Nicola Sturgeon refuses to say if she would welcome Alex Salmond’s return to SNP

Nicola Sturgeon has refused to say if she would welcome former first minister Alex Salmond back into the SNP.

She was challenged on the issue as Scotland’s Deputy First Minister insisted ministers have “not closed the door” on handing MSPs legal advice from the court case Mr Salmond won against the Scottish Government.

A Holyrood committee is investigating the Government’s botched handling of allegations against Mr Salmond, and the Scottish Parliament has twice voted for the legal advice to be handed over to the MSPs.

Ms Sturgeon said the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints inquiry, and a separate investigation into whether she breached the ministerial code, must be allowed to be completed.

Alex Salmond successfully challenged the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against him (Jane Barlow/PA)

On the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Ms Sturgeon was asked if she would like to see Mr Salmond back in the party.

She responded: “I’m not going to get into these issues today.

“There is a parliamentary inquiry under way, there is an inquiry into my conduct in terms of the ministerial code.

“I think it is important to allow these inquiries to take their course.

“There are important issues of political scrutiny and accountability, I have no issues with that, but I think it is important to allow those processes under way to take their course.”

Ms Sturgeon succeeded Mr Salmond as SNP leader and First Minister when he stood down after losing the 2014 independence referendum.

But her relationship with her former mentor has since soured, with Mr Salmond successfully challenging the way the Scottish Government handled sexual harassment complaints against him.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that to be “unlawful” and Mr Salmond was awarded more than £500,000.

Meanwhile, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said “active consideration” is being given to the issue of handing over the legal advice.

He told Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News that it is against the ministerial code for him to release the legal advice other than in exceptional circumstances, and law officers must give their consent.

However he said no decision has yet been taken on the issue.

He told the programme: “The Government’s original position was that we do not release legal advice and no Government releases legal advice except in very exceptional circumstances.

“What I’ve said is that we will consider the fact that the Parliament has voted in that way. That consideration is ongoing at the present moment and that work is being undertaken to determine what approach we should take to responding to what Parliament has undertaken.

“So the issue is not closed, it’s very much under active consideration within the Scottish Government and I will be updating Parliament as soon as I’ve got a conclusion on the handling of that issue.”

Asked whether the advice might be published, he replied: “There is a possibility that we might do that because Parliament has asked us to do that and I’m now reflecting on that particular issue.

“At no stage have I closed the door on that issue, I’ve simply set out the fact that ordinarily governments don’t publish their legal advice.”

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