Great Britain

Alex Salmond inquiry LIVE: Nicola Sturgeon to be grilled by committee today after being urged to RESIGN

NICOLA Sturgeon faced calls to resign last night after new legal documents were published showing the Scottish Government WAS warned about its case against Alex Salmond.

The government has published emails showing it continued a legal fight with Mr Salmond despite its lawyers advising it was likely to lose and the Tories said they will submit a vote of no confidence in Ms Sturgeon.

On Friday, Mr Salmond said he has "no doubt" that Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code - but said it wasn't for him to say if she should resign.

Ms Sturgeon is due to give evidence at the Holyrood inquiry today in the final evidence session of the inquiry before it finishes its report.

All of the background details you need to know can be found here - and read up with all the news from Friday's hearing in our blog below.

  • QUIT CALLS

    NICOLA Sturgeon is facing calls to resign tonight after new legal documents were published showing the Scottish Government WAS warned about its case against Alex Salmond.

    The government has published emails showing it continued a legal fight with Mr Salmond despite its lawyers advising it was likely to lose.

    Deputy First Minister John Swinney agreed to hand over legal advice under threat of a no-confidence vote, and acknowledged "reservations were raised" by government lawyers about the way allegations about Mr Salmond were investigated. 

    The Scottish Government launched an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by the former first minister, but it was found to be unlawful. 

    Redacted legal advice published by the Scottish Government tonight showed that lawyers advised them in September 2018 that there "is a real risk that the court may be persuaded by the petitioner's case in respect of the ground of challenge based on 'procedural unfairness'." 

    READ MORE: https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/politics/6762546/nicola-sturgeon-alex-salmond-resign-tories/

  • SCOTLAND'S Lord Advocate blasted "baseless" claims the Scottish Government influenced the Crown Office's controversial intervention in redacting Alex Salmond's evidence.

    Mr Salmond last week said that James Wolffe QC, who is both the head of the Crown Office and a member of the Scottish Government, should resign over the saga, which ended up costing Scottish taxpayers more than £600,000.

    Giving evidence to the committee today, Mr Wolffe said: "Any suggestion, from any quarter, that the Crown's decision-making has at any time been influenced by irrelevant considerations or improper motivations would be wholly without foundation.

    "Insinuation and assertions to the contrary are baseless."

    He said the crown had been criticised for "actions it has taken to protect the identity of the complainers" at Mr Salmond's criminal trial, at which he was acquitted of all charges.

    Read more HERE

  • DEPUTY First Minister John Swinney today admitted ministers pressed ahead with defending a costly legal challenge from Alex Salmond despite government legal advisers expressing "reservations".

    The Scottish Government's probe into Mr Salmond was declared unlawful and "tainted by apparent bias" in January 2019, due to prior contact between two women who complained about his alleged behaviour, and the investigating official - HR boss Judith MacKinnon.

    Taxpayers were hit with a bill of more than £600,000 in legal fees alone.

    MSPs on the Holyrood inquiry probing the botched investigation - and whether Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code during the saga - have been battling for months to get the Scottish Government's legal advice on the Mr Salmond's civil judicial review, which he launched in August 2018 when the internal investigation has completed.

    And today, Mr Swinney wrote to the committee and confirmed the advice - at least some of which will be published this afternoon - will show how lawyers identified the issue of prior contact in October 2018 as a problem with the government's prospects of defending Mr Salmond's action.

    Read more HERE

  • SCOTLAND'S Lord Advocate is due to reappear before a Holyrood inquiry to face questions about the Crown Office's controversial intervention in redacting Alex Salmond's evidence.

    James Wolffe QC will also be quizzed on the apparent breach of a court order about releasing evidence.

    Mr Wolffe has been recalled to give more evidence to the committee into the Scottish Government's unlawful investigation of harassment complaints about the former First Minister.

    And his appearance, which was originally due to be private, will now be made public after a series of objections, including from committee members.

    Mr Salmond last week said that Mr Wolffe, who is both the head of the Crown Office - the body for prosecuting crime in Scotland, and a member of the Scottish Government, should resign over the saga, which ended up costing Scottish taxpayers more than £600,000.

    Read more HERE

  • Top civil servant may have destroyed notes of Nic meeting linked to Salmond

    Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans admitted under oath that she destroys all of her notebooks - and might have done so with notes from a summit with the First Minister that the Tories have branded “secret”.

