Nicola Sturgeon facing turmoil as fresh no-confidence motion launched against SNP leader

Jacob Rees-Mogg mocks Patrick Grady over UK borders

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The Scottish Tories will unveil plans tomorrow to bring forward a no-confidence vote in the First Minister. Leader Douglas Ross said the First Minister lied to parliament over when she knew about allegations of harassment against Alex Salmond, which if proven would be a breach of the ministerial code, and he would look to oust her in the final weeks of the parliamentary session.

The former SNP leader, who led the Yes campaign in the 2014 independence referendum, was awarded a £512,250 payout for legal costs after it emerged the investigating officer was found to have had prior contact with two of the female complainers.

At Edinburgh’s Court of Session, Lord Pentland described the investigation as “unlawful” and “tainted by apparent bias” after the Government conceded the judicial review the week before the case was due to be heard in court.

The former SNP leader was also separately acquitted of all 13 charges of sexual assault against him in a criminal trial.

A Holyrood committee is now looking into the Scottish Government’s mishandling of the case.

The First Minister also referred herself for investigation to the independent adviser on the ministerial code, James Hamilton, who is currently looking into the allegations.

At the same time, the Scottish First Minister admitted she was aware of concerns about SNP chief whip Patrick Grady before a formal sexual harassment complaint was made about him.

The Glasgow North MP stepped down from his Westminster role following claims he groped two male researchers at an SNP Christmas party in 2016, which took place at the Phoenix Artist Club.

Further allegations have also emerged about claims that Mr Grady, 41, “inappropriately” touched an SNP staff member, then aged 19, in a London pub.

It has since been claimed the First Minister was told about Mr Grady’s alleged behaviour by Alex Salmond at the same April 2 2018 meeting that he first disclosed details of the sexual harassment investigation into himself.

The SNP confirmed last week a complaint had been made against Mr Grady but said the party would not comment further whilst an investigation was carried out.

The Scottish First Minister today admitted that she knew that a formal complaint had been received but refused to elaborate on how long she had known about the allegations.

Asked when and where she first learned of the claims against Mr Grady, Ms Sturgeon said during the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing: “I would have had an awareness previously of a concern, but not a formal complaint.

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“I’m not going to say more than that because due process requires that an investigation is allowed to take its course.”

However, opposition parties claim the confession raises further serious concerns about Nicola Sturgeon’s morals and her judgment.

Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative MSP for Glasgow, said: “She admits knowing of concerns about this senior SNP MP yet did nothing about it.

“Not only did she keep a lid on it, but she actively campaigned for Patrick Grady and then reappointed him to the post of chief whip.

“Every passing day brings new headlines of SNP sleaze. They’re rotten to the core and voters are beginning to see it.”

Miss Wells claimed Ms Sturgeon revelation “fuels the perception that some SNP politicians enjoy the ‘protection’ of Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell, the party’s chief executive.”

She concluded: “If she thinks she can fob people off with the excuse that there was no formal complaint, she is mistaken.

“That just does not wash in today’s world.”

Revealing the damning no-confidence vote, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “The evidence against Nicola Sturgeon is overwhelming and mounting up every day.

“If we allow her to get away with this, then we say that the truth is worthless in Scottish politics.

“We can’t let more than £500,000 wasted, lies to Parliament and the mother of all cover-ups, go without challenge.”

The Scottish Tory leader also asked other parties to back the vote, adding: “So, we will bring that vote of no confidence in the First Minister.

“Win or lose – we will put all the damage that she has done out there for all to see.

“We will not hold back. From now to May, we’re not going to back off an inch. 

“I would urge the other parties to get behind us, to stand up for truth, stand up for our parliament, stand up to the SNP.

“We have the votes, don’t cave in again, don’t duck this chance to be counted.

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“Don’t let Nicola Sturgeon get away with this.”

Scottish Labour and Scottish Lib Dems said they were waiting for the conclusion of the inquiry and the James Hamilton probe before deciding whether to back the motion.

The Scottish Greens agreed and added: “They [the Tories] have got no idea for the future of Scotland, their election campaign is mudslinging.”

The Tories previously failed in their bid to oust Deputy First Minister John Swinney after he did not release legal advice following two votes by MSPs in Holyrood.

Once the motion was lodged, Mr Swinney agreed to release “key legal advice”, which was enough to secure the support of the Scottish Greens and keep him in post.

A spokesman for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added: “The fact that the Tories announced this vote before the First Minister had even appeared before the parliamentary committee to give evidence shows that this was always about grubby politics rather than supporting the women who were badly let down.

“One by one, the conspiracy theories and smears thrown at the First Minister in this whole affair have been demolished by the documentary evidence – and yet Douglas Ross and the Tories still choose to indulge them.

“The First Minister and the SNP Government are entirely focussed on leading Scotland through the pandemic, which is exactly what the people of Scotland would expect – and it is becoming ever clearer that on the issues that matter, the Tories under Douglas Ross have absolutely nothing positive to offer.”

An SNP party spokesman said: “In February 2018 an issue was highlighted by a third party to the Westminster group.

“As a result, an individual was contacted but they did not wish to raise any complaint.

“Accordingly the matter was dealt with informally and was understood to have been concluded to everyone’s satisfaction at that time.

“The SNP national secretary has now had a formal complaint notified to him and will investigate accordingly.”

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