Nicola Sturgeon did not break ministerial code, James Hamilton inquiry finds

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon did not breach the ministerial code, four days after a leaked government committee "report found she misled Holyrood", an independent inquiry has found.

The investigation by James Hamilton QC has been examining whether Scotland’s first minister misled parliament, as well as whether she should have recorded meetings with Alex Salmond.

Mr Hamilton said: "I am of the opinion that the First Minister did not breach the provisions of the Ministerial Code in respect of any of these matters."

Reacting to the findings, Ms Sturgeon said she welcomed the "comprehensive, evidence-based and unequivocal" conclusion that she did not breach the ministerial code.

Ms Sturgeon added: "Obviously I'm very pleased that James Hamilton has concluded that I did not breach the ministerial code in respect of any of the allegations that were made against me.

"I've always been of that view but independent adjudication of that is important to me but it's also important to the Scottish public to know that in the opinion of someone whose independence is completely beyond reproach I did not breach the ministerial code."

  • Peter Smith has more on the reaction:

Scotland's first minister is expected to face a vote of no confidence this week amid accusations she "misled parliament" about her involvement in the Alex Salmond investigation, the Scottish Parliament has confirmed.

The motion has been tabled by the Scottish Conservatives after the party’s leader at Holyrood, Ruth Davidson, claimed there was "no question" that Ms Sturgeon had lied to parliament.

The Holyrood inquiry, which is a separate political committee, is set to publish its findings on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a “credible” allegation that the identity of a woman who complained about Mr Salmond’s behaviour was disclosed by a Scottish Government official is being investigated, Ms Sturgeon has confirmed. Mr Hamilton asserted that the claim Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein was told the name of a complainer by a member of the First Minister’s staff in early March was believable. The account from Mr Aberdein was corroborated by four people who gave evidence to the inquiry, Mr Hamilton confirmed. In a heavily redacted section of his report, Mr Hamilton states that Mr Aberdein’s recollection of the meeting was “more straightforward” than the “rather complicated” and “elaborate” account of the government official who appears to have denied leaking the name.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed the committee leak was ‘partisan’ Credit: Andy Buchanan/PA

Mr Aberdein subsequently informed Mr Salmond and three other people about the woman’s identity being disclosed – former civil servant Lorraine Kay, who worked in the former first minister’s office, former SNP MSP Duncan Hamilton and the SNP’s former communications director, Kevin Pringle. Although he acknowledged he cannot be “completely certain” about whose account is truthful, Mr Hamilton concludes: “In view of the fact that Mr Aberdein informed these four individuals of the conversation promptly, I believe that Mr Aberdein’s account of what was said by [Redacted] the existence of complaints and the identity of a complainer is credible”.

ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith reports that the Holyrood inquiry is "expected to say she did mislead parliament by misleading the inquiry due to discrepancies in her evidence."

He added that Ms Sturgeon's "fate will likely be decided by the Scottish Greens in that vote, and they’ll make a judgment depending on what the two inquiries find, and in particular, from the Hamilton report".

But the planned no confidence vote in Ms Sturgeon on Tuesday is likely to fail after the Scottish Greens said they will not support it.

Scottish Tory leaders Ruth Davidson and Douglas Ross have called for Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

The party’s co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP was responding to the James Hamilton report into whether Ms Sturgeon broke the ministerial code.

He said: "Mr Hamilton has clearly concluded that the First Minister did not breach the ministerial code, so we will not support the vote of no confidence being pushed by the Tories.

"In lodging a vote of no confidence before this report was published, just as they called for the First Minister’s resignation before she even gave evidence to the parliamentary committee, the Tories have shown that they have no interest in establishing the truth.

"This entire saga should have been about examining a process that let down women and ensuring that was never repeated."

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

He added that members of the parliamentary committee into the Scottish Government’s handling of complaints about Alex Salmond had "shown utter contempt for the women involved, and for the rules of the Scottish Parliament, by leaking confidential evidence and their own conclusions".

He said: "If anyone’s resignation is still needed, it is these MSPs who should step down now, and who should not be candidates for re-election in May."