    And transcripts seen by The Scottish Sun raise further questions about a controversial meeting between Ms Evans and Ms Sturgeon in the days after two women first made allegations to the government about Mr Salmond in November 2017.

    Read more HERE

  • Tories to lodge motion of no confidence in John Swinney over publication of legal advice

    On two occasions, MSPs have voted to compel the Scottish Government to produce legal advice taken as part of the legal challenge brought by Alex Salmond over its harassment complaints procedure, but ministers have so far not handed the advice over.

    The Scottish Government went on to concede the judicial review into the investigation of Mr Salmond, which Judge Lord Pentland said was "tainted with apparent bias".

    In a letter to Linda Fabiani, the convener of the committee looking into the handling of complaints against Mr Salmond, in December, Mr Swinney said he was keen to find a "practical way" that the advice could be handed over to the committee, but no such arrangement has been put in place.

    Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said the move was to give the Scottish Government "one last chance" to release the advice, and they would "gladly" rescind it should the advice be released.

    Read more HERE

  • Scotland 50/50 over IndyRef2 as first poll since June shows even split of opinion

    It's the first survey since June that has shown anything other than a majority backing the Yes side.

    The Survation poll of 1000 Scots, carried out for the Sunday Mail, revealed just 43 per cent would support a split from the union.

    And 44 per cent said they would vote against independence.

    Read more HERE

  • STURGEON SHOULD RESIGN IF SHE BROKE MINISTERIAL CODE, SAYS LABOUR LEADER SARWAR

    The First Minister is the focus of an investigation over whether she misled the Scottish Parliament on when she knew about allegations of harassment made against her predecessor Alex Salmond.

    Ms Sturgeon said she first learned of the complaints in a meeting with Mr Salmond at her home in early April 2018, but it later emerged she had been told by his former chief of staff in her Holyrood office a few days prior, a fact she claims to have forgotten.

    She referred herself for investigation by James Hamilton QC, an independent adviser on the ministerial code.

    If Ms Sturgeon is found to have broken the ministerial code, Mr Sarwar said she should step down, saying she would expect the same of ministers in other parties.

    "If there is a minister, forget who the minister is or what political party they are from, if a minister is found to have breached the ministerial code, I think people would expect that minister to resign," the newly elected Scottish Labour leader told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday.

    "That's what Nicola Sturgeon would say if it was a Labour politician, a Conservative politician or a Liberal Democrat politician, so let's take the party politics out of it - it's a point of principle."

    When pushed specifically on whether or not the First Minister should step down, Mr Sarwar said: "Yes, I think Nicola Sturgeon herself would say that if an opposition politician was in government and they'd breached the ministerial code, they would be expected to resign.

    "Let's take the party politics and the personalities out of it, it's a point of principle and respecting the office of First Minister."

  • Sturgeon must quit if just half of the claims against her are true, says top Tory

    The Scottish First Minister’s position will be untenable if accusations by predecessor Alex Salmond are proven, according to MSP Murdo Fraser.

    He told the BBC: “I’ve been a member of the Scottish Parliament for almost 20 years and this was the most extraordinary event I can recall.

    “If even half of what he alleged turns out to be true — and we will get to the bottom of this very soon — then Nicola Sturgeon’s position is untenable and she will have to resign.”

    Read more HERE

  • SCOTTISH Tory leader Douglas Ross has had his say following the conclusion of Alex Salmond's appearance.

    The Moray MP, who earlier claimed the former First Minister was "not a man [he] respects, has claimed SNP bosses are "on the ropes.

  • THE Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints has concluded its meeting.

    Alex Salmond was at the Scottish Parliament today, giving evidence to the Holyrood inquiry.

    After three sessions of questions from MSPs, the committee meeting, which started at 12.30pm, has now finished.

  • ALEX Salmond says he has 'no doubt' Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code - and claims a crucial meeting was "written out of history" as it would have harmed her defence against a rule breach.

    But the former FM stopped short of saying his successor should step down from her position.

    Tory MSP Murdo Fraser asked: "If the First Minister has broken the ministerial code, should she resign?"

    Mr Salmond replied: "Not for me. I believe the First Minister has broken the ministerial code.

    "But you know that is a finding that can be discussed at least by this committee, by Mr James Hamilton.

    "It's not the case that every minister who breaks the ministerial code resigns - your own party has an example of that relatively recently.

    "It depends on what is found and the degree by which the ministerial court has been broken.

    "I've got no doubt that Nicola has broken the ministerial code, but it's not for me to suggest what the consequences should be.

