Alex Salmond has called for an independent investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code to be broadened to include claims she misled Holyrood.
The former first minister made his plea in a letter to James Hamilton, the independent adviser to the Scottish Government who is investigating whether Ms Sturgeon broke the rules when she held meetings with Mr Salmond.
The investigation by Mr Hamilton, a former public prosecutions director in Ireland, is being conducted separately to the ongoing Salmond inquiry being carried out by MSPs at Holyrood.
Ms Sturgeon referred herself to Mr Hamilton’s standards panel in January last year after it was claimed she had broken the ministerial code by not promptly declaring meetings she had with Mr Salmond to discuss the harassment claims against him.
It might even be suspected that this remit has been set up as a straw man to knock down.”
The meetings were held while Mr Salmond was the subject of an internal Scottish Government inquiry into the complaints made by two women.
In his emailed letter to Mr Hamilton, Mr Salmond claims the remit of Mr Hamilton’s investigation, set out by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, laid “a surprising stress” on whether Ms Sturgeon had interfered in the Scottish Government’s internal investigation into the harassment claims.
“It might even be suspected that this remit has been set up as a straw man to knock down,” Mr Salmond said.
“There is no general bar on ministers intervening in a civil service process of which I am aware and indeed there are occasions when ministers are actually required by the code to intervene to correct civil service behaviour.”
When Sturgeon met Aberdein…
Ms Sturgeon has been accused by her political opponents of misleading the Scottish Parliament when she told MSPs of her meetings and contact with Mr Salmond, the first of which took place at her family home on April 2 2018.
When she notified parliament of the meetings in January the following year, she failed to disclose she had also met Geoff Aberdein, Mr Salmond’s former chief of staff, a few days before, on March 29 2018.
In her evidence to the Salmond inquiry, the first minister said she forgot about the Aberdein meeting and added that she thought it did cover allegations of a “sexual nature”.
In his email to Mr Hamilton, Mr Salmond said: “What I wish to know is whether matters which, by contrast, are specified in the Ministerial code such as the primary responsibility of not misleading parliament (contrary to 1.3 (c) of the code), such as the failure to act on legal advice suggesting the government was at risk of behaving unlawful (contrary to 2.30 of the code), and such as the ministerial failure to ensure civil servants gave truthful information to parliament (contrary to 1.3 (e) of the code) will have at least equal status in your deliberations or are you confined to the political remit which you have been set?
“If your enquiry has been confined by ministers then please tell me if you have the authority to expand that remit unilaterally? If not, will you seek the authority of those in the Scottish Government who set the remit to expand it into these, and other, areas?”
Civil servant and deleted text
During the Salmond inquiry, several civil servants have corrected their evidence. Permanent secretary Leslie Evans apologised for giving inaccurate information about the role played by special advisers in the Scottish Government’s response to the judicial review brought by Mr Salmond.
This week senior civil servant Barbara Allison corrected an “unintended inaccuracy” after initially denying she had received a text from Ms Evans on the day Mr Salmond’s judicial review was successful.
Ms Allison admitted she received the electronic message – which said: “Battle maybe lost but not the war” – but had deleted it.
In his letter, Mr Salmond also revealed he is representing himself in relation to Mr Hamilton’s investigation.
The former first minister said: “I am prepared to represent myself in presenting you with evidence. I am a private individual and simply cannot afford to hire further legal representation as my lawyers are fully occupied dealing with the Scottish Parliamentary inquiry.”
Further calls to expand inquiry
Earlier this month Alex Cole-Hamilton – a Lib Dem MSP and a member of the Holyrood committee that is also looking into the handling of complaints against Mr Salmond – also called for Mr Hamilton’s inquiry to investigate if Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament.
Mr Cole-Hamilton has said that if the First Minister is found to have misled parliament, she should resign.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are aware of the letter. The remit of Mr Hamilton’s work is well established, and was set out to the parliament by the deputy first minister.”