Alex Salmond inquiry LIVE: Nicola Sturgeon arrives at Holyrood for committee amid calls to RESIGN

NICOLA Sturgeon faced calls to resign last night after new legal documents were published showing the Scottish Government WAS warned about its case against Alex Salmond.

The government has published emails showing it continued a legal fight with Mr Salmond despite its lawyers advising it was likely to lose and the Tories said they will submit a vote of no confidence in Ms Sturgeon.

On Friday,Mr Salmond said he has "no doubt" that Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code – but said it wasn't for him to say if she should resign.

Ms Sturgeon is due to give evidence at the Holyrood inquiry today in the final evidence session of the inquiry before it finishes its report.

All of the background details you need to know can be found here – and read up with all the news from Friday's hearing in our blog below.

  • David Irvine

    FM 'FEUD'

    FORMER prime minister Gordon Brown has said that the feud between Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond is "bringing the country down".

    Ms Sturgeon is facing calls from the Scottish Conservatives to resign, after the Scottish Government published legal advice related to the matter on Tuesday evening.

    Asked about his thoughts on Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond, Mr Brown told ITV News: "They're in a feud, they're bringing the country down, it's not really about policy.

    "We're worried about the virus, we're worried about the economic recession, I'm worried about people coming together across the whole of Britain to deal with it, and we've got this feud about who said what when, and on the basis of some very bad behaviour."

    Asked if Ms Sturgeon would have to resign if she is found to have broken the ministerial code of conduct, he said: "If we cannot uphold in public life the highest standards of integrity, and if we cannot trust each other that we will take seriously the vows we make when we go into office, then I think anything goes and it becomes anarchy, and I don't think that's the way forward."

  • David Irvine

    ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

    Why was the committee established?

    The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up to look into the Scottish Government investigation of the allegations against the former first minister.

    MSPs have so far taken evidence from civil servants, including repeated sessions from Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, trade unions and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell – who is Ms Sturgeon's husband – and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.

    Mr Salmond himself gave evidence to the inquiry on Friday February 26, when he claimed the Scottish Government hoped his criminal trial would "ride to the rescue" and prevent its unlawful investigation of him suffering a "cataclysmic" civil court defeat.

    Why did Mr Salmond take legal action?

    The former first minister did not feel his treatment by the Scottish Government was fair.

    It was later found that the lead investigator of the complaints had prior contact with some of the female complainers, with Judge Lord Pentland saying the investigation was "tainted with apparent bias".

    How has the inquiry gone so far?

    The committee has repeatedly voiced frustration with how slow the handing over of evidence has been from a number of parties.

    The Scottish Government was accused of obstruction last year, with the committee saying it was "completely frustrated" with the lack of evidence.

    Both the committee and the Scottish Government were at loggerheads over legal advice provided as part of the judicial review process.

    MSPs wanted to know when the Scottish Government was advised it would likely lose the challenge raised by Mr Salmond, but ministers said handing over the advice would breach the ministerial code.

    On two occasions, MSPs voted for the evidence to be released, with a deal eventually being struck in December to disclose the advice only to MSPs on the committee.

    Didn't Mr Salmond face trial on sexual misconduct charges?

    Yes. The former first minister was cleared of 13 charges at the High Court in Edinburgh in March last year, after being arrested in January 2019.

    What were the issues with Mr Salmond's evidence?

    Mr Salmond and the committee have been wrangling in recent weeks over evidence published by the inquiry.

    Earlier this month the former first minister said he would not appear, after the committee decided not to publish his submission to a separate investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code, over fears it may identify some of the complainers in Mr Salmond's criminal trial last year.

    However, an alteration made to a court order by Judge Lady Dorrian meant the evidence could potentially be made public.

    While the committee voted against publication, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) made the decision to publish anyway.

    The evidence, which was released last Monday evening, was online for less than 24 hours before the Crown Office raised concerns with Holyrood about it, asking for redactions to be made.

    In his submission, the former first minister accused some in the Scottish Government and SNP of a "malicious and concerted attempt to damage my reputation and remove me from public life in Scotland".

    Ms Sturgeon said her predecessor did not have "a shred of evidence" to support his claims.

    Last Tuesday the submission was re-released, with a number of paragraphs relating to the set-up of a meeting between Mr Salmond and his successor redacted.

