Sturgeon will refute ‘absolute nonsense’ put forward by Salmond, deputy claims

Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter
·3-min read

Nicola Sturgeon will use her appearance before an inquiry into the botched handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond to dispel the “absolute nonsense” put forward by her predecessor, John Swinney has said.

Mr Salmond said the First Minister breached the ministerial code in relation to a meeting with him in her home, where she was told about allegations of sexual harassment made against him.

In evidence to the committee established to look into the process of the complaints, which were deemed unlawful and saw Mr Salmond win more than £500,000 in public money, the former first minister accused Ms Sturgeon of misleading Holyrood.

John Swinney in Holyrood
Deputy First Minister John Swinney said he has ‘confidence’ in what the First Minister will say to the committee (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA)

Deputy First Minister Mr Swinney told Politics Scotland he has confidence in what Ms Sturgeon will say when she appears before the committee later this month.

“The First Minister will set out clearly, openly and transparently all that she has got to say on this issue, and I’m very confident in the points the First Minister will put across,” he said.

“The First Minister looks forward to setting out, in detail, all of the views and perspectives she has on this issue, to put to rest some of the absolute nonsense that has been circulating about this particular issue.”

Mr Swinney added: “We’ve got to remember that we faced a very difficult situation of having to investigate complaints about inappropriate behaviour, a lot of which have now been conceded by Alex Salmond in court, and that issue had to be addressed.

“An incredibly difficult situation, and the First Minister will set out exactly her perspective when it comes to all the relevant inquiries into this issue.”

Initially, Ms Sturgeon said the April 2 2018 meeting in her Glasgow home was the first she had heard of the allegations; however, it later emerged that she had met Mr Salmond’s chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, in her Holyrood office four days earlier.

Mr Salmond said omission of the meeting with his aide was “a breach of the ministerial code”.

Ms Sturgeon said in her evidence to the committee that Mr Aberdein had stopped by her office while in Holyrood for another reason, an assertion Mr Salmond described as “simply untrue”.

An inquiry is currently ongoing into whether Ms Sturgeon did violate ministerial rules in relation to the matter.

Both Mr Salmond and the Scottish Conservatives pushed for the remit of the inquiry, being conducted by James Hamilton QC, to be widened.

However, Mr Swinney said the investigation is already able to investigate any breach of the ministerial code.

He said: “I’m really surprised by this line of argument from Alex Salmond and the Scottish Conservatives, because it appears they’re not keeping up with events.

“I answered a parliamentary question in November which made clear the James Hamilton Inquiry on the ministerial code could look at any aspect of a breach of the ministerial code.”

Mr Salmond said: “I can confirm that I submitted evidence to Mr James Hamilton, the independent adviser on the ministerial code, at his repeated request at the end of last year.

“The same evidence has now been given to the parliamentary committee, at their request, to assist with phase 4 of their Inquiry into the actions of ministers and civil servants.

“It is a matter for Mr Hamilton and committee members what they do with my evidence but I stand by the contents of the document and I am prepared to do so under oath in front of the committee.”