Nicola Sturgeon: questions raised (pic: Terry Murden DB Media Services)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has today confirmed that she will answer questions before a panel of independent advisers over claims she broke the Ministerial Code.
Her decision follows pressure from opposition MSPs to allow scrutiny of her meetings with her predecessor Alex Salmond over allegations against him of sexual misconduct.
Confirming the referral, the First Minister said: “It is in the interests of the women who have complained that the ongoing police investigations are allowed to continue without any risk of prejudice. That must be the priority for everyone.
“Questions have been raised about my meetings and telephone calls with Alex Salmond during the Government’s investigation into the complaints which were made.
“I have acted appropriately and in good faith throughout, and in compliance with the Ministerial Code at all times. However, I have reflected carefully and understand that it is also important for Parliament and the wider public to be assured of that.
“I have therefore decided to refer the matter for consideration by one or both of the Independent Advisers on the Ministerial Code.
“The Independent Advisers will now be consulted on their precise remit, and advice will also be sought on how to ensure that there is no risk of prejudice to the ongoing police investigation. The remit will be published in due course.
“The fact remains that at the centre of this issue are two women whose complaints could not be swept under the carpet. Any continuing commentary about these issues at this stage – whether from myself, the Government or Mr Salmond and his representatives – would only serve to distract from and potentially compromise the proper consideration by the police of the subject matter of their investigations. That is something we will not do.”
‘Done the right thing’
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, pictured, said: “Nicola Sturgeon has done the right thing in accepting Scottish Labour’s call for her to refer herself under the Ministerial Code.
“Transparency is now absolutely essential in order for the public to have confidence in the First Minister and the Scottish Government.
“That is why we should also see a full, public parliamentary inquiry in to what exactly has happened – and I look forward to working constructively with members from other parties this week in order to secure that.
“It is also now essential that the Scottish Parliament is given the power to fully review the outcome of this investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon has broken the Ministerial Code.
“Throughout this process it is essential to remember that at the centre of all of this are two courageous women who put their faith in a system that has badly let them down, and we must never lose sight of that, by safeguarding the duty of care to them and their access to justice.
“We must restore trust and confidence in the system.”