Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, the SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, has told a Holyrood inquiry he did not know about sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond until they became public.
In written evidence to the Committee investigating the government’s handling of harassment complaints, Mr Murrell also said that Ms Sturgeon did not discuss the details of two meetings between her and Mr Salmond.
The First Minister previously stated that meetings in April and July 2018 were in her capacity as SNP leader, but the party boss has revealed Ms Sturgeon told him “she couldn’t discuss the details” with him.
In his evidence, Mr Murrell wrote: “I became aware that complaints had been made under the Scottish Government procedure when the matter became public in August 2018.
“I knew about the meetings between Nicola and Alex Salmond at our home on 2 April and 14 July 2018 and I had the sense that something serious was being discussed.
“Nicola told me she couldn’t discuss the details.
“The nature of Nicola’s job means that when she tells me she can’t discuss something, I don’t press it.”
The convener of the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, Linda Fabiani, has now asked for “any and all” evidence of communications about the allegations against Mr Salmond relating to their inquiry, including “emails, minutes, notes, texts, papers and WhatsApp messages from all levels of the SNP.”
The parliamentary inquiry is taking place after the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled the Scottish Government’s actions in dealing with the complaints made were “unlawful” – resulting in £512,250 being awarded to the former first minister.
On the issue of ministers using party-managed communication channels, such as an SNP email account, when an official Scottish Government account should have been used, Mr Murrell said: “I am not aware of any such instances.
“However, it would be entirely appropriate for ministers to use SNP rather than Scottish Government channels for party political business.”
He added: “My understanding is that government business is subject to Freedom of Information legislation regardless of the channels it is conducted on.
“I assume, therefore, that a minister or [special adviser] could not use party channels for government business as a way of avoiding transparency.”
Ms Sturgeon has faced repeated questions about her use of a personal email for official work, despite the strict rules separating government and party.
Concerns were raised after a story in the Times reported that an SNP adviser instructed Scottish Government officials to send routine correspondence to her private secretary but to direct urgent matters to her SNP account.
Asked about it in October, Ms Sturgeon said she does not “generally use email to do government business”.
Responding to Mr Murrell’s answer about the use of SNP email accounts by government ministers, Ms Fabiani, wrote back to ask whether there were “safeguards in place” to ensure these communication channels are not used for official Scottish Government business.
She said that other evidence provided to the Committee revealed “emails from personal accounts (includingaccounts) received by the Scottish Government from Cabinet members, including the First Minister”.
The SNP MSP asked him – if he had not done so already – to “canvas colleagues for relevant information and records” on the subject, and submit any such evidence to the Committee.