Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of breaching her own code of conduct over a “sustained attack” on Alex Salmond during her covid briefing.
Ex SNP depute leader Jim Sillars has lodged a formal complaint to the Government over what he described as a “gross breach of her duty”.
A Holyrood Inquiry is examining the SNP Government’s unlawful investigation into sexual misconduct complaints against Salmond when he was First Minister.
The botched probe ended the long-standing friendship between Sturgeon and Salmond, who believes he was targeted by the Government he used to lead.
In his submission to the Inquiry, Salmond accused Sturgeon of misleading parliament about her account of key moments during the investigation.
Salmond, who was also acquitted of sexual offences charges after a criminal trial, has also accused Sturgeon’s husband and chief of staff of plotting against him.
He will give oral evidence this week.
At her covid media briefing yesterday, Sturgeon sharply criticised her predecessor as First Minister by accusing him of peddling conspiracy theories.
She said: “And Alex Salmond, well, you know, maybe creating an alternative reality in which the organs of the state, not just me and the SNP and the civil service and the Crown Office and the police and women who came forward, were all part of some wild conspiracy against him for reasons I can’t explain, maybe that’s easier than just accepting that at the root of all this might just have been issues in his own behaviour.”
She said: “I do worry about not just the women in this case, whose voices have been silenced, whose motives have been maligned, who have been accused, or it seems to me, to be accused of being liars and conspiracists, and I think that is wrong.”
She added: “There was no conspiracy theory, and I sometimes think the preference perhaps of Mr Salmond is to continue to make those claims without ever subjecting them to the proper scrutiny of the parliamentary committee.”
Her criticisms came after she was asked about the Holyrood Inquiry by journalists.
Sillars, a former SNP MP, has written to Government Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans alleging a breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
He said the briefing was about the coronavirus, but wrote: “The complaint is…based on the attacks on Mr. Salmond in a forum that had been arranged by the Scottish Government to inform the public on a subject, the pandemic, a matter of serious public concern, in which maximum publicity would be given to the words of the First Minister.
“It is a gross breach of her duty to use that Government sponsored forum, for a public attack on Mr. Salmond in matters not related to the purpose of a briefing to which the media had been invited.”
He wrote: “I submit that it is a breach of the Ministerial Code to allow, and then use, a public health Covid briefing to launch an attack on Mr. Salmond in the context of matters arising from the Parliamentary Inquiry. By her conduct as recorded by the BBC, she is in flagrant breach of the Clause 1 of the Code, and Clause 10 governing the conduct of Ministers and the Presentation of Policy.”
He added: “It is not for me to question a decision by the First Minister to make a public attack on Mr. Salmond. But if she wished to do so, then she could have arranged a press conference on the subject, which would have been the proper and legitimate forum in which to do so.”
The Government has been contacted.