The first minister says she is “confident” of winning a no confidence vote in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, after an independent inquiry found she had not breached the ministerial code.
Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC “some pretty grim allegations” have been levelled at her over the past few months in relation to the Alex Salmond inquiry, which “had not been easy and had been difficult to contend with”.
Her remarks follow the release of a long-anticipated report by Ireland’s former director of public prosecutions, James Hamilton, which found that Nicola Sturgeon did not breach the ministerial code of conduct.
The independent inquiry findings come just one day before the publication of a Holyrood inquiry report on the government’s handling of the harassment complaints.
The first minister said: “I’ve made peace with my own conscience on all of these matters and I have been very clear in my mind that I acted appropriately and did not breach the ministerial code.
“It’s important to the Scottish people that they have independent verification and adjudication of that and that is what they now have.”
“I believe I acted appropriately in a difficult situation.”
First minister ‘confident’ over vote
Ms Sturgeon referred herself to the independent adviser on the ministerial code following Mr Salmond’s successful legal challenge of the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation, which led to him winning more than £500,000 in court.
Speaking following the release of Mr Hamilton’s ruling, she said she “looks forward” to the publication on Tuesday of the report from the parliamentary committee into the Scottish Government’s handling of complaints about Mr Salmond.
Ms Sturgeon said: “But I cannot escape the conclusion that there are some members of that committee – because their public utterances show this – that decided before a single word of evidence has been taken that I was guilty of something and nothing was going to remove them from that view.”
She added she was “confident” of winning a no confidence vote in her leadership due to be held in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.
She said: “Let’s remember here the Tories said they would have a vote of no confidence in me before I’d uttered a single word of evidence before the parliamentary inquiry.
“They have decided this issue a long time ago so that’s a political stunt being brought forward by the Tories.”
Mr Hamilton’s 61-page report considered four key allegations against Ms Sturgeon including that she had breached the code by failing to record her meetings and telephone calls with Mr Salmond and others on March 29, April 2 and 23, June 7 and 14 and July 18.
It was also alleged Ms Sturgeon misled the Scottish Parliament relating to these meetings.
However, Mr Hamilton said the first minister’s failure to disclose the March 29 meeting with Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, was the “result of a genuine failure of recollection and was not deliberate”.
In accepting the first minister’s account, the qualified barrister said he found it “difficult to think of any convincing reason why if she (Nicola Sturgeon) had in fact recalled the meeting she would have deliberately concealed it while disclosing all the conversations she had had with Mr Salmond”.
Mr Hamilton also probed allegations the first minister may have tried to influence the conduct of the investigation overseen by the top civil servant, Leslie Evans, into harassment allegations against Mr Salmond.
The report’s author said “such a unilateral move” would “undoubtedly have been seen as a partisan and political interference in a process which was then under way”.
‘We cannot agree’
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross insisted he could not agree with Mr Hamilton’s assessment.
The Conservative MP said: “The First Minister has been given a pass because it has been judged her ‘failure of recollection’ was ‘not deliberate’.
“I respect Mr Hamilton and his judgment but we cannot agree with that assessment.
“Nicola Sturgeon did not suddenly turn forgetful.”
He added: “As James Hamilton says, it is up to the Scottish Parliament to decide if the First Minister has been misleading.”