Holyrood Inquiry concludes Nicola Sturgeon misled Scottish Parliament

18 March 2021, 19:31 | Updated: 18 March 2021, 22:29

Nicola Sturgeon 'misled' Parliament over the investigation into Alex Salmond
Nicola Sturgeon 'misled' Parliament over the investigation into Alex Salmond. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Holyrood’s Harassment Committee has concluded Nicola Sturgeon misled the Scottish Parliament over an investigation into Alex Salmond.

The decision was made by a majority vote.

Later on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said the "very partisan leak" from the Alex Salmond inquiry is "not that surprising".

The inquiry into the affair found the First Minister misled the cross-party investigation by giving "an inaccurate account" of her actions.

Sturgeon has been under increasingly pressure to resign, although according to Sky News, the report stopped short of saying she "knowingly" misled Parliament.

Read more: 'Concerted effort' by SNP to encourage complaints against Salmond - Tory MP claims

Read more: Sturgeon gives evidence at Alex Salmond inquiry and dismisses claims of plot as 'absurd'

Knowingly is the threshold for resignation under the Scottish Ministerial Code.

MSPs on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee voted 5-4 that the First Minister gave an "inaccurate" account of a meeting with her predecessor during the live investigation, according to a source.

The First Minister is facing increasing calls to resign
The First Minister is facing increasing calls to resign. Picture: PA

This would amount to misleading the Scottish Parliament.

A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said the committee is still considering its report.

It is expected to be published in the coming days.

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up after a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government's investigation being ruled unlawful and "tainted by apparent bias", with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees in 2019.

This latest development comes after Conservative MP David Davis used parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons to read out messages that he suggested showed a "concerted effort by senior members of the SNP to encourage complaints" against the former first minister.

According to Mr Davis, the messages disclosed by a whistleblower "demands serious investigation", with one alleging the investigating officer in the case complained of interference by Ms Sturgeon's chief of staff.

The committee was set up after a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government's investigation being ruled unlawful
The committee was set up after a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government's investigation being ruled unlawful. Picture: PA

The message is alleged to have been sent by Judith Mackinnon to the Government's communications director on February 6 2018, almost two months before the First Minister claims to have first known about the investigation of her predecessor.

A spokesman for the First Minister said: "The First Minister told the truth to the committee in eight hours of evidence, and stands by that evidence.

"It is clear from past public statements that opposition members of this committee had prejudged the First Minister at the outset of the inquiry and before hearing a word of her evidence, so this partisan and selective briefing - before the committee has actually published its final report - is hardly surprising.

"The question of the First Minister's adherence to the ministerial code is being considered independently by James Hamilton, and we expect to receive and publish his report soon."

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