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Report into whether Sturgeon broke ministerial code expected to be published

First minister Nicola Sturgeon during the debate ahead of a vote of no confidence against Deputy First Minister John Swinney at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh - Credit: PA

The independent inquiry into whether Nicola Sturgeon breached the ministerial code is expected to be released imminently, according to reports.

An investigation by James Hamilton QC has been examining whether Scotland’s first minister misled parliament.

He is also examining if she should have recorded meetings with Alex Salmond and whether she prolonged the government’s defence of a judicial review brought by her predecessor contrary to the legal advice.

It is believed the Scottish government will receive the report from Hamilton on Monday, although this is yet to be confirmed by the government itself.

Sturgeon, who denies breaching the ministerial code, has previously promised the report would be published on the day the government received it.

A Scottish government spokeswoman was unable to say if or when the report would be released.

Hamilton, the former director of public prosecutions in the Republic of Ireland, is the independent advisor to the Scottish government on the ministerial code – a set of rules about how ministers should conduct themselves.

The current first minister referred herself to him following Salmond’s successful legal challenge of the Scottish government’s unlawful investigation into harassment complaints against him, which led to him winning more than £500,000 in court.

The investigation was paused in early 2019 to avoid prejudicing criminal proceedings brought against Salmond.

He was acquitted of 13 charges, including sexual assault, indecent assault and attempted rape, in March 2020 following a High Court trial and Hamilton’s inquiry was delayed again by the pandemic, before resuming in August 2020.

The code says it is the first minister who is “the ultimate judge of the standards of behaviour expected of a minister” and the appropriate consequences for breaches.

Speaking outside her Glasgow home on Monday morning, Sturgeon said: “I’m going to do what I’ve done every day for the last year – lead the country through a pandemic.”

The SNP’s deputy leader at Westminster, Kirsten Oswald, was pulled from appearing on Adam Boulton’s Sky News show by the party while the programme was on air, according to the presenter, fuelling speculation about the possible outcome of the report.

But the SNP has completely denied Boulton’s account and a spokesman said that Oswald had been due to appear as part of a cross-party group of guests but the programme was rearranged and the segment cancelled.

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