SNP critics attack timing of Sturgeon’s evidence in Alex Salmond inquiry – ‘Convenient!’

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Scotland’s First Minister will give evidence from 9.30am today, as a Holyrood committee investigates claims there was a “malicious and concerted” attempt to see Alex Salmond removed from public life. The former First Minister also claims Ms Sturgeon repeatedly broke the ministerial code in her handling of the sexual harassment complaints against him and also misled parliament. She strongly denies both claims.

Ms Sturgeon is set to refute the former SNP leader’s allegations in her testimony today as she has repeatedly insisted there is not “a shred of evidence” to back up his explosive claims.

Yet yesterday two witnesses backed up Mr Salmond’s claim that she misled parliament about a meeting with her predecessor.

Ms Sturgeon’s evidence has been long-awaited, yet critics have condemned the decision to hear her testimony today – the day of the UK’s 2021 budget announcement.

Commentators fear news of the SNP leader will be buried among the clamour surrounding Rishi Sunak’s budget.

Robert Colvile, director of Centre for Policy Studies, pointed this out on Twitter, and asked: “Is it just coincidence that Sturgeon’s grilling in Edinburgh overlaps with Sunak’s Budget?

“Feels like very canny media management (as did having Salmond speak on a similarly crowded news day…)”

Dozens of other social media users have also questioned the timing of the hearing.

One person wrote: “Is it just me or did Sturgeon want to give evidence today so that the Budget would take over the news headlines? Surely not?”

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A second person said: “It’s funny how Sturgeon is giving evidence on the day of the budget – the most important single economic statement since the start of COVID.”

A third wrote: “Funny how Sturgeon gets to give her evidence on the same day Rishi gives his budget statement.

“You might be forgiven for thinking it was planned that way.”

Another user said: “Anyone else sceptical of the timing of her giving evidence….it conveniently clashes with the budget.”

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At the evidence session this morning, Ms Sturgeon is likely to face questions about when she first knew about the allegations against her predecessor.

She originally told parliament she became aware of the investigation when Mr Salmond told her at her Glasgow home on April 2, 2018, but subsequently had to admit to having “forgotten” a meeting four days earlier with his former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, in which the investigation was reportedly discussed.

Ms Sturgeon also claims she believed the April 2 meeting was about party business rather than government business – and therefore would not have to have been recorded by a civil servant – but Mr Salmond asserts that there was “no doubt” it was about the Government’s investigation of him.

Opponents have accused her of breaching the ministerial code for misleading parliament about the meetings with Mr Salmond and Mr Aberdein, and a failure to record them in line with the requirements for ministers.

Ms Sturgeon is facing calls to resign over the claims.

The Scottish Government’s Handling of Harassment Complaints Committee was set up after the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled the Scottish Government’s handling of complaints against the former first minister to be “unlawful” in a judicial review.

This resulted in £512,250 in legal costs being paid out to Mr Salmond’s lawyers.

Mr Salmond was separately acquitted of all 13 charges including sexual assault, attempted rape and indecent assault following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh last year.

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