Nicola Sturgeon must resign ‘if even half’ of Alex Salmond claims are true, Tory MSP warns

Nicola Sturgeon may have to resign warns Ruth Davidson

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Leading Scottish Conservative Murdo Fraser, who is currently sitting on the Scottish Parliament committee investigating the government’s handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond, warned if the allegations are ruled to be true, it could mark the end of Ms Sturgeon’s reign as leader in Scotland. He said: “If even half of what Alex Salmond claimed yesterday was true it’s absolutely devastating for Nicola Sturgeon and her leadership of the Scottish National Party.” Mr Fraser added: “If even half of what he alleged yesterday turns out to be true, and we will get to the bottom of this very soon, then Nicola Sturgeon’s position is untenable and she will have to resign.”

On Friday, Mr Salmond appeared before the committee and said he had “no doubt” Ms Sturgeon had breached the ministerial code over her management of meetings the pair had held to discuss allegations made against the former First Minister by two female civil servants.

He said Scotland’s “leadership has failed” but did not go as far as to say Ms Sturgeon should resign if she has found to have broken the ministerial code.

Mr Salmond told the Holyrood committee: “I have no doubt that Nicola broke the ministerial code, but it’s not for me to suggest what the consequence should be.”

SNP leader Ms Sturgeon had told MSPs she first learned of the claims against Mr Salmond at a meeting with him that took place at her home on April 2, 2018.

However, it later emerged she had been told four days earlier by Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein at a meeting in her office, which she claimed to have forgotten.

Mr Salmond launched a judicial review case, after which the Scottish Government conceded it had acted unlawfully during its investigation into the initial complaints and agreed to pay his legal fees totalling more than £500,000.

Following that judicial review, Mr Salmond was cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault against a total of nine women after a High Court trial last year.

Ms Sturgeon, who is expected to appear before the same committee on Wednesday, has strongly denied breaching the ministerial code.

Scotland’s First Minister recently insisted there is “not a shred of evidence” there was a conspiracy against Mr Salmond and has robustly denied lying to Parliament.

Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman said: “Today was Alex Salmond’s chance to provide proof of the conspiracy which has been alleged – and he did not do so.

“Instead, under oath, he explicitly conceded there was no such evidence against the First Minister, and also gave testimony which directly undermined some of the central planks of the conspiracy theories.”

Following the committee hearing, Tory MSP Mr Fraser told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday: “Alex Salmond made a number of very serious claims about the breach of the ministerial code by Nicola Sturgeon, particularly about misleading parliament about the nature of meetings she held with him.

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“Alex Salmond claims he has corroboration for his side of the story.

“What we need to hear from Nicola Sturgeon is what backs her up, what corroborates her story.”

But the SNP’s Westminster and one of Ms Sturgeon’s closest allies, Ian Blackford, has leapt to her defence.

He told the BBC: “She’s made it clear on a number of occasions that she does not believe she has broken the ministerial code.

“I believe that to be the case as well, this will be put to bed, and we will be able to move on from it to make sure we are dealing with the Covid crisis in the right way, and we’re having that discussion about what Scotland’s future is.

“I and my party have full confidence in the First Minister leading us to that destination of Scotland becoming an independent country.”

He added: “Yesterday was supposed to be a seminal day in this inquiry where the former first minister was going to bring forward evidence of a conspiracy – by his own admission, there is no evidence of a conspiracy by the First Minister against him.

“There is no evidence that has been brought forward that the First Minister has broken the ministerial code or indeed has engaged in any kind of conspiracy.”

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