Updated: Mar 6
By Dillon Kennedy
The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has lied to the Scottish Parliament and has on numerous occasions broken the ministerial code and thus should not be allowed to continue to remain in office.
The Government has recently released emails showing that it continued a "doomed" legal case against the former first minister Alec Salmond despite the lawyers representing the Scottish government advising it would lose the case. This comes after an ultimatum by opposition parties for the Scottish government to release legal advice surrounding the court case or face a no-confidence vote in the Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP. Credible witnesses have now backed up Alex Salmond's claims made in his testimony to the committee when he appeared and the recently released legal advice shows that the government knew months in advance that the judicial review would be lost.
The government went on to waste more than £500,000 of taxpayer's money on this even though they knew they would lose. The most serious allegation for Ms Sturgeon made by Mr. Salmond states that he believes Ms Sturgeon definitely broke the code. Her political opponents in Holyrood say if she did, she would have to resign. The allegations focus on when she found out about the Scottish government investigation into Mr Salmond. She initially claimed it was 2 April 2018, but since then another meeting on 29 March, when it's claimed she was told the details, has emerged. This isn't just a matter of a few days. If the first minister knew what the second meeting was all about, she would have known it was government business and she should have reported it to civil servants at the time. This did not happen.
In Mr Salmond's testimony on Friday, he states that Scotland's institutions hadn't failed - but their leadership had in this case, and he believes the government's Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans should resign and that the head of the Crown Office - the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe should be considering his position too.
At the time of this writing, no ministers have resigned over this. There are three sections of the Ministerial Code that the first minister Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of breaching. 1) Section 1.1 (c) of the Ministerial Code states Ministers should resign if they knowingly mislead Parliament. The Code states: 'It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to the Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead the Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the First Minister' (Scottish Government, Ministerial Code, 8 February 2018). 2) Section 2.30 of the Ministerial Code states Ministers must follow legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity.
The Code states: 'Ministers and officials should therefore ensure that their decisions are informed by appropriate analysis of the legal considerations and that the legal implications of any course of action are considered at the earliest opportunity. (Scottish Government, Ministerial Code, 8 February 2018) 3) Section 4.22 of the Ministerial Code states Ministerial meetings with external individuals must be recorded. The Code states: 'Meetings on official business should normally be arranged through Private Offices. A private secretary or official should be present for all discussions relating to Government business. Private Offices should arrange for the basic facts of formal meetings between Ministers and outside interest groups to be recorded, setting out the reasons for the meeting, the names of those attending and the interests represented.' (Scottish Government, Ministerial Code, 8 February 2018).
Let's break this down. On Section 1.1 section c there have been five occasions where the First Minister claimed she found out of the complaints from Salmond himself on 2 April 2018. On two occasions, Sturgeon claimed the secret meeting with Geoff Aberdein was not planned. On six occasions, she promised full co-operation with the inquiry and to release any material requested. At least once, she claimed to have no knowledge of how the investigation was being handled. At least once, she claimed she didn't offer to intervene.
The evidence suggests that the first minister has misled the Scottish parliament a whopping 15 times. The judicial review was doomed from the outset because there were serious flaws in the investigation and procedure. From late October, possibly earlier, the SNP Government was aware of this. By mid-December, the SNP Government was aware of numerous irredeemable mistakes. The first minister had dozens of opportunities, every day from 31 October onwards at the earliest, to take the legally correct course of action. The Ministerial Code would have been broken every time Sturgeon received advice that the government was going to lose the judicial review but she continued anyway. There were at least 17 meetings between the Scottish Government and legal counsel. Each of those would be a breach of the Ministerial Code if Sturgeon knew the advice offered and didn't intervene.
Lastly, on Section 4.22 of the ministerial code of conduct, Sturgeon held five discussions with Salmond throughout the summer of 2018. Although there are no official records of what was said in these discussions, both Salmond and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell have said the meetings were government, not party business. She spoke to her chief civil servant about the Salmond meetings in early June. But six weeks later, she met Salmond again, without an official present or any record taken. In total, the first minister may have breached Section 4.22 up to six times by meeting Salmond and his former chief of staff on government business, and concealing the meetings from government officials. This brings the total number of breaches of the Ministerial Code of conduct to a whopping 38. If this had been breached just once, that would surely mean a resignation but there has been nothing.
It is crystal clear that the First Minister has misled parliament and surely her own ministerial code states she should resign. It is surely only a matter of time..