Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond’s former chief of staff are to be questioned within weeks by MSPs investigating the mishandling of sexual harassment complaints against the ex-first minister.
It is understood Ms Sturgeon and former special adviser Geoff Aberdein will be called before the Holyrood inquiry into the botched process, which cost the taxpayer more than £600,000 in legal fees, early next month.
MSPs will ask them when Ms Sturgeon, who has been accused by opposition politicians of misleading parliament, first knew about the harassment allegations against her former.
The First Minister met Mr Aberdein at her office at Holyrood on March 29, 2018, four days before Mr Salmond went to her house to tell her about the allegations. The meeting came to light at Mr Salmond’s criminal trial earlier this year, when he was cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault.
Ms Sturgeon failed to mention it when she informed MSPs in January last year about various meetings with Mr Salmond.
In a 15-page written submission to the inquiry this month, she said she forgot about the meeting as it had taken place “in the midst of a busy day in which I would have been dealing with a multitude of other matters”.
Committee member Alex Cole-Hamilton: “One of the most contentious issues in this whole saga is the details of when the First Minister first knew of the investigation into her predecessor by her own government. It is now vital we understand Geoff Aberdein’s recollections of events so that we can get a handle on when the First Minister really understood what was going on.
“The stakes could not be higher. If it becomes clear the First Minister knowingly misled parliament, then her position becomes untenable under the terms of the ministerial code and she will have to resign.”
The committee on the Scottish Government handling of harassment complaints next meets on October 27, when it is due to call civil servants. It could then call Mr Aberdein, who worked for Mr Salmond for seven years.
Ms Sturgeon is expected to be asked to give evidence to MSPs shortly after Mr Aberdein, and could make more than one appearance at the committee.
Scottish Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell said: “The public deserve to hear just what was discussed, and judge for themselves whether it could have been easily forgotten about.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The First Minister stands by what she has said to Parliament and by her written evidence to the committee, and looks forward to answering questions at the committee when they ask her to appear.”
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