    "It's for the people who are judging that including this committee."

    Mr Salmond also claimed a meeting where Nicola Sturgeon was told of complaints against him was "written out of history" as it would have harmed her defence against an alleged code breaches.

    Read more HERE

  • EARLIER this week Ms Sturgeon accused Mr Salmond of peddling a “dangerous conspiracy theory” and insisted he has “not a shred of evidence” to back up his claims.

    Mr Salmond replied: “Well, what I would say given some of the things that have been said about me this week, I don’t think you have to add more, there’s plenty been said.

    “The key thing is the evidence. I’ve already expressed my and I assume your frustration that some evidence in this is not available to you.

    “But there is no doubt, and it is absolutely certain, that the meeting on March 29 in the Scottish Parliament was prearranged for the express purpose of Nicola being briefed on the situation with regard to me and complaints, and the meeting on April 2 arose from the meeting - or the final arrangements for it at least - arose from the meeting on March 29.

    “Otherwise how on earth would I have known to turn up on April 2? There’s no other way the invitation could be gathered.

    “As to why March 29 was, for a substantial period of time, if we remember, effectively written out of history - and I know some people say well what difference does four days make, the difference is of course, if the meeting of March 29 is admitted and indeed the subject matter is admitted, then it makes it very difficult to argue that the meeting on April 2 was on party business as opposed to government business.

    “All I would say is that meeting was in Nicola’s terms forgotten about, but she says she was reminded of it in late January 2019 or early February 2019 in evidence to the committee.

    “If that were the case, then under the ministerial code the correct thing to do would be to correct the record as timeously as possible - as opposed to waiting 18 months until Sky News broadcast it as what actually happened.”

  • NICOLA Sturgeon knew about her government’s investigation into Alex Salmond four days before she held a private meeting with him at her home, the former First Minister said.

    Alex Salmond told MSPs that his ex-chief of staff Geoff Aberdein arranged a meeting with Ms Sturgeon on March 29, 2018, “to brief Nicola on what was happening” and to set up further talks between her and Mr Salmond on April 2 at her home in Glasgow.

    Lib Dem committee member Alex Cole Hamilton asked: “It was your understanding that the First Minister already knew about the complaints and the investigation - or was Mr Aberdein breaking that news to her on March 29?”

    Mr Salmond said: “I know that Nicola Sturgeon knew about the complaints process at the meeting on March 29 because I was told so by Geoff Aberdein, who told her at the meeting arranged for that purpose.

    “Whether she had any prior knowledge of it I cannot say. But I know that she knew on March 29.”

    He added: “My position is the meeting of April 2 was arranged on March 29. And I know this because Geoff Aberdein phoned me on March 28, the day before the meeting, to tell me it was going to take place.

    "And he phoned me the day after the meeting to tell me the meeting had been arranged for April 2, which I think was Easter Monday, in Glasgow.”

    Mr Salmond also rubbished a claim by SNP chief executive Peter Murrell - Ms Sturgeon’s husband - who said it wasn’t unusual for the former First Minister to “pop in for a chat” at their home.

    He said: “I heard Mr Murrell saying several times I was regularly popping in - can I just point out I stay 200 miles away from Glasgow and, as far as I can remember, I’ve been to Nicola and Peter’s home six times in my life - maybe slightly more, but it’s not a question of just popping in.

    “Even when my relationship with the First Minister was extremely good, I didn’t pop in because she stayed in Glasgow and I stayed in Aberdeenshire, and that was an arranged meeting.”

    Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly told parliament she first learned of her government’s investigation at the April 2 meeting at her home.

    However in written evidence to the committee, she said she “forgot” an earlier meeting on March 29 with Mr Aberdein where he mentioned “allegations of a sexual nature” about her predecessor.

  • POLICE did not need help from "Inspector Murrell" to investigate complaints against Alex Salmond, the former First Minister has said - referring to Nicola Sturgeon's husband and SNP boss Peter Murrell.

    In astonishing claims under oath to the Holyrood inquiry, Mr Salmond accused senior Nats of piling pressure on witnesses to testify against him.

    His written evidence claims SNP chief exec Peter Murrell and others were behind a plot to drum up complaints against him for the police.

    He recounted "one of the most extraordinary days of [his] life" when he went through messages on a memory stick given to his legal team by the Crown Office ahead of his trial last year.

    He said he is not allowed to describe the messages in detail - although one leaked text reveals Nats supremo Mr Murrell saying it's "a good time to be pressurising" police.

