United Kingdom

Senior journalist in Scotland said Alex Salmond wanted Nicola Sturgeon to resign

One of the BBC’s most senior journalists in Scotland has been forced to make a clarification after an incorrect news report in which she said Alex Salmond wanted Nicola Sturgeon to resign.

During the report, the BBC Scotland Editor told Six O’Clock News viewers that Mr Salmond, who had appeared earlier that day before a Holyrood parliamentary committee, believed the First Minister had misled parliament and broken the ministerial code which ‘he thinks means she should resign’.

Sarah Smith told Six O’Clock News viewers that Mr Salmond believed the First Minister had misled parliament and broken the ministerial code which ‘he thinks means she should resign’

But during his evidence before MSPs, Mr Salmond had taken great pains to skirt around the issue, merely saying it was for others, including parliament, to decide his successor’s fate if she was found to have breached rules.

After a storm of protest on social media, Ms Smith, the eldest daughter of the late Labour leader John Smith, tweeted: ‘On the Six O’Clock News headline tonight, I said that Alex Salmond had claimed the First Minister had “broken the ministerial code and that he thinks she should resign”. 

'I would like to clarify that Mr Salmond did not say the First Minister should resign. He said, “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.”’

Mr Salmond was making a long-awaited appearance before the committee, which is probing why £500,000 of taxpayers’ cash was spent on a flawed investigation into harassment claims against him by two female civil servants.

When asked whether Ms Sturgeon should resign if she was found to have broken the ministerial code, he said: ‘Not for me. I believe the First Minister has broken the ministerial code but it is a finding that can be discussed, at least by this committee.’

Among those leading the calls for Ms Smith’s resignation yesterday was Scottish author Cameron McNeish, who tweeted: ‘You really need to resign over this. One apology too many.’

During his evidence before MSPs, Mr Salmond said it was for others, including parliament, to decide his successor’s fate if she was found to have breached rules

Another added: ‘It should be Sarah Smith resigning. This wasn’t a mistake, it was a blatant, politically-motivated lie aimed at damaging the reputation of the First Minister.’ 

Ms Smith’s latest controversy comes after one last May when she made a ‘mistake’ during a live broadcast and said Ms Sturgeon ‘enjoyed’ taking a different route out of lockdown to the other nations of the UK. 

The First Minister was among those to criticise Ms Smith on Twitter, prompting a flood of abusive messages and calls for her to be fired.

She told the reporter: ‘Never in my entire political career have I “enjoyed” anything less than this. My heart breaks every day for all those who have lost loved ones to this virus.’ 

The First Minister was among those to criticise Ms Smith on Twitter last year, after she said Ms Sturgeon ‘enjoyed’ taking a different route out of lockdown to the other nations of the UK

As the hashtag ‘sack Sarah Smith’ trended on social media, the journalist was forced to post a series of apologies online. 

She said: ‘I do not believe that Nicola Sturgeon is enjoying this crisis. I had meant to say on the ten o’clock news that she has “embraced” the opportunity to make a policy unique to Scotland. 

'I said “enjoyed” by mistake. Not suggesting she is enjoying the crisis but embracing devolution.’

Last night, the BBC issued a statement that mirrored Ms Smith’s own clarification.

Meanwhile, Mr Salmond is expected to launch a follow-up attack on Ms Sturgeon this week while giving evidence in secret to a second inquiry set up to establish whether she has broken the ministerial code. 

An MP close to him said: ‘He’ll be able to say things in private which he hasn’t been able to mention up until now. It will likely be damning and devastating for the First Minister.’

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