Sturgeon 'Facing Questions' Over Salmond Case

17 January 2019, 15:19 | Updated: 17 January 2019, 15:20

Nicola Sturgeon Alex Salmond

Nicola Sturgeon has said she would give evidence to a special committee being set up to probe the Scottish Government's handling of complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that if the committee, which is yet to be established, called her to answer questions, she would do so.

She said: "Am I prepared to personally appear before an inquiry? Yes, I am.

"As First Minister I don't consider it optional to me whether or not I appear before parliamentary committees, that is a part of my job and a part of my responsibility."

She was pressed on the issue during First Minister's Questions at Holyrood, with Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw claiming there are still "numerous questions" facing Ms Sturgeon over her role in the "tawdry affair".

He said: "Doesn't she accept this tawdry business and her handling of it in the last seven days has undermined trust in her Government?"

Both Mr Carlaw and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard questioned her on the parliamentary inquiry into the matter, which was announced by Holyrood on Tuesday.

The special committee will form part of Parliament's investigation into events surrounding sexual misconduct allegations against former SNP leader Mr Salmond.

Having previously faced calls for such an inquiry to be established, Ms Sturgeon insisted her rivals must now let it run its course.

It is being established after Mr Salmond won a legal challenge against the Government over its handling of the allegations - which he denies - made by two women and dating back to the time when he was first minister.

The Scottish Government has announced a review of what happened, with Ms Sturgeon also having referred the case to independent advisers to consider if she breached the ministerial code during meetings and phone calls with her predecessor.

In addition, there is also an ongoing police investigation into the allegations.

The First Minister said on Thursday: "Questions have been raised about these matters, questions have legitimately been raised.

"I have set out an account of the decisions I took, but beyond that I now intend fully as First Minister to respect the work of the various investigations that have now been established.

"Jackson Carlaw last week at First Minister's Questions asked me to support a parliamentary inquiry into these matters, I have done so.

"Last week Richard Leonard asked me to make a referral of my own conduct to the advisers on the ministerial code, I have done that.

"In addition the Scottish Government will establish a review, that will be externally led. Any role I would have performed in the establishment of that I have asked the Deputy First Minister to perform instead.

"And of course there is an ongoing police inquiry.

"I will answer any question to the fullest extent possible and my Government will co-operate fully with all and any inquiries.

"But others in the chamber now need to recognise that having asked for these investigations they are also now obliged to respect those investigations."

But Mr Carlaw said "numerous questions" remain outstanding as he asked what had been discussed at meetings between the First Minister and her predecessor.

Ms Sturgeon had meetings and conversations with Mr Salmond after he told her about the investigation at her home on April 2 2018, and the Tory added: "Why did the First Minister continue to meet the former first minister as late as July last year despite consequently telling us she couldn't get involved?"

He said the First Minister would "have to answer these questions sooner or later", as he told her: "All of us are asking 'what on earth did you think you were doing?'"

Ms Sturgeon countered by saying the Tory interim leader is raising the issue to try "to avoid talking about the mess of the Brexit negotiations that his party is making".

Meanwhile Mr Leonard said the parliamentary inquiry "must be as thorough as possible", as he raised concerns the committee being set up could be chaired by an SNP MSP.

He said: "According to parliamentary precedent, the position of committee chair is due to be offered to the SNP, but this is an unprecedented situation.

"This inquiry is about restoring trust and confidence, so will the First Minister's party do the right thing, will they step aside and ensure an MSP from another party chairs this inquiry?"

Ms Sturgeon told him that was a matter for Holyrood business chiefs on the parliamentary bureau.