Sturgeon refuses to say if she would quit if it is found she lied over Salmond

Dan Sanderson
·4-min read
Nicola Sturgeon speaks to Andrew Marr of the BBC - BBC/BBC
Nicola Sturgeon speaks to Andrew Marr of the BBC - BBC/BBC

Nicola Sturgeon has refused to confirm that she would quit as First Minister if it is found that she deliberately lied to Holyrood over the Alex Salmond affair, as she accused her predecessor of spreading “false conspiracy theories” about her.

The First Minister insisted she had not misled the Scottish Parliament about her handling of sexual harassment complaints against Mr Salmond, as two inquiries examining her conduct, which her opponents believe could see her forced from office, gather pace.

In a submission to an investigation into whether Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, Mr Salmond said statements which Ms Sturgeon made to Holyrood about when she first became aware of complaints against him were “simply untrue”.

Alex Salmond has said parts of Ms Sturgeon's evidence were "untrue" -  Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe
Alex Salmond has said parts of Ms Sturgeon's evidence were "untrue" - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe

He also described parts of written evidence she provided to the Holyrood inquiry into her government’s botched investigation against him as “untenable” and “wholly false”.

Under the ministerial code, any minister found to have deliberately misled parliament is expected to resign.

However, challenged yesterday by the BBC's Andrew Marr, Ms Sturgeon insisted she would clear her name.

Asked whether she would quit if she was found to have lied, she said: “I did not mislead parliament, so I’m not going to speculate on what might happen in the future.”

She added that she would refute Mr Salmond’s claims “vigorously”.

She said: “There are false conspiracy theories being spun about this... by Alex Salmond, by people around him - you can draw your own conclusions around that.

"What I certainly reflect on is that at times I appear to be simultaneously accused of colluding with Mr Salmond to somehow cover up accusations of sexual harassment on the one hand.

"And then on the other hand, being part of some dastardly conspiracy to bring him down.”

Ms Sturgeon has faced questions over when she first became aware of a civil service probe into complaints against Mr Salmond, which was set up in January 2018.

She has told Holyrood the first she became aware of it was on April 2, 2018, when Mr Salmond met her at her home and told her about it.

However, Mr Salmond has claimed she knew of it at least four days earlier, with the probe discussed at a meeting with one of his former aides.

In a submission to the Holyrood inquiry, Ms Sturgeon claimed she forgot about the earlier meeting and charachterised it as informal, something Mr Salmond refutes.

On Sunday, she refused to “get into the weeds” of the timeframe during a TV interview.

Allies of Mr Salmond, who successfully challenged the legality of the civil service probe in court and was cleared of all charges following a separate criminal investigation, maintain he was the victim of a conspiracy.

MSPs investigating the botched civil service probe took the unprecedented step last week of invoking legal powers designed to force the release of documents obtained by Mr Salmond’s defence ahead of his trial, which he believes will add weight to his claims of a conspiracy.

Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Tories, said it was “now becoming very clear” that Ms Sturgeon had misled the Scottish Parliament about when she first knew about the allegations against Mr Salmond.

“The First Minister got very touchy about this issue and the interrogation into what she knew,” he said, referring to her TV appearance. “If she has lied to the Scottish Parliament, the public are very clear that she cannot continue.”

Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon are expected to give evidence in person to the Holyrood inquiry by mid-February.

A spokeswoman for Mr Salmond said: “The two inquiries under way are into why Nicola Sturgeon’s Government acted unlawfully. Alex has submitted his evidence as requested and the parliamentary committee is now challenging the Crown Office to produce some of the text messages which they believe are being suppressed. The evidence, if published, will speak for itself.”

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