Sir Keir Starmer has accused Nicola Sturgeon of hypocrisy over her claims the Alex Salmond inquiry has been partisan in response to the leaked findings that she allegedly misled parliament.
After the Holyrood inquiry into the Government’s unlawful investigation of Mr Salmond reportedly judged her to have misled parliament, Ms Sturgeon argued the committee’s MSPs had already “made their minds up” before she had given evidence.
The First Minister described the leak of the committee’s findings as “very partisan” and said she was not surprised if they did not believe her testimony.
She told Sky News she stood by her evidence and said: “What’s been clear is that opposition members of this committee made their minds up about me before I muttered a single word of evidence, their public comments have made that clear.
“So this leak from the committee – very partisan leak – tonight [Thursday] before they’ve finalised the report is not that surprising.”
But the Labour leader said Ms Sturgeon questioning the integrity of the committee before the report has been published is “exactly what she’s accusing other people of doing”.
Speaking while on a two-day visit to Scotland, Sir Keir said: “By making those comments before she’s seen the report, she’s doing the very thing that she’s accusing others of.
“The right thing for her to do is to wait for the report and to read the report – as we all will.
“But to say now, several days beforehand, what she said about the outcome is to do exactly what she’s accusing other people of doing.
“So I think the right thing to do is to wait for the report.
“If the report does come to serious findings then they have implications.”
Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, said the leak was “completely unacceptable” but the SNP leader subsequently made a “very dangerous allegation”.
“I think that accusation calls into question the very processes of our parliament, calls into question the very principles of our democracy around accountability and transparency, and that accusation calls into question every committee inquiry we’ve ever had in the Scottish Parliament or indeed at Westminster,” he said.
“This committee has been very, very frustrated, for the last two years, including SNP members of that committee, about the obstructions that have been put in front of that committee.
“So let’s respect the committee’s work, because they’ve been disrespected by the Scottish Government for the last two years.
“Let’s respect the committee’s work, let respect the individuals on that committee, and let’s respect the findings of that committee when the report is published next week.”
Asked about the implications if the First Minister is found to have misled parliament but not deliberately, Mr Sarwar said: “A breach is a breach and a misleading of the parliament is a misleading of the Parliament.
“Only the First Minister herself can say or judge whether she knowingly did it or unknowingly did it, but there is the principle of corroboration, and what we’ve seen from reports is that there are three individuals who say, a situation happened, and the First Minister, refutes [sic] that claim.”
He added: “I don’t think we should hide behind an ‘inadvertent’ or ‘knowingly’ kind of claim.
“Misleading is misleading, a breach is a breach, and I think we would expect our ministers, regardless of party or of personality, to be held to the highest standards.”
Sir Keir told journalists there “should be a resignation” is there is found to have been a breach.
“The First Minister was absolutely clear in the foreword to the [ministerial] code that she would lead by example and therefore she would follow the letter and the spirit of the code,” he said.