alex Salmond will publish its report next Tuesday. It is understood to say that the first minister misled the committee when she said she did not tell Mr Salmond that she would intervene in the complaints process on his behalf.
The Scottish Conservatives said that, if Ms Sturgeon does not resign when the report is published, they will table a motion of no confidence on Wednesday. Ruth Davidson, who leads the Conservatives at Holyrood, said the first minister's position was untenable.
“If Nicola Sturgeon has a shred of integrity, she should be considering her position. She has every opportunity to do the right thing and resign,” she said.
“No first minister is above the fundamental principles of honesty and trust. There is no question that Nicola Sturgeon has misled parliament and broken the promises she made to tell the truth.”
A judicial review found that the Scottish government’s handling of the complaints against Mr Salmond was biased and unlawful and the exercise cost the authorities more than £500,000 (€583,000) in legal bills. Mr Salmond was subsequently charged with 13 sexual offences and was acquitted on all counts after a criminal trial.
He claims that figures around Ms Sturgeon were part of a malicious effort to destroy his reputation. He told the committee that during a meeting at her home on April 2nd, 2018, the first minister had offered to intervene on his behalf, something she has repeatedly denied.
The committee has four members from the Scottish National Party (SNP) and five from the opposition. A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said she stood by every word of her evidence to the committee and accused its opposition members if using baseless assertions and smears to damage the first minister.
“It was clear from the actions of the Tories several weeks ago, when they announced plans for a motion of confidence before they had even heard a word of evidence from the first minister, that for them this committee was never a serious exercise in learning lessons on behalf of women who bring forward complaints of sexual harassment – it was only ever about politics,” he said.
Ireland's former director of public prosecutions James Hamilton is conducting a separate inquiry into whether Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, which is also expected to report next week. Ms Sturgeon leads a minority SNP administration which governs with the support of the Greens, who also favour Scottish independence.
Green leader Patrick Harvie indicated on Friday that his party would not back a vote of no confidence in the first minister as he condemned the committee of inquiry as having descended into farce by leaking its own report.
“There were serious questions that needed to be answered by this committee. That’s why we supported its creation, but it’s clear that a number of committee members have absolutely no interest in establishing the facts or seeking to create a supportive environment for women to bring forward complaints,” he said.
“Instead they have bought into Alex Salmond’s conspiracy hook, line and sinker in the hope of securing a political scalp.”