Baillie asks when Sturgeon became aware of a leak to the Daily Record, which published two stories containing details of complainants. Where do you consider the leaks came from?
“I don’t no.” Sturgeon says they did not come from her or anyone acting on her behalf. She says Salmond alleged some details must have come from the decision report but she was not sent the decision report.
Baillie says she has been told the Daily Record was given the allegations against Salmond to spike another story it was going to publish about Sturgeon.
The first minister rejects this, saying she has never heard this. She asks Baillie what the story about her was but Baillie says she doesn’t know. The timing would be an incredible coincidence, says Sturgeon.
Why was the leak not reported to the police?
The first minister agrees it was very serious. The government did not benefit in any way from this. She reiterates it did not come from her or anyone under her authority. Sturgeon says there was a review by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which concluded it didn’t come from the government. Baillie disputes this characterisation of the ICO’s conclusions. Sturgeon doesn’t know why it wasn’t investigated by the police.
Who had details and would have leaked them?
Sturgeon says she does not know where the leak came from. Salmond and his lawyers had access to it, she does not know who in the Scottish government had access to it. Pressed by Baillie as to whether she will ask police to investigate, Sturgeon says she will consider it but the ICO looked into potential criminality.
Jackie Baillie, Labour, says at an early meeting, details of complaints and the identity of a complainant were revealed to Salmond’s former chief of staff, Geoff Aberdein, by a senior government official. Was this authorised by Sturgeon?
Sturgeon says she is restrained by legal constraints but she understands the meeting did not happen as described. Sturgeon adds that she does not recall Salmond showing any knowledge of the identity of the complainants when she met him on 2 April 2018.
She says Salmond would know the identity of the complainants because he had apologised to one of them and there had also been some investigation on his part into Scottish government social media accounts.
She disputes that the name of a complainant was given. Pressed by Baillie whether she is accusing Aberdein and others who said they were present at that meeting of lying, Sturgeon says their version is not accepted by the senior government official involved.
To the best of my knowledge, what is being alleged didn’t happen.
Stuart McMillan, SNP, asks the first minister if she had any involvement in the formal complaints handling process?
No, replies Sturgeon.
McMillan asks if Sturgeon accepts things went wrong and what is being done to prevent things going wrong in future?
Sturgeon answers that she has already apologised this morning for things having gone wrong and steps are being taken to ensure similar mistakes don’t happen again.
Would the government consider an investigation officer being independent of government?
Sturgeon says she would consider any changes.
Did you feel you had a broad base of support for putting in a new policy to tackle sexual harassment?
The first minister says she had a discussion with Theresa May at the time, who had concerns about addressing the issue but she wouldn’t use this to claim the UK government endorsed what the Scottish government was doing. Sturgeon thinks there was general agreement among trade unions that putting in place a policy and applying it to former minister was not unreasonable.
Allan asks why the first minister and deputy first minister have different roles in the new procedure compared with the previous fairness at work policy?
Sturgeon answers that the world had changed in the light of the MeToo movement and it was important to address perceptions. She says it was best for a first minister to be as far removed as possible so there was no question of a first minister from the same party as the person who was the subject of the complaint being seen to be interfering for political reasons.
Allan asks if the government should have been better prepared for a judicial review.
Sturgeon answers that the government did not anticipate what would unfold, perhaps they should have. The government was ready for a judicial review and until the mistake came to light was ready to defend the action by Salmond. The government was “confident as it could ever be” that it could succeed.
Was this policy to get Alex Salmond?
Absolutely, emphatically not … I would never have wanted to get Alex Salmond.
She says that for most of her life Salmond had been not just a very close political colleague but a friend and someone she looked up to.
Alasdair Allan, SNP, asks Sturgeon to explain her distinction between the application of the procedure for investigating harassment against ministers being declared unlawful, rather than the procedure itself?
The mistake was the investigating officer had had prior contact with the complainers, it was not the fundamentals of the policy that were unlawful, says Sturgeon. If Salmond’s action had gone to full judicial review, it could have established the legality or not of the procedure.
At that time, it would have been difficult to say historic complaints were not a priority issue in the light of the MeToo movement.
Allan puts to Sturgeon Salmond’s assertion in evidence that people were perhaps overreacting in the wake of the MeToo movement.
Sturgeon disagrees and says, three years later, there is an argument there was actually an under-reaction as not enough has changed.
Wightman asks whether Sturgeon aware during the drawing up of the policy of concerns about the legality of applying it retrospectively.
Sturgeon does not recall any such advice.
Wightman asks what efforts were made to inform former ministers that they might be the subject of complaints.
Sturgeon says they weren’t. At one time a draft letter to first minister was drawn up but Sturgeon felt it was not appropriate for what was an HR policy.
Andy Wightman, independent, says civil servants had concerns and continue to have concerns about harassment. Will the first minister take these concerns seriously?
Sturgeon says she did not know there was an incident Salmond apologised for back in 2013 or that were alleged concerns about his sexual behaviour. She said she wants everyone to have confidence that their concerns will be taken seriously.
Wightman asks Sturgeon to explain what she means by “historic allegations” in her written evidence?
Sturgeon says it can be difficult to air allegations against – particularly – men of power at the time they are in that position of power.
Should there be a procedure for investigating allegations against former ministers?
Yes, unequivocally. Salmond seemed to be saying the complaints should not have been capable of being investigated because the policy should not have applied retrospectively, the first minister says.
Watt asks if, during the drawing up of the new procedure, Sturgeon was aware of allegations against current or former ministers.
Sturgeon says not initially but then a media organisation – Sky – made her aware of allegations against the former first minister but it did not influence her behaviour.
The policy was not put in place because of Alex Salmond.
Should the procedures have been debated in parliament?
No, these are HR (human resources) policies.
Watt says incidents were handled informally in the past, for example staff being moved on so they didn’t have to work with the person they were accusing or an apology was made. Was that appropriate, she asks.
Sometimes it could be appropriate, Sturgeon says, but she expresses concern that there may have been an over-reliance on informal procedures given that some complaints appear not to have come to her.
Why is there a difference in that mediation is open to current minister under fairness at work but was not available to former ministers under the new procedures, Watt asks?
Sturgeon says former ministers could not be investigated under the old fairness at work policy. She says with a current minister they will still be in the workplace, possibly working together so mediation may be appropriate.
Watt says the pre-existing fairness at work policy took about 18 months to be developed but the new procedures, under which Salmond was investigated, were drawn up in a much shorter timeframe.
Sturgeon said they wanted to do it quickly, no cutting corners or inappropriately. It was done with trade union involvement and 18 months would have been too long.
Maureen Watt, SNP, asks why a new procedure was deemed necessary to investigation allegations such as those made against Salmond.
Sturgeon says Salmond’s evidence struck her as saying there should not have been procedures that allowed him to be investigated. Sturgeon says given the MeToo movement, organisations the world over were reviewing their procedures. Allowing historic allegations to be investigated – the policy applied retrospectively – was “appropriate”.