Sturgeon says she will ‘vigorously’ refute Salmond’s claims

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will “vigorously” refute accusations she misled the Scottish Parliament, following claims by Alex Salmond.

The First Minister said she would give an account of her involvement to a Holyrood committee investigating the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond.

Ms Sturgeon has been accused by her predecessor of misleading parliament with her accounts of when she first knew about sexual harassment allegations against him.

Asked about Mr Salmond’s claims on The Andrew Marr Show, she said: “I don’t accept that and I will refute that vigorously.”

Ms Sturgeon said she had hoped to appear before the Holyrood committee investigating the affair this coming week, but her appearance had been delayed by a “couple of weeks”.

She said: “I will sit before that committee and I will set out my account of what happened, given the very difficult situation that I faced, and people can make their own judgments on that.”

Asked if Alex Salmond was “spinning false conspiracy theories”, Nicola Sturgeon said: “What I certainly reflect on is that at times I appear to be simultaneously accused of colluding with Mr Salmond to somehow cover up accusations of sexual harassment on the one hand, and then on the other hand, being part of some dastardly conspiracy to bring him down.

“Neither of those are true.

“I, at the time I became aware of all of this, just tried hard not to interfere with what was going on and not to do anything that would see these swept aside rather than properly investigated.”

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had made “mistakes” in its handling of the complaints, which would be the subject of the Holyrood committee’s inquiry.

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.

A separate investigation, chaired by James Hamilton QC, is looking into whether Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code by failing to report meetings.

Later on Sunday, a spokeswoman for Mr Salmond said he believed text message evidence would “speak for itself”.

She said: “The two inquiries under way are into why Nicola Sturgeon’s Government acted unlawfully.

“Alex has submitted his evidence as requested and the parliamentary committee is now challenging the Crown Office to produce some of the text messages which they believe are being suppressed.

“The evidence, if published, will speak for itself.”

On Sunday, Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross said it was “becoming very clear” that Nicola Sturgeon had misled Parliament over when she first knew of the allegations against Alex Salmond.

He told Times Radio: “I think if anyone had seen the First Minister on television earlier on today she gets very touchy about this issue and the interrogation into what she knew, when she knew it, and how her Government have handled this whole situation.

“It shouldn’t take a Scottish Parliament cross-party inquiry to get to the bottom of the truth between the current First Minister and the former first minister.

“But it just shows how the Scottish Government have got themselves embroiled in such an awful situation.”