Alex Salmond accuses Nicola Sturgeon of misleading parliament and giving ‘untrue’ evidence during the sexual harassment inquiry against him
- Alex Salmond accused successor of making ‘ridiculous’ and ‘wholly false’ claims
- This was about their meetings to discuss the handling of complaints against him
- He claims that parliament ‘has been repeatedly misled on a number of occasions’
- This is about meeting Salmond had with Miss Sturgeon at her home in April 2018
Alex Salmond yesterday accused Nicola Sturgeon of giving ‘simply untrue’ evidence to an inquiry into complaints against him.
In an explosive intervention, the former First Minister accused his successor of making ‘ridiculous’ and ‘wholly false’ claims about their meetings to discuss the handling of complaints against him.
His account to the Holyrood inquiry into the way harassment complaints about him were dealt with claims that parliament ‘has been repeatedly misled on a number of occasions’ about a meeting he had with Miss Sturgeon at her home in April 2018.
He also accused Ms Sturgeon of breaking the ministerial code of conduct.
If the claims are proved to be true then it is likely Miss Sturgeon’s political career could be over.
In an explosive intervention, the former First Minister (pictured in March) accused his successor of making ‘ridiculous’ and ‘wholly false’ claims about their meetings to discuss the handling of complaints against him
The evidence has reignited the civil war between the two most powerful figures in the SNP’s history, with a spokesman for Miss Sturgeon claiming that Mr Salmond was trying to malign her reputation by ‘spinning false conspiracy theories’.
Last night, Mr Salmond said he stands by every word of his account and is prepared to do so under oath when he finally appears in front of the inquiry.
He sent his account to James Hamilton, who is holding an independent investigation into whether Miss Sturgeon broke the ministerial code of conduct by failing to disclose meetings where they discussed complaints about him. It was also yesterday sent to MSPs on the Scottish Parliament committee holding an inquiry into the issue.
Miss Sturgeon previously told MSPs in 2019 that she was first made aware of complaints about Mr Salmond at a meeting with him at her home on April 2, 2018. But her written evidence to the Holyrood inquiry subsequently said she met with Geoff Aberdein, Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, on March 29, 2018, when they had a discussion which included ‘allegations of a sexual nature’.
She also told MSPs in 2019 that she met Mr Salmond on three occasions in total, with the others being in June 2018 in Aberdeen ahead of the SNP’s conference and July 2018, also in her home, but none of the meetings were recorded officially and no minutes were taken.
If the claims are proved to be true then it is likely Miss Sturgeon’s political career could be over
In his submission, Mr Salmond claims each time Miss Sturgeon met with him and did not inform civil servants was a breach of the ministerial code.
He said the meeting between Mr Aberdein and Miss Sturgeon was arranged ‘for the purpose of discussing the complaints and thereafter arranging a direct meeting between myself and the First Minister’.
He said: ‘There was never the slightest doubt what the meeting was about. Any suggestion by the First Minister to the Scottish Parliament that the meeting was ‘fleeting or opportunistic’ is simply untrue.’
He said the April 2 meeting was then arranged between him and Miss Sturgeon, and that ‘self-evidently only the First Minister could issue that invitation to her private home’.
Allegations, discussions, denials and a ‘forgotten’ key meeting
November 2017: Allegations regarding Alex Salmond’s behaviour are raised with the SNP by Sky News. Nicola Sturgeon said she spoke to him about this – and he ‘denied it’. No further action was taken.
March 29, 2018: Miss Sturgeon meets Geoff Aberdein in her Scottish parliament office where she has admitted they discussed the possibility of a meeting with Mr Salmond. Miss Sturgeon – after initially forgetting about this meeting – says there was ‘the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature’.
April 2, 2018: Miss Sturgeon and Mr Salmond meet at the First Minister’s home. According to Miss Sturgeon, this is the first time she heard of the complaints made against him. Despite this, she has insisted that the matters discussed were party business.
April 23, 2018: Miss Sturgeon and Mr Salmond hold a ‘substantive’ phone discussion. During this call, Miss Sturgeon claims that Mr Salmond asked whether she would speak to Leslie Evans about ‘mediation’ with the complainants. A special adviser was in the room at the time.
June 6, 2018: Miss Sturgeon writes to Mrs Evans to inform her that she has held discussions with Mr Salmond.
June 7, 2018: Miss Sturgeon again meets Mr Salmond, this time in Aberdeen ahead of the SNP party conference.
July 14, 2018: Miss Sturgeon meets Mr Salmond at her home near Glasgow.
July 18, 2018: Miss Sturgeon and Mr Salmond speak again on the phone. Miss Sturgeon said that ‘by this time’ she was ‘anxious – as party leader and from the perspective of preparing my party for any potential public issue – to know whether his handling of the matter meant it was likely to become public in the near future.’
