Alex Salmond inquiry: What time will Nicola Sturgeon give evidence today, how you can watch and what is she expected to say?
Nicola Sturgeon is due to appear before the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish Government’s botched investigation of sexual harassment claims made against former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond.
Last night Ms Sturgeon faced calls to resign as First Minister from Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross under threat of a no-confidence vote as new evidence submitted to Holyrood’s harassment complaints committee appeared to back the Inquiry this morning.
What time will Ms Sturgeon appear before the Holyrood inquiry?
Nicola Sturgeon will give evidence today (Wednesday 3 March) from 9am. The session is expected to last several hours.
How can I watch it?
There will be a live stream of the speech that can be watched on The Scotsman.
Finally, you can also watch the inquiry on the Scottish Parliament’s TV service: scottishparliament.tv.
What is the purpose of her appearance?
The First Minister will be asked questions from fellow parliamentarians during her session in front of the inquiry.
The questions are likely to focus on when Ms Sturgeon first heard about the sexual harassment allegations against Mr Salmond.
The former First Minister denies wrongdoing and was not found guilty by the High Court.
Ms Sturgeon originally told Holyrood and the media she learned Salmond faced allegations of sexual misconduct directly from the former First Minister himself when they met at her home on 2 April 2018.
Scrutiny over who knew what and when heightened in October last year when Ms Sturgeon said she had met Geoff Aberdein, Salmond’s former chief of staff, in her Holyrood office on 29 March 2018.
The former First Minister has accused Ms Sturgeon of breaching the ministerial code, and accused her of misleading the Scottish Parliament.
Ms Sturgeon has consistently denied that she breached the ministerial code despite ‘forgetting’ the March 29 meeting with Mr Aberdein.
In response to the recent evidence, Scottish Conservatives have demanded Ms Sturgeon resign.
The latest developments in the case
Last night, just hours before Ms Sturgeon is due before the Salmond inquiry, two additional witnesses provided written submissions to the committee in which they confirmed the meeting with Geoff Aberdein, Alex Salmond’s former chief of staff, on March 29, 2018, was “for the purpose of discussing the complaints”.
Kevin Pringle, the SNP’s former communications chief, and Duncan Hamilton, Mr Salmond’s QC, also corroborated the accusation that a name of one of the complainers had been disclosed to Mr Aberdein.
In his written submission Mr Hamilton said: “I spoke to Geoff Aberdein on 29th March 2018 after his meeting in the Scottish Parliament. At that time, he intimated that a further meeting would be arranged to discuss the complaints with the First Minister.
"That meeting was arranged for 2nd April 2018. I was invited to that meeting and travelled to it along with Mr Salmond and Mr Aberdein.
“Further, when we arrived, everyone in the room knew exactly why we were there. No introduction to the subject was needed and no one was in any doubt what we were there to discuss.”
On the subject of potential intervention by the First Minister, Mr Hamilton said: “My clear recollection is that her words were ‘if it comes to it, I will intervene’.”
He adds that he believes Ms Sturgeon later changed her mind.
In his evidence, Mr Pringle said: “Based on my contact with Mr Aberdein, I know he was clear that the purpose of the meeting on 29 March 2018 was to discuss the two complaints that had been made against Mr Salmond.”
Reacting to the latest evidence, Scottish Conservative leader Mr Ross said the First Minister must now resign and that his party would submit a vote of no confidence in Ms Sturgeon.
He said: “Credible witnesses have now backed up Alex Salmond’s claims and the legal advice shows the government knew months in advance that the judicial review was doomed, but they still went on to waste more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money.
“There is no longer any doubt that Nicola Sturgeon lied to the Scottish Parliament and broke the ministerial code on numerous counts.
“No First Minister can be allowed to mislead the Scottish people and continue in office, especially when they have tried to cover up the truth and abused the power of their office in the process.
“The weight of the evidence is overwhelming. Nicola Sturgeon must resign.
“No evidence she can provide tomorrow will counter the claims of numerous witnesses or refute that her government ignored the legal advice for months and lost more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money in the process.
“We will be submitting a vote of no confidence in the First Minister.”
Why was the committee established?
The Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints was set up to look into the Scottish Government investigation of the allegations against the former First Minister.
MSPs have so far taken evidence from civil servants, including repeated sessions from Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, trade unions and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell – who is First Minister Ms Sturgeon’s husband.
Why did Mr Salmond take legal action?
The former First Minister claims his treatment by the Scottish Government was unfair.
It was later found that the lead investigator of the complaints had prior contact with some of the female complainers, with Judge Lord Pentland saying the investigation was “tainted with apparent bias”.