LONDON – Accused of lying, breaking official rules and plotting against her predecessor Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, Nicholas Sturgeon, responded harshly on Wednesday against accusations that cast a shadow over its future and the prospects for Scottish independence.
In nearly eight tense hours of testifying before the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon denied conspiracy against Mr Salmond or a breach of ministerial rules during an agitated internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against him.
Opponents had called for Ms. Sturgeon̵
Ms Sturgeon also launched an attack, strongly criticizing her predecessor’s inability to admit last week, in her evidence before the same committee, that he had behaved inappropriately towards women.
“From what he told me, I know that his behavior was not always appropriate, and yet for six hours of testimony, there was not a word of regret, reflection or even just a confession,” she said.
Wednesday’s session was the culmination of an extraordinary feud between Mrs Sturgeon and Mr Salmond, her mentor and direct predecessor as Scotland’s first minister – a dispute so sharp it could ruin Mrs Sturgeon’s career and bring back the cause of the independence of Scotland, to which both politicians dedicated their lives.
Mr Salmond saw Ms Sturgeon’s talent as a political student and made her his deputy in 2004, a position she held for a decade before taking over when her boss left after the Scots voted against the independence of the 2014 referendum
But the rift between the two biggest figures in Scottish politics, with its almost Shakespearean claims of conspiracy and betrayal, comes just as Scotland’s prospects for independence began to shine once again because of Brexit, which is extremely unpopular in Scotland.
The dispute revolves around an internal investigation in 2018 into two complaints against Mr Salmond, dating back to 2013. Mr Salmond argued that the investigation process was wrong, took the Scottish Government to court and won, with Scottish taxpayers paying its legal fees of £ 500,000. When police later opened a criminal case against him, Mr Salmond was acquitted of 13 charges, including one for attempted rape.
Now determined to save his reputation, Mr Salmond claims that Ms Sturgeon’s entourage conspired against him to prevent his return to politics after he lost his seat in the British Parliament in 2017 – and they were even ready to see him in prison. He also said last week that Scotland’s political leadership and institutions had failed his successor, which he said seemed to undermine the independence case.
But more dangerous for Ms. Sturgeon are allegations that she misled the Scottish Parliament about what she knew and when, as well as how she handled allegations of sexual harassment.
Ms. Sturgeon is facing two inquiries and, if judged to have clearly lied, will be expected to leave the nation’s strict ministerial rules. Even if he survives, as many believe he will, the weather is awful with the Scottish Parliament elections in May.
In this vote, Ms Sturgeon hopes for gains for her party that she can use to justify a second referendum on Scottish independence.
But instead of campaigning, Ms. Sturgeon struggled to save her job with excellent performance, albeit without satisfying her critics.
During heated conversations, Ms. Sturgeon presented her actions as the actions of a politician torn between personal loyalty to his mentor and a firmer determination not to tolerate sexual harassment.
“As prime minister, I refused to follow the age-old model of allowing a powerful person to use his status and connections to get what he wants,” she said.
As for the lawsuits against her, Ms. Sturgeon said she “searched my soul many, many times,” but added that “in one of the most insidious personal and political situations I have encountered, I believe that I acted correctly and adequately and generally took the best judgments I could. “
Ms Sturgeon admitted errors in the 2018 investigation and apologized to the two applicants.
But since then, she has made her own mistakes. Ms. Sturgeon initially said she heard about the allegations against Mr. Salmond on April 2, 2018, during a meeting with him at her home, but later admitted that she had received a previous warning from his former chief of staff. Jeff Aberdeen, March 29.
On Wednesday, Ms. Sturgeon said she had only gained a vague understanding of what was set during the March 29 meeting, and that learning the allegations in detail on April 2 was “a moment in my life that I will never forget.” “.
She also denied allegations that she offered to mediate between her predecessor – a man she said she had revered since she was 20 – and the women who complained about him.
And Ms. Sturgeon rejected allegations that the names of the accusers were given to Mr. Salmond by government officials – something that would be a serious violation of the rules.
Instead, she claims that Mr. Salmond knew the identity of one of the women because he apologized to her, and developed the other from his own research.
She also rejected the allegation that when Mr Salmond brought the government to court, she continued to fight a lost case against the lawyers’ advice. Ms Sturgeon argued that the legal advice was ambiguous enough to justify her decision to continue fighting Mr Salmond in court for several weeks before the Scottish Government resigned.
Once all was said and done, Mrs. Sturgeon had no choice but to wait for the verdict of the two investigations that were likely to determine her fate.