LiveAlex Salmond Inquiry RECAP: The key moments from Nicola Sturgeon's marathon appearance before the Scottish Parliament's sexual harassment Committee

At a landmark hearing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints.

Her appearance follows that of her predecessor, Alex Salmond last week, in which the former First Minister accused Ms Sturgeon of breaking the Ministerial Code by misleading MSPs about when she first learned of accusations against him.

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Here are some of the key developments from today’s Committee hearing, featuring news, footage and analysis from The Scotsman’s politics specialists.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Salmond Inquiry RECAP: Nicola Sturgeon finishes giving evidence to Holyrood sexual harassment committee

Last updated: Wednesday, 03 March, 2021, 17:42

  • Sturgeon ‘feels very let down’ by Salmond
  • FM says idea that judicial review timing was ‘gamed’ is ‘absurd’
  • Baillie ‘frustrated’ by partial and late SG information
  • Sturgeon dismisses claim of ‘malicious plan’ to convict Salmond

The Scotsman’s key news, opinion and analysis:

• Nicola Sturgeon apologises and recalls 'the moment I'll never forget'

Alex Salmond inquiry: Nicola Sturgeon apologises and recalls 'the moment I'll never forget'

Nicola Sturgeon has apologised to the two women who first raised complaints of sexual misconduct against Alex Salmond, and to Scottish taxpayers, for the loss of the judicial review, which saw the former first minister awarded more than £500,000 and the Scottish Government’s investigation condemned as “tainted by bias”.

• Nicola Sturgeon denies knowing of any leaks

Alex Salmond inquiry: Nicola Sturgeon denies knowing of any leaks

Nicola Sturgeon has denied she knew of any leak of a complainant’s name to Alex Salmond’s former chief of staff or that she knew anything about the leak of the government’s investigation into the former first minister to the Daily Record.

• Sturgeon dismisses claim of 'malicious plan' to convict former first minister

Alex Salmond inquiry: Nicola Sturgeon dismisses claim of 'malicious plan' to convict former first minister

Nicola Sturgeon has said claims of a “plot” to undermine Alex Salmond and a “fishing exercise” to drum up complaints against him was “not based in any semblance of fact or semblance of evidence”.

• John McLellan opinion column

Sturgeon to quit by the end of the year and SNP to fail to win a majority? Sounds worth a punt to me – John McLellan

It’s easy for politicians to rubbish opinion polls; they are only a snap-shot, the only poll that matters is the election, and all that stuff to which the side staring at defeat clings as evidence of looming rejection mounts. Labour MPs and MSPs have been saying it for over a decade.

• The Scotsman analysis: Nicola Sturgeon wears heart on sleeve

Colour: Nicola Sturgeon wears heart on sleeve before Alex Salmond inquiry

For an inquiry that has all too often found its important work consumed by hand-wringing over its own processes and constraints, the testimony of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon provided a raw, emotional edge.

• Nicola Sturgeon and Jackie Baillie clash over legal advice

Alex Salmond inquiry: Nicola Sturgeon and Jackie Baillie clash over legal advice

The First Minister was challenged on a “litany of failures, errors in the investigation, errors in the judicial review and errors in the supply of information”, as she was asked why no-one had resigned over the Scottish Government’s unlawful handling of the complaints against Alex Salmond.

Marathon committee hearing ends

After more than eighth hours, Nicola Sturgeon’s appearance before MSPs has ended.

Sturgeon ‘feels very let down’ by Salmond

Ms Sturgeon told the committee reflecting on her previous friendly relationship with her mentor Mr Salmond was “deeply personal”.

She said: “I have learned things about Alex Salmond over the past couple of years that have made me rethink certain things I thought about him. No doubt he would say the same about me.

“I’ve had to go through a process of reassessing all sorts of things around that.

“As I was watching him on Friday lashing out – that’s my words – against us, I don’t know whether he ever reflects on the fact that many of us, including me, feel very let down by him.

“That’s a matter of deep personal pain and regret for me.”

Appearing close to tears, Ms Sturgeon added: “I think I probably should stop there.”

Asked by Murdo Fraser MSP if she owed the Scottish people an apology for having previously told them they should trust Mr Salmond, Ms Sturgeon said: “I trusted him and I am not going to apologise for the behaviour of somebody else.

“I do not think it’s reasonable to ask me to apologise for the behaviour of Alex Salmond.

“I think the only person who should apologise for behaviour on his part – which he was asked to do on Friday and failed to do – is Alex Salmond.”

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Sturgeon and Jackie clash over questioning

The First Minister was challenged on a “litany of failures, errors in the investigation, errors in the judicial review and errors in the supply of information”, as she was asked why no-one had resigned over the Scottish Government’s unlawful handling of the complaints against Alex Salmond.

In the most heated exchange of the day at the Holyrood committee on Wednesday where Ms Sturgeon is giving evidence on how the government lost in the courts, Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said she had never felt as frustrated in 22 years of being on parliamentary committees “as with this one”.

