There are only a few weeks left for Scotland to hold a general election on 6 May. So far, according to polls, Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) has managed to count on a clear victory. But now the head of the popular government is coming under increasing pressure in a dispute with his predecessor, Alex Salmond. The demand for his resignation is gaining momentum after new documents were published on Tuesday. Salmond, who was once his political mentor, accused Sturgeon and his government of a series of misconduct in dealing with the charges against him.
On Wednesday, Sturgeon contested these allegations in a parliamentary inquiry committee. The committee was set up to examine whether the government had acted legally when launching an investigation into Salmond’s sexual assault of two female employees in 2018. The probe was dropped in January 2019 due to procedural errors. A subsequent criminal trial, in which nine women testified against Salmond, was acquitted (one charge was ruled “unsubstantiated”).
A central point the committee wanted to clarify is whether Sturgeon violated the so-called “ministerial code”, i.e. rules of conduct for members of the government, as Salmond claims. Sturgeon’s resignation would then be expected. There is also a separate study for this. In particular, the question is whether he lied to Parliament at the time of learning of the allegations against Salmond and the allegation that he had not officially documented the key meetings.
The head of government reiterated his statement before the committee that he only learned of the allegations against him from Salmond on April 2, 2018 – and not from a former employee on March 29, 2018, as he claimed. She argued that it would not have been such a “huge blow” to her when she had been told by Salmond on April 2 that she would have known if she had already known about it. A former lawyer for Salmond, who attended the April 2 meeting, wrote a written statement supporting the employee’s account, it was revealed Tuesday. According to British media reports, he wrote: “When we arrived, everyone in the room knew why we were there.”
Salmond spoke of pressure on the police
During the hearing, Sturgeon also denied Salmond’s allegation that there was a government conspiracy against him. “I had no motive, intention or desire to take action against Alex Salmond,” Sturgeon said. His predecessor was to him “one of the closest people in my entire life”. Both politicians have been heads of Scottish government for years. Sturgeon replaced Salmond at the helm of the government and party in 2014 following Scotland’s unsuccessful independence referendum.
Sturgeon also rejected the allegation that the government had continued its investigation against Salmond against its better judgment, despite documents published on Tuesday. These show that in late 2018, legal advisors advised the government to halt its action on Salmond. It was previously revealed that the officer investigating the case had previously been in contact with the two women who made the allegations against Salmond. As the BBC wrote, the lawyers wrote that they faced “extreme professional embarrassment” in representing the case. Sturgeon didn’t see this as a problem. Legal advice always points to risk, she said in the committee.
Opposition conservatives see things differently. He announced a motion of no confidence in Sturgeon on Tuesday. Party leader Douglas Ross said there was no longer any doubt that he lied to parliament and in several cases broke the “ministerial code”. “The evidence is overwhelming. Nicola Sturgeon should resign.” Should other parties support this view, things could turn tough for Sturgeon. Your SNP does not have majority in Parliament.
Freelance twitter maven. Infuriatingly humble coffee aficionado. Amateur gamer. Typical beer fan. Avid music scholar. Alcohol nerd.