Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has not broken the Ministerial Code and an independent investigation has been completed.
Ms. Sturgeon welcomed the “comprehensive, evidence-based and unequivocal” conclusion that she had not violated the Ministerial Code, adding: “I have tried to act with integrity and in the public interest at every stage of this issue.”
James Hamilton QC’s investigation found that it did not violate the Code regarding allegations that it did not record meetings with Mr Salmond and others in 2018.
He also investigated the allegation that Ms. Sturgeon had misled Parliament about the meetings and re-established that there was no breach of the Code.
Ms. Sturgeon welcomed the “comprehensive, evidence-based and unequivocal” conclusion that she had not violated the Code, adding, “I have tried to act with integrity and in the public interest at every stage of this issue.”
Mr Hamilton, the former Director of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Republic of Ireland, is the Scottish Government’s independent advisor on the Ministerial Code – a set of rules governing the conduct of Ministers.
His report states: “I do not believe that the First Minister has violated the provisions of the Ministerial Code in any of these matters.”
Ms. Sturgeon referred to the independent ministerial code advisor after Mr. Salmond successfully challenged the Scottish Government’s illegal investigation which resulted in him gaining more than £ 500,000 in court.
Mr. Hamilton’s investigation was suspended in early 2019 to avoid prejudice against criminal proceedings against Mr. Salmond.
After a trial in the High Court, he was acquitted of 13 charges in March 2020, including sexual assault, indecent assault and attempted rape. The investigation into Mr Hamilton was again delayed by the pandemic before resuming in August 2020.
The Code states that it is the Prime Minister who is “the ultimate judge of the standards of conduct expected of a minister” and the appropriate consequences for violations.
In a statement, Ms. Sturgeon said: “Mr. Hamilton has examined all allegations against me and I am glad that the results of his report exempt me from violating the Ministerial Code.
“At every stage of this issue I have tried to act with integrity and in the public interest. As I made clear earlier, I did not take into account that I violated the Code, but these findings are an official, final, and independent decision about it.
“Before it was published, opposition leaders stressed the importance of respecting and accepting the outcome of Mr Hamilton’s independent investigation, and I am fully committed to it. Now that he’s reported, it’s up to them to do the same. “