Report into whether Nicola Sturgeon breached ministerial code to be published

Tom Eden, PA Scotland
·2-min read

The findings of an independent inquiry into whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code has been handed over and will be published on Monday, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

An investigation by James Hamilton has been examining whether Scotland’s First Minister “attempted to influence the conduct of the investigation” into Alex Salmond and if she misled parliament.

He has also looked into whether she should have recorded calls and meetings with Mr Salmond and may have considered whether she prolonged the Government’s defence of a judicial review brought by her predecessor, contrary to the legal advice.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, leaves her home in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Hamilton, the former director of public prosecutions in the Republic of Ireland, is the independent advisor to the Scottish Government on the ministerial code – a set of rules about how ministers should conduct themselves.

The current First Minister referred herself to him following Mr Salmond’s successful legal challenge of the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation into harassment complaints against him, which led to him being awarded £512,250 for legal costs.

Mr Hamilton was originally asked to investigate allegations that Ms Sturgeon “failed to feed back the basic facts of meetings and discussions held with Alex Salmond to her private office as required by sections 4.22 and 4.23 of the Code”.

Ms Sturgeon, who denies breaching the code, has previously promised the report would be published on the day the Government received it.

And on Monday afternoon, a Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government received the independent adviser’s report this morning and it will be published later today, once legally required checks and notifications are completed.”

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond speaking outside the Court of Session in Edinburgh after the judicial review ruling (Jane Barlow/PA)

Sections of the report may be redacted by the Scottish Government to avoid jigsaw identification of the female complainers and to comply with court orders, the spokesman indicated.

Mr Hamilton’s investigation was paused in early 2019 to avoid prejudicing criminal proceedings brought against Mr Salmond.

He was acquitted of 13 charges, including sexual assault, indecent assault and attempted rape, in March 2020 following a High Court trial and Mr Hamilton’s inquiry was delayed again by the pandemic, before resuming in August 2020.

The code says it is the First Minister who is “the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of a minister” and the appropriate consequences for breaches.

Speaking outside her Glasgow home on Monday morning, Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m going to do what I’ve done every day for the last year – lead the country through a pandemic.”