Sturgeon blasts Salmond but faces claim she is 'acting like tin pot dictator'

Dan Sanderson
·4-min read
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond before they fell out - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond before they fell out - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Nicola Sturgeon has launched an astonishing attack on Alex Salmond after she was accused of behaving like a “tin pot dictator” who risked bringing UK politics into worldwide disrepute.

The First Minister accused her former mentor of inventing an “alternative reality” around claims of sexual assault and suggested it was his behaviour towards women, rather than a grand conspiracy, that were the "root" of the allegations against him.

Ms Sturgeon was also forced to deny leaning on Scottish prosecutors to censor damning evidence put forward by Mr Salmond, following a fiasco that saw large chunks of his written testimony deleted.

The episode over the written evidence, which saw Holyrood quickly back down to the Crown Office which is run by a member of Ms Sturgeon's government, has been seen as a major humiliation for the legislature.

Nicola Sturgeon addressed the controversy at her daily briefing - Unpix/Universal News And Sport 
Nicola Sturgeon addressed the controversy at her daily briefing - Unpix/Universal News And Sport

It led to Mr Salmond pulling out of his long-awaited evidence session at Holyrood on Wednesday, although he is now expected to appear on Friday instead.

Liam Fox, the former Trade Secretary, raised fears that the conduct of Ms Sturgeon's administration risked bringing the UK into “international disrepute”.

He cited Mr Salmond's claim there had been a “complete breakdown” in barriers between party, state and prosecutors in Scotland.

The ex-SNP leader has also alleged that the Crown Office wilfully misused legislation to withhold evidence from the Holyrood committee investigating the unlawful civil service probe against him, in a bid to protect “some of the most powerful people” in Scotland.

Raising a point of order in the Commons, Dr Fox said: “This would be damning in a tin pot dictatorship, but this is happening in a part of the United Kingdom.

“Given that the Scottish Parliament derives its authority from legislation passed in this Parliament, what mechanisms do we have to ensure that the conduct of the Scottish Government does not bring politics in the whole of the United Kingdom into international disrepute".

The Holyrood committee on Friday agreed to issue a "final invitation" to Mr Salmond to appear on Friday, which he is expected to accept.

MSPs will also launch a new legal bid to obtain correspondence which Mr Salmond claims will back up his claims of a conspiracy. It is to use legal powers to request correspondence between the four senior SNP figures, including Ms Sturgeon's husband, who he alleges plotted against him.

The correspondence was obtained by prosecutors ahead of his criminal trial.

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Ahead of his appearance, Ms Sturgeon launched her strongest attack yet on the man who was once her closest political ally.

Speaking at a press briefing in Edinburgh, she repeatedly criticised Mr Salmond for his failure to attend the committee on Wednesday, claiming there was “no good reason” he should not have turned up.

She claimed there was not “a shred of evidence” to back up Mr Salmond’s conspiracy claims, and added that while Mr Salmond had been cleared of all charges at his criminal trial and was not guilty of criminality, that did not mean that the behaviour women alleged didn’t happen.

She added: "Alex Salmond [is] maybe creating an alternative reality in which the organs of the state, not just me and the SNP [but] the civil service and the Crown Office and police and the women who came forward were all part of some wild conspiracy against, him for reasons I can’t explain.

“Maybe that’s easier than just accepting the root of all this might just have been issues in his own behaviour. But that’s for him to explain if he ever decides to pitch up and sit in front of the committee.”

Mr Salmond was cleared of all 13 sex assault charges at his trial last year. The Holyrood committee is investigating the unlawful civil service probe into two allegations, not the separate criminal inquiry.

Mr Salmond was approached for comment.