NICOLA Sturgeon will “set out clearly” how she “did not mislead parliament” over the Alex Salmond affair when she appears before MSPs investigating the botched investigation of complaints next month.
The First Minister warned “false conspiracy theories are being spun” and suggested she is frustrated she is yet to appear before a Holyrood inquiry investigating the Scottish Government’s mishandling of sexual harassment complaints against former first minister Alex Salmond, to give her account.
Ms Sturgeon is set to appear before MSPs on Tuesday 9 February as the last witness to give oral evidence to the committee.
A Holyrood inquiry is looking into how the Scottish Government botched its probe into sexual misconduct allegations made against Mr Salmond in 2018.
Mr Salmond had the exercise set aside in a judicial review after the Government conceded it was unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias”, an error that left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his legal costs.
He was later cleared of multiple charges of sexual assault at the High Court in Edinburgh.
The First Minister was quizzed over allegations she misled the Scottish Government as to when she first learned about the allegations against Mr Salmon on the Andrew Marr Show – claims she will refute “vigorously”.
She said: “Questions have been raised about my handling of sexual harassment claims made against my predecessor. It’s right that I am properly scrutinised on that.
“I had hoped that I would be before the committee conducting his inquiry on Tuesday this week. Unfortunately, that’s been delayed by a couple of weeks.
“I will sit before that committee and I will refute all of those accusations and I will set out my account of what happened – given the very difficult situation that I faced.”
The First Minister said that “what she will never do is apologise” for ensuring claims over wrongdoing “weren’t simply swept under the carpet because of the seniority and the powerful situation of the person who was subject to them”.
Ms Sturgeon warned that “there are false conspiracy theories being spun about this”, but didn’t point the finger directly at Mr Salmond.
She added: “At times I appear to be simultaneously accused of colluding with Mr Salmond to somehow cover up accusations of sexual harassment on the one hand and on the other hand, being part of some dastardly conspiracy to bring him down. Neither of those things are true.
“I did not collude with Alex Salmond and I didn’t conspire against him. When I get the opportunity, which I’ve been waiting a long time on now, to sit in front of the committee, I can set out these things fully.”
The First Minister was asked whether she would resign if she is found to have broken the ministerial code and that she misled parliament.
She said: “I did not mislead parliament so I am not going to speculate on what might happen in the future. I think I’ve got a right to due process of inquiries as well.
“I’m clear that I did not mislead parliament and that’s what I will set out clearly when I get the opportunity – which I haven’t had, in front of the committee of inquiry yet.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has said “the people of Scotland deserve the truth” over the situation.
Speaking on Times Radio, he added: “I think the evidence we have seen so far points to a very clear breach of the ministerial code by the First Minister.
“Nicola Sturgeon has been at the heart of the SNP for decades now.
“It shouldn’t take a Scottish Parliament cross-party inquiry to get to the bottom of the truth between the current First Minister and the former first minister, but it just shows how the Scottish Government have got themselves embroiled in such an awful situation.”