A parliamentary committee has concluded that Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, had “misled” the nation’s parliament over sexual assault allegations against her predecessor.
The committee was investigating the local government's handling of accusations against Alex Salmond, formerly first minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader.
Sturgeon was found, by five votes to four, to have contradicted herself in her account of a meeting at the start of the case, according to several local media outlets.
Salmond was tried and acquitted last year on sexual assault charges, and claims the allegations made by several women were part of a conspiracy to wreck his political career.
He accuses Sturgeon of lying about when she learned of the allegations and breaking the code of conduct for government ministers.
Scotland’s highest civil court ruled in 2019 that the way the Scottish government had handled the misconduct allegations was unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias,” and awarded Salmond £500,000 pounds (€584,000) in expenses.
The saga has put Sturgeon under significant pressure in recent weeks, and such a conclusion from the committee will likely intensify calls for her resignation.
The report from the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints is expected to be published early next week, and comes just weeks before parliamentary elections on 6 May - which the SNP were hoping to use as a springboard to boost the Scottish independence movement, amid the fallout from Brexit.
Sturgeon told Sky News last night she stood by “all the evidence” she gave to the committee.
"What's been clear is that opposition members of this committee made their minds up about me before I muttered a single word of evidence, their public comments have made that clear.
"So this leak from the committee - very partisan leak - tonight before they've finalised the report is not that surprising,” she added.
Earlier this month Sturgeon testified before the committee, strongly denying being part of a plot against her former friend and long-time political ally.
She defended her government’s handling of the abuse allegations, saying allegations about powerful people must not be “ignored or swept under the carpet.”