Facing a Holyrood Inquiry into her government’s botched handling of a probe into sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond, Ms Sturgeon was confronted by Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell about her knowledge of claims against other ministers.
The allegations were made by members of a public sector union over the last ten years, covering the period when Ms Sturgeon was deputy first minister, up to 2014, before she took over from Mr Salmond as first minister.
Responding after Ms Mitchell described the complaints, Ms Sturgeon – who is fighting for her job – said yesterday: ‘Forgive me, I don’t know exactly what you’re referring to in terms of five SNP ministers.’
Nicola Sturgeon was confronted by Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell (pictured) about her knowledge of claims against other ministers
Twitter users reacted with incredulity as Ms Sturgeon claimed ignorance of 30 sexual harassment claims against five SNP ministers while she was in office
Ms Sturgeon’s response was met with anger on social media, with one Twitter user, Hugh Breen, writing: ‘It me or does anyone else find it bizarre that 30 complaints of harassment against 5 SNP ministers were made yet, Nicola Sturgeon as deputy and then leader, has no knowledge of these.’
And Tom Gallagher added: ‘Sturgeon says ‘you bet I was aware of misogyny and sexism through my working life’ but her questioner Margaret Mitchell MSP finds it odd that concerning what was under her nose – 30 complaints about 5 SNP ministers – she knew nothing. Only it seems in 2017 did she waken up.’
Ms Mitchell had ticked off the first minister for discussing allegations against Mr Salmond in response to her question about complaints against other SNP ministers.
The committee deputy convener said: ‘It is [about] the five SNP ministers. And can I remind you, Alex Salmond is a key witness to this inquiry. He’s not under trial, your actions are, and if you could focus on that that would be much appreciated…’
Ms Sturgeon responded: ‘My apologies, I was saying I hadn’t heard anything, so I wasn’t putting him on trial.
‘Forgive me, I don’t know exactly what you’re referring to in terms of five SNP ministers. Nothing came to me as deputy first minister under the fairness at work policy.
‘In terms of more general concerns not related to one individual, have I for my entire working life been aware of problems of sexual harassment and sexism and misogyny, you bet I have.
‘But to say that things were brought to me and things I could have acted upon that I didn’t isn’t the same thing.’
Sturgeon in the back of a chauffeur driven car leaving the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh, on Wednesday night after a gruelling eight hours before the committee
Ms Sturgeon leaves her home yesterday, where it is claimed she first learnt about claims made against her erstwhile friend and ally Alex Salmond
Ms Mitchell explained that the information had come from the FDA, a trade union that represents public sector workers.
She explained that the union had received complaints from ‘around 30 members… in relation to five SNP ministers’ over the last ten years.
Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I apologise, I have not been able to watch all the evidence that has been given to the committee.
‘I have been trying to read as much as I could so I now recognise the reference you were talking about.
‘These were not things that were brought to me at the time under fairness at work and that means there is not much beyond what I have already said that I can usefully say. If you’re asking me whether that concerns me, of course it does…’
In six hours of brutal testimony last week, Alex Salmond laid out a case that senior SNP figures conspired to try to force him out of public life over harassment claims
Yesterday’s hearing also saw launch an all-out attack on Mr Salmond by accusing him of being a sex pest and dismissing his ‘absurd’ conspiracy claims.
The first minister slammed her predecessor for failing to offer up a ‘single word of regret’ for ‘inappropriate behaviour’ towards women during his six hours of testimony at the Holyrood Inquiry last week.
She also contested his version of events in the run-up to the Scottish Government’s botched investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Mr Salmond.
Although Ms Sturgeon ‘deeply regretted’ how the probe into Mr Salmond was handled, she insisted she was trying to stop ‘the age old pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and connections to get what he wants.’
But she said she was not aware of some 30 allegations relating to five SNP first ministers while she was deputy first minister.
The Scots Tories’ allegations about Ms Sturgeon include repeatedly misleading the Scottish Parliament about when she first knew of the allegations against Mr Salmond, delaying settling the judicial review despite legal advice, and meeting Mr Salmond on government business without any officials present or records being taken