FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon denies intervening in Salmond inquiry

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Nicola Sturgeon has revealed she informed the Scottish Government’s top civil servant about a series of meetings with Alex Salmond to discuss his sexual harassment probe.

But the First Minister insisted that she did not “intervene” in the conduct of a inquiry into her predecessor which dramatically collapsed at the Court of Session in Edinburgh this week over “procedural flaws” in the way it was carried out.

Ms Sturgeon's chief of Staff was present at the first of three meetings she had with Mr Salmond

Ms Sturgeon's chief of Staff was present at the first of three meetings she had with Mr Salmond

It also emerged at First Minister’s Questions today that Ms Sturgeon’s chief of Staff was present at the first of three meetings she had with Mr Salmond. Two phone calls also took place, where details of the case were discussed. The SNP leader continued to insist that the meeting was not government business.

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The First Minister faced claims that her meetings with Salmond, while the case was ongoing, was a breach of ministerial rules.

Opponents demanded a Holyrood probe into the role Ms Sturgeon played in the Salmond inquiry and called on her to back this.

But she insisted: “I’m satisfied that I conducted myself appropriately in line with all the rules.”

Ms Sturgeon revealed the extent of her contact with Mr Salmond on Tuesday during a statement to MSPs.

She met with him in April 2 when he told her, for the first time, that a sexual harassment case had been launched in January. It emerged today that Liz LLoyd, Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff, was present at the meeting.

Salmond also set out his concerns about the process being followed in subsequent meetings.

Ms Sturgeon said she had not initially told the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans of the Scottish Government of the first meeting to avoid an appearance of seeking to intervene.

But she changed her position when Salmond requested a second meeting.

“I told the permanent Secretary that I knew about the investigation, about the previous meeting, including the reference to a potential legal challenge - I told her I supported her decision to investigate and I would not seek to intervene in the investigation in any way.”

The Permanent Secretary was also told about all subsequent contacts.

The First Minister also said she made it clear to Salmond she would not intervemne in the process.

“I did not intervene in the process,” she told MSPs.

Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw told Ms Sturgeon she should have declined to meet Mr Salmond after the first meeting.

He dismissed claims that the meetings were not Government business.

“Her position appears to be that a meeting between the First Minister of the Government and the former First Minister of the Government about a Government investigation involving two Government employees was not Government business,” he added.

Ms Sturgeon insisted that Ms Lloyd was present in her role as a politically-appointed special advisor who has the ability to advise on party issues.

Labour’s Richard Leonard accused Ms Sturgeon of a “grave error of judgement” and a “clear potential breach of the ministerial code of conduct.”