Nicola Sturgeon cleared of breaching ministerial code over Alex Salmond inquiry

Nicola Sturgeon has been cleared of breaching the ministerial code in the handling of complaints against her predecessor Alex Salmond, an independent inquiry found.

A probe by Irish lawyer James Hamilton found the First Minister did not break the rules governing ministerial conduct after allegations she failed to record meetings with Mr Salmond and others in 2018.

The investigation also examined the claim that Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament over the meetings but it found there was no breach of the code.

The findings come as a major boost to Ms Sturgeon, who is facing a no-confidence vote at Holyrood tomorrow. Ministers who breach the code would normally be expected to resign.

Mr Hamilton, the former director of public prosecutions in the Republic of Ireland, said Ms Sturgeon had offered an “incomplete narrative” of the events but he said it was a “genuine failure of recollection and was not deliberate”.

He concluded in his report: “I am of the opinion that the First Minister did not breach the provisions of the Ministerial Code in respect of any of these matters.”

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond were once close allies
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond were once close allies

Ms Sturgeon referred herself to the independent adviser on the ministerial code after Mr Salmond successfully mounted a legal challenge against the Scottish Government over its botched investigation of sexual harassment complaints against him.

The probe was put on ice while criminal proceedings were brought against Mr Salmond but he was acquitted on all charges last year.

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In a statement, Ms Sturgeon said: “Mr Hamilton has considered all of the allegations against me, and I am happy that his report’s findings clear me of any breach of the ministerial code.

“I sought at every stage in this issue to act with integrity and in the public interest. As I have previously made clear, I did not consider that I had broken the code, but these findings are official, definitive and independent adjudication of that.

“Prior to its publication, opposition politicians stressed the importance of respecting and accepting the outcome of Mr Hamilton’s independent inquiry, and I committed wholeheartedly to doing so. Now that he has reported, it is incumbent on them to do likewise.”

Ms Sturgeon will likely survive a no-confidence vote as the Scottish Greens said they would not support it following the results of the independent report.

The party’s co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Mr Hamilton has clearly concluded that the First Minister did not breach the ministerial code, so we will not support the vote of no confidence being pushed by the Tories.

“In lodging a vote of no confidence before this report was published, just as they called for the First Minister’s resignation before she even gave evidence to the parliamentary committee, the Tories have shown that they have no interest in establishing the truth.

“This entire saga should have been about examining a process that let down women and ensuring that was never repeated.”


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