Nicola Sturgeon must go, Scottish Conservatives say

Lucinda Cameron, PA Scotland

The Scottish Conservatives have said that Nicola Sturgeon “must go” after her appearance before the Holyrood inquiry into her government’s unlawful investigation of Alex Salmond on Wednesday.

Party leader Douglas Ross said it is clear that Ms Sturgeon repeatedly misled the Scottish Parliament and that the “litany of lies and abject failures is too much for any first minister to survive”.

Appearing before the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon said there was nothing that the Government has to hide.

The First Minister had originally claimed she first became aware of the
Scottish Government investigation into Mr Salmond on April 2 2018, before later admitting to a March 29 meeting with Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

She said that at the March 29 meeting, Mr Aberdein “did indicate a
harassment-type issue had arisen, but my recollection is he did so in general terms”.

Mr Ross said: “The abiding memory of this evidence session will be Nicola Sturgeon proclaiming “I can’t recall” on repeat. She dodged and evaded almost every difficult question.

“The First Minister vividly remembers the details she believes exonerate her, then forgets entirely anything that damages her.

“It’s not remotely credible, in fact it’s plainly absurd, for the First Minister to ask us to believe her account of a secret meeting that she claims to have forgotten entirely, instead of the evidence of multiple credible witnesses.

“Geoff Aberdein’s account can be corroborated. The alternative version of events, that Nicola Sturgeon wants the public to believe, cannot, so it is now clear that Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly misled the Scottish Parliament.”

He added: “The litany of lies and abject failures is too much for any first minister to survive. The evidence is overwhelming. She must go.”

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon gave evidence to the Committee on Wednesday (Jeff J Mitchell/PA)

The Scottish Conservatives this week submitted votes of no confidence in Ms Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney, and said that neither vote has been withdrawn.

Scottish Labour deputy leader and Committee member Jackie Baillie said that Ms Sturgeon’s appearance before the committee left serious questions unanswered.

She said: “The First Minister’s appearance today was welcome, but quite frankly we are not much further forward in understanding her role in this catastrophic failure of the Scottish Government.”

Ms Baillie added: “Time and time again, Nicola Sturgeon assumed responsibility for the litany of failures of her government but still no-one has resigned for these failures.

“Ultimately, the First Minister was unable to answer accusations made against her, unable to disprove claims made by credible witnesses, and unable to properly defend the Government’s costly decision to persist with the judicial review.

“Serious questions remain over the First Minister’s conduct.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The committee will need time to consider the large volume of new evidence before reaching its verdict. There are serious matters for the future of the First Minister.

“Reaching the correct conclusion will be the first step on the route to restoring confidence of those who may consider making complaints about harassment in future.”

A spokesman for the First Minister said: “The First Minister today dismantled all of the claims which have been made against her.

“In fully eight hours of evidence, the opposition completely failed to substantiate any of the allegations and absurd conspiracy theories which have been levelled at her and her office in this case.

“The First Minister gave a clear, open and transparent account to the committee and directly addressed all of the issues raised. She was happy to take all of their questions and gave evidence for as long as the committee members wanted.

“She now looks forward to receiving the conclusions of the committee’s report, and the report of James Hamilton, the independent adviser on the Ministerial Code.

“The people of Scotland want a Government focused on the issues they are facing on a daily basis – and the First Minister is now determined to get on with the job of leading the country through the pandemic and the many other issues facing the nation.”