Key points from Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence

Here are the key points from Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints.

– No conspiracy

The First Minister rejected the “absurd suggestion that anyone acted with malice or as part of a plot against Alex Salmond”, saying the “claim is not based in any fact”.

She added: “There is nothing here that the Government has to hide.”

She said the “idea this was some concoction or plot is just not based on any semblance of fact or any semblance of credible evidence”.

“I have seen nothing that comes within a million miles of backing up that central assertion Alex was making,” she added.

She insisted she “would never have wanted to ‘get’ Alex Salmond”, and that she had “no motive, intention, desire” for such action against her predecessor.

– Controversy over the naming of complainants

During his evidence on Friday, Mr Salmond said the identity of one of the women who made complaints was disclosed to his former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, by a member of Ms Sturgeon’s team.

Mr Salmond has now lodged a formal complaint with the permanent secretary to the Scottish Government under the civil service code on “the conduct of the official who is alleged to have disclosed the name” of a complainant.

Ms Sturgeon said she disputed this version of events, saying: “I am not accepting that that happened.”

She told the committee she believed Mr Salmond knew the identity of one complainant because he “apologised to the person” at the time of the alleged incident, and he “found out the identity of the other one through his own investigations”.

– Apology

Ms Sturgeon apologised to the women who submitted sexual harassment complaints about Mr Salmond, saying there had been “a very serious mistake” in the Scottish Government’s investigation.

She said “two women were failed and taxpayers’ money was lost, I deeply regret that”.

She added: “Although I was not aware of the error at the time, I am the head of the Scottish Government so I want to take this opportunity to say sorry to the two women involved and to the wider public.”

Asked by committee member Murdo Fraser if she owed the Scottish people an apology for having previously told them they should trust Mr Salmond, Ms Sturgeon said: “I trusted him and I am not going to apologise for the behaviour of somebody else.

“I do not think it’s reasonable to ask me to apologise for the behaviour of Alex Salmond.”

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Alex Salmond took the Scottish Government to court for the way it handled harassment allegations made against him. (Jane Barlow/PA)

– Salmond’s ‘inappropriate behaviour’

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that the details of complaints against Mr Salmond – which he denied –  were “shocking” and his behaviour “was not always appropriate”.

She said Mr Salmond’s account to her of what she called his “deeply inappropriate behaviour” is a “moment in my life that I will never forget”.

That Mr Salmond “was acquitted by a jury of criminal conduct is beyond question”, she said, but added: “I know, just from what he told me, that his behaviour was not always appropriate.”

– What Sturgeon knew and when

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that she first became aware of any complaint against Mr Salmond from a Sky News inquiry in November 2017, about an incident at Edinburgh Airport.

This led her to harbour “a lingering suspicion that such issues in relation to Mr Salmond might rear their head”.

But she said it was not until a meeting with her predecessor on April 2, 2018 at her home that she knew “beyond any doubt”.

The First Minister has previously claimed she first became aware of the Scottish Government investigation into Mr Salmond at the April 2 meeting.

She later admitted having “forgotten” a March 29 meeting with Mr Aberdein, but she told MSPs on Wednesday: “The purpose of the conversation seemed to be to persuade me to meet with Alex as soon as possible, which I  did agree to do.

“Geoff did indicate a harassment-type issue had arisen, but my recollection is he did so in general terms.”

She told the committee she wished her memory of the meeting on March 29 was “more vivid”.

Duncan Hamilton, a former SNP MSP and lawyer for Mr Salmond, and the SNP’s former communications director Kevin Pringle, submitted evidence on Tuesday saying they believe Ms Sturgeon was aware the March 29 meeting would be about complaints against the former first minster.

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Nicola Sturgeon gave evidence to the Alex Salmond inquiry (PA)

– Sturgeon ‘did not intervene’

Ms Sturgeon said it would have been an “egregious” breach of her position had she acceded to Mr Salmond’s request for her to intervene following complaints against him.

“I did not intend to intervene, and I did not intervene, and while I know it is more complex than this, I think in terms of his anger towards me I think that is the root of it with Mr Salmond,” she said.

She added that it “would have been deeply wrong” to have intervened to try to “engineer the outcome” Mr Salmond wanted.

– Leaking of story to the Daily Record

The Daily Record newspaper broke the news of the allegations against Mr Salmond on August 23 2018.

Ms Sturgeon said the leak “didn’t come from me, or anyone acting on my instruction or request”.

She added: “I’m certain as I can be it didn’t come from my office.”

– Judicial review

A successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the Government investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, resulting in a £512,250 legal fee payout.

Ms Sturgeon rejected suggestions the Government did not take the advice of senior lawyers in conceding Mr Salmond’s judicial review petition.

“The charge that has been made against me is that I wilfully allowed a judicial review to proceed against the legal advice, therefore I broke the ministerial code,” she said.

“With respect, as you now know, I was acting in accordance with the views of the law officers, not against.”

PA

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