This is the last time Miss Sturgeon and Mr Salmond speak. During this time they also exchange a number of WhatsApp messages in which they discuss the affair – including Mr Salmond’s decision to seek a judicial review over the government’s probe into the two complaints. He goes on to win this and is awarded £500,000 in legal fees.
Mr Salmond said his purpose in the meeting was to alert Miss Sturgeon to the ‘illegality’ of the complaints process and ask her to secure a mediation process to resolve the complaints.
He said: ‘I was well aware that under the Ministerial Code the First Minister should notify the civil service of the discussion and believed that this would be the point at which she would make her views known.
‘The First Minister assured us that she would make such an intervention at an appropriate stage.’
In early 2019, Miss Sturgeon bowed to pressure from opponents and referred herself for an official investigation into whether she broke strict Scottish Government rules by failing to report details of her meetings with Mr Salmond.
During these meetings, they discussed sexual misconduct allegations against Mr Salmond but she did not publicly disclose that these meetings had happened. The ministerial code states that ministers must ‘arrange for the basic facts’ of meetings concerning Government business to be recorded.
Miss Sturgeon has insisted that she did not record details of the first meeting because she thought it was going to be about ‘party business’.
In his submission, Mr Salmond brands the claim ‘ridiculous’. He said: ‘In her written submission to the Committee, the First Minister has subsequently admitted to that meeting on 29th March 2018 (with Mr Aberdein), claiming to have previously ‘forgotten’ about it. That is, with respect, untenable.
‘The pre-arranged meeting in the Scottish Parliament of 29th March 2018 was ‘forgotten’ about because acknowledging it would have rendered ridiculous the claim made by the First Minister in Parliament that it had been believed that the meeting on 2nd April was on SNP Party business and thus held at her private residence.
‘In reality all participants in that meeting were fully aware of what the meeting was about and why it had been arranged. The meeting took place with a shared understanding of the issues for discussion – the complaints made and the Scottish Government procedure which had been launched.
‘The First Minister’s claim that it was ever thought to be about anything other than the complaints made against me is wholly false.’
Mr Salmond was awarded more than £500,000 in costs after a judicial review found the handling of complaints against him was unlawful and tainted with apparent bias because of prior contact between the investigating officer and complainants.
In his submission, Mr Salmond claims that ‘at the very latest by October 31st 2018, the government and the First Minister knew of legal advice from external counsel that ‘on the balance of probability they would lose the Judicial Review and be found to have acted unlawfully’.
He said: ‘Despite this the legal action was continued until early January 2019 and was only conceded after both Government external counsel threatened to resign from the case which they considered to be unstateable. This, on any reading, is contrary to section 2.30 of the Ministerial Code.’
A spokesman for Miss Sturgeon said: ‘The First Minister entirely rejects Mr Salmond’s claims about the Ministerial Code.
‘We should always remember that the roots of this issue lie in complaints made by women about Alex Salmond’s behaviour whilst he was First Minister, aspects of which he has conceded. It is not surprising therefore that he continues to try to divert focus from that by seeking to malign the reputation of the First Minister and by spinning false conspiracy theories.
‘The First Minister is concentrating on fighting the pandemic, stands by what she has said, and will address these matters in full when she appears at committee in the coming weeks.’
After details of his submission became public yesterday, Mr Salmond said he had ‘told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’.
He said: ‘I can confirm that I submitted evidence to Mr James Hamilton, the Independent Adviser on the Ministerial Code, at his repeated request at the end of last year. The same evidence has now been given to the Parliamentary Committee, at their request, to assist with phase 4 of their Inquiry into the actions of Ministers and civil servants.
‘It is a matter for Mr Hamilton and Committee members what they do with my evidence but I stand by the contents of the document and I am prepared to do so under oath in front of the Committee.’
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: ‘Alex Salmond, the very person who knows exactly what Nicola Sturgeon did behind the scenes and precisely what happened in their meetings, has now said she ‘misled’ the Scottish Parliament and ‘broke’ the Ministerial Code.
‘There are witnesses and there appears to be a mountain of evidence that confirms Nicola Sturgeon knew of the allegations before she claimed to find out.
‘Nobody ever bought Nicola Sturgeon’s tall tales to have suddenly turned forgetful, especially about the devastating moment she found out of sexual harassment allegations against her friend and mentor of 30 years.
‘This evidence looks to show that she lied about the secret meeting with Salmond’s former chief of staff and ever since, she has been trying to cover it up by inventing an increasingly implausible story. What has been revealed are allegations of shocking, deliberate and corrupt actions at the heart of government. There is now clear evidence of Nicola Sturgeon abusing her power to deceive the Scottish public.
‘If this proves to be correct, it is a resignation matter. No First Minister, at any time, can be allowed to get away with repeatedly and blatantly lying to the Scottish Parliament and breaking the Ministerial Code.’
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