Friday, 16 Apr 2021

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Nicola Sturgeon: SNP facing ‘biggest row’ in Scottish politics

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Holyrood’s Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee last night concluded the First Minister misled parliament in her written evidence to the inquiry. MSPs voted 5-4 against Ms Sturgeon. The key ruling was leaked last night, with the official report set to be published next Tuesday.

The cross-party committee includes four SNP MSPs, two Conservatives, one Labour, one Liberal Democrat and independent Andy Wightman.

They voted Ms Sturgeon gave an “inaccurate” account of a meeting with her predecessor during the live investigation.

The committee did not say Ms Sturgeon “knowingly” broke the code, for which ministers are expected to then resign.

But the decision is expected to increase pressure on the SNP leader to step down before May’s elections.

Ms Sturgeon has so far remained defiant in the face of opposition and said she has no plans to resign.

She told Sky News she stood by all of the evidence she gave to the committee earlier this month.

She said: “What has been clear is that opposition members of this committee made their minds up before I uttered a single word of evidence.

“Their public comments have made that clear.

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“So this very partisan leak tonight before they’ve actually finalised the report is not that surprising.

“Let’s wait and see the final report, but more importantly the question of whether or not I breached the ministerial code is being considered independently by James Hamilton and I hope and expect he will publish that report soon.”

Mr Hamilton, a senior Irish lawyer who advises the first minister on code of conduct, is carrying out a separate investigation into whether Ms Sturgeon breached the ministerial code.

He is expected to publish a report in the coming days.

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If he finds the First Minister broke the rules he is entitled to recommend sanctions.

The Holyrood committee said they found contradictions in Ms Sturgeon’s evidence over a meeting with Alex Salmond in April 2018, according to Sky News.

Members of the committee said the First Minister misled the committee itself and so misled parliament and potentially breached the ministerial code of conduct.

A spokesman for the Scottish Parliament said the committee was still finalising its report, and it would not make any comment until it was published.

The findings, though yet to be officially confirmed, have led to calls for Ms Sturgeon to resign with immediate effect.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “We have called out the First Minister based on the overwhelming evidence that she misled Parliament.

“We will continue to hold her to the same standards as previous First Ministers of Scotland and demand that she resigns.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also called on the First Minister to resign, if the outcome of the report finds she misled Parliament.

The Harassment Committee was set up after a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government’s investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees in 2019.

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