Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has demanded that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon refer herself to an independent panel to determine whether she breached the ministerial code in meeting with Alex Salmond while he faced accusations of sexual harassment.
Mr Leonard wrote to the First Minister after insisting during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood that Nicola Sturgeon’s meetings with her predecessor while he was being probed over allegations of sexual misconduct were inappropriate.
He is now calling on Ms Sturgeon to refer herself to the independent panel on the Scottish Ministerial Code, which is made up of former Presiding Officers of the Scottish Parliament, to determine whether her actions amounted to a breach of the code.
During FMQs, Mr Leonard asked how a meeting between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond about the Scottish Government’s investigation into the former First Minister could be considered not a government meeting.
Ms Sturgeon revealed in parliament that her Chief of Staff Liz Lloyd attended her first meeting with Alex Salmond.
The pair spoke five times while a Scottish Government investigation into allegations of sexual harassment levelled against Mr Salmond - which he denied - was ongoing.
In his letter, Mr Leonard wrote: “As First Minister of the Scottish Government, you met and spoke to on five occasions the former First Minister of the Scottish Government to discuss the Scottish Government’s investigation into allegations of sexual assault made against him, reportedly by two Scottish Government civil servants – the first meeting of which we now know was attended by your Chief of Staff.
“The public will clearly view these conversations as part of your official capacity as First Minister of the Scottish Government. It is not credible to say otherwise.”
He added: “Even if you continue to refuse to accept that you have breached the letter of the Ministerial Code, it is self-evident that you have breached its spirit. I believe you must now refer yourself to the panel of independent advisers to the Code, who I am copying into this letter.”
Nicola Sturgeon didn’t reveal her first meeting with Mr Salmond to Scottish Government Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans until Mr Salmond requested another meeting.
Ms Evans has come in for criticism over her handling of the case against Alex Salmond, which lead to the former First Minister defeating the Scottish Government in court earlier this week.
The First Minister insists that it is ‘self-evident’ that she didn’t intervene in the case.