Holyrood harassment committee concludes Nicola Sturgeon misled Parliament

23 March 2021, 09:58 | Updated: 23 March 2021, 16:56

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

A Scottish Parliament committee set up to investigate the handling of harassment allegations has stated that Nicola Sturgeon misled MSPs.

Those probing the Scottish Government's handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond said they "find it hard to believe" that Ms Sturgeon had "no knowledge of any concerns about inappropriate behaviour on the part of Mr Salmond prior to November 2017".

In a report published on Tuesday, the Committee on the Scottish Government's Handling of Harassment Complaints said: "If she did have such knowledge, then she should have acted upon it.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon did not breach ministerial code, inquiry finds

"If she did have such knowledge, then she has misled the committee."

The four SNP members of the committee disagreed with this statement, saying it "does not distinguish between bullying behaviour and sexual harassment".

But the Committee deferred to yesterday's Hamilton report, which said she did not, over whether Ms Sturgeon breached the ministerial code.

A report from a Scottish Parliament committee has said that Nicola Sturgeon misled MSPs
A report from a Scottish Parliament committee has said that Nicola Sturgeon misled MSPs. Picture: PA Images

The committee claimed that "some evidence to the inquiry indicated that the former first minister could display bullying behaviour" but "there has been no suggestion the First Minister was aware of sexual harassment".

The report also highlights a "fundamental contradiction" in the evidence the committee heard about a meeting between Ms Sturgeon and her predecessor in her Glasgow home on April 2 2018.

Ms Sturgeon has previously stated it was at this meeting she first learned of the allegations against the former first minister.

The committee said there was a difference in accounts from the current first minister and her predecessor on whether she would intervene in matters.

Speaking about Ms Sturgeon, the report said: "Her written evidence is therefore an inaccurate account of what happened and she has misled the committee on this matter.

"This is a potential breach of the Ministerial Code under the terms of section 1."

Again, the four SNP MSPs on the committee dissented from this section of the report.

Nicola Sturgeon is facing a backlash over her actions surrounding harassment claims
Nicola Sturgeon is facing a backlash over her actions surrounding harassment claims. Picture: PA Images

The committee released the report less than 24 hours after a separate report by James Hamilton, the independent adviser on the Scottish Ministerial Code, concluded that Nicola Sturgeon had not breached its provisions.

The committee said Mr Hamilton's work had been "completely separate from the work of our inquiry".

But the MSPs' report said: "It remains the case that the Ministerial Code is also in our remit. We have conducted our own evidence taking on this subject.

"We consider it important that we report to the Parliament on the Ministerial Code in order to fulfil our remit."

Leaks from the Scottish Parliament committee investigating the handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond were a "great shame", its convener told reporters on Tuesday.

Linda Fabiani said whoever leaked the information should have the "honour" to come forward.

Scottish MSP Linda Fabiani has expressed frustration at leaks surround the committee's report
Scottish MSP Linda Fabiani has expressed frustration at leaks surround the committee's report. Picture: PA Images

The cross-party inquiry was set up after a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government's investigation into the allegations against him being ruled unlawful and "tainted by apparent bias" in 2019.

He was awarded a maximum payout of £512,250 after the Government conceded the case a week before it was due to be heard in court because of prior contact between investigating officer Judith Mackinnon and two of the women who made complaints.