The Alex Salmond inquiry has reportedly concluded it is “hard to believe” Nicola Sturgeon did not know of concerns about the former first minister’s behaviour before November 2017, as she claimed.
In a further leak about the findings of the inquiry into Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation of Mr Salmond, a majority of MSPs are understood to have concluded that Ms Sturgeon misled the Holyrood committee if she did have knowledge of the concerns.
Ms Sturgeon has claimed she was informed about a media inquiry relating to the then-First Minister’s alleged behaviour towards female Edinburgh Airport staff in November 2017 and that was the first she had ever heard of his potential inappropriate behaviour.
Sky News also has reported that the committee believes Ms Sturgeon should have acted upon any information about her predecessor’s conduct.
On Thursday evening, she told Sky News: “I stand by all of the evidence I gave to the committee, all eight hours’ worth of evidence.
“What’s been clear is that opposition members of this committee made their minds up about me before I uttered a single word of evidence, their public comments have made that clear.
“So this leak from the committee – very partisan leak – tonight before they’ve finalised the report is not that surprising.”
She added that she is awaiting the result of the James Hamilton QC investigation into whether she broke the ministerial code.
A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said the committee, which has four SNP members and five from other parties, is still considering its report.
It is expected to be published on Tuesday.
The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up after a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government’s investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees in 2019.
A spokesman for the First Minister said some opposition members “appear intent on breaking every rule in the book in a blatantly transparent attempt to damage her before the coming election”.
He added: “The latest leak from the committee, suggesting they find it hard to believe that the First Minister did not previously know about inappropriate behaviour on the part of Alex Salmond, is not supported by a single shred of evidence.
“Sadly, she is not the first woman let down by a man she once trusted to face that charge, and regrettably she is unlikely to be the last.
“On this, the committee appears to have resorted to baseless assertion, supposition and smear – that is not how serious parliamentary committees are supposed to work, and in behaving this way they are simply exposing their base political motives.
“And on the suggestion that the First Minister was not clear to Mr Salmond that she would not intervene on his behalf, the committee appear to have deliberately ignored and suppressed evidence submitted to them which corroborates the First Minister’s evidence on that issue.
“And that, in fact, she did not intervene on behalf of a then friend and colleague to help cover up sexual harassment allegations, appears irrelevant to them.
“It was clear from the actions of the Tories several weeks ago, when they announced plans for a motion of confidence before they had even heard a word of evidence from First Minister, that for them this committee was never a serious exercise in learning lessons on behalf of women who bring forward complaints of sexual harassment – it was only ever about politics.”
Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, has called for Ms Sturgeon’s resignation and said: “The committee will publish its findings in the coming days and we will wait for that report. However, we are really only waiting for confirmation of what we already know.
“We have detailed that the First Minister misled the Scottish Parliament. Nicola Sturgeon has not told the public the truth about what she knew and when.
“We cannot set a precedent that a First Minister of Scotland can mislead the Scottish Parliament and get away with it.
“We have to trust that the First Minister will be truthful. We no longer can.”
Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, said: “I am not going to prejudge the outcome of the committee report and we await its findings, but if it does conclude that the First Minister has misled Parliament and potentially breached the ministerial code, then that is incredibly serious.”