Douglas Ross has said the First Minister is “not free and clear” after the first of two reports over the Alex Salmond affair was published on Monday.
While James Hamilton’s report says that no Ministerial Code breach has taken place in his view, he states that “it is for the Scottish Parliament to decide whether they were in fact misled.”
Hamilton adds that he found the account of Alex Salmond’s chief of staff, over a secret meeting with the First Minister and statements about the identity of a complainer, “credible.”
He says that it was “regrettable” that the First Minister omitted to mention the 29 March 2018 meeting in her statement. He adds that forgetting the meeting “while inevitably likely to be greeted with suspicion, even scepticism by some, is not impossible.”
He also states that Nicola Sturgeon’s meeting with Alex Salmond “could not in my opinion be characterised as a party meeting”, contrary to what the First Minister has claimed.
The second Salmond inquiry report, the committee report on the government’s handling of harassment complaints, will be published on Tuesday morning.
The First Minister previously promised she would ‘respect the decisions’ of both inquiry reports but the SNP are now attacking the MSPs on the committee.
The SNP and Greens also teamed up at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament bureau earlier on Monday to bring the Vote of No Confidence in Nicola Sturgeon forward to Tuesday, which the Scottish Conservative said showed they are “running scared” of the findings of the second report.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The First Minister has been given a pass because it has been judged her “failure of recollection” was “not deliberate.”
“I respect Mr Hamilton and his judgement but we cannot agree with that assessment. Nicola Sturgeon did not suddenly turn forgetful.
“She is not free and clear. The First Minister promised to ‘respect the decisions’ of both inquiry reports, not to pick and choose which one suits her and try to discredit the other.
“The SNP spin machine will go into hyper-drive to again attack the committee report because they’re running scared of its findings. They have accelerated the Vote of No Confidence in Nicola Sturgeon to avoid MSPs scrutinising that report.
“As James Hamilton says, it is up to the Scottish Parliament to decide if the First Minister has been misleading.
“This report does not change the overwhelming evidence that Nicola Sturgeon misled Parliament, her government badly let women down and wasted more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money.
“If Nicola Sturgeon won’t accept responsibility, then I urge opposition parties to back our Vote of No Confidence.
“Nationalist or unionist, left or right, none of the usual political divisions matter now. Either we respect the fundamental principles of democratic accountability - or we don’t.”
Nicola Sturgeon previously said she would ‘respect the decisions’ that the inquiries take.
‘I agree with…the importance of the parliamentary inquiry and of the decision that I took. Those are processes that I think are necessary…it is important for all of us now to respect the work of the inquiries and the decisions that they take.’ (Official Report, 17 January 2019, link).
‘That is what I am determined to do, and that includes a determination to learn any and every lesson that any one of the inquiries tells us that the Scottish Government needs to learn.’ (Official Report, 11 March 2021, link).
‘I now intend—fully, as the First Minister—to respect the work of the various investigations that have been established.’ (Official Report, 17 January 2019, link).
‘it strikes me that people cannot call for inquiries and then refuse to respect the work of those inquiries. I will respect the work of those inquiries.’ (Official Report, 17 January 2019, link).
‘Now that those inquiries have been called for—and now that I, my Government and my party have agreed to support the establishment of those inquiries and co-operate fully with them—it is incumbent on all of us to respect those processes. That is what I will do.’ (Official Report, 17 January 2019, link).