Nicola Sturgeon’s central claim – that she did not offer to mediate between Alex Salmond and those accusing him of sexual harassment – is blown apart in the witness statement made by Duncan Hamilton, an Advocate, and published ahead of her appearance in front of the Holyrood inquiry on Wednesday.
Sturgeon said when asked in August last year: “I had no role in the process and would not seek to intervene.”
But in his statement, Hamilton (a former SNP MSP) confirms that at the key meeting held at her home on 2 April 2018 to discuss the situation he heard her offer to intervene. Hamilton says she told Salmond: “If it comes to it, I will intervene.”
Hamilton says: “I can confirm that the First Minister did offer to assist. We discussed mediation. My clear recollection is that her words were ‘If it comes to it, I will intervene.’ From a legal perspective, that was the most important aspect of the meeting. I therefore remember it clearly. I discussed the commitment to intervene with Mr Salmond and Mr Aberdein after we left the meeting specifically because it seemed very likely that mediation would be achieved. From Mr Salmond’s perspective, that was the desired outcome. The First Minister did later change her mind. She was entitled to do so. That change was, however, a matter of surprise. From a legal perspective, that change in position removed one of the possible alternatives to court proceedings.”
He added: “I can confirm that this evidence is given to the very best of my recollection. I am prepared to provide the same evidence under oath in an
affidavit if that is considered necessary.”
Much of the focus has been on the argument over the purpose of the 2 April meeting, and a meeting held a few days before that when Salmond aide Geoff Aberdein met Sturgeon to discuss the complaints against his former boss. Sturgeon has claimed that was a fleeting, opportunistic meeting. This is at odds with the reality that Aberdein was signed in to see Sturgeon and shown to the First Minister’s office in the parliament with one purpose.
But the passage in the Hamilton statement on mediation is even more explosive than all that. The First Minister expressly denies offering to mediate. An Advocate states that she did offer to mediate.
Why the gap? Why would Sturgeon deny being prepared – if it came to it – to brokering a deal? It would, arguably, have been legitimate in her role as First Minister.
Instead she insists she did not offer to mediate.
The politically potentially fatal implication her growing band of enemies will draw is that she deployed a convenient story centred on a duty of care to the complainants, when she was initially perfectly prepared to mediate and do a deal with her predecessor and mentor, telling him this in front of witnesses in her own home on 2 April 2018.
At the Holyrood inquiry tomorrow Sturgeon will be asked about all this. She’ll need a good answer.