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Too late for apologies as Douglas Ross calls for first minister’s resignation after Salmond inquiry leak

Douglas Ross and Nicola Sturgeon.

Douglas Ross has called for Nicola Sturgeon to stand down as first minister after a leaked report ruled she misled parliament about the handling of complaints against her predecessor Alex Salmond.

The Scottish Tory leader believes Ms Sturgeon cannot continue in her position after it emerged she made a “potential” breach of the ministerial code of conduct for government members.

Last night MSPs on the specially convened inquiry split five to four to conclude she gave an “inaccurate” account of a meeting with Mr Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon ‘misled’ Holyrood inquiry on account of Alex Salmond meeting

It stops short of the threshold for “knowingly” breaching the rules but will be seized on by Ms Sturgeon’s opponents who want her to quit.

Speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the Moray MP emphasised the need for the first minister to leave her post.

Mr Ross said: “The legal evidence released by the Scottish Government all points to the fact that Nicola Sturgeon misled parliament, misled the people of Scotland and has to resign.

“Evidence against Nicola Sturgeon has been mounting, it has been growing… you cannot continue as first minister of Scotland if you have mislead parliament and breached the ministerial code.”

When asked if an apology by Ms Sturgeon would fix the matter, Mr Ross insisted it was too late and her actions did not meet the criteria of a Scottish leader.

He continued: “If you mislead parliament, if you mislead the people of Scotland, then you have not been truthful and therefore you cannot continue as first minister.

“The highest selected office in the land expects the highest standard in the land… it is not acceptable in those circumstances to hold the office of first minister.

“The first minister in her own forward to the ministerial code says you must follow it by the letter and the spirit of the ministerial code and there is nothing in the spirit of the ministerial code that would suggest that the first minister can continue in office.”

Continued pressure

Ruth Davidson has also heaped pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to resign over claim the ministerial code was broken.

In a heated exchange just over two weeks ago, Ms Davidson and the first minister went head-to-head, concerning allegations the SNP did not hand over legal evidence early enough to the inquiry committee.

Ruth Davidson urges Nicola Sturgeon to quit over Salmond inquiry

 

According to the Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader, legal advice against Mr Salmond’s judicial review revealed the case was “more likely to fail than succeed” nine weeks before the case was eventually conceded.

She added: “Because of the legal advice that had to be dragged from this government, under a threat of no confidence, we know that for weeks this government was definitively and beyond any doubt, ignoring legal advice, but the case only became unstateable so late because this government withheld crucial documents for so long.”

Does breaching mean resignation?

SNP MP Drew Hendry believes the first minister did no wrong and insists time will tell with the report to be published on Tuesday March 23.

SNP MP Drew Hendry

Joining the BBC programme he said: “(We will) wait and see what the independent inquiry comes back and says and we will listen carefully to what the next steps are.”

Asked if breaching the rules meant resignation, the Highland MP said: “Clearly it does not mean that at Westminster – Boris Johnson has broken the ministerial code umpteen times – I don’t believe there has been a breach of the ministerial code but lets wait and see.

“I believe Nicola Sturgeon has been clear and transparent.

“The Tories had always made up their mind about this inquiry before they heard a single shred of evidence and long before that mammoth evidence session from Nicola Sturgeon, which lasted eight hours.”

“They blatantly weaponised this from the outset and this leak is just another indicative measure of the way certain members treated the committee process.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond and the Holyrood inquiry

Former first minister Alex Salmond

The inquiry was set up to look at the mishandled complaints process following allegations about Mr Salmond’s conduct. A judicial review found the process had been unlawful and tainted by apparent bias.

It destroyed the friendship between Mr Salmond and his successor, Ms Sturgeon, and is causing turmoil ahead of the Holyrood election in May.

A spokesperson for the first minister said she had “told the truth” to the committee in eight hours of evidence, and “stands by that evidence.”

The committee’s official report is not due to be published until Tuesday.

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