    Is the committee inquiry the only investigation into the matter? No. Ms Sturgeon is currently under investigation by James Hamilton QC, to establish if she breached the ministerial code.

    Ms Sturgeon referred herself after being accused of misleading Parliament over when she knew of the complaints against Mr Salmond.

    She previously said she had been told about the allegations by Mr Salmond himself during a meeting in her home on April 2, 2018.

    However, it was later found that Mr Salmond's former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, had met the First Minister in her Holyrood office four days prior to that, where she was told of the complaints.

    Did the Scottish Government publish legal advice it received over the Salmond case?

    Deputy First Minister John Swinney agreed to hand over legal advice under threat of a no-confidence vote from opposition parties, and the advice was published on Tuesday evening.

    Documents showed that lawyers warned the Scottish Government in September 2018 that there "is a real risk that the court may be persuaded by the petitioner's case in respect of the ground of challenge based on 'procedural unfairness'".

    On December 6 2018 legal advisers told ministers that in their view the "least worst option" would be to concede the petition.

    Following publication of the legal advice, the Scottish Conservatives called on Ms Sturgeon to resign and said they would submit a vote of no confidence in her.

    A spokesman for the First Minister said on Tuesday evening that to call a vote of no confidence in the middle of a pandemic, before hearing a single word of the First Minister's evidence, is "utterly irresponsible".

  • David Irvine

    HOLYROOD ARRIVAL

    NICOLA Sturgeon has arrived at Holyrood ahead of the inquiry this morning.

    The First Minister was seen being driven into the car park before the 9am session.

  • David Irvine

    EN ROUTE

    NICOLA Sturgeon has been pictured leaving her home ahead of today's committee session.

    The First Minister will appear at the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government's botched harassment probe.

    The session is set to begin at 9am.

    You can watch along HERE, or keep up to date in our live blog.

    Credit: PA:Press Association
  • Connor Boylan

    STURGEON TO APPEAR TODAY

    Nicola Sturgeon will appear in front of the committee from 9am this morning.

    Join us then as we bring you all the details from the First Minister's evidence to the inquiry.

  • Blair Meikle

    'OFFER MADE'

    ALEX Salmond’s former lawyer today claimed that Nicola Sturgeon told her predecessor she’d “intervene” in her government’s probe into harassment claims against him.

    Advocate and ex-SNP MSP Duncan Hamilton said the offer was made at a controversial meeting between the pair at Ms Sturgeon’s home in Glasgow in April 2018.

    The First Minister has repeatedly told parliament she never sought to intervene in the process.

    And she has claimed that summit was when she first found out about the investigation into her ex-mentor — from Mr Salmond himself.

    But Mr Hamilton claimed in a letter to a Holyrood inquiry that Ms Sturgeon had offered to “assist” the former Nats chief.

    He also insisted she was aware of the Scottish Government’s probe before the meeting.

    READ MORE: https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/6763593/alex-salmond-nicola-sturgeon-intervene-government-probe-lawyer/

  • Blair Meikle

    CLAIM GAME

    TWO former SNP bigwigs backed up a claim that a government official told Alex Salmond’s ex chief of staff the name of a woman who complained about him.

    Former MSP Duncan Hamilton – one of Mr Salmond’s lawyers – and former top spin doctor Kevin Pringle both bolstered the account given by Mr Salmond to MSPs on Friday.

    The ex First Minister’s comments came a day after Nicola Sturgeon told parliament the alleged incident did not happen “to the very best of my knowledge”.

    The confidentiality breach was said to have taken place in the run-up to a meeting between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond at her home in Glasgow on April 2, 2018.

    n a letter to MSPs, advocate Mr Hamilton said he had been “told the name of a complainant” by Geoff Aberdein, Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, in “the early part of March 2018”.

    READ MORE: https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/6763449/alex-salmond-claim-complainers-name-backed/

  • Blair Meikle

    QUIT CALLS

    NICOLA Sturgeon is facing calls to resign tonight after new legal documents were published showing the Scottish Government WAS warned about its case against Alex Salmond.

    The government has published emails showing it continued a legal fight with Mr Salmond despite its lawyers advising it was likely to lose.

