FMQs: Sturgeon slams ‘dangerous and deluded conspiracy’
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Mr Salmond made two submissions with bombshell claims to the inquiry claiming he was the victim of a “malicious and concerted” attempt by several people see him removed from public life. In a second submission, Mr Salmond accused Ms Sturgeon of several breaches of the Scottish Government ministerial code and lying to parliament over meetings between the pair in 2018 regarding unproven harassment claims made against the former First Minister.
The First Minister was grilled on the matter by MSPs in Holyrood today with her political opponents claiming the Scottish Parliament itself is being damaged by the fallout from the fiasco.
Meanwhile, some nationalist politicians branded the SNP “corrupt” over the affair stressing the First Minister may have to step down.
Mr Salmond is set to give evidence to the parliamentary inquiry tomorrow followed by Ms Sturgeon next Wednesday.
Mr Salmond was due to give evidence in person yesterday but the former First Minister asked to delay his appearance after his already-published written evidence was belatedly redacted by parliament on Tuesday following an intervention by the Crown Office – the body responsible for prosecuting crime in Scotland.
Jim Sillars, former SNP depute leader said he would not be voting for the SNP at the current election over the scandal.
He said: “I for one, I’m a member of the party, I am not voting for them.
“I believe that there’s a fair degree of political corruption now loose inside the higher echelons of the SNP.
“And my conscience doesn’t allow me to vote for people I find highly dubious.”
Mr Sillars has also lodged a formal complaint to the SNP Scottish Government over what he described as a “gross breach of her duty” over the ministerial code by Nicola Sturgeon.
In the complaint, Mr Sillars accused the Scottish First Minister of breaching her own code of conduct over a “sustained attack” on Alex Salmond during yesterday’s Coronavirus briefing.
At yesterday’s briefing, Ms Sturgeon criticised Mr Salmond and claimed he was peddling conspiracy theories.
Speaking yesterday, she said: “Alex Salmond, well, you know, maybe creating an alternative reality in which the organs of the state, not just me and the SNP and the civil service and the Crown Office and the police and 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 that at the root of all this might just have been issues in his own behaviour.”
In a letter to Permanent Secretary Lesley Evans, he said: “It is a gross breach of her duty to use that Government-sponsored forum, for a public attack on Mr Salmond in matters not related to the purpose of a briefing to which the media had been invited.
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“In her daily press briefings on the pandemic, the First Minister has consistently refused to answer questions on issues other than COVID-19.
“Yesterday, however, instead of refusing to respond to questions on matters irrelevant to the purpose of the press briefing on Covisd-19, she deliberately chose to do so.”
He concluded: “I submit that it is a breach of the Ministerial Code to allow, and then use, a public health Covid briefing to launch an attack on Mr Salmond in the context of matters arising from the Parliamentary Inquiry.
“It is not for me to question a decision by the First Minister to make a public attack on Mr Salmond.
“But if she wished to do so, then she could have arranged a press conference on the subject, which would have been the proper and legitimate forum in which to do so.”
Meanwhile, MSP Alex Neil said anyone proven to be involved in a conspiracy against the former First Minister would be “getting their jotters.”
The Airdrie and Shotts MSP who is an ally of Mr Salmond, added: “I think there’s a real problem now because this is starting to dominate the airwaves at a time when we’re still dealing with the pandemic and also, in four weeks’ time, we go into the initial start of the election campaign.
“I think the SNP leadership has got to try and put a lid on this.”
During First Minister’s Questions (FMQs), Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader, Ruth Davidson, said: “This sorry affair isn’t just tarnishing the First Minister’s reputation, it is damaging the institutions that it is her responsibility to uphold.”
The Tory told MSPs there was a “culture of secrets and cover-ups that is only growing and it is all taking place on Nicola Sturgeon’s watch”.
She challenged the First Minister on this, claiming that “the exact evidence that is being redacted is the most damaging to her personally”.
She then asked the First Minister: “Is saving your own skin worth all the damage that you are doing?”
Scottish Labour interim leader, Jackie Baillie, and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, pressed her on the matter, too, over a claim that the identity of one of the female complainers had been given to a one-time aide of the former First Minister.
Ms Baillie said: “This is about the women, the women who were failed by the government’s botched handling of their complaints.
“We have seen this week that there is something rotten at the core of the SNP, and it is poisoning our democratic institutions.”
After FMQ’s today, Tory MSPs slated Ms Sturgeon claiming she was “desperate to save her own skin.”
Dean Lockhart MSP, Scottish Tory Constitution spokesperson, said: “The First Minister clutching at straws and desperate to save her own skin.”
Jamie Greene MSP, Scottish Conservative MSP for Fife, said: “You know when Nicola Sturgeon sounds angry, and her backbenches clap wildly at everything she says, someone somewhere has hit a raw nerve and she knows it. Perhaps the realisation that her time is up is slowly dawning.”
However, Ms Sturgeon hit back and said: “Alex Salmond claims that the name of a complainant was given. That is not the same thing as accepting that is the case.”
She insisted: “What is poisoning our democratic institutions, in my view, is politicians standing up and hurling assertions and accusations without a shred of evidence to back them up.”
Nicola Sturgeon gets asked about Alex Salmond’s allegations
The First Minister said when she had first learned of the allegations against her predecessor she had “declined to intervene”, insisting she believed it was “important a process happened”.
She added: “For somebody in my position, somebody hearing what my predecessor, close colleague, friend of 30 years was accused of, the easier thing to do perhaps, perhaps the thing that in days gone by would have been done, was to sweep these complaints under the carpet and not to allow them to be properly investigated.
“I opted not to do that. And whatever difficulties have happened since then, whatever pain has been caused to lots of people in this process, I don’t regret not sweeping the complaints under the carpet, because that was the right thing to do.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “At the heart of this are women, women who came forward with complaints.
“It was right that the Scottish Government put in place a process to allow complaints to be investigated.
“And when I became aware it was right in my view that I did not collude with Alex Salmond to make them go away or sweep them under the carpet. That may have led to difficulties, it has certainly made Alex Salmond very angry with me, that is self-evident. But that was the right thing to do.”
The Government’s investigation of the unproven allegations against Mr Salmond was found to be “tainted by apparent bias”.
Mr Salmond was awarded a £512,250 payout after he successfully challenged the lawfulness of the government investigation.
The former SNP leader was also separately acquitted of all 13 charges of sexual assault against him in a criminal trial.
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