Since the pandemic began, Nicola Sturgeon has been a regular sight at the daily Covid press conferences in Scotland. Where Boris Johnson’s appearances at the Westminster version are infrequent at best, Sturgeon rarely misses a day. But today the First Minister was nowhere to be seen. Following reports overnight that a majority of MSPs on the Alex Salmond Commitee will say she did mislead parliament, it was Sturgeon’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman who went out to bat.
Asked whether Sturgeon should resign, Freeman replied that ‘this is a Covid briefing’ before adding that she believed her colleague did not mislead parliament and that she should not resign. Sturgeon has also come out fighting – suggesting last night that any finding was politically motivated as the opposition members ‘made their minds up’ before she gave evidence.
However, there are two reasons this line could become harder to hold in the coming days and weeks. With the report in question due on Tuesday, the Scottish Conservatives have announced plans to push for a no confidence vote in the SNP leader on Wednesday – unless she resigns the day before. That’s unlikely. However, while this could be politically embarrassing for Sturgeon, she ought to be able to take some comfort from the fact the potential kingmaker in any such vote – the Green party’s Patrick Harvie – criticised the inquiry as a ‘farce’.
More serious is the other investigation into the affair by James Hamilton QC. A respected lawyer, Hamilton is conducting an independent inquiry into possible breaches of the ministerial code by the First Minister. As James explains on Coffee House Shots, if he were to conclude that Sturgeon knowingly misled parliament, it would be a judgment so damning, even the SNP would find it hard to ignore.
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