Alex Salmond inquiry: Jackie Baillie slams committee

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The Scottish First Minister strenuously denied claims she broke the ministerial code by lying to Parliament over meetings she had with Alex Salmond over harassment complaints. James Hamilton QC is currently leading an investigation into the matter and is due to report back in the next few weeks.

A poll undertaken by Panelbase for The Sunday Times revealed 61 percent of Scottish voters believed Ms Sturgeon should step down if she is found to broken the rules.

Just 24 percent said she should remain in position whilst 15 percent were unsure.

Among SNP voters, 38 percent said she should step down whilst 45 percent said she should continue to fight the upcoming Holyrood elections in May.

It further suggested only a third of Scots believed she had been entirely honest in the row with her former friend and mentor.

The poll is one of the first to be carried out since Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond gave evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the unlawful Scottish Government investigation of the former first minister.

The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up after Mr Salmond successfully challenged the lawfulness of the government’s investigation of him.

The former SNP leader, who led the Yes campaign in the 2014 independence referendum, was awarded a £512,250 payout for legal costs after it emerged the investigating officer was found to have had prior contact with two of the female complainers.

At Edinburgh’s Court of Session, Lord Pentland described the investigation as “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias” after the Government conceded the judicial review the week before the case was due to be heard in court.

In the wake of the collapsed case, Mr Salmond has claimed there was a “malicious” plot to prolong the Government’s defence of the flawed investigation in the hope a looming criminal trial would “ride to the rescue” and spare them defeat in court.

He has also claimed his successor has broken the ministerial code in relation to the judicial review and by allegedly misleading Parliament about when she first knew of the allegations against him.

After seven hours of questioning on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon denied the allegations.

The Scottish Conservatives lodged votes of no confidence in Ms Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney, though there is no timescale for these to be debated.

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Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “The First Minister had lied on multiple occasions.

“She must resign or we will seek to force her out. In Scotland, the First Minister has lied, she has misled Parliament.

“Getting rid of this corrupt Government at Holyrood is a key priority for us and I think a lot of people will get behind that.”

Colin Smyth MSP, Scottish Labour constitution spokesperson, added: “Our country is deep in economic crisis and the energies of all politicians should be on uniting the country and building a sustainable recovery.

“Scottish Labour will fight the May election on the people’s priorities – strengthening our NHS, delivering a catch-up plan for our children who have missed out on school, and taking real action on jobs to tackle the economic crisis.” 

A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “More and more people are seeing that Nicola Sturgeon has tried to cover up what really happened with Alex Salmond.

“Trust in the First Minister is plummeting as the public realise she has misled Parliament and broken the Ministerial Code.

“The Scottish Conservatives will keep leading the opposition in holding the SNP Government to account.”

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It comes after a second poll undertaken by Savanta ComRes for Scotland on Sunday revealed similar findings.

According to the poll, 43 percent said their trust in Ms Sturgeon had fallen due to the inquiry.

But trust in Mr Salmond has fallen even more, with 57 percent stating believing him less than before the inquiry began.

The Panelbase poll of 1,013 adults was undertaken between March 4th and 5th whilst the Savanta ComRes poll asked 1,015 Scots during the same timeframe.

In response, SNP Depute Leader, Keith Brown MSP, said: “Only with both votes SNP on 6th May, can we deliver a strong, fair and green recovery and put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s.

“It is increasingly clear that Scotland faces a choice of two futures – the long-term damage of Brexit and Tory cuts under the broken Westminster system, or the opportunity to secure Scotland’s place in Europe and build a fairer and prosperous society as an independent country.”

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