Alex Salmond inquiry: First Minister’s fight for her political life – Scotsman comment

In her foreword to the 2018 edition of the Ministerial Code, Nicola Sturgeon noted that it “sets guidelines for living up to the seven principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership” and said she would “lead by example in following the letter and spirit of this code”.
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, pictured in Inverness in 2011 (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, pictured in Inverness in 2011 (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, pictured in Inverness in 2011 (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

These are precisely the kind of values that the public hopes for in its leaders and everyone in public life, despite considerable scepticism about whether they are truly upheld.

The First Minister has earned an enviable reputation for upholding these values, above that of many in her profession. In short, the public tend to trust her.

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Today, the First Minister will appear before the committee of MSPs investigating her government’s mishandling of complaints about sexual harassment by Alex Salmond in relation to his time in the same office.

When she does so, her reputation will be on the line.

The questions she faces are sure to draw heavily on the documents released last night after long resistance from the Scottish Government.

The first of these concerns the legal advice given to the government on its chances of success in the civil case brought against it by Salmond.

It is now clear that the government continued to fight the case – which it went on to lose with the result that it was forced to pay his legal costs of more than £500,000 – despite its own lawyers warning it was likely to lose.

That is bad enough, but the other evidence released yesterday is potentially even more damaging to the Scottish Government as a whole.

Two witnesses – former Scottish Government special adviser Kevin Pringle and advocate Duncan Hamilton – back up the claim by Salmond’s former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein that the name of one of the women who raised complaints against the former was leaked to Mr Aberdein by a senior government official.

The First Minister has previously told MSPs that “to the very best of my knowledge I do not think that happened”.

Today’s hearing will see the First Minister questioned about her actions in this whole lamentable affair. She will face claims that she not only broke the Ministerial Code but that she repeatedly lied to parliament.

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She has said that she is “relishing” the chance to give her side of the story. Expect her to come out fighting.

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