    Deputy First Minister John Swinney agreed to hand over legal advice under threat of a no-confidence vote, and acknowledged "reservations were raised" by government lawyers about the way allegations about Mr Salmond were investigated. 

    The Scottish Government launched an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by the former first minister, but it was found to be unlawful. 

    Redacted legal advice published by the Scottish Government tonight showed that lawyers advised them in September 2018 that there "is a real risk that the court may be persuaded by the petitioner's case in respect of the ground of challenge based on 'procedural unfairness'." 

    READ MORE: https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/politics/6762546/nicola-sturgeon-alex-salmond-resign-tories/

  • Ewan Mowat

    SCOTLAND'S Lord Advocate blasted "baseless" claims the Scottish Government influenced the Crown Office's controversial intervention in redacting Alex Salmond's evidence.

    Mr Salmond last week said that James Wolffe QC, who is both the head of the Crown Office and a member of the Scottish Government, should resign over the saga, which ended up costing Scottish taxpayers more than £600,000.

    Giving evidence to the committee today, Mr Wolffe said: "Any suggestion, from any quarter, that the Crown's decision-making has at any time been influenced by irrelevant considerations or improper motivations would be wholly without foundation.

    "Insinuation and assertions to the contrary are baseless."

    He said the crown had been criticised for "actions it has taken to protect the identity of the complainers" at Mr Salmond's criminal trial, at which he was acquitted of all charges.

    Read more HERE

  • Ewan Mowat

    DEPUTY First Minister John Swinney today admitted ministers pressed ahead with defending a costly legal challenge from Alex Salmond despite government legal advisers expressing "reservations".

    The Scottish Government's probe into Mr Salmond was declared unlawful and "tainted by apparent bias" in January 2019, due to prior contact between two women who complained about his alleged behaviour, and the investigating official – HR boss Judith MacKinnon.

    Taxpayers were hit with a bill of more than £600,000 in legal fees alone.

    MSPs on the Holyrood inquiry probing the botched investigation – and whether Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code during the saga – have been battling for months to get the Scottish Government's legal advice on the Mr Salmond's civil judicial review, which he launched in August 2018 when the internal investigation has completed.

    And today, Mr Swinney wrote to the committee and confirmed the advice – at least some of which will be published this afternoon – will show how lawyers identified the issue of prior contact in October 2018 as a problem with the government's prospects of defending Mr Salmond's action.

    Read more HERE

  • Ewan Mowat

    SCOTLAND'S Lord Advocate is due to reappear before a Holyrood inquiry to face questions about the Crown Office's controversial intervention in redacting Alex Salmond's evidence.

    James Wolffe QC will also be quizzed on the apparent breach of a court order about releasing evidence.

    Mr Wolffe has been recalled to give more evidence to the committee into the Scottish Government's unlawful investigation of harassment complaints about the former First Minister.

    And his appearance, which was originally due to be private, will now be made public after a series of objections, including from committee members.

    Mr Salmond last week said that Mr Wolffe, who is both the head of the Crown Office – the body for prosecuting crime in Scotland, and a member of the Scottish Government, should resign over the saga, which ended up costing Scottish taxpayers more than £600,000.

    Read more HERE

  • Jonathan Whitelaw

    Top civil servant may have destroyed notes of Nic meeting linked to Salmond

    Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans admitted under oath that she destroys all of her notebooks – and might have done so with notes from a summit with the First Minister that the Tories have branded “secret”.

    Her comments were made during a behind-closed-doors court hearing when Mr Salmond was seeking to get evidence held by the Scottish Government for his civil challenge against them in 2018.

    And transcripts seen by The Scottish Sun raise further questions about a controversial meeting between Ms Evans and Ms Sturgeon in the days after two women first made allegations to the government about Mr Salmond in November 2017.

    Read more HERE

  • Jonathan Whitelaw

    Tories to lodge motion of no confidence in John Swinney over publication of legal advice

    On two occasions, MSPs have voted to compel the Scottish Government to produce legal advice taken as part of the legal challenge brought by Alex Salmond over its harassment complaints procedure, but ministers have so far not handed the advice over.

    The Scottish Government went on to concede the judicial review into the investigation of Mr Salmond, which Judge Lord Pentland said was "tainted with apparent bias".

