Alex Salmond advised Nicola Sturgeon it was unhealthy for her husband to be SNP chief executive while she was first minister, it has emerged.
A former adviser to both politicians revealed Mr Salmond advised his successor against Peter Murrell being in such a prominent position in the SNP while she was leading the country.
Speaking to Courier editor David Clegg on DC Thomson Media’s Stooshie politics podcast, Campbell Gunn claimed Ms Sturgeon’s refusal to heed Mr Salmond’s advice signalled the start of their political relationship unravelling.
At the handover, I think Mr Salmond may have advised Nicola that it wasn’t a good idea for her to be first minister and her husband to be chief executive of the party. I understand that he mentioned this to her – it wasn’t a healthy thing for either the government or the party. But Nicola chose not to take on his words of advice.”
Campbell Gunn, former adviser to Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon
Mr Gunn said Mr Salmond and Ms Sturgeon had been a close “tag-team” in the run-up to the 2014 independence referendum.
But things started to become strained when Mr Salmond resigned after the Yes side’s defeat, leaving Ms Sturgeon to take over.
“At the handover, I think Mr Salmond may have advised Nicola that it wasn’t a good idea for her to be first minister and her husband to be chief executive of the party. I understand that he mentioned this to her – it wasn’t a healthy thing for either the government or the party. But Nicola chose not to take on his words of advice.
“I think that was the start of a breakdown in the relationship. I don’t think she appreciated that particular advice.”
Mr Gunn added: “But having said that, it wasn’t a major fracture at that point. The major fracture happened since then with, first of all, the judicial inquiry and then the criminal case.”
Former senior adviser to @AlexSalmond and @NicolaSturgeon, @CampbellGunn1, joins us this week. Learn from the man on the inside about conspiracy theories, leadership, who’s in Salmond’s crosshairs – and the moment when the two @theSNP leaders’ relationship began to fracture. pic.twitter.com/bN2afednUi
— The Stooshie – the politics podcast from Scotland (@stooshiescot) October 2, 2020
The controversies over Mr Salmond’s behaviour have been accompanied by a deepening rift between the two most significant politicians in SNP recent history.
Holyrood’s Salmond inquiry
The divisions have been exposed by Mr Salmond’s successful civil case against the Scottish Government and the criminal trial that resulted in the former first minister being cleared of sexual offences.
Mr Gunn also said Ms Sturgeon was unhappy about Mr Salmond working for the Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT (formerly Russia Today).
Mr Gunn, a Press and Journal columnist who worked as a Scottish Government special adviser for three years, said Mr Salmond was “very, very touchy” about criticism of his RT appearances.
On the Stooshie, Mr Gunn also said there were “unanswered questions” Mr Salmond wanted resolved during the Holyrood Salmond inquiry.
The inquiry has been established to investigate the Scottish Government’s botched internal investigation into harassment claims made against Mr Salmond.
According to Mr Gunn, Mr Salmond will want MSPs on the committee to examine why “former ministers” were included in a new Scottish Government procedure for dealing with harassment claims.
Mr Gunn also said Mr Salmond would want to know whether those who made complaints against him were encouraged to do so.
He added that Mr Salmond “suspects” there were people close to Ms Sturgeon who “may have been involved in trying to block him trying to return to politics”.
When asked if Mr Salmond thought Ms Sturgeon herself was one of those involved, Mr Gunn said he did not know.
But the former adviser added that his personal view was that he would be “astonished” if the first minister was.
A spokesperson for the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, said: “The government has provided hundreds of pages of clear, unambiguous evidence in relation to the creation of the complaints procedure. These issues have been well rehearsed and fully answered weeks ago.”