Sturgeon refers herself to standards panel over Salmond case

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon
Image caption Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon spoke on five occasions after sexual harassment allegations were made against him

The first minister has referred herself to a standards panel over her actions during an investigation into Alex Salmond.

Nicola Sturgeon made phone calls and took meetings with Mr Salmond while claims of sexual harassment - which he denies - were being investigated.

She said it was in the interest of the complainants that she should be examined under the ministerial code.

However, she also said she "acted appropriately and in good faith."

Ms Sturgeon said: "It is in the interests of the women who have complained that the ongoing police investigations are allowed to continue without any risk of prejudice. That must be the priority for everyone. 

"I have acted appropriately and in good faith throughout, and in compliance with the ministerial code at all times. However, I have reflected carefully and understand that it is also important for parliament and the wider public to be assured of that.

"The independent advisers will now be consulted on their precise remit, and advice will also be sought on how to ensure that there is no risk of prejudice to the ongoing police investigation. The remit will be published in due course.

Questions raised

It comes after Ms Sturgeon denied conspiring against or colluding with Alex Salmond over the sexual harassment claims.

Opposition leaders have questioned why she met him after the allegations were made, and why no minutes were taken.

Ms Sturgeon continued: "The fact remains that at the centre of this issue are two women whose complaints could not be swept under the carpet.

"Any continuing commentary about these issues at this stage - whether from myself, the government or Mr Salmond and his representatives - would only serve to distract from and potentially compromise the proper consideration by the police of the subject matter of their investigations.

"That is something we will not do."

'Right thing'

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard called for a public parliamentary inquiry "in order for the public to have confidence" in Ms Sturgeon and her government.

He said: "Nicola Sturgeon has done the right thing in accepting Scottish Labour's call for her to refer herself under the ministerial code.

"It is also now essential that the Scottish Parliament is given the power to fully review the outcome of this investigation into whether Nicola Sturgeon has broken the ministerial code."

He added: "Throughout this process it is essential to remember that at the centre of all of this are two courageous women who put their faith in a system that has badly let them down, and we must never lose sight of that, by safeguarding the duty of care to them and their access to justice.

"We must restore trust and confidence in the system."

Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw said: "There is no reason why such an inquiry need impact on the separate police investigation into Mr Salmond. And any attempt by the SNP to use that separate inquiry to evade legitimate questions would be quite wrong."

"Nicola Sturgeon's handling of this matter over the last week has been absolutely abysmal.

"It is time for the first minister to stop dodging and accept that finding excuses to avoid the many wider and important questions will not wash. It's time to front up."

On Tuesday, Mr Salmond won a legal battle against the Scottish government over its handing of the claims.

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