Nicola Sturgeon has dismissed allegations that she sought to cover-up complaints against Alex Salmond, saying she has “nothing to hide”.
The first minister has been accused of withholding information and “misleading parliament” over when she had first learned of sexual misconduct complaints against her predecessor.
Quizzed about reports she has refused to hand over all relevant WhatsApp exchanges to Holyrood’s Salmond inquiry, Ms Sturgeon said “everything” relevant to the committee had been provided.
Pressed on the matter, the first minister, appearing on Sky News this morning, read out previously unheard exchanges between herself and Mr Salmond – saying it was “hardly a big revelation”.
She said: “I’ve gone back and checked the messages, which I’d be happy to read out to you right now.
“Round about the time I spoke to him (Mr Salmond) about the Sky News query, I sent him a message on November 5 saying ‘hi, when you free to speak this morning’, he replies saying, ’10am’, that’s when I asked him what is this Sky thing.
“I go back him later that day to say ‘any developments’ and the next day I say, ‘are you free for a word?’
“So, I was setting up a conversation that I have told the parliamentary inquiry about, it’s hardly a big revelation.
.@NicolaSturgeon has been critical of Margaret Ferrier for travelling between London and Glasgow after testing positive for #COVID19.@SophyRidgeSky: 'If she's not fit to be an MP, why has she not been expelled from the SNP?'#Ridge: https://t.co/pCgCjM7pvx pic.twitter.com/H2GTz9S1fo
— Sophy Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) October 11, 2020
“Later that week, I messaged him to say ‘no wonder you didn’t want to tell me’ and that’s just after I found out that he’s agreed to a regular show on Russia Today and it reflects my incredulity at that decision.
“I think his response to me then makes an oblique reference to the Sky News query.”
Ms Sturgeon was asked why, if the messages were not “a big revelation” had she not shared them previously.
She said: “You’d have to ask him (Mr Salmond) that.
“I understand that for Alex Salmond it probably is better for the focus of this to be on people wanting to believe that there was a big conspiracy against him, as opposed to the focus being on his conduct.
“I can understand why people in my party might want an alternative explanation for all of this, I might like to think as an alternative explanation, other than you know maybe at times he didn’t behave as he should have done.
“But I’m afraid that’s not the case, this is age old here that, you know, man accused of misconduct against women and often it’s a woman that ends up sitting answering for them.”
Ms Sturgeon went on to say that she had nothing to hide, adding that the whole saga had been “one of the worst” things she has faced.
She said: “I’ve got nothing to hide here, one of the worst things that I faced in a political sense was being confronted with the reality that my predecessor, my mentor of 30 years, somebody I considered a friend, closer to me than probably anybody outside my family was facing serious allegations of sexual misconduct.
“At every stage I’ve tried to do the right thing and not cover it up.”
Mr Salmond was cleared of all charges of sexual misconduct against him in March.
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser MSP said Ms Sturgeon still had questions to answer on the matter, he said: “The first minister danced on the head of a pin, again, to avoid the question of what she knew and when.
“Forgetful Nicola Sturgeon also managed to find secret messages between her and Alex Salmond that she withheld from the Holyrood committee. The question remains – what else is she hiding?”
In a statement Mr Salmond said: ‘‘I have made no public comment since I was acquitted of all charges in the High Court in March and have made it clear that the first time I will comment is in front of the Parliamentary Committee.
“This committee was established to inquire into the conduct of the first minister, her special advisers and civil servants after her Government’s behaviour was found to be ‘unlawful’, ‘unfair’ and ‘tainted by apparent bias’ and at enormous cost to the public purse.”