Tories demand report is published before elections

First minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh

First minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh - Credit: PA

The Scottish Tories have said that a report investigating whether or not Nicola Sturgeon broke the ministerial code should be published before the Holyrood elections.

James Hamilton, the former head of public prosecutions in Ireland, was tasked with investigating if the first minister had breached the ministerial code in relation to the botched handling of harassment complaints against her predecessor.

If the Hamilton inquiry returns a result that Nicola Sturgeon did mislead parliament, opposition parties have said she should step down from her post.

As the campaign period for May’s Holyrood election nears, Scottish Tory chief whip Miles Briggs has written to the head of the civil service to urge the publication of the report before the beginning of campaigning, or at least for a time scale to be set out.

Under election rules, the Scottish government must announce, before parliament ends, the dates for material to be published during the campaign.

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In a letter to permanent secretary Leslie Evans, Briggs said: “I am deeply concerned that a failure to publish in advance of the election purdah, or to name a date in advance for publication during the election campaign, would mean that the report’s publication during the election campaign would breach the purdah guidance.

“While I understand the need to allow James Hamilton the space to conduct his work, it is important to the people of Scotland that they are able to read his findings ahead of the election.”

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Another investigation into the complaints procedure at the heart of the Salmond inquiry, conducted by Laura Dunlop QC, has also concluded, the Scottish government confirmed this week, although no date for publication of her report has been announced.

In a statement, Briggs said: “The SNP have tried to shut down scrutiny and sweep scandals under the carpet too often throughout the Alex Salmond affair.

“We must see the James Hamilton QC report on Ministerial Code breaches as soon as possible. It is of prime importance that the public receives full transparency on the conduct of the first minister before they go to the ballot in May.

“We are seeking guarantees that the report will be published, no matter what, at the earliest opportunity.

“It’s also vital that the Laura Dunlop QC review of the Scottish government’s harassment complaint procedure is published immediately. It cannot be shut down until after the election.”

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