A former Tory Minister has sensationally claimed Nicola Sturgeon knew of the complaints against Alex Salmond much earlier than the April 2018 time frame she has given the Scottish parliament and the Holyrood investigating committee on oath.
David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary, used parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons to rehearse what he called “whistle blower” evidence.
It claims to show Nicola Sturgeon was aware of the civil servant complaints of sexual harassment against Salmond in February 2018, not April that year as she has stated.
Davis used parliamentary privilege, which protects MPs from civil or criminal liability, to tell the Commons and the wider world of a cache of e-mails and texts he had been sent anonymously.
The Haltemprice and Howden MP claimed to have communications that show the First Minister’s chief of staff, her closest aide, was not just aware of the complaints against Salmond but was “interfering” in the process.
Davis said: “I have it on good authority that there exists from the 6th of February 2018, an exchange of messages between civil servants Judith Mackinnon and Barbara Allison suggesting the First Minister’s chief of staff is interfering in the complaints process against Alex Salmond.
“The investigating officer complains, I quote, ‘Liz interference v bad’. I assume that means very bad.”
“If true, this suggests the chief of staff had knowledge of the Salmond case in February, not in April, as she has claimed on oath. The First Minister also tied herself to that April date in both parliamentary and legal statements. She was, of course, aware earlier than that. The question is just how aware and how much earlier?”
Nicola Sturgeon has held that the first she knew about the Salmond complaint was on April 2 when she met Alex Salmond in her home.
But other witnesses have stated she was made aware at a March 29 meeting with Geoff Aberdein, Salmond’s former chief of staff, in her Holyrood office.
She has since described the meeting as “fleeting”, saying she had forgotten about it but if it is found she misled parliament she runs the risk of having breached the Ministerial code.
Davis dropped the political grenade claiming Sturgeon knew much earlier than March under the cover of complaining about the “deficit of power and with it a deficit of accountability” that the controversy has revealed.
He said the Salmond controversy had highlighted the need for a separation of legal powers between the government and the judiciary and “exposed some critical failures” of the Scottish Government.
Davis said: “They failed in the complaints process, they failed to heed legal advice, and they failed on commitments to ensure a transparent parliamentary review.
“But perhaps more worrying, the inquiry has revealed the limits of what the Scottish Parliament can expose. There is a deficit of power and with it comes a deficit of accountability.”
“Every message involving SNP staff has been seen by the committee previously. Their views have been widely reported as dismissive of them.”
On the comment regarding the Chief of Staff, a spokesperson for the First Minister added: “The comment read out by Mr Davis in relation to the Chief of Staff does not relate to Ms A or Ms B and, at that time, she was not aware that there was any connection to the former First Minister. “
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “If the First Minister’s side were aware of complaints against Alex Salmond in February 2018, an outrageous breach of those women’s privacy and confidentiality has occurred.
“February 2018 is also two months before Nicola Sturgeon originally claimed to find out about complaints. If her chief of staff knew then, and was interfering in the investigation, it blows another enormous hole in the First Minister’s story.
“If civil servants said the First Minister’s chief of staff was interfering in the investigation in a ‘very bad’ way, then that is a sacking offence. It raises serious questions about how she tried to interfere, how she found out, who told her, when she knew, and who she went on to tell.
“It further raises the question if anyone told Nicola Sturgeon that her chief of staff was interfering in the investigation. If they did, a number of lies have been told to the Scottish Parliament. If they didn’t, it still makes Nicola Sturgeon’s story of when she claims to have found out about complaints even more implausible.
“These are all ‘ifs’. We need Nicola Sturgeon to immediately confirm or deny these new allegations, and to agree to release the evidence that has been cited this week.”