Nicola Sturgeon resignation calls: Case for a judge-led public inquiry grows – Scotsman comment

“No First Minister is above the fundamental principles of honesty and trust.”

Nicola Sturgeon is under pressure after an MSPs' committee reportedly concluded she misled the Scottish Parliament (Picture: PA)

There is no arguing with Ruth Davidson’s remark – made as she announced the Scottish Conservatives’ plan to bring a vote of no confidence in Nicola Sturgeon – other than to suggest it should be “no one”, rather than just “no First Minister”.

According to reports, a five-to-four majority of MSPs on the Holyrood committee investigating the Scottish government’s handling of complaints against Alex Salmond have concluded that the First Minister misled parliament over a meeting she held with her predecessor in April 2018.

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The five MSPs believe the evidence shows that she offered to intervene in the complaints process on Salmond’s behalf, an allegation that she denies and which she did not, in the end, actually do. The four dissenting MSPs are all SNP members.

It is a further blow to the First Minister’s credibility and reputation, but not necessarily a fatal one for her career. Many of her supporters will choose to see politics at work and put their faith in her denial.

However, her problems could become significantly worse if Irish lawyer James Hamilton, who is investigating whether Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, concludes that she did. Two findings that she misled parliament would be much harder to dismiss.

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So close to an election, the First Minister is highly unlikely to resign and will instead seek a favourable hearing in the court of public opinion, but the opposition now has considerable ammunition at its disposal to make the next seven weeks distinctly uncomfortable.

The Holyrood inquiry has at times been an unsatisfactory process, a quasi-judicial affair but with judges viewed by many as partisan. As we all know, justice must not just be done but be seen to be done.

So it may well be that, at some point after May’s election, a full-scale public inquiry – led by a judge with an impeccable track record – will be required.

If Sturgeon is being unfairly traduced, she would surely want that to happen in order to clear her name.

But it should also enable us to get to the bottom of this whole lamentable affair – finally consigning it to history – and restore lost trust in the institutions of Scottish democracy.

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