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Nicola Sturgeon 2021 cleared of breaching ministerial code

Nicola Sturgeon 2021  cleared of breaching ministerial code

Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon ministerial of code cleared breaching

Mon, 22 Mar 2021 17:00:00 +0000

Scottish first minister accused of misleading parliament over investigation into allegations against Alex Salmond

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Scottish first minister accused of misleading parliament over investigation into allegations against Alex Salmond

Last modified on Mon 22 Mar 2021 13.11 EDT

Nicola Sturgeon has been cleared of knowingly breaching the ministerial code over her dealings with Alex Salmond after an independent inquiry into allegations she misled the Scottish parliament.

James Hamilton QC, a former Irish prosecutor, had investigated the first minister after she was accused of deliberately misleading Holyrood about when she knew about sexual harassment allegations against Salmond.

Sturgeon called on opposition parties to respect Hamilton’s ruling, and drop demands that she quit.

The Scottish Tories are pressing ahead with a vote of no confidence in the first minister on Tuesday, but no other opposition parties are expected to back it.

“I welcome the conclusions of James Hamilton’s independent investigation, which are comprehensive, evidence-based and unequivocal,” she said.

“Mr Hamilton has considered all of the allegations against me, and I am happy that his report’s findings clear me of any breach of the ministerial code.

“I sought at every stage in this issue to act with integrity and in the public interest.

As I have previously made clear, I did not consider that I had broken the code, but these findings are official, definitive and independent adjudication of that.

“Prior to its publication, opposition politicians stressed the importance of respecting and accepting the outcome of Mr Hamilton’s independent inquiry, and I committed wholeheartedly to doing so.

Now that he has reported, it is incumbent on them to do likewise.”

Sturgeon called in Hamilton – the Scottish government’s independent adviser on the ministerial code and a former director of public prosecutions – to investigate her actions after Salmond won a legal challenge against her government’s inquiry into sexual harassment complaints against him in January 2019.

He also investigated Sturgeon over failing to immediately alert senior civil servants that she had met Salmond to discuss a confidential Scottish government inquiry into harassment complaints from two female civil servants against him.

Sturgeon had met Salmond at her home on 2 April 2018, and had a subsequent phone call with him, but she only told Lesley Evans, the head of Scotland’s civil service, on 6 June.

It also emerged Sturgeon failed to tell MSPs she had also met Salmond’s former chief of staff in her parliamentary office and discussed the fact there were issues “of a sexual nature” involving Salmond on 29 March 2018.

Either of those breaches of the Scottish government ministerial code could have resulted in her being forced to resign, with only six weeks before the Holyrood elections, if she had knowingly done so.

A Holyrood inquiry, which is due to publish its findings on Tuesday morning after a lengthy inquiry into the government’s and Sturgeon’s conduct, is expected to find Sturgeon did mislead parliament about her dealings with Salmond, but did not do so knowingly.

Hamilton’s ruling, which follows a two-year-long investigation, is expected to mean a vote of no confidence due to be tabled by the Scottish Conservatives on Tuesday will fail to win support from other opposition parties.

Salmond had alleged Sturgeon had allowed public funds to be misused by failing to admit defeat quickly enough after he mounted a legal challenge against that inquiry in August 2018.

He was paid £512,000 in legal costs after he won that challenge in January 2019, while the government’s legal costs were close to £100,000.

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Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon

Mon, 22 Mar 2021 17:00:00 +0000

The Scottish Government has received a report from James Hamilton who has been examining whether the First Minister breached the ministerial code

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Nicola Sturgeon leaves her home in Glasgow

The findings of an independent inquiry into whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code has been handed over and will be published on Monday, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

An investigation by James Hamilton has been examining whether Scotland’s First Minister “attempted to influence the conduct of the investigation” into Alex Salmond and if she misled parliament.

He has also looked into whether she should have recorded calls and meetings with Mr Salmond and may have considered whether she prolonged the Government’s defence of a judicial review brought by her predecessor, contrary to the legal advice.

Mr Hamilton, the former director of public prosecutions in the Republic of Ireland, is the independent advisor to the Scottish Government on the ministerial code – a set of rules about how ministers should conduct themselves.

The current First Minister referred herself to him following Mr Salmond’s successful legal challenge of the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation into harassment complaints against him, which led to him being awarded £512,250 for legal costs.

Mr Hamilton was originally asked to investigate allegations that Ms Sturgeon “failed to feed back the basic facts of meetings and discussions held with Alex Salmond to her private office as required by sections 4.22 and 4.23 of the Code”.

Ms Sturgeon, who denies breaching the code, has previously promised the report would be published on the day the Government received it.

And on Monday afternoon, a Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government received the independent adviser’s report this morning and it will be published later today, once legally required checks and notifications are completed.”

Sections of the report may be redacted by the Scottish Government to avoid jigsaw identification of the female complainers and to comply with court orders, the spokesman indicated.

Mr Hamilton’s investigation was paused in early 2019 to avoid prejudicing criminal proceedings brought against Mr Salmond.

He was acquitted of 13 charges, including sexual assault, indecent assault and attempted rape, in March 2020 following a High Court trial and Mr Hamilton’s inquiry was delayed again by the pandemic, before resuming in August 2020.

The code says it is the First Minister who is “the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of a minister” and the appropriate consequences for breaches.

Speaking outside her Glasgow home on Monday morning, Ms Sturgeon said: “I’m going to do what I’ve done every day for the last year – lead the country through a pandemic.”

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– March 22, 2021
Nicola Sturgeon 2021 cleared of breaching ministerial code

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