Sturgeon ‘not aware’ women advised not to be alone with Salmond

SturgeonImage copyright
PA Media

Nicola Sturgeon has told Holyrood she was not aware of female civil servants being advised not to be alone with her predecessor Alex Salmond.

Ms Sturgeon was speaking during First Minister’s Questions, responding to a question raised by the Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser.

He asked if she was “aware of female civil servants being advised not to be alone in the company of the former first minister”.

Ms Sturgeon replied: “No, I wasn’t.”

  • How will Holyrood’s Alex Salmond inquiry work?
  • Scottish government ‘was not out to get Salmond’

Mr Fraser had begun by explaining that – earlier in the week, during a meeting of the Scottish Parliament inquiry into the failure of the government’s complaints handling process – he had asked Scotland’s highest ranking civil servant, Leslie Evans, if she was aware that female civil servants had been advised not to be alone with Mr Salmond.

Ms Evans replied that she could not comment.

Image copyright
Scottish Parliament

Image caption

Ms Evans gave evidence to the inquiry

The first minister said that she was not going to comment on evidence given by other people, but added that she understood Mr Fraser’s question at the committee had been “ruled out of order”.

Ms Sturgeon was referring to committee convener, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani, prohibiting further questioning on the issue.

She continued: “I understand that the permanent secretary has already said that she is happy to write to the committee to address this issue if the committee wishes,” she added.

Ms Evans – who is the permanent secretary to the Scottish government – went before the Scottish Parliament inquiry which is investigating the Scottish government’s handling of complaints against Mr Salmond, which saw him awarded a £500,000 expenses payout in court.

Mr Fraser also asked Ms Sturgeon if Ms Evans’ response was in accordance with the Scottish government’s commitment to fully cooperate with the parliamentary inquiry.

Ms Sturgeon said was “absolutely committed to fully complying with the inquiry”, and would answer “all questions that are put to me by the committee, when the committee asks me to do so – unless, of course, they are asking me questions where my answers would breach legal requirements”.

She added that she had already submitted written evidence to the inquiry – saying it was for the committee to decide “when and to what extent” this is made public.

Ms Sturgeon also said she had recused herself from any decision-making about the government’s interaction with the committee, given that part of the committee’s remit is to look at her conduct.

For this reason, she said, she was not going to issue instructions, but added: “The government will continue to fully co-operate, I am sure, and within the legal obligations that the government operates under make available the maximum amount of information that it can to the committee.”

Image copyright
PA Media

Image caption

Alex Salmond walked free from court in March having been cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault and attempted rape

The government launched an internal investigation into harassment complaints against Mr Salmond from two female members of staff in January 2018.

The allegations dated back to when he was serving as first minister.

However, Mr Salmond raised a legal challenge which led to the government admitting that the investigation had been unlawful.

The judge said it had been “procedurally unfair” and “tainted with apparent bias” because the investigating officer assigned to the case had had prior contact with the complainers.

Mr Salmond was subsequently cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault at the High Court in Edinburgh in March.

BBC News