The first minister has come under sustained pressure to say whether she will resign if she is found to have misled parliament over the Alex Salmond affair.
Nicola Sturgeon refused three times during First Minister’s Questions on Wednesday to say whether she would quit if she is found to have breached the ministerial code, following repeated questioning by Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie.
However, the first minister accused Ms Baillie of “prejudging” the outcome of both the Hamilton inquiry, into whether Ms Sturgeon has broken the ministerial code, and the Scottish Parliament’s inquiry into the government’s handling of the sexual harassment allegations.
Ms Sturgeon also said she hopes the Holyrood committee uses its powers to make sure “anybody who’s got anything to help with the process of this committee” gives their account, a seemingly implicit suggestion that Mr Salmond should be compelled to appear before the inquiry.
Ms Baillie, who sits on the committee, said: “On March 29 2018, the First Minister attended a meeting here in Parliament with Geoff Aberdein, the former Chief of Staff to Alex Salmond.
“The First Minister claimed to have forgotten about that meeting and told the Parliament that the meeting was ‘fleeting or opportunistic’.
“But it was the case that the meeting was prearranged and for the specific purpose of discussing the complaints made against Alex Salmond.”
‘Entitled to due process’
Under repeated questioning from Ms Baillie on whether she will resign if she is found to have misled the parliament, Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t believe I did breach the ministerial code therefore I’m not going to engage in a hypothetical.”
She added that she is “entitled to due process just like everybody else”.
The first minister also faced questions from Ruth Davidson, Conservative leader at Holyrood, who claimed Ms Sturgeon has “backed herself into a corner” by insisting her husband, SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, told the truth before a Holyrood inquiry.
Mr Murrell who has denied lying under oath to the committee about a meeting between Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, said his previous claim that the meeting was to discuss a “Scottish Government matter” was “merely speculation on my part”.
The SNP chief executive’s account raised questions about the evidence of Ms Sturgeon, who stated in her written submission that she suspected Mr Salmond was planning on quitting the SNP, which is why it was not recorded as a government meeting.
In response to questioning from Ms Davidson, the first minister said her husband “did tell the truth”, adding she is “relishing” the opportunity to appear before the committee under oath in an evidence session scheduled for Tuesday.
Speaking after FMQs, Ms Davidson said: “Peter Murrell said the Sturgeon-Salmond meetings were government business. The first minister has told the parliament that they were not.
“That is a glaring contradiction. Both accounts cannot be correct.
“By trying to conceal the truth, the first minister has finally backed herself into a corner. She is dismantling her own defence.”
One million people vaccinated
The first minister also used FMQs to provide an update on the latest vaccination figures.
The Scottish Government has vaccinated more than one million people at greatest risk from coronavirus.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that 985,569 people had received their first dose as of Wednesday morning, up 57,447 from Tuesday’s figure.
However, the milestone was marked later on Wednesday afternoon, with the programme reaching more than a fifth (22%) of the 4.5 million people who will be offered a vaccine.
She said the vaccination figure – which is the second-highest daily total so far – is “nothing short of extraordinary” given the severe weather conditions.
However, the first minister also announced a further 50 deaths have been recorded in the past 24 hours, and 803 positive tests.
This brings the total number of fatalities under the daily measurement to 6,551.
A total of 99.8% of residents in older people’s care homes have now had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and at least 96% of those aged over 80 living in the community have had their initial injection.
Ms Sturgeon added that 80% of those aged 75 to 79 have received their first jag along with 45% of people aged 70 to 74, with the vaccination of 65 to 69-year-olds now “accelerating”.
A total of 188,345 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 187,542 the previous day.
There are 1,542 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 76 in 24 hours, and 113 patients are in intensive care – an increase of one.