    In a letter to Linda Fabiani, the convener of the committee looking into the handling of complaints against Mr Salmond, in December, Mr Swinney said he was keen to find a "practical way" that the advice could be handed over to the committee, but no such arrangement has been put in place.

    Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the move was to give the Scottish Government "one last chance" to release the advice, and they would "gladly" rescind it should the advice be released.

    Read more HERE

  • Jonathan Whitelaw

    Scotland 50/50 over IndyRef2 as first poll since June shows even split of opinion

    It's the first survey since June that has shown anything other than a majority backing the Yes side.

    The Survation poll of 1000 Scots, carried out for the Sunday Mail, revealed just 43 per cent would support a split from the union.

    And 44 per cent said they would vote against independence.

    Read more HERE

  • Jonathan Whitelaw

    STURGEON SHOULD RESIGN IF SHE BROKE MINISTERIAL CODE, SAYS LABOUR LEADER SARWAR

    The First Minister is the focus of an investigation over whether she misled the Scottish Parliament on when she knew about allegations of harassment made against her predecessor Alex Salmond.

    Ms Sturgeon said she first learned of the complaints in a meeting with Mr Salmond at her home in early April 2018, but it later emerged she had been told by his former chief of staff in her Holyrood office a few days prior, a fact she claims to have forgotten.

    She referred herself for investigation by James Hamilton QC, an independent adviser on the ministerial code.

    If Ms Sturgeon is found to have broken the ministerial code, Mr Sarwar said she should step down, saying she would expect the same of ministers in other parties.

    "If there is a minister, forget who the minister is or what political party they are from, if a minister is found to have breached the ministerial code, I think people would expect that minister to resign," the newly elected Scottish Labour leader told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday.

    "That's what Nicola Sturgeon would say if it was a Labour politician, a Conservative politician or a Liberal Democrat politician, so let's take the party politics out of it – it's a point of principle."

    When pushed specifically on whether or not the First Minister should step down, Mr Sarwar said: "Yes, I think Nicola Sturgeon herself would say that if an opposition politician was in government and they'd breached the ministerial code, they would be expected to resign.

    "Let's take the party politics and the personalities out of it, it's a point of principle and respecting the office of First Minister."

  • Jonathan Whitelaw

    Sturgeon must quit if just half of the claims against her are true, says top Tory

    The Scottish First Minister’s position will be untenable if accusations by predecessor Alex Salmond are proven, according to MSP Murdo Fraser.

    He told the BBC: “I’ve been a member of the Scottish Parliament for almost 20 years and this was the most extraordinary event I can recall.

    “If even half of what he alleged turns out to be true — and we will get to the bottom of this very soon — then Nicola Sturgeon’s position is untenable and she will have to resign.”

    Read more HERE

  • Ewan Mowat
  • Ewan Mowat

    SCOTTISH Tory leader Douglas Ross has had his say following the conclusion of Alex Salmond's appearance.

    The Moray MP, who earlier claimed the former First Minister was "not a man [he] respects, has claimed SNP bosses are "on the ropes.

  • Ewan Mowat

    THE Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints has concluded its meeting.

    Alex Salmond was at the Scottish Parliament today, giving evidence to the Holyrood inquiry.

    After three sessions of questions from MSPs, the committee meeting, which started at 12.30pm, has now finished.

  • Ewan Mowat

    Alex Salmond has ‘no doubt’ Sturgeon broke ministerial code and claims crucial meeting ‘written out of history’

  • Ewan Mowat

    Alex Salmond says cops didn’t need help from ‘Inspector Murrell’ as he accuses FM’s hubby of plot to drum up complaints

  • Ewan Mowat

    ALEX Salmond says he has 'no doubt' Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code – and claims a crucial meeting was "written out of history" as it would have harmed her defence against a rule breach.

    But the former FM stopped short of saying his successor should step down from her position.

    Tory MSP Murdo Fraser asked: "If the First Minister has broken the ministerial code, should she resign?"

    Mr Salmond replied: "Not for me. I believe the First Minister has broken the ministerial code.

    "But you know that is a finding that can be discussed at least by this committee, by Mr James Hamilton.

    "It's not the case that every minister who breaks the ministerial code resigns – your own party has an example of that relatively recently.

