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What time is Nicola Sturgeon speaking and why is she facing calls to quit?

Adam Forrest
·3-min read
First minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon (Getty Images)
First minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon (Getty Images)

Nicola Sturgeon will make her long-awaited appearance before the Holyrood inquiry into her government’s unlawful investigation of Alex Salmond on Wednesday morning.

The first minister and SNP leader has insisted there is not “a shred of evidence” to support her former mentor’s claim of a “malicious and concerted” attempt to see him removed from public life.

Ahead of her testimony at 9am this morning, Ms Sturgeon is facing calls from the Scottish Conservatives to step down after two witnesses backed up Mr Salmond’s claims about crucial meetings held in 2018.

Follow live: Nicola Sturgeon appears before Alex Salmond inquiry

Written evidence released late on Tuesday from both the SNP’s former communications director Kevin Pringle and former SNP MSP Duncan Hamilton contradict Ms Sturgeon’s statements to parliament.

Mr Pringle has confirmed Mr Salmond’s assertion that the name of one of the women had been revealed to Mr Salmond’s aide Geoff Aberdein by one of Ms Sturgeon’s staff.

Asked about Mr Salmond being told the name of the complainer, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs only last week: “To the very best of my knowledge, I do not think that happened.”

Mr Hamilton also substantiated Mr Salmond’s allegation that Ms Sturgeon offered to intervene and mediate in the allegations against Salmond. “My clear recollection is that her words were ‘If it comes to it, I will intervene’.”

Ms Sturgeon previously told MSPs: “I did not seek to intervene in it at any stage.”

The first minister is also likely to face questions about when she first knew about the allegations against her predecessor.

She originally told parliament she became aware of the investigation when Mr Salmond told her at her Glasgow home on 2 April 2018 – but subsequently had to admit to having “forgotten” a meeting four days earlier with Mr Aberdein, in which the investigation was said to have been discussed.

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon at SNP conference in 2014PA
Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon at SNP conference in 2014PA

Ms Sturgeon also claims she believed the 2 April meeting was about party business rather than government business – and therefore would not have to have been recorded by a civil servant – but Mr Salmond asserts that there was “no doubt” it was about the government’s investigation of him.

Opponents have accused her of breaching the ministerial code for misleading parliament about the meetings with Mr Salmond and Mr Aberdein, and a failure to record them in line with the requirements for ministers.

Ms Sturgeon has denied the claims, which are being investigated by a separate inquiry led by James Hamilton QC, and refused to say whether she would resign if found to have broken the ministerial code.

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Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross called on Ms Sturgeon to resign and said the party would soon be submitting a vote of no confidence in her. “The weight of the evidence is overwhelming. Nicola Sturgeon must resign,” he said.

Ms Sturgeon had said she was looking forward to challenging the claims made about her “head on”. She told MSPs: “Then people can hear my account and they can make up their own minds.”

The Scottish Government launched an investigation into the former first minister after a number of women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment.

But a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £500,000 pay-out for legal fees. Mr Salmond was later acquitted of 13 charges following a criminal trial at Edinburgh’s High Court.

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