    Mr Murrell has said he expressed himself poorly in the text but that it did not indicate a conspiracy against Mr Salmond.

    But Mr Salmond said the messages he has seen "speak to behaviour which I would never have countenanced from people I've known in some cases for 30 years".

    Answering Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell at the committee hearing, he said: "In my opinion, there has been behaviour which is about not just pressurising the police, like the one you've read out, but pressurising witnesses, collusion with witnesses.

    "We're talking about the construction of evidence because the police somehow were felt to be inadequate in finding it themselves.

    "And the point about this is that on August 25, 2018, I think it was, a police investigation started.

    "When a police investigation starts, these matters are for the police - they have the investigatory function."

    Referring to top SNP and government officials he believes were involved in a plot against him, he added: "They don't need assistance from Inspector Murrell, or Sergeant Ruddick [Sue Ruddick, SNP chief operating officer], Constable McCann [Ian McCann, SNP compliance officer], or Special Constable Allison [Barbara Allison, government director of communications]."

    Read more HERE

  • ALEX Salmond accused the Scottish Government of an “obstruction of justice” for failing to hand over key information to prosecutors.

    The former First Minister said a document detailing prior contact civil service boss Leslie Evans had with the two complainants during the government’s internal probe was not given to prosecutors despite a search warrant being issued.

    He said: “It’s not a duty of candour, that’s refusing to produce information in the face of a search warrant - it’s obstruction of justice and there are consequences for such things.”

    Labour committee member Jackie Baillie asked Mr Salmond if he believed Ms Evans - the Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary - had “discharged her responsibilities in line with the civil service code”.

    He replied: “No.”

    Ms Baillie said that the investigating officer in the government’s probe into Mr Salmond was interviewed by junior counsel on October 17, 2018, during which she was “open about her contact with the complainants”.

    Legal counsel then gave a written opinion on October 31, before a meeting was held between counsel, Nicola Sturgeon, Ms Evans and the First Minister’s chief of staff on November 13.

    The government didn’t concede defeat in the judicial review until January the following year.

    Mr Baillie said: “As a former First Minister, would carrying on legal action in the Court of Session knowing that you had acted unlawfully be a breach of the ministerial code?”

    Mr Salmond said: “Yes.”

    Ms Baillie then asked: “Do you believe this was the case in this instance?

    The ex-Nats chief said: “Well we cannot be sure because I - like you - haven’t seen the external legal advice of October 2018.

    “Clearly it was, as I think was said to you in evidence, a highly significant moment when it was realised by counsel that there had been prior contact [between the investigating officer and the complainants].

    “Everything about it suggests, even how it’s been described in terms, is on the balance of probability, that the advice showed or indicated that the government were about to lose.

    “If that is the case and if that legal advice says that and the case was continued in the knowledge of the First Minister against that legal advice then that would be a breach of the ministerial code.

    “If we could just see the document then we’d all be better informed.”

    Ms Baillie said: “Well indeed this parliament has asked twice, we’ve still not seen it, so good luck with that one.”

    Read more HERE

  • ALEX Salmond says he has proof that the "hope" of a special adviser to the government was that disastrous civil court battle with the ex-FM would be "overtaken" by criminal proceedings against him.

    He said he would seek permission from a witness to provide the Holyrood inquiry with a statement which claims a government adviser told this person they knew would lose the civil case but would "get him" in the criminal case.

    Mr Salmond has suggested the government's refusal to turn over legal advice from the period might be because they were asking lawyers if the judicial review process could be "sisted" or paused if the police charged him.

    This witness statement "demonstrates that in November of 2018, the hope was on the part of that special adviser and others that the judicial review would be overtaken by the criminal case", he told MSPs.

    The former First Minister said Nicola Sturgeon's government knew, potentially as early as October 2018, three months before it conceded the civil case, that its handling of harassment complaints had been unlawful.

    Mr Salmond said: "I can think of no other reason that you would postpone taking a decision on a case that you knew on the balance of probability you are highly likely to lose, unless you thought there was going to be something else happening that avoided it."

    He added: "Conceding in October would be embarrassing, it would be difficult, but it wouldn't be as cataclysmic as an open court case in January."

    The ex-FM told MSPs: "Let's be frank here, if I'd been convicted of anything, anything at all, then this inquiry would have been moot and nobody would have cared about the civil case or the judicial review or anything like that. This inquiry wouldn't be sitting."

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