Nicola Sturgeon did not breach ministerial code - James Hamilton QC delivers independent inquiry verdict

An independent inquiry has found that Scotland’s First Minister did not breach the ministerial code.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 5:13 pm
Nicola Sturgeon leaves her home on March 22, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon did not breach the ministerial code, an independent inquiry has concluded.

An investigation by James Hamilton QC found she did not breach the code in relation to allegations she failed to record meetings with Mr Salmond and others in 2018.

He also examined the allegation that Ms Sturgeon misled Parliament in relation to the meetings, again finding there was no breach of the code.

Ms Sturgeon said she welcomed the “comprehensive, evidence-based and unequivocal” conclusion that she did not breach the code, adding: “I sought at every stage in this issue to act with integrity and in the public interest.”

Mr Hamilton, the former director of public prosecutions in the Republic of Ireland, is the independent adviser the Scottish Government on the ministerial code – a set of rules about how ministers should conduct themselves.

His report stated: “I am of the opinion that the First Minister did not breach the provisions of the ministerial code in respect of any of these matters.”

Ms Sturgeon referred herself to the independent advisor on the ministerial code following Mr Salmond’s successful legal challenge of the Scottish Government’s unlawful investigation, which led to him winning more than £500,000 in court.

Mr Hamilton’s investigation was paused in early 2019 to avoid prejudicing criminal proceedings brought against Mr Salmond.

He was acquitted of 13 charges, including sexual assault, indecent assault and attempted rape, in March 2020 following a High Court trial and Mr Hamilton’s inquiry was delayed again by the pandemic, before resuming in August 2020.

The code says it is the First Minister who is “the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of a minister” and the appropriate consequences for breaches.

In a statement, Ms Sturgeon said: “Mr Hamilton has considered all of the allegations against me, and I am happy that his report’s findings clear me of any breach of the ministerial code.

“I sought at every stage in this issue to act with integrity and in the public interest. As I have previously made clear, I did not consider that I had broken the code, but these findings are official, definitive and independent adjudication of that.

“Prior to its publication, opposition politicians stressed the importance of respecting and accepting the outcome of Mr Hamilton’s independent inquiry, and I committed wholeheartedly to doing so. Now that he has reported, it is incumbent on them to do likewise.”