Nicola Sturgeon says SNP legally unable to suspend Alex Salmond from party
Nicola Sturgeon has said there is “no legal basis” to suspend Alex Salmond from the SNP, amid allegations of sexual harassment against him.
The former Scottish First Minister has been accused of assaulting two former staff members at his then-official residence in 2013.
Mr Salmond strongly denies the claims and has launched legal action against the Scottish government over its handling of an internal probe into the matter.
Ms Sturgeon last week said that all allegations must be taken seriously regardless of the “identity, seniority or political allegiance of the person involved”, but accepted the situation was personally an “extremely difficult situation”.
In a fresh statement, the First Minister said she was unable to act on calls to suspend her predecessor from the SNP as information available to the government could not be shared with the party.
“In this case, unlike in some previous cases, the investigation into complaints about Alex Salmond has not been conducted by the SNP and no complaints have been received by the party,” she wrote.
“Also, for legal reasons, the limited information I have about the Scottish government investigation cannot at this stage be shared with the party - and rightly it is the party, not me as leader, that has the power to suspend membership.”
She added: “In summary, the party has no legal basis at this time to suspend Alex Salmond’s membership.
“Of course, should that situation change, the matter will be reconsidered, as it would be for any member. The party’s rules apply to all members and no one is above them.”
Read Ms Sturgeon's full statement below:
Leslie Evans, the Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary, said the complaints were raised in January and Mr Salmond was notified in March about an investigation.
The claims about his conduct have been handed to Police Scotland.
The former MP and MSP has described the allegations against him as “patently ridiculous” - and has criticised the complaint handling procedure as “unjust”.
He later said that while he agreed with Ms Sturgeon’s statement that people should be treated “fairly and equally”, confidentiality should apply to both sides involved in the case.
“Clearly it has not been maintained in this case but subject to sustained leaking of the most unfair kind,” he said in a statement.
“That helps no-one but harms everyone. It is therefore crucial to find out who in government was responsible.”
Meanwhile Scottish Labour has called for “transparency” from the Scottish government over meetings between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond after the latter said on Friday that the pair had met recently.
The party’s women’s spokesperson and MSP Rhoda Grant said: “It would be completely unacceptable if the details of those meetings remained unknown.
“The allegations against Alex Salmond are incredibly serious. His meetings with the head of a government that was investigating him must not be kept under wraps.
“Nicola Sturgeon must publish the details and minutes of these meetings as soon as possible.