LONDON – Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday vigorously denied being part of a conspiracy against her predecessor, as she testified on Wednesday under oath in a political saga threatening both her leadership and her drive for Scottish independence.
Defending the way her government handled sexual assault against former First Minister Alex Salmond, Sturgeon said the #MeToo movement has made it clear that allegations of abuse of powerful people cannot be “ignored or swept under the carpet.” .
Salmond was tried and acquitted on charges of sexual assault last year, alleging the misconduct allegations made by several women were part of a conspiracy that ruined his political career.
He accused Sturgeon of lying when she found out about the allegations and violated the government ministerial code of conduct. He claims that their administration has undermined democratic principles and the rule of law by blurring the distinction between government, party and civil service.
Scotland’s highest civil court ruled in 2019 that the way the Scottish government had handled the allegations of misconduct was unlawful and “overtly prejudiced” and granted Salmond an expense of £ 500,000 (US $ 695,000).
Sturgeon reported to an inquiry by the Scottish Parliament into the handling of the complaints that no one “acted maliciously or in a conspiracy against Alex Salmond”.
“A number of women made serious complaints about Alex Salmond’s behavior,” she said. “The government has tried to do the right thing despite the mistakes it has undoubtedly made. As the first minister, I refused to follow the age-old pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and connections to get what he wanted. “
The opposition Scottish Conservatives have called for Sturgeon’s resignation, but they said they did the right thing.
Sturgeon defended not reporting a meeting and phone call with Salmond about the complaints to officials in 2018 because she did not want to influence the investigation. She denied having disclosed the names of the applicants and declined an invitation from Salmond to intervene on his behalf, claiming that it would have been “a heinous, egregious violation of my position.”
He resigned as first minister after the “remaining” side won, and Sturgeon, his friend and deputy, replaced him.
In 2019, Salmond was charged with sexual assault and attempted rape after allegations were made by nine women who worked with him as first minister or for the party. Salmond called the charges “deliberate forgery for a political purpose” and was acquitted after a trial in March 2020.
Salmond has called the past few years a “nightmare”. Sturgeon expressed her sympathy for her ex-girlfriend but said that during his testimony last week she “looked in vain for signs that he had realized how difficult this was for others”.
“There is no question that he was acquitted by a jury for criminal behavior,” she said. “But I know exactly from what he told me that his behavior was not always appropriate. Yet, in six hours of testimony, there was not a single word of regret, reflection, or even simple appreciation for it. “
The Edinburgh political soap opera could have a significant impact on the future of Scotland and the UK
Scottish voters rejected independence in the 2014 referendum, which was billed as a one-off decision at the time. According to the SNP, Brexit fundamentally changed the situation by pulling Scotland out of the European Union, despite the fact that a majority of Scottish voters chose to stay in the EU in the 2016 EU referendum in the UK. The UK as a whole narrowly voted to leave the block and closed the hiatus on January 1.
John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said the pernicious saga could hurt the SNP’s chances of being elected.
“(The possibility) is that enough people, like they see the drama of the allegations between Mr. Salmond and Ms. Sturgeon, are saying, ‘Wait a minute, is this really a country that can rule itself, or at least is this a party, that we should bring on the road to independence? ‘”, he said.