LONDON — Accused of mendacity, breaking official guidelines and conspiring in opposition to her predecessor, Alex Salmond, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland fought again laborious Wednesday in opposition to allegations which have solid a shadow over her future and over the prospects for Scottish independence.
In practically eight tense hours of testimony earlier than the Scottish Parliament, Ms. Sturgeon denied plotting in opposition to Mr. Salmond or breaching ministerial guidelines throughout a botched inner investigation of sexual harassment allegations in opposition to him.
Opponents had known as for Ms. Sturgeon’s resignation even earlier than she spoke, however on Wednesday she appealed to lawmakers to belief her account of a bewildering sequence of occasions. And she or he rejected what she known as the “absurd suggestion that anybody acted with malice or as a part of a plot in opposition to Alex Salmond.”
Ms. Sturgeon additionally went on the assault, pointedly criticizing her predecessor’s failure to acknowledge final week, in his proof to the identical committee, that he had behaved inappropriately towards ladies.
“I do know from what he advised me that his conduct was not all the time acceptable and but, throughout six hours of testimony, there was not a single phrase of remorse, reflection and even easy acknowledgment of that,” she mentioned.
Wednesday’s session was the end result a rare feud between Ms. Sturgeon and Mr. Salmond, her mentor and direct predecessor as Scotland’s first minister — a dispute so bitter that it may wreck Ms. Sturgeon’s profession and set again the reason for Scottish independence to which each politicians devoted their lives.
Mr. Salmond noticed Ms. Sturgeon’s expertise as a pupil politician and made her his deputy in 2004, a place during which she served for a decade earlier than assuming the highest job when her boss give up after Scots voted in opposition to independence in a 2014 referendum.
However the rupture between the 2 greatest figures in Scottish politics, with its nearly Shakespearean claims of conspiracy and betrayal, comes simply because the prospects for Scottish independence have begun to shine brightly as soon as once more due to Brexit, which is extremely unpopular in Scotland.
The dispute revolves round an inner investigation in 2018 of two complaints in opposition to Mr. Salmond courting from 2013. Mr. Salmond argued that the inquiry course of was flawed, took the Scottish authorities to court docket and gained, with Scottish taxpayers paying his authorized charges of greater than £500,000. When the police later took up a felony case in opposition to him Mr. Salmond was acquitted of 13 costs together with one in every of tried rape.
Now decided to salvage his fame, Mr. Salmond argues that these near Ms. Sturgeon had conspired in opposition to him to stop his return to politics after he misplaced his seat within the British Parliament in 2017 — and have been even prepared to see him jailed. Final week he additionally mentioned that Scotland’s political management and establishments had failed beneath his successor, a declare that appeared to undermine the case for independence.
However extra harmful for Ms. Sturgeon are allegations that she misled the Scottish Parliament over what she knew and when, and over how she dealt with the sexual harassment complaints.
Ms. Sturgeon faces two inquiries and, if she is judged clearly to have lied, she could be anticipated to give up beneath the nation’s strict ministerial guidelines. Even when she survives, as many imagine she is going to, the timing is horrible, coming forward of elections to the Scottish Parliament in Could.
In that vote Ms. Sturgeon hopes for good points for her celebration that she will use to justify holding a second referendum on Scottish independence.
However as a substitute of campaigning, Ms. Sturgeon was on Wednesday battling to avoid wasting her job with a fluent efficiency, albeit with out satisfying her critics.
In often spiky exchanges, Ms. Sturgeon offered her actions as these of a politician torn between private loyalty to her mentor and a stronger willpower to not tolerate sexual harassment.
“As first minister I refused to comply with the age-old sample of permitting a strong man to make use of his standing and his connections to get what he needs,” she mentioned.
As for the claims in opposition to her, Ms. Sturgeon mentioned she had “searched my soul on all of this many, many, instances over,” however added that “in some of the invidious private and political conditions I’ve ever confronted I imagine I acted correctly and appropriately and that total I made the very best judgments I may.”
Ms. Sturgeon acknowledged errors within the 2018 investigation and apologized to the 2 complainants.
However she has made errors of her personal since then. Ms. Sturgeon initially mentioned she first heard in regards to the allegations in opposition to Mr. Salmond on April 2, 2018, throughout a gathering with him at her house, however later admitted that she had been given some earlier warning by his former chief of workers, Geoff Aberdein, on March 29.
On Wednesday, Ms. Sturgeon mentioned she had gleaned solely a obscure understanding of what was at stake through the March 29 assembly, and that studying in regards to the accusations intimately on April 2 was “a second in my life that I’ll always remember.”
She additionally denied claims that she provided to mediate between her predecessor — a person she mentioned she had revered for the reason that age of 20 — and the ladies who complained in opposition to him.
And Ms. Sturgeon rejected allegations that the names of the accusers got to Mr. Salmond by authorities officers — one thing that will have been a critical breach of the principles.
As a substitute, she argued that Mr. Salmond knew the identification of one of many ladies as a result of he had apologized to her, and labored out the opposite from his personal analysis.
She additionally rejected a declare that, when Mr. Salmond took the federal government to court docket, she had continued to battle a dropping case in opposition to the recommendation of legal professionals. Ms. Sturgeon argued that the authorized recommendation was ambivalent sufficient to justify her choice to carrying on battling with Mr. Salmond within the courts for a number of weeks earlier than the Scottish authorities conceded.
In spite of everything was mentioned and carried out, there was nothing left for Ms. Sturgeon to do or say besides watch for the decision of the 2 inquiries that may seemingly decide her destiny.