View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
23 March 2021updated 23 Jul 2021 1:21pm

How both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond managed to shake off scandal

Despite the chaos within Scotland’s ruling party, both SNP titans have headlines they are happy with.

By Ailbhe Rea

Nicola Sturgeon did not breach the ministerial code over her handling of the Alex Salmond harassment case, an independent investigation by James Hamilton QC, the Scottish government’s independent adviser on ministerial standards, has found.  

That’s the crucial conclusion that has made headlines this morning, and that is an important outcome for Scotland’s First Minister. She is no longer fighting to stay in her position, and will inevitably survive the vote of no confidence today (the Greens have confirmed they won’t be voting against her given Hamilton’s findings) and her position is, to all intents and purposes, safe.

[See also: Nicola Sturgeon can breathe easier thanks to her incompetent opponents]

In this respect, Hamilton’s findings about Sturgeon have some parallels with another legal process involving her former political ally almost exactly a year ago. Alex Salmond was cleared of all of the sexual offences charges against him in his high-profile trial; he, similar to Sturgeon, got the result that he wanted. But in both cases, not everything in the outcome of the legal process is as flattering for the First Minister or former first minister. As Stephen Bush notes in his snap take on the Sturgeon outcome, Hamilton clears Sturgeon of breaking the ministerial code but casts doubt on the effectiveness of her handling of the allegations against her predecessor, and questions over her conversations with Salmond remain unanswered.

This is also the conclusion of the Holyrood committee of MSPs investigating the affair. As was previously leaked, the committee, dismissed as partisan by the SNP leadership, has found that Sturgeon misled it, that her account of finding out about the allegations was “hard to believe”, and that her handling of the complaints was “seriously flawed”. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

[See also: Scottish independence poll tracker: will Scotland vote to leave the UK?]

Salmond’s defence made use of the argument that some of his behaviour was “inappropriate”, to quote his own lawyer, but not criminal. The former first minister “could have been a better man”, his lawyer said: “He behaved badly, I’m not here to defend him, but attempted rape? It doesn’t fit.” When Salmond was cleared of all the charges against him, the public conversation didn’t register that the former first minister had behaved at times in a way that was “inappropriate” by his own lawyer’s admission.

Both SNP titans have headlines they are happy with, and the public conversation won’t fully absorb the more complex aspects around the edges of that: “inappropriate” behaviour from Salmond, and a potentially ineffective handling of the allegations against him by Sturgeon. At the core is the same problem: a failure by the SNP’s opponents to treat this as a serious story about real women bringing serious allegations, rather than a scandal in Scotland’s ruling party that would, somehow, in ways the opposition parties hadn’t quite worked out, destroy the SNP. 

[See also: Nicola Sturgeon won’t resign, but the Salmond scandal could yet be her downfall]

Content from our partners
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU