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Nicola Sturgeon under siege over meetings with Salmond amid sexual misconduct allegations | UK | News

Nicola Sturgeon under siege over meetings with Salmond amid sexual misconduct allegations | UK | News preloaderbig

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Scotland’s First Minister was accused of breaching the ministerial code of conduct (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

The First Minister was accused of breaching the ministerial code of conduct after it emerged a top aide helped set up and then attended a secret summit with Mr Salmond over harassment allegations. The involvement of Liz Lloyd, Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff, came to light on a day of drama at Holyrood in which Ms Sturgeon admitted it took her two months to tell civil servants that Mr Salmond had raised the confidential government probe. It also emerged Ms Sturgeon did not alert her private office to the meeting at her Glasgow home nor are there any official records of this and four subsequent conversations between herself and Mr Salmond.

The disclosures saw Ms Sturgeon come under pressure to refer herself to the independent commission charged with policing the ministerial code.

Critics said Ms Lloyd’s role undermined claims Ms Sturgeon was acting on SNP rather than Scottish Government business.

Concerns were also raised over why the complaints from two women were discussed in the presence of another government employee.

Relations between Mr Sturgeon and her former mentor have hit rock bottom over the judicial review with Mr Salmond’s allies revelling in the crisis.

One source close to the former SNP leader said: “We’re watching astonished as they twist in the wind.”

Ms Lloyd and Ms Sturgeon’s private secretary John Somers had been due to give evidence before the case collapsed.

In court on Tuesday, the Government admitted to a “failure” in its investigation by allowing it to be headed by an official who had direct contact with the women about their allegations before they made a formal complaint – in breach of its own rules.

It has since been confirmed Ms Sturgeon had five discussions with her predecessor – twice at her Glasgow home – during which he raised concerns over the Scottish Government’s investigation.

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Alex Salmond, former SNP leader (Image: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

The ministerial code states any meetings on official government business have to be set up through their government office and that detailed records need to be made.

Ms Sturgeon insists the first meeting, on April 2, and subsequent conversations with Mr Salmond were a party matter and not government business even though the investigation was discussed.

Yesterday it emerged she only contacted the country’s most senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, early in June after Mr Salmond told her he was on the brink of launching a legal action.

Ms Sturgeon admitted the first meeting was arranged after Mr Salmond contacted government employee Ms Lloyd through an intermediary. 

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Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond campaign in the Gordon constituency in 2015 (Image: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Ms Lloyd also attended that meeting at the home the First Minister shares with husband Peter Murrell, SNP chief executive.

Speaking at First Minister’s Question’s she denied conspiring against or colluding with Mr Salmond.

Ms Sturgeon argued that as a special adviser Ms Lloyd could assist her on party matters as well as government issues.

“I am satisfied that I conducted myself appropriately in line with all the rules and parliament of course will perform its scrutiny role in the best way it considers necessary,” she said.

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Scottish Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw (Image: Ken Jack/Getty Images)

Scottish Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw said her claims were unsustainable.

He later added: “This astonishing admission from the First Minister drives a coach and horses through her assertion from earlier this week that she met Alex Salmond in purely a party capacity.

“If that was the case, what on earth was her number one adviser as First Minister doing there?”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the First Minister had not only made “a grave error of judgement”.

In a letter calling for her to launch an inquiry he wrote: “Even if you continue to refuse to accept that you have breached the letter of the ministerial code, it is self-evident that you have breached its spirit.” 

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Ms Sturgeon and Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans (L) (Image: Jane Barlow – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Speaking to journalists Ms Sturgeon said she would consider a referral and admitted Mr Murrell was aware of meetings with Mr Salmond but insisted he was never told about the subject of their conversations.

The First Minister said she did not know what the April 2 meeting was going to be about.

Asked if she regretted the talks, Ms Sturgeon replied: “I regret this whole situation. I reflect on all of these things very deeply but I was absolutely clear that it would not have been appropriate for me to intervene in the investigation and I did not intervene.”


Source : EXPRESS

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