FM refutes verdict
Sturgeon faces confidence vote after attacking committee
The whole truth: Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence
Bute House stepped up the battle over the First Minister’s future ahead of a key week that will see publication of two reports and a vote of No Confidence.
The First Minister’s office issued an astonishing attack on the Holyrood committee that is expected to say in a report on Tuesday that she ‘misled’ parliament.
It was reported on Thursday night that the nine members of the committee inquiring into the government’s handling of the Salmond complaints had judged against Ms Sturgeon by a 5-4 majority. Four of the committee are SNP MSPs.
In a statement issued by the First Minister’s spokesman the committee was accused of resorting to “baseless assertion, supposition and smear”.
It was followed by calls for her to resign from the Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross and the party said it will call a vote of No Confidence on Wednesday if Ms Sturgeon does not resign.
A spokesperson for the First Minister insisted Nicola Sturgeon gave an honest response during eight hours of evidence and further written submissions.
A statement issued at lunchtime on Friday said: “The First Minister told the truth to the committee, and stands by every word of her evidence.
“Day and daily the public have seen the open, frank approach the First Minister has taken to political leadership. The contrast with elements of the opposition, who appear intent on breaking every rule in the book in a blatantly transparent attempt to damage her before the coming election, could not be more stark.
“The latest leak from the committee, suggesting they find it ‘hard to believe’ that the First Minister did not previously know about inappropriate behaviour on the part of Alex Salmond is not supported by a single shred of evidence. Sadly, she is not the first woman let down by a man she once trusted to face that charge, and regrettably she is unlikely to be the last.
“On this, the committee appears to have resorted to baseless assertion, supposition and smear – that is not how serious parliamentary committees are supposed to work, and in behaving this way they are simply exposing their base political motives.
“And on the suggestion that the First Minister was not clear to Mr Salmond that she would not intervene on his behalf, the committee appear to have deliberately ignored and suppressed evidence submitted to them which corroborates the First Minister’s evidence on that issue.
“And that, in fact, she did not intervene on behalf of a then friend and colleague to help cover up sexual harassment allegations, appears irrelevant to them.
“It was clear from the actions of the Tories several weeks ago, when they announced plans for a motion of confidence before they had even heard a word of evidence from First Minister, that for them this committee was never a serious exercise in learning lessons on behalf of women who bring forward complaints of sexual harassment – it was only ever about politics.”
A separate independent investigation by Ireland’s former prosecution chief, James Hamilton, will decide whether or not the first minister broke conduct rules and recommend sanctions, if required. His report is due on Monday.
Tories turn up heat
The Scottish Conservatives said they will give Ms Sturgeon a last chance to resign for misleading the Scottish Parliament.
Should the First Minister refuse, the party will proceed with a Vote of No Confidence on Wednesday.
The specific timing will be subject to the agreement of the cross-party parliamentary bureau.
Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson said: “If Nicola Sturgeon has a shred of integrity, she should be considering her position. She has every opportunity to do the right thing and resign.
“No First Minister is above the fundamental principles of honesty and trust. There is no question that Nicola Sturgeon has misled Parliament and broken the promises she made to tell the truth.
Ruth Davidson: call for No Confidence Vote (pic: Terry Murden)
“The SNP’s erratic outburst today against the committee shows the panicked spiral they are now in.
“Their suggestion seems to be that Andy Wightman, arguably the MSP most likely to rigidly stick to his principles, is some kind of underhand political opportunist. It is an extraordinary attack on a committee, and its members, before it has even reported.
“If it was possible, the SNP’s defence looks even less credible now. They are lurching from whataboutery to unhinged criticism of a well-respected, independent-minded parliamentarian.”