POLITICS
22/03/2021 16:41 GMT | Updated 22/03/2021 17:06 GMT

Nicola Sturgeon Did Not Break Ministerial Code, Independent Inquiry Finds

But first minister still faces confidence vote in Holyrood as Alex Salmond saga threatens to engulf her premiership.

Andrew MilliganPA
First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, leaves her home in Glasgow. Picture date: Monday March 22, 2021.

Nicola Sturgeon did not break the ministerial code, an independent inquiry into her conduct during the Alex Salmond investigation has found. 

A report by James Hamilton QC, published on Monday, found the SNP leader did not breach the rules during the Scottish government investigation into complaints of sex harassment made against her predecessor.

Ireland’s former top prosecutor examined allegations Sturgeon had failed to record meetings with Salmond and others in 2018, during the government probe of Salmond’s conduct, and that she had misled parliament. 

His 61-page report found no breach of the official rules governing ministers.

Hamilton said: “I am of the opinion that the first minister did not breach the provisions of the ministerial code in respect of any of these matters.”

Press Association
Former first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond

But the first minister of Scotland is nonetheless preparing to fight for her political future this week. 

The FM will face a confidence vote in the Scottish parliament on Tuesday. On the same day, a separate Holyrood committee report into the scandal will be made public, with leaked reports suggesting it will conclude Sturgeon misled MSPs over a meeting with Salmond during the probe.

Salmond was acquitted of sex offence charges at a criminal trial but a judicial review of the Scottish government process found the investigation had been botched, with the former FM winning £512,000 in costs from the government. 

He has called for the resignation of a number of Sturgeon’s inner circle, claiming there was a “conspiracy” against him. Sturgeon, however, called the claims “absurd”.

Sturgeon said she welcomed the “comprehensive, evidence-based and unequivocal” conclusions.

In a statement, she said: “Mr Hamilton has considered all of the allegations against me, and I am happy that his report’s findings clear me of any breach of the ministerial code.

“I sought at every stage in this issue to act with integrity and in the public interest. As I have previously made clear, I did not consider that I had broken the code, but these findings are official, definitive and independent adjudication of that.

“Prior to its publication, opposition politicians stressed the importance of respecting and accepting the outcome of Mr Hamilton’s independent inquiry, and I committed wholeheartedly to doing so. Now that he has reported, it is incumbent on them to do likewise.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has repeatedly called for Sturgeon to stand down. 

He tweeted: “Nicola Sturgeon promised to ‘respect the decisions’ of both inquiries that report this week. But the evidence against her is already overwhelming.

“Only Alex Salmond acted worse as first minister. So I say directly to @NicolaSturgeon – go now, before you do any more damage.”