    "It depends on what is found and the degree by which the ministerial court has been broken.

    "I've got no doubt that Nicola has broken the ministerial code, but it's not for me to suggest what the consequences should be.

    "It's for the people who are judging that including this committee."

    Mr Salmond also claimed a meeting where Nicola Sturgeon was told of complaints against him was "written out of history" as it would have harmed her defence against an alleged code breaches.

    Read more HERE

  • Ewan Mowat

    EARLIER this week Ms Sturgeon accused Mr Salmond of peddling a “dangerous conspiracy theory” and insisted he has “not a shred of evidence” to back up his claims.

    Tory MSP Murdo Fraser put it to Mr Salmond during the inquiry that in her comments, Ms Sturgeon was "denouncing [him] as a liar and a fantasist”.

    Mr Salmond replied: “Well, what I would say given some of the things that have been said about me this week, I don’t think you have to add more, there’s plenty been said.

    “The key thing is the evidence. I’ve already expressed my and I assume your frustration that some evidence in this is not available to you.

    “But there is no doubt, and it is absolutely certain, that the meeting on March 29 in the Scottish Parliament was prearranged for the express purpose of Nicola being briefed on the situation with regard to me and complaints, and the meeting on April 2 arose from the meeting – or the final arrangements for it at least – arose from the meeting on March 29.

    “Otherwise how on earth would I have known to turn up on April 2? There’s no other way the invitation could be gathered.

    “As to why March 29 was, for a substantial period of time, if we remember, effectively written out of history – and I know some people say well what difference does four days make, the difference is of course, if the meeting of March 29 is admitted and indeed the subject matter is admitted, then it makes it very difficult to argue that the meeting on April 2 was on party business as opposed to government business.

    “All I would say is that meeting was in Nicola’s terms forgotten about, but she says she was reminded of it in late January 2019 or early February 2019 in evidence to the committee.

    “If that were the case, then under the ministerial code the correct thing to do would be to correct the record as timeously as possible – as opposed to waiting 18 months until Sky News broadcast it as what actually happened.”

  • Ewan Mowat

    Alex Salmond accuses Scottish Government of ‘obstruction of justice’ for failing to give prosecutors key information

  • Ewan Mowat

    NICOLA Sturgeon knew about her government’s investigation into Alex Salmond four days before she held a private meeting with him at her home, the former First Minister said.

    Alex Salmond told MSPs that his ex-chief of staff Geoff Aberdein arranged a meeting with Ms Sturgeon on March 29, 2018, “to brief Nicola on what was happening” and to set up further talks between her and Mr Salmond on April 2 at her home in Glasgow.

    Lib Dem committee member Alex Cole Hamilton asked: “It was your understanding that the First Minister already knew about the complaints and the investigation – or was Mr Aberdein breaking that news to her on March 29?”

    Mr Salmond said: “I know that Nicola Sturgeon knew about the complaints process at the meeting on March 29 because I was told so by Geoff Aberdein, who told her at the meeting arranged for that purpose.

    “Whether she had any prior knowledge of it I cannot say. But I know that she knew on March 29.”

    He added: “My position is the meeting of April 2 was arranged on March 29. And I know this because Geoff Aberdein phoned me on March 28, the day before the meeting, to tell me it was going to take place.

    "And he phoned me the day after the meeting to tell me the meeting had been arranged for April 2, which I think was Easter Monday, in Glasgow.”

    Mr Salmond also rubbished a claim by SNP chief executive Peter Murrell – Ms Sturgeon’s husband – who said it wasn’t unusual for the former First Minister to “pop in for a chat” at their home.

    He said: “I heard Mr Murrell saying several times I was regularly popping in – can I just point out I stay 200 miles away from Glasgow and, as far as I can remember, I’ve been to Nicola and Peter’s home six times in my life – maybe slightly more, but it’s not a question of just popping in.

    “Even when my relationship with the First Minister was extremely good, I didn’t pop in because she stayed in Glasgow and I stayed in Aberdeenshire, and that was an arranged meeting.”

    Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly told parliament she first learned of her government’s investigation at the April 2 meeting at her home.

    However in written evidence to the committee, she said she “forgot” an earlier meeting on March 29 with Mr Aberdein where he mentioned “allegations of a sexual nature” about her predecessor.

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