Alex Salmond ditches inquiry and plans press conference to make claims against Nicola Sturgeon

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Former first minister Alex Salmond (PA)
Former first minister Alex Salmond (PA)

Alex Salmond has decided to ditch a scheduled appearance at the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish government’s botched handling of sexual harassment claims against him.

Rather than appear at the investigating committee this week, the former first minister is now expected to give an explosive press conference to make a series of allegations about Nicola Sturgeon.

Mr Salmond is angry that the committee of MSPs is refusing to publish his own dossier of claims against Ms Sturgeon and her government.

The former SNP leader is claiming his successor misled the Scottish parliament and broke the ministerial code by giving “false” evidence about her meetings with him – an allegation she denies.

Mr Salmond is understood to be planning to hold a press conference before Ms Sturgeon gives evidence to the inquiry next Tuesday. “Alex is going to get his story out one way or another,” a source close to the inquiry told The Herald newspaper.

Watch: Scotland FM Nicola Sturgeon faces new questions over complaints about the Alex Salmond affair

A spokesperson for the Scottish parliament said the committee had made clear to Mr Salmond he would be able to “speak freely” about his contact with Ms Sturgeon and his views on her actions.

However, the committee is understood to have legal concerns about publishing documents produced by Mr Salmond and his team.

In a statement shared with the media last week, Mr Salmond claimed Ms Sturgeon had initially “suggested” she would back mediation into the allegations against him, before later deciding “against such an intervention”.

The first minister faces a separate investigation led by James Hamilton QC over whether she lied to the Scottish parliament about how much Ms Sturgeon knew of allegations against Mr Salmond in the spring of 2018.

Ms Sturgeon has claimed she was first made aware of the claims at a meeting with him at her home on 2 April, 2018. However, Mr Salmond claims his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein had explained the background to her four days earlier, on 29 March.

He also claims she knew that the 2 April meeting was Scottish government business rather than an SNP party business. The Scottish ministerial code states that all government matters should be recorded.

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex SalmondPA
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex SalmondPA

Despite Mr Salmond’s no-show, the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish government’s handling of claims against him continued on Monday.

Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, who is also the SNP’s chief executive, denied lying under oath about a meeting between Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon.

He initially told the committee he was not at home on 2 April2018 when the former first minister told Ms Sturgeon about claims he sexually harassed women. But in a later answer, Mr Murrell revealed he camehome while the meeting was taking place.

On Monday, Mr Murrell refused to give a yes or no answer when repeatedly asked if he gave a false statement about the meeting.

Nicola Sturgeon with husband Peter MurrellPA
Nicola Sturgeon with husband Peter MurrellPA

In response to committee member Murdo Fraser, who warned that lying under oath can result in a jail sentence of up to five years, Mr Murrell denied he had committed perjury.

Instead, he stressed he was not at the meeting. He added: “I wasn’t here for any part of the meeting, I happened to arrive home just as the meeting was finishing; that’s all I can say, it’s not complicated.”

Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Ballie pressed Mr Murrell on his previous evidence that there had been no additional text messages about complaints against Mr Salmond that he was involved in. He replied: “You asked whether there was any relevant information and there wasn’t and there still isn’t.”

Ms Baillie said: “Once more, Mr Murrell’s appearance before the Committee was an exercise in spin and obfuscation … This obstruction and obfuscation is simply unacceptable and this committee will continue to do all it can to get to the truth.”

Additional reporting by PA

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