An investigation into whether First Minister Nicola Sturgeon broke rules on ministerial conduct during the investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by Alex Salmond has been delayed, the Scottish Government announced today.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney revealed in an answer to a Parliamentary Question (PQ), the inquiry into whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code would be delayed until after legal proceedings involving Alex Salmond had concluded.
Ms Sturgeon referred herself to the outside panel on the Ministerial Code on January 13 after pressure from MSPs, but the Scottish Government has since received advice that continuing with such an inquiry could prejudice the case against Alex Salmond.
The former First Minister appeared in court earlier this month charged with 14 sexual offences, including two charges of attempted rape.
Mr Salmond has said he is ‘innocent of any criminality’.
In response to a PQ by SNP backbencher Rona McKay about the probe, John Swinney answered: “The review will be externally led and will examine the first application of the procedure to ensure that lessons are applied for any future complaints that are brought forward.
“However, the Scottish Government does not wish to undertake any activity which may unintentionally prejudice live criminal proceedings, adversely impact the rights of anyone involved in the proceedings or affect the formal criminal process which is now under way.
“As a result, this review of its procedure for handling complaints about Ministers or former Ministers will not be progressed at this stage.
“The First Minister’s self-referral under the Ministerial Code has been discussed with James Hamilton, the Independent Adviser on the Code.
“Mr Hamilton has concluded that there is a potential risk of prejudice if the First Minister’s self-referral under the Ministerial Code were to proceed at the present time.
“It has therefore been agreed that the inquiry under the Ministerial Code should also be deferred while criminal investigations are active.”
Scottish Labour MSP Pauline McNeill said: “While it is understandable that the start of the investigation will be paused until the criminal case is resolved, it is deeply regrettable that the SNP government has attempted to bury this news on the day of the Budget.”