Let me first deal with the general confusion. Most Scots think that the Hamilton Report, published today, deals with the question of whether the First Minister misled the Scottish Parliament when she told MSPs that the first time she knew of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Alex Salmond (of which he was acquitted of in a criminal court) was on 2 April 2018.
It does no such thing. Instead, the report deals with a possible breach of the Ministerial Code by Nicola Sturgeon on the question of whether she ‘failed to feed back’ the terms of her various meetings with Alex Salmond and others between March and July 2018. Mr Hamilton’s 61-page report concludes that she is not guilty on that ‘failure to feed back’ point. On the more significant issue of her misleading Parliament the verdict of the Holyrood Inquiry report, which has still not been published, will be determinative.
The terms of James Hamilton’s remit are vital to anyone assessing the value and significance of his report. An attempt to have the remit widened was desperately resisted by John Swinney the Deputy First Minister. A recent request under Freedom of Information laws by a journalist to access the emails between Mr Swinney and Mr Hamilton on the question of the width of the remit was partially rejected by the Scottish government on what appear to be highly doubtful grounds. It’s probably correct to view that incident as just another aspect of the SNP government’s desperation to conceal the whole truth from the Scottish public.
On the most important matters of the First Minister’s explanation for her behaviour in respect of the meetings with Salmond on 29 March and 2 April, Mr Hamilton finds that her account is ‘not impossible’ (Paragraph 7.10). On any view this is hardly a ringing endorsement of Nicola Sturgeon’s reliability. So while Ms Sturgeon’s obedient Politburo will doubtless trumpet Mr Hamilton’s report as a clean sheet for their Dear Leader, this is far from the truth. Indeed, the truth is something which has been conspicuous by its absence throughout this sorry saga. It may be a music hall joke that politicians mislead, but the Salmond versus Sturgeon drama shows how horribly true for us Scots that joke has become.
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