Alex Salmond inquiry ‘could lead to fall of Sturgeon’ says Iain Dale
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Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond will give long-awaited evidence to a Holyrood inquiry this afternoon. The former SNP leader is expected to expand on his claims Ms Sturgeon repeatedly broke the ministerial code in her handling of sexual harassment complaints against him. Mr Salmond also alleges the current First Minister misled parliament. She strongly denies both claims.
Mr Salmond is due to appear in person at 12.30pm, where he will be quizzed by the Holyrood committee investigating the Scottish government’s handling of the sexual assault claims against him today.
The former First Minister, who led the 2014 Scottish leave campaign, is expected to push his claim there was a “malicious and concerted” effort among senior Scottish government and SNP officials to damage his reputation.
He is also set to expand on his allegations against Ms Sturgeon, as she has said Mr Salmond has an “obligation” to present evidence.
Ms Sturgeon is due to give her own evidence on Wednesday.
But the SNP leader faces a growing uprising from within her own party, as many criticise her handling of the Salmond inquiry.
Jim Sillars, a former deputy leader of SNP, is leading the charge against the First Minister.
He has lodged a formal complaint against Ms Sturgeon for comments made in a press briefing on Wednesday, where she claimed Mr Salmond’s conduct towards women, rather than the conspiracy he has alleged, were the “root” of claims against him.
She added that just because he had been cleared of criminality, “that doesn’t mean that the behaviour [women] complained of didn’t happen.”
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Mr Sillars, a former MP and long-standing critic of Ms Sturgeon, said that he was astounded by the comments, which “so egregiously questioned the verdict of a jury”.
He said: “Those were weasel words employed by the First Minister, and any reasonable person would draw more than an inference from them that the jury was wrong.
“I have been in public life for over 60 years, and in the course of it studied how heads of state and governments in the democracies have behaved in office.
“I cannot recall one single incident when the head of a government so egregiously questioned the verdict of a jury, or thought it a proper and legitimate discharge of their duty to do so.”
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Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman said she stood by the comments she had made at the press briefing, and said she would have more to say when she gives evidence to the parliament committee next week.
It comes after Mr Salmond pulled out of giving evidence on Wednesday, following the Crown Office’s decision to redact huge swathes of his written testimony.
This has led to widespread criticism, with Alex Neil, a former senior SNP cabinet minister, calling for the documents to be made public.
He said if they prove Mr Salmond’s conspiracy claims, all those involved should “get their jotters,” meaning resign or be sacked.
SNP MP Angus MacNeil also said the move makes both Holyrood and the Crown Office look “crooked”.
At Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon accused her opponents of indulging in Mr Salmond’s conspiracy theories which she said threatened the reputation of Scotland’s judicial institutions.
She added: “Scrutiny of me is important, necessary and entirely legitimate.
“What is not legitimate is for someone to pursue a conspiracy theory or scorched-earth policy that threatens the reputation and integrity of Scotland’s independent justice institutions just because they happen to dislike the Government, and to sacrifice all that, if I may say so, on the altar of the ego of one man.”
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