Nicola Sturgeon has rejected claims by a Tory MP that she knew of complaints against Alex Salmond earlier than she previously told Holyrood.
The First Minister hit out at David Davis ’ “insinuations” and suggested they were part of a conspiracy theory pedalled by Salmond.
Sturgeon’s Government is the subject of an Inquiry by a Holyrood committee over its mis-handling of sexual misconduct complaints against Salmond when he was First Minister.
Salmond took the government to court and it was agreed the internal probe, which destroyed his friendship with Sturgeon, had been unlawful.
A key issue under the microscope is when Sturgeon first learned of the complaints against her predecessor in 2018.
She told Parliament that Salmond himself told her at a meeting on April 2nd of that year.
She later said she had forgotten about a meeting days earlier with Salmond’s former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein at which it is claimed she was informed about the investigation.
In an intervention at Westminster last night, former Brexit Minister Davis used parliamentary privilege to make a series of claims about the unlawful probe.
The Haltemprice and Howden MP claimed to have communications that show the First Minister’s chief of staff, Liz Lloyd, her closest aide, was not just aware of the complaints against Salmond but was “interfering” in the process.
Davis said: “I have it on good authority that there exists from the 6th of February 2018, an exchange of messages between civil servants Judith Mackinnon and Barbara Allison suggesting the First Minister’s chief of staff is interfering in the complaints process against Alex Salmond.
“The investigating officer complains, I quote, ‘Liz interference v bad’. I assume that means very bad.”
“If true, this suggests the chief of staff had knowledge of the Salmond case in February, not in April, as she has claimed on oath. The First Minister also tied herself to that April date in both parliamentary and legal statements. She was, of course, aware earlier than that. The question is just how aware and how much earlier?”
The Scottish Government last night denied the claims and Sturgeon was asked directly about the matter at her covid briefing today.
She said: “I strongly refute the suggestions and insinuations from David Davis in the House of Commons last night. I am not going to have this covid briefing sidetracked by the latest instalment of Alex Salmond’s conspiracy theory.”
Sturgeon added that she had given eight hours of evidence to the Holyrood committee: “They have a job of work to do now. I am going to allow them to do that job of work and.”
Her deputy John Swinney had earlier addressed the Davis claims on the BBC: “I think in relation to some of the material that David Davis was recounting last night, as I understand it from media reports these messages have been considered by the harassment committee, and from media comments, they’ve been widely reported as being dismissive as essentially irrelevant to the inquiry that’s being undertaken.
“We’ve set up the process of inquiry, I think we should let it take its course and come to the conclusions that we need to, as I’ve said, we will do in connection with the reports that arise out of these events.”