The Scottish Greens have slammed “ridiculous attempts to pursue a political scalp” by the Scottish Conservatives after Nicola Sturgeon was cleared of breaching the ministerial code.
An independent investigation by James Hamilton QC found she did not breach the code in relation to allegations she failed to record meetings with Alex Salmond and others in 2018.
He also examined the allegation that Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament in relation to the meetings, again finding there was no breach.
Reacting to the news, Ms Sturgeon said: “Prior to its publication, opposition politicians stressed the importance of respecting and accepting the outcome of Mr Hamilton’s independent inquiry, and I committed wholeheartedly to doing so.
“Now that he has reported, it is incumbent on them to do likewise.
“Now that this investigation is complete and its conclusions public, I will continue to devote all of my time and energy to leading Scotland, to helping the country through the pandemic, and to ensuring that as we rebuild from the hardships of the last 12 months, we do everything we can to protect jobs, support our health service and rebuild our communities for the better.”
Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie echoed Ms Sturgeon’s sentiments and confirmed his party “would not support the vote of no confidence being pushed by the Tories”.
The MSP said: “In lodging a vote of no confidence before this report was published, just as they called for the First Minister’s resignation before she even gave evidence to the parliamentary committee, the Tories have shown that they have no interest in establishing the truth.
“This entire saga should have been about examining a process that let down women and ensuring that was never repeated.
“In their ridiculous attempts to pursue a political scalp the Tories have completely ignored that fact. Ruth Davidson and Douglas Ross have shown that they have absolutely nothing positive to offer the people of Scotland.
“Worse still, members of the parliamentary committee have shown utter contempt for the women involved, and for the rules of the Scottish Parliament, by leaking confidential evidence and their own conclusions.
“If anyone’s resignation is still needed, it is these MSPs who should step down now, and who should not be candidates for re-election in May.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Unlike others, we have been clear from the outset that we would not prejudge the outcome of this inquiry.
“We acknowledge the findings of the report and we await the publication of the committee inquiry and whether its members conclude the First Minister misled parliament.
“What is clear is that this entire process has deeply damaged public trust in our politics at a time of national crisis, and there are absolutely no winners today.
“At the heart of this are two women who have been badly let down by the government, and it remains the case that nobody has taken responsibility.
“There are still questions of judgement and an urgent need to restore trust, confidence and transparency in our institutions.”
However, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross replied to the report’s findings by suggesting the First Minister is “not free and clear”.
He also confirmed the party’s vote of no confidence will still go ahead.
Mr Ross said: “The First Minister has been given a pass because it has been judged her ‘failure of recollection’ was ‘not deliberate’.
“I respect Mr Hamilton and his judgment but we cannot agree with that assessment. Nicola Sturgeon did not suddenly turn forgetful.
“She is not free and clear. The First Minister promised to ‘respect the decisions’ of both inquiry reports, not to pick and choose which one suits her and try to discredit the other.”
He also claimed the SNP “have accelerated the vote… to avoid MSPs scrutinising that report”.
The MP added: “The SNP spin machine will go into hyper-drive to again attack the committee report because they’re running scared of its findings.
“This report does not change the overwhelming evidence that Nicola Sturgeon misled Parliament, her government badly let women down and wasted more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money.
“If Nicola Sturgeon won’t accept responsibility, then I urge opposition parties to back our vote of no confidence.
“Nationalist or unionist, left or right, none of the usual political divisions matter now. Either we respect the fundamental principles of democratic accountability – or we don’t.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the report “does not give the First Minister a clean bill of health”.
He added: “The judgment from James Hamilton does not make the First Minister’s resignation automatic but no-one can deny that her errors of judgment still make resignation a live consideration.”
Ian Blackford, Westminster group leader for the SNP, said he was “delighted that Nicola Sturgeon has been exonerated by James Hamilton”.
He tweeted: “She has shown strong leadership through a challenging time and is worthy of the trust the voters in Scotland have put in her.”
SNP President, and Scotland’s Constitution Secretary, Mike Russell, also tweeted: “The Hamilton report alone should make any motion of no confidence tomorrow not just irrelevant but malevolent if the Tories persist with it.
“I hope they will put parliament and the Scottish people before their (shrinking) political gallery.”