Alex Salmond’s allegations that Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code will be considered by the investigation into the First Minister, the independent arbiter has confirmed.
Ms Sturgeon has been accused of misleading Parliament with her accounts of when she first knew about sexual harassment allegations made against the former first minister.
She initially told Holyrood she first heard of the sexual misconduct complaints against her predecessor when they met at her home on April 2 2018, but it later emerged she discussed the allegations with Mr Salmond’s chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, in her Holyrood office four days earlier.
The SNP leader told the Holyrood inquiry examining the Scottish Government’s botched handling of sexual harassment allegations against Mr Salmond that she “forgot” about the encounter with Mr Aberdein.
Mr Salmond, in evidence to an investigation about whether Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, claimed she misled MSPs with “false and manifestly untrue” statements.
Asked about the claims, Ms Sturgeon said she does not believe she lied to Parliament and said she is currently “focused 100%” on the Scottish Government’s coronavirus response.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has since faced repeated calls to expand an investigation into whether the ministerial code was broken following Mr Salmond’s allegations.
Mr Swinney described the claims as “absolute nonsense”, but insisted the investigation by the independent adviser on the Scottish Ministerial Code, James Hamilton, is already able to examine any possible breaches.
Mr Hamilton has now confirmed he will consider the fresh claims, as well as Mr Salmond’s accusation that the First Minister offered to intervene in the Government’s complaints process.
Ms Sturgeon has consistently denied the accusations.
In a letter to Mr Swinney, Mr Hamilton wrote: “I consider that the issue of reporting of meetings by the First Minister to the Parliament on a broad view appears to be within the scope of the remit but even on a narrower view is so closely connected to the remit that I am minded to include this within the scope of my report.
“I also wanted to note that I consider the allegations made by Mr Salmond concerning whether or not the First Minister should have intervened to arrange a process of mediation to be within the scope of the remit.”
The remit of the investigation, as set out by Mr Swinney, was to examine the meetings between the pair and determine whether the First Minister used any information from those meetings to influence the Government’s investigation into claims of sexual harassment by Mr Salmond.
Mr Hamilton has also been instructed to provide Mr Swinney with a report about whether the ministerial code was breached, the nature of any breach and advise on the “appropriate remedy or sanction”.
In his evidence to the investigation, Mr Salmond said Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff knew of a Government sexual misconduct probe into him a fortnight before Ms Sturgeon claimed to have learned about it.
Mr Salmond also said Ms Sturgeon had invited him to her Glasgow home on April 2, 2018 expressly to discuss the Government probe, despite her telling MSPs that she had believed it was to be a “party” matter, arguing Holyrood had been “repeatedly misled” about the nature of the meeting.
On the issue of alleged interference with the investigation, Mr Salmond wrote: “The First Minister’s claim that it was ever thought to be about anything other than the complaints made against me is wholly false.
“The repeated representation to the Parliament of the meeting on the 2nd April 2018 as being a ‘party’ meeting because it proceeded in ignorance of the complaints is false and manifestly untrue.”