Nicola Sturgeon denied on Thursday that she had misled parliament over how she handled sexual misconduct claims against her predecessor, in a dispute that threatens her dream of leading her nation to independence. A parliamentary committee investigating how Sturgeon and her administration had dealt with sexual harassment allegations against her former ally and mentor Alex Salmond in 2018 found that she had given misleading evidence, Sky News reported earlier. She said: “I think the first thing to say is I stand by all of the evidence I gave to the committee.
“All eight hours worth of evidence.
“What’s been clear is that the Opposition members of this committee made their minds up about me before I made a single word of evidence.
“Their public comments have made that clear so this leak from the committee before they’ve actually finalised their report is not that surprising.
“So let’s see the final report.
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“But more importantly, the question of whether or not I breached the ministerial code is being considered independently by James Hamilton QC and I hope and expect to see that report published soon.
“Let’s see what the final reports have to say.”
The decision is likely to increase pressure on Ms Sturgeon to stand down before May’s election, although it is unclear whether the act was deemed a resignation-worthy offence.
A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said the committee is still considering its report.
It is expected to be published on Tuesday.
The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up after a successful judicial review by Mr Salmond resulted in the Scottish Government’s investigation being ruled unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, with a £512,250 payout being awarded to him for legal fees in 2019.
This latest development comes after Conservative MP David Davis used parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons to read out messages that he suggested showed a “concerted effort by senior members of the SNP to encourage complaints” against the former first minister.
According to Mr Davis, the messages disclosed by a whistleblower “demands serious investigation”, with one alleging the investigating officer in the case complained of interference by Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff.
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The message is alleged to have been sent by Judith Mackinnon to the Government’s communications director on February 6 2018, almost two months before the First Minister claims to have first known about the investigation of her predecessor.
A spokesman for the First Minister said: “The First Minister told the truth to the committee in eight hours of evidence, and stands by that evidence.
“It is clear from past public statements that opposition members of this committee had prejudged the First Minister at the outset of the inquiry and before hearing a word of her evidence, so this partisan and selective briefing – before the committee has actually published its final report – is hardly surprising.
“The question of the First Minister’s adherence to the ministerial code is being considered independently by James Hamilton, and we expect to receive and publish his report soon.”