Scottish leader under fire after lawmakers fault testimony

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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks at the Holyrood Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday March 18, 2021. Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has dismissed suggestions that she misled lawmakers, saying she stands by testimony she gave to the Scottish parliament committee investigating her government’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against her predecessor Alex Salmond. (Andy Buchanan/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon has dismissed suggestions that she misled lawmakers, saying opposition members of a legislative panel had made up their minds before they heard her evidence.

Sturgeon told Sky News that she stands by the eight hours of testimony she gave to a committee of Scotland’s parliament investigating the government’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against her predecessor.

Britain’s Press Association reported, without citing a source, that the committee voted 5-4 in favor of finding that Sturgeon gave an inaccurate account to parliament. The panel’s report is expected to be published next week.

“What’s been clear is that opposition members of this committee made their minds up about me before I muttered a single word of evidence; their public comments have made that clear,” Sturgeon said Thursday night.

“So this leak from the committee – very partisan leak – tonight before they’ve finalized the report is not that surprising,” she said.

The case centers around the Scottish government’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond, who served as first minister of Scotland before Sturgeon took office in 2014.

If Sturgeon is found to have misled parliament, she could be forced to resign for breaking the rules governing the conduct of government ministers.

Sturgeon said she is waiting for the findings of James Hamilton, a senior lawyer who is conducting an independent investigation into the question of whether she breached the ministerial code.

Scotland’s highest civil court ruled in 2019 that the government acted unlawfully in its investigation of the claims against Salmond, and awarded him more than 500,000 pounds ($695,000) in legal expenses. A criminal court also acquitted Salmond.

In his testimony to the committee, Salmond criticized the government of his one-time friend for undermining democratic principles and the rule of law.

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