Poll: Two-thirds say Nicola Sturgeon should quit if she misled Holyrood over Salmond affair

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TWO-thirds of Scots think Nicola Sturgeon should resign if she is found to have lied to the Scottish Parliament, according to a new poll. 

Panelbase found 68 per cent of decided voters wanted the First Minister to quit if she deliberately misled MSPs over the Alex Salmond affair.

SNP voters were split down the middle on whether she should go in such circumstances.

Ms Sturgeon has strongly denied misleading parliament.

 Nicola Sturgeon says she does not consider she misled parliament over Salmond affair

The findings are from poll questions commissioned by the Wings Over Scotland website, which although pro-independence is often brutally critical of Ms Sturgeon’s leadership.

Participants were asked: “Two inquiries are currently investigating whether Nicola Sturgeon lied to the Scottish Parliament about her knowledge of false allegations of misconduct against Alex Salmond. 

“The Ministerial Code – the rules under which the Scottish Government operates – stipulates that any minister found to have deliberately misled Parliament should resign.

“If it is found that Nicola Sturgeon did lie to Parliament, should she resign?”

Panelbase reported that, despite Ms Sturgeon’s high personal approval ratings in the pandemic, lying to parliament was seen as beyond the pale, with a 68-32 split in favour of her stepping down.

The feeling was more pronounced among people who backed Unionist parties at the 2019 general election, with 92% of Tory, 78% of Labour and 73% of Liberal Democrat decided voters saying that she should resign.

However 49% of decided SNP voters also said she should go, compared to 51% who thought she should survive.

More than half of her SNP backers cited either her good leadership or her work during the pandemic as reasons why should stay in post regardless. 

A majority of those who voted Yes to independence in 2014 also thought Ms Sturgeon should quit, with 54% saying she should leave, compared to 82% of No voters.

Most women also thought Ms Sturgeon should quit if she lied to parliament, with 64% of female decided voters saying so, compared to 71% of male voters.

Scots-born blogger Stuart Campbell, who runs Wings Over Scotland from Bath, said the findings showed SNP loyalists were wrong to dismiss the Salmond affair as a “political bubble” issue which ordinary voters didn’t care about.

He wrote: “If the First Minister’s plan is to just ride out any unfavourable inquiry findings on the back of her popularity, she may be in for a nasty shock.” 

Ms Sturgeon is currently being investigated by the independent adviser on the Scottish ministerial code over whether she failed to tell officials about contacts with her predecessor.

If she is found to have broken the code, it would be seen as a resigning issue at Holyrood.

The adviser, former Irish prosecutor James Hamilton, recently said he was minded to widen the probe into whether Mr Sturgeon mislead parliament about the nature of the contacts. 

She is also due to give evidence next month to the Holyrood inquiry into Mr Salmond’s legal fight with the Scottish Government.

The inquiry is looking into the Government’s botched probe into sexual misconduct claims levelled against the former first minister in 2018 by two civil servants.

 Alex Salmond accuses Nicola Sturgeon of giving ‘untrue’ evidence to Holyrood inquiry

Mr Salmond had the probe set aside in a judicial review by showing it was “tainted by apparent bias”, a Government flaw that left taxpayers with a £512,000 bill for his costs.

After the Government’s defence of the civil action collapsed in January 2019, Ms Sturgeon revealed she had three meetings and two calls with Mr Salmond while he was being investigated by her officials.

She insisted these were taken in her capacity as SNP leader, and so no Government officials were present or minutes taken.

The opposition claim she broke the ministerial code by failing to report the contacts fully and timeously to her officials.

Ms Sturgeon only reported the first meeting at her home on April 2, 2018 to the Government’s top official on 6 June on the eve of another meeting with Mr Salmond.

Mr Salmond alleges Ms Sturgeon also broke the code by misleading parliament about the nature of the meeting, claiming she knew full well they were not party business.

He said she even helped arrange the April 2 meeting four days previously, on March 29, on the explicit understand that he intended to discuss the Government probe with her.

 Nicola Sturgeon says ministerial code probe can check if she misled parliament

Ms Sturgeon later said she had “forgotten” about the March 29 meeting, despite confirming it had involved a discussion of Mr Salmond and sexual matters.

Mr Salmond said Ms Sturgeon’s statements to the Holyrood chamber and the inquiry that she was unaware of the agenda for the April 2 meeting were untrue.

It prompted opposition MSPs to urge Mr Hamilton to expand his work to include whether Ms Sturgeon misled parliament.

When Mr Hamilton last week said he was “minded” to do so, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that she “completely” refuted the allegations that she breached the ministerial code.

The SNP have been asked for comment.

 

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