Alex Salmond inquiry has 'resorted to baseless assertion, supposition and smear', says Nicola Sturgeon spokesperson

Nicola Sturgeon has blasted the latest leaks by the Holyrood committee on the handling of harassment complaints, accusing MSPs of having resorted to “baseless assertion, supposition and smear”.

The comments, through a spokesperson for the First Minister, come the day after a leak from the committee suggested the Alex Salmond inquiry had concluded the leader of the SNP had potentially breached the ministerial code.

It is understood the committee has concluded that Ms Sturgeon misled the committee over whether she promised Mr Salmond she would intervene in the complaints process during a meeting at her house on April 2, 2018.

Such a finding is said to provide the basis for a “potential” breach of the ministerial code.

A spokesperson for the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has hit out at leaks from the Salmond Inquiry

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Ministers found to have “knowingly misled” Parliament are expected to offer their resignation.

The spokesperson said the claim it was “hard to believe” Ms Sturgeon did not know about inappropriate behaviour by Mr Salmond prior to the allegations in 2018 was “not supported by a single shred of evidence”.

They added the committee was “never a serious exercise in learning lessons” and that it was “only ever about politics".

The spokesperson said the nature of the Scottish Conservative’s intervention ahead of her evidence session when they announced plans for a vote of no confidence in the First Minister proved this.

“The First Minister told the truth to the committee and stands by every word of her evidence,” the spokesperson said.

“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.

“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.

“The independent inquiry into the First Minister and the ministerial code is being conducted by James Hamilton and we expect to receive and publish his report soon.”

Tackling the main criticisms leaked from the committee, Ms Sturgeon’s spokesperson said the committee had “ignored” and “suppressed” evidence that corroborates the First Minister’s point of view.

The spokesperson said: “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.

“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.”

The comments come as Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie labelled the committee a “complete farce”, criticising MSPs for buying into conspiracy theories from Mr Salmond “hook, line and sinker”.

He said the leaks had “destroyed the credibility of their own report”.

Mr Harvie said: “I’ve never seen a committee process more compromised by leaks, MSPs pre-judging the evidence, and party politics overriding the public interest. What should have been an examination of how women were failed and how we could prevent that from happening again has turned into a complete farce.

“There were serious questions that needed to be answered by this committee. That’s why we supported its creation, but it’s clear that a number of committee members have absolutely no interest in establishing the facts or seeking to create a supportive environment for women to bring forward complaints.

"Instead they have bought into Alex Salmond’s conspiracy hook, line and sinker in the hope of securing a political scalp.”

Mr Harvie said it was clear members of the committee had breached the MSP code of conduct through leaks to the media, and criticised those taking part in TV interviews.

He said it was “disgraceful” that women at the heart of the scandal had been let down and felt the need to issue a statement via Rape Crisis Scotland.

Mr Harvie added: "The Scottish Greens have said throughout that we will examine both the committee report and the Hamilton ministerial code inquiry before drawing any conclusions.

"Despite the indefensible behaviour of members of the committee, we are still willing to do so, but their actions have clearly destroyed the credibility of their own report before anyone has had the chance to read it."

The committee report is due to be published on Tuesday at 8am.

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