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SNP not treating Salmond differently, says Sturgeon

The First Minister maintains the party has 'no legal basis' to suspend Alex Salmond.

The SNP is not treating Alex Salmond differently to other nationalist politicians by maintaining his party membership, the First Minister has said.

Nicola Sturgeon repeated her argument that the SNP has "no legal basis" to suspend the former first minister despite claims of sexual harassment against him.

It comes as opposition parties have been calling for the SNP to suspend Mr Salmond over the allegations, which he denies.

The claims, which date back to 2013 when Salmond was still in office, have since been handed onto police.

Speaking to STV News in Arran, where her cabinet is meeting, Sturgeon said the investigation into Mr Salmond was carried out by civil servants in the Scottish Government and not by the SNP, unlike in other recent prominent cases.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1402388-snp-suspend-mark-mcdonald-after-fresh-misconduct-claim/ | default

For legal reasons, the government cannot currently share the information from its probe with the SNP, and nor has the party itself received any complaints about Mr Salmond, the First Minister added.

She also said if the situation changes, the party could reconsider the former first minister's membership.

Sturgeon said: "He's not being treated differently.

"In some other cases... these have been investigations carried out by the SNP, into complaints made to the SNP.

"In these cases, the SNP would have had all the information about what lay behind the complaints.

"This is not an SNP investigation - the SNP has had no complaints directly about Alex Salmond."

'It's really important that nobody is above the rules or above the law.'
Nicola Sturgeon

The SNP leader continued: "It's been a Scottish Government investigation and for legal reasons right now, the information cannot be shared with the SNP.

"So this is a case of there being no legal basis to suspend Alex Salmond's membership".

She added: "The rules of the SNP apply to every member, and that includes me, it includes Alex Salmond.

"If the situation that I've just outlined changes in the future, then the matter will be reconsidered, because whether it's about the SNP's processes or processes more generally, it's really important that nobody is above the rules or above the law.

"While there's been a lot of talk over the weekend about process, and process must be fair, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that complaints were made by two individuals here and it is essential that they are properly investigated."

Two women allege the misconduct took place at Bute House in December 2013, the official residence of the First Minister.

The Scottish Government said the complaints were made in January this year and reported to Mr Salmond in March, with the investigation into the allegations conducted by permanent secretary Leslie Evans - Scotland's top civil servant.

Lawyers for Mr Salmond had sought to prevent the Scottish Government from making the civil service probe public by raising an action at the Court of Session last Thursday.

Next, they will launch a judicial review against the government's complaints process itself.

Mr Salmond alleges the investigation is illegal and breaches rules of natural justice, saying he has been denied access to information about the complaints, prevented him from mustering an effective defence.

He has also criticised the leaks of details of complaints to the Daily Record newspaper, which broke the story last week.

In response to accusations of leaking from within the government, Sturgeon told STV News: "This matter has been under investigation within the Scottish Government since January, so for eight months, and in all of that time it has remained entirely confidential.

"And it's important that it continues to be confidential and that any legal processes under way are allowed to take their course confidentially and fairly."

Police Scotland confirmed on Friday that it is investigating the allegations against Mr Salmond, saying its inquiry is "at an early stage".

Meanwhile, both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives are calling for greater transparency on the issue.

After Sturgeon revealed she had learned of the civil service probe from Mr Salmond himself, Labour has now lodged Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to discover any public details of what the pair discussed in their discussions since the launch of the investigation.

The party wants to know if Mr Salmond "pressured the First Minister to interfere in the investigation in any way".

Scottish Labour's parliamentary business manager Rhoda Grant MSP said: "The people of Scotland expect full transparency over this most serious of matters, but the SNP government has so far not been forthcoming.

"It is understood that Alex Salmond met the First Minister on multiple occasions to discuss the investigation into allegations of sexual assault made against him.

"It would be completely unacceptable if the details of those meetings remain hidden from the Scottish people."

The First Minister said to STV News that she told Mr Salmond in those meetings she had "no role in the process" and could not intervene in the investigation into his conduct.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1428685-renewed-calls-for-snp-to-suspend-salmond-over-sexual-harassment-claims/ | default

The Scottish Conservatives wrote to the permanent secretary in a bid to find out if any complaints were raised against Mr Salmond prior to Janurary 2018.

The Scottish Government established a new procedure on handling harassment complaints involving current or former ministers in December last year.

This new process was established in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which saw allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault levelled against a host of high-profile men around the world.

The Scottish Tories' equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells said: "In your statement released last Friday, you revealed that in January of this year you had received two complaints in relation to Alex Salmond.

"This followed the introduction of the Scottish Government's new procedures for handling complaints in the workplace.

"From media reports, we understand these complaints relate to two incidents of alleged sexual misconduct dating back to December 2013, more than four years ago.

"The First Minister has since commented that the complaints 'could not be ignored' given the seriousness of the allegations."

She continued: "I believe we need to know whether these allegations were ever brought to the attention of the Scottish Government prior to January 2018.

"There is a clear public interest in getting a definitive answer as to whether any complaints against the former first minister were made in this period and whether any Scottish Government officials or Ministers were informed about them.

"The Scottish Government should instigate an independent review in order to find out the answer."

But on Monday night the Scottish Government confirmed there were no recorded complaints about Mr Salmond prior to January. 

Broadcaster Russia Today (RT), which broadcasts The Alex Salmond Show, has said it has no plans to stop airing Mr Salmond's programme and added the show would be on this Thursday as usual.

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