No legal basis to suspend Salmond over alleged harassment – Sturgeon

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said there is “no legal basis” to suspend Alex Salmond from the SNP, following accusations of sexual harassment.

She said her party had not received any complaints about her predecessor’s conduct – nor had it carried out the investigation – but the matter would be reconsidered if the situation changes.

It comes after opposition parties called for the SNP to suspend Mr Salmond over the allegations, which he denies.

Ms Sturgeon said: “As SNP leader, it is important that I set out the reasons for the party’s current position as clearly as I can.

“The SNP, like all organisations, must act in accordance with due process.

“In this case, unlike in some previous cases, the investigation into complaints about Alex Salmond has not been conducted by the SNP and no complaints have been received by the party.”

She added: “Also, for legal reasons, the limited information I have about the Scottish Government investigation cannot at this stage be shared with the party – and rightly it is the party, not me as leader, that has the power to suspend membership.

“In summary, the party has no legal basis at this time to suspend Alex Salmond’s membership.

“Of course, should that situation change, the matter will be reconsidered, as it would be for any member.

“The party’s rules apply to all members and no-one is above them.”

The claims about Mr Salmond’s conduct towards two staff members in 2013 – while he was in office – have been handed to Police Scotland.

Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary at the Scottish Government, said the complaints were raised in January and Mr Salmond was notified in March about an investigation.

She intended to make a statement regarding the complaints, but the move was halted after the former first minister initiated legal proceedings.

Mr Salmond responded to his successor’s comments on social media by saying he agreed with her that people in Scotland should be treated fairly.

He added that relied on confidentiality and a suitable process for complaints procedures.

Scottish Conservative equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells MSP said: “Despite this latest statement from Nicola Sturgeon, many questions still remain about what has occurred.

“We are still none the wiser as to the way the assault was treated when it was alleged to have taken place, nor do we know when anyone in the SNP or the Scottish Government was informed about the incident.”

Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson said: “People on all sides of the political divide need to resist the temptation to make party political capital from a situation involving allegations of sexual harassment.

“Supporters of Scottish independence should abandon unionist conspiracy theories and supporters of the UK should be wary of immediately branding the SNP leadership of complicity.

“What’s important now is that the police investigation is able to proceed unimpinged by political pressure.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Jane Barlow / PA Wire.