Nicola Sturgeon was saved by one missing word in the Alex Salmond report – but this saga isn’t over
Nicola Sturgeon will survive this.
The findings of this committee present a very bad look for the first minister. Misleading parliament is a career blemish, to say the least, although probably not a career-breaker in this instance.
For all the talk of resignation – and that’s not gone away – this finding by a Holyrood committee doesn’t, realistically, bring it much closer.
If it was ever going to trouble the first minister’s political future, the word "knowingly" was key. To knowingly mislead the parliament is the baseline requirement for a charge of breaching the ministerial code.
To mislead, without knowledge of having done so, is the kind of behaviour that’s soon forgotten amidst the political tradition of upturned palms and apology.
And this is laced with politics. Yes, there’s been some unity among the committee comprising four SNP MSPs and five from the opposition, mostly in frustration at demands unmet for government cooperation.
On the implications for government and its head, however, there was always going to be political division. It’s a division that will play out through the fallout, accusers and defenders welded to their versions of guilt, innocence, and competing political imperatives.
That’s if it plays out at all, given that the Scottish parliament only has two days of business left next week before it wraps up for the May 6th election and the timetable for those two days is already full.
In presenting its finished report to the parliament, the committee will be handing it over for consideration by the next government. Post election, the harassment committee roadshow will have rolled on.
The hope for all is that, in its wake, its work will leave behind the benefit of its efforts. It was set up, principally, to examine and improve the weaknesses in the government’s harassment complaints procedure. The past, very public mistakes will hopefully never be repeated and the committee’s report has a big part to play in that.
As for Nicola Sturgeon, the report’s revelations don’t draw a line under questions regarding her conduct. She, and we, await publication of the other report being written by James Hamilton. Ireland’s former director of public prosecutions has been looking into whether she broke the ministerial code after her self-referral amidst the controversy over what she knew and when.
He’s due to hand over his report on Scotland’s first minister in the coming days.
Independent of the politics of it all, it will carry more influence for its subject and her future.