Nicola Sturgeon says she won't be 'bullied' out of office after beating confidence vote

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not be "bullied" out of office after she survived a vote of no confidence which was brought before MSPs in the wake of her government’s botched handling of harassment allegations against Alex Salmond.

Tories had pressed the matter to a vote in Holyrood after two major reports into what went on were published - one which cleared the first minister of wrongdoing, and one which said she misled Holyrood.

The independent investigation led by James Hamilton QC cleared Ms Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code on Monday.

Speaking in the debate on the motion, the first minister said had the Hamilton inquiry gone the other way, she would have quit.

“Had Mr Hamilton’s report gone the other way, I would have accepted it, had he found that I had breached the code in anything other than the most technical and immaterial of ways, I would have been standing here right now tendering my resignation,” she said.

“The integrity of the office I am so privileged to hold really does matter to me.

“The office of first minister is more important than any temporary incumbent of it.”

Holyrood debated the motion on Tuesday. Credit: PA

Ms Sturgeon also told the Scottish Conservatives: “If you think you can bully me out of office, you are mistaken and you misjudge me.

“If you want to remove me as first minister do it in an election.”

She added: “If today’s desperate political stunt proves anything, it is that you have no confidence whatsoever in your ability to do so, because you have nothing positive to offer the Scottish people.”

The motion was defeated by 31 votes to 65, with 27 abstentions on Tuesday afternoon.

The SNP holds 61 seats in Holyrood, with 30 for the Conservatives, 23 for Labour, and five each for the Greens and Lib Dems.

It is understood Labour abstained from the motion after Labour leader Anas Sarwar called it "futile and vain pursuit of a cheap political scalp”.Scottish Tory Holyrood leader, Ruth Davidson, said the first minister had been found to have misled parliament and the “honourable” thing to do after the publication of Tuesday’s report would be to step down.

The Scottish Parliament committee set up to investigate what went wrong in the government’s handling of the complaints claimed Ms Sturgeon had misled them in a report published on Tuesday.

The Scottish Conservatives lodged their motion of no confidence in the first minister before either of those reports were published when it emerged the government had carried on with a judicial review it knew it was going to lose - at the taxpayer's expense.

With the conclusion of both reports and the no-confidence vote, the SNP and Scottish government will now be hoping to put the whole saga behind them.

In the report published by the Committee on Tuesday, the MSPs said the Scottish government had "badly let down" the two women who brought the complaints against Mr Salmond in the first place.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament. Credit: PA

The pair said they had not received any support from the Scottish government after it conceded the legal challenge brought by Mr Salmond.

Quoted in the committee’s report, one of the complainers told the committee: "I was quite taken aback by the lack of contact and support from the Scottish government after the conclusion of its process.

"We were given regular updates over the period of the judicial review, but after that we were basically just dropped.

"We went through the entirety of the police investigation and the criminal trial with next to no contact from the Scottish Government, let alone any kind of support.

The women said they believed the handling of the complaints had been "damaging" to the possibility of other women coming forward for similar complaints.