“We’ve waited for information from the Scottish Government, the stuff we’ve received has been partial and late,” Ms Baillie said.

Read the full story here:

Alex Salmond inquiry: Nicola Sturgeon and Jackie Baillie clash over legal advice

The First Minister was challenged on a “litany of failures, errors in the investigation, errors in the judicial review and errors in the supply of information”, as she was asked why no-one had resigned over the Scottish Government’s unlawful handling of the complaints against Alex Salmond.

Session suspended once again

The MSPs will finish their questioning of Ms Sturgeon at 4:30pm.

Sturgeon on Salmond meeting at her home

Mr Cole-Hamilton said that if the First Minister genuinely thought she was meeting Mr Salmond in a party personal space, and thought he was going to face the biggest threats in history – that the person who built the party was about to leave it – how some people might find it hard to believe Ms Sturgeon would not mention this to her husband.

The First Minister responded: “I can see how hard all this is for people to understand.

“All I can say is there’s lots of different emotions, factors and considerations. I had been given the impression by Geoff resignation was a possibility. I can’t recall the basis of that but didn’t think it was a certainty, so it was one of the reasons I wanted to meet him and hear what the situation was.

“I wasn’t – having not heard if that was a reality – set my party into crisis mode.

“I’m not sure that’s impossible for people to understand.”

She added: “I hope that there’s not that many people that find themselves in the position of having to deal with serious complaints against someone that was so close to you.

“Did I deal with it all perfectly? Maybe not. But I dealt with it the best I could.”

Sturgeon asked about her husband

Alex Cole-Hamilton asked about Ms Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell, who is also the SNP chief executive officer.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “You said as a rule you didn’t discuss written government business with him, but was a different matter when it comes to party business.

“You said you believed Alex Salmond was possibly about to resign from the party, but said nothing to Mr Murrell about your concerns and he was just popping in for a chat, is that correct?”

The First Minister said: “I’ve heard you posit that if I thought Alex was going to resign I’d have to have a handle in place and everything – I didn’t.

“I worried that something like that was the case but I wanted to speak to him first before I spoke to anyone else.

“If he had come into my house on April 2 and said ‘I’m going to resign from the party’, of course I would have told people so we could prepare for that.

“But he didn’t tell me that and I decided I wanted to hear from him what he wanted to tell me.”

Dani Garavelli on Jackie Baillie

BBC Scotland feed cuts out temporarily

The BBC Scotland coverage of Ms Sturgeon’s evidence to the Committee cut out for around two minutes.

The corporation apologised for the technical issue, before the feed was restored.

Independent commissioner behind decision not to hand over documents

Nicola Sturgeon said the decision not to hand over documents to the judicial review or the criminal case following a search warrant issued on the home of the permanent secretary to the crown office was made by an independent commissioner.

Despite this, the documents were made available to the committee.

She said: “I think there has been a suggestion made that 46 documents were inappropriately withheld from the warrant in the criminal investigation.

“Scottish Government officials have reviewed the documents that were listed in the submission made to the committee.

“Of these, 13 of them were released under the warrant and others didn’t meet the specific terms of the warrant.

“Ministers and the permanent secretary had no role in determining which documents were in scope of the terms of the warrant.

“Where documents weren’t handed over that would be because a judgement was made that they weren’t within the scope of a warrant, but that was not a process I had any involvement in.”

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Sturgeon tries to explain lengthy delays in handing over SG legal information

Nicola Sturgeon said there had been “really complex legal issues” behind the provision of legal information to the committee.

She said she would “reflect seriously” on what Jackie Baillie had said but that there were concerns about the release of the legal documents.

The First Minister said: “I get some of the frustration, I share some of the frustration.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “Sitting here right now I am glad you have got the legal advice so that I can talk about it openly today.

“But I have a concern about getting into a situation where government legal advice is routinely asked for and published, because I think that will undermine the basis on which governments properly inform their decisions.”

She said ministers had “genuinely-held views and concerns about the basis on which governments need to be able to take confidential legal advice”.

Ms Sturgeon added: “When Alex Salmond was first minister, he held those views as strongly as I do now.”

Baillie ‘frustrated’ by partial and late SG information

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie spoke about “how frustrated” she had been as a member of the committee as they tried to get sight of the Scottish Government’s legal advice.

“I don’t think I have felt quite so frustrated in my 22 years of being on parliamentary committees as with this one,” she said.

“We have waited for information from the Scottish Government, the stuff we have received has been partial and late.

“The legal advice has taken two votes in Parliament and a motion of no confidence in John Swinney before we saw it last night at six o’clock.

“And there is information missing.”

Ms Baillie added: “We have waited till the 11th hour for the legal advice, we get partial legal advice.”

She asked Ms Sturgeon: “Do you understand the frustration of the committee? Do you understand that it looks as though the Government doesn’t want to give us critical information?”

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