Alex Salmond inquiry: Jeane Freeman has ‘absolute confidence’ in Nicola Sturgeon after sexual harassment committee finds she misled Scottish Parliament
Health secretary Jeane Freeman has insisted she has “absolute confidence” in Nicola Sturgeon after it emerged that a Holyrood committee had found she misled the Scottish Parliament.
Reports leaked on Thursday evening that members of the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee had agreed, in a five-to-four vote, the First Minister gave an “inaccurate” account of a meeting with her predecessor Alex Salmond during the live investigation.
Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing on Friday, Ms Freeman said she did not believe the allegation that Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament.
“I do not believe the First Minister should resign,” she explained.
“I do not believe she has misled Parliament and I have absolute confidence in her veracity of what she said in those eight hours of evidence to that committee, in her integrity and in her professionalism.
Ms Freeman added: “I am not going to comment on unattributed briefings about a report which has not yet been published.”
At the same time, a spokesperson for Ms Sturgeon accused opposition MSPs of having resorted to “baseless assertion, supposition and smear”.
In a statement on Friday afternoon, they said the claim that it was “hard to believe” that Ms Sturgeon knew about inappropriate behaviour by Mr Salmond prior to the allegations in 2018 was “not supported by a single shred of evidence”.
The spokesperson said the committee was “never a serious exercise in learning lessons” and that it was “only ever about politics”.
The statement also accused opposition parties of being “intent on breaking every rule in the book in a blatantly transparent attempt to damage [the First Minister] before the coming election”.
While Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar called the committee’s finding “incredibly serious”, he stopped short of calling for Ms Sturgeon’s resignation, adding that he would not prejudge the outcome of its report.
Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross insisted the First Minister’s position was no longer tenable and said she had “lied to the Scottish Parliament”.
He said: “All we’re waiting for is confirmation.”
A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said the committee was still considering its report, due to be published on Tuesday next week.