Nicola Sturgeon reveals secret WhatsApp messages with Alex Salmond not heard at sexual misconduct inquiry

First minister says it is ‘age-old’ issue of ‘man accused of misconduct against woman’ and woman who ‘ends up answering for them’

Daisy Lester
Monday 12 October 2020 20:59
Nicola Sturgeon reveals WhatsApp messages with Alex Salmond not heard at inquiry

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has responded to claims that she withheld WhatsApp messages exchanged with Alex Salmond from the inquiry into sexual harassment allegations made against him.

In an interview with Sky News, Ms Sturgeon read out the previously unheard messages which were sent the week of 5 November 2017, following the publication of The Daily Mail report alleging misconduct by Salmond.

Ms Sturgeon said it was an “age-old” issue of a “man accused of misconduct against woman” with a woman who “ends up answering for them”.

The first minister claimed she asked in the messages when Mr Salmond would be free to speak with her regarding the report and said the exchange was “hardly a big revelation”.

She added that the former first minister was “clearly angry with me” for not covering up any allegations of sexual harassment and that she understood Mr Salmond would rather have people believe there “was a big conspiracy against him”.

Reading out the messages in a bid to dispel claims that she covered for Mr Salmond, Ms Sturgeon acknowledged that the messages made “oblique reference” to claims of inappropriate conduct by her predecessor.

The SNP leader has previously said she released all relevant evidence to the Holyrood investigation into the allegations. When asked on Sunday about the messages, Ms Sturgeon said she had “nothing to hide”.

The interview with Sky News follows a report on Saturday in The Times that said Mr Salmond’s lawyers were accusing Ms Sturgeon of withholding messages and evidence.

Scottish Conservative MSP and committee member Murdo Fraser said: “The scandal-ridden SNP are openly feuding while the Scottish public wait for answers about when Nicola Sturgeon first became aware of Alex Salmond’s alleged behaviour.”

He added: “Forgetful Nicola Sturgeon also managed to find secret messages between her and Alex Salmond that she withheld from the Holyrood committee. The question remains: what else is she hiding?”

Ms Sturgeon claimed she was “setting up a conversation” in order to discuss the enquiry by Sky News in 2017 which alleged Mr Salmond had behaved inappropriately towards female staff at Edinburgh airport.

She said: “Around about the time I spoke to [Mr Salmond] about the Sky News query, I sent him a message on 5 November saying, ‘Hi, when you free to speak this morning?’ He replies saying ‘10am’.

She added: “That’s when I asked him, ‘What is this Sky thing?’”

“I go back to him later that day to say, ‘Any developments?’

“The next day, I say, ‘You free for a word?’

She concluded: “So I was setting up a conversation that I have told the parliamentary inquiry about.”

The messages also suggested that Mr Salmond did not inform Ms Sturgeon that he was preparing to start hosting a show on the pro-Kremlin broadcaster Russia Today.

She said: “Later that week, incidentally, I messaged him to say, ‘No wonder you didn’t want to tell me’. That’s just after I find out that he’s agreed to host a regular show on Russia Today, and it reflects my incredulity at that decision.”

The first minister added: “In a political sense ... [I] was confronted with the reality that my predecessor – my mentor of 30 years, somebody I considered a friend … was facing serious allegations of sexual misconduct.”

Mr Salmond was acquitted of 13 charges of sexual assault, attempted rape and indecent assault at the high court in Edinburgh in March and denies all the allegations made against him.

The legal battle that followed saw Mr Salmond win £500,000 in legal fees when the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled a Scottish government investigation into his conduct was unlawful.

A Scottish parliament inquiry was launched and began hearing evidence into how the Scottish government dealt with the allegations and lost the judicial review.

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