Nicola Sturgeon meets her MPs at Westminster, including Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) and Ian Blackford. Picture by Bernie Heaney
By Democrat reporter
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was criticised after it emerged that a Holyrood inquiry into the collapse of the Scottish Government sexual harassment probe into Alex Salmond is set to be headed by an SNP politician.
It came as Nicola Sturgeon was accused of “hiding” behind a string of inquiries to avoid answering questions over the row which has rocked Scottish politics over the past week.
Ms Sturgeon refused to address fresh concerns on the fallout of case and subsequent hostilities with her predecessor as she came under pressure from opponents at First Minister Questions.
The Holyrood probe, being conducted by a special ad hoc committee, was agreed this week.
But it is due to be chaired by an SNP MSP in line with the “D’Hondt” procedures at Holyrood, Labour leader Richard Leonard, pictured right, told MSPs.
Mr Leonard called for the SNP to stand aside, given the nature of the claims.
“This is an unprecedented situation and Nicola Sturgeon must agree that this inquiry will be chaired by an opposition MSP,” he said.
Ms Sturgeon said it was not her role as First Minister to intervene in Parliamentary processes.
Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw dismissed the SNP leader’s refusal to address fresh concerns and contrasted this with her own approach when ex-Labour leader Wendy Alexander faced a Holyrood probe.
“She can’t hide behind an inquiry and likely forthcoming police inquiry without answering the obvious questions who knew what, when and how,” – those aren’t my words, those are the words of Nicola Sturgeon in 2007 when as Deputy First Minister she was demanding answers of Wendy Alexander over donations to the Labour party.
“So by Nicola Sturgeon’s own definition then, we do have both the right and the responsibility to ask questions now.”
It emerged last week that Ms Sturgeon’s Chief of Staff Liz Lloyd met with Mr Salmond’s long-term aide Geoff Aberdein twice prior to a series of five contacts between the current SNP leader and her successor about the sexual harassment case.
It was claimed, according to Mr Carlaw, left, that Ms Lloyd “tipped off” the Salmond team about the inquiry into the ex-First Minister.
The interim Tory leader added: “If that is indeed what happened, it is just plain wrong.”
Ms Sturgeon said “legitimate questions” have been raised and she has already set out her account of events.
“Beyond that, I now intend fully and as First Minister to respect the work of the various investigations that have now been established.
“Jackson Carlaw last week at First Minister’s Questions asked me to support a Parliamentary inquiry into these matters and I have done so.
“The Parliamentary bureau discussed this issue earlier this week. Last week Richard Leonard asked me to make a referral of my own conduct to the advisers of the ministerial code. I have done that. In addition, the Scottish Government will establish a review.”
There is also an ongoing police inquiry.
“Let me say to Jackson Carlaw and to the chamber, I will answer any questions to the fullest extent possible, and my government will co-operate fully with all and any inquiries.
“But I think other members in the chamber now need to recognise that having asked for these investigations, they are also now obliged to respect those investigations.”