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Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence to Alex Salmond inquiry published


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Ms Sturgeon said she has not spoken to her former mentor since August 2018

Nicola Sturgeon’s written evidence to the inquiry into her government’s botched handling of complaints against Alex Salmond has been published.

The first minister said the probe into her predecessor had caused her “a great deal of personal anguish”.

However she insisted that she “tried to do the right thing” and “did not seek to influence” the investigation.

Opposition parties have accused the Scottish government of “obstructing” the work of the Holyrood inquiry.

Ms Sturgeon said it was “outrageous” that she was being accused of not answering questions when her written submission had not been published by the committee for more than two months after she submitted it.

The committee of MSPs was set up to investigate the government’s handling of two harassment claims against the former first minister, after he successfully challenged the complaints process in court.

In her written submission – which is dated 4 August but has only now been published – Ms Sturgeon insisted that “in what was a very difficult situation – personally, politically and professionally – I tried to do the right thing”.

The first minister spoke with Mr Salmond about the complaints on five occasions through the spring and summer of 2018, but said she had not spoken to her former mentor since.

She insisted that she “did not seek to prevent or influence the proper consideration of the complaints”.

And she said she had “acted in a way that I judged would best protect the independence and confidentiality of the investigation”.

Ms Sturgeon also said she wanted to “reject in the strongest possible terms” any suggestions that she had conspired either with or against Mr Salmond, saying the government had a duty to look in to any complaints, regardless of who was involved.

Meeting ‘forgotten’

Ms Sturgeon had previously insisted that the first she had learned of the complaints was at a meeting at her home in Glasgow on 2 April, 2018.

However during Mr Salmond’s criminal trial in March 2020 – which saw him acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault – his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein testified that he had met Ms Sturgeon at Holyrood days earlier, on 29 March.

In her written submission, the first minister confirmed that this was correct – but said she had “forgotten that this encounter had taken place”.

She said: “The discussion covered the fact that Alex Salmond wanted to see me urgently about a serious matter, and I think it did cover the suggestion that the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature”.

Ms Sturgeon said she agreed to meet her predecessor as she had the impression that “Mr Salmond was in a state of considerable distress” and might be poised to resign his SNP membership.

Nicola Sturgeon's evidence to Alex Salmond inquiry published 2

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Media captionNicola Sturgeon told Holyrood last week that the Alex Salmond inquiry ‘can call me any time it likes’

However she insisted that “while I suspected the nature of what he wanted to tell me, it was Alex Salmond who told me on 2 April that he was being investigated, and what the detail of the complaints was”.

Ms Sturgeon said that while “Mr Salmond could be challenging to work for” and had been involved in “tense situations”, she had previously had “no general concerns” about the culture of the government he ran and “certainly not about sexual harassment”.

But she said she had spoken to her predecessor about a media inquiry about “allegations of sexual misconduct” in November 2017, and that while this ultimately came to nothing it “left me with a lingering concern that allegations about Mr Salmond could materialise at some stage”.

‘Completely frustrated’

The convener of the inquiry committee, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, has previously complained that it was being “completely frustrated” by the lack of evidence and what she described as “obstruction” from the government, the SNP and Mr Salmond.

Opposition members have accused Ms Sturgeon of going back on a pledge to provide “whatever material” the committee asked for, with a Conservative MSP being ejected from the Holyrood chamber for saying the first minister had “lied to parliament”.

In angry exchanges in the parliamentary chamber last week, Ms Sturgeon hit out at suggestions she was not cooperating with the probe, saying the inquiry “can call me any time it likes”.

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The committee has also asked questions of Ms Sturgeon’s husband, SNP chief Peter Murrell

The committee also received a fresh submission from SNP Chief Executive Peter Murrell, who is also Ms Sturgeon’s husband.

Mr Murrell has been under fire from some in the SNP over text messages he sent in January 2019 – one suggesting that “folk should be asking the police questions” and that it was a “good time to be pressurising them”, and one saying that “the more fronts he [Mr Salmond] is having to firefight on the better”.

Mr Murrell said that he “did not express myself well”, but insisted that “the messages have been presented in a way that suggests a meaning that they do not in reality have”.

He said the texts had been “sent the day after Mr Salmond had been charged with a number of serious offences”, and reflected “the shock, hurt and upset” felt by himself and others in the SNP.

The SNP chief said the first text was intended to “advise that questions be addressed to the police and not the SNP”, while the second was “that any and all complaints should be appropriately investigated”.

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