Nicola Sturgeon misled Scottish parliament, inquiry finds

Report published day after separate invesigation found SNP leader did not break ministerial code

Scotland’s first minister  Nicola Sturgeon outside her home in Glasgow on Tuesday. Photograph: Robert Perry/EPA

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon outside her home in Glasgow on Tuesday. Photograph: Robert Perry/EPA

 

A Scottish parliamentary committee investigating the Scottish government’s handling of complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond concluded that his successor Nicola Sturgeon misled parliament in her account of a meeting with him.

The committee’s report, published a day after a separate inquiry found that Ms Sturgeon had not broken the ministerial code, said it was “hard to believe” the first minister had not known of concerns about Mr Salmond’s behaviour earlier than she has acknowledged.

The long-awaited Scottish parliamentary inquiry concluded that Ms Sturgeon should not have continued to meet Mr Salmond after learning that her government was investigating complaints of sexual harassment against him.

By a vote along party lines, a majority of members concluded that Ms Sturgeon misled the committee when she said she had made clearMr almond at an April 2018 meeting that she would not intervene in the investigation. This inaccurate account was a “potential breach” of the code, they said.

But the committee agreed unanimously that the separate inquiry by Ireland’s former director of public prosecutions James Hamilton, Ms Sturgeon’s adviser on the ministerial code, was the “most appropriate place” to assess whether it had been breached. Mr Hamilton’s report was published on Monday and cleared Sturgeon of any breach.

The parliamentary committee identified “fundamental errors” in how the complaints against Mr Salmond were investigated, which were compounded by its later defence of them under challenge from the former first minister.

“There are undoubtedly some extremely serious findings in our report and it was clear to the committee that there were serious flaws made in the government’s application of its own process,” committee chair Linda Fabiani said.

In January 2019, the Scottish government was forced to concede in court that its investigation into harassment complaints against Mr Salmond by two civil servants had been unlawful because it was “procedurally unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias”.

At a criminal trial last year, the former first minister was acquitted of all 13 sexual offence charges against him.

The committee’s 187-page report is largely concerned with the development of the procedure under which Mr Salmond was investigated and why it collapsed under his court challenge. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021