The independent report by Mr James Hamilton on the First Minister’s self-referral under the Scottish Ministerial Code has been published and has ruled that FM Nicola Sturgeon did not breach the ministerial code.
Mr Hamilton is a former Director of Public Prosecutions in Ireland and has been an independent adviser on the Code since January 2013, having been appointed by Alex Salmond when he was First Minister.
He was asked to assess whether there had been any breach of the Code by the First Minister, the nature of any such breach and, if a breach had occurred, to advise on the appropriate remedy or sanction.
Mr Hamilton looked at the following:
The First Minister’s meeting with Geoff Aberdein on 29 March 2018, and the meetings/telephone calls with Mr Salmond on 2 and 23 April, 7 June and 14 and 18 July 2018
Whether the First Minister misled Parliament about these meetings
Whether the First Minister attempted to influence the conduct of the investigation
Whether the First Minister broke the code by continuing with the judicial review
On each point he found the First Minister had not breached the code, saying in his conclusions at para 18.2 of the report: “I am of the opinion that the First Minister did not breach the provisions of the Ministerial Code in respect of any of these matters.”
Mr Hamilton’s report, formally commissioned by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, was delivered to the Scottish Government today. In line with the First Minister’s commitment to Parliament, the report has been published on the day of receipt.
The report is being published in full, except for the information that needs to be excluded to comply with court orders in force to protect the identity of complainers. In a covering note to the report, Mr Hamilton has acknowledged that redactions will be necessary.
First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said:
"I welcome the conclusions of James Hamilton's independent investigation, which are comprehensive, evidence-based and unequivocal.
"Mr Hamilton has considered all of the allegations against me, and I am happy that his report's findings clear me of any breach of the ministerial code.
"I sought at every stage in this issue to act with integrity and in the public interest. As I have previously made clear, I did not consider that I had broken the code, but these findings are official, definitive and independent adjudication of that.
"Prior to its publication, opposition politicians stressed the importance of respecting and accepting the outcome of Mr Hamilton's independent inquiry, and I committed wholeheartedly to doing so. Now that he has reported, it is incumbent on them to do likewise.
"Today I want, once again, to remind people that at the heart of this case were women who had the courage to come forward and complain. That they were let down by the Scottish Government's handling of their complaints is not in dispute, and I again apologise to them for that.
"I was determined, however, at the time these complaints emerged that they should not be swept under the carpet and that I would not intervene in the process.
"Had I done so, as requested by Alex Salmond, it would — as Mr Hamilton observes — 'undoubtedly have been seen as a partisan and political interference' which 'would undoubtedly have undermined public confidence in the processes of government to a much greater extent than in fact eventually happened'.
"James Hamilton was appointed by Mr Salmond as an independent adviser on the Scottish Ministerial Code. He has previously investigated a Labour First Minister of Wales, and he has applied himself to this task with rigour and diligence. Mr Hamilton is an internationally renowned legal professional with impeccable credentials and no one should seek to suggest or imply that he has acted anything other than independently and utterly without fear or favour.
"Now that this investigation is complete and its conclusions public, I will continue to devote all of my time and energy to leading Scotland, to helping the country through the pandemic, and to ensuring that as we rebuild from the hardships of the last twelve months, we do everything we can to protect jobs, support our health service and rebuild our communities for the better."
The full report can be viewed via the link below: