Two and a half months before the local elections in Scotland, the separatists, big favorites, are shaken by a heated quarrel. This could weaken their fight for a new referendum.
Former Scottish Prime Minister and leader of the independence party SNP, Alex Salmond, accuses his successor, Nicola Sturgeon, of having deliberately tricked parliament into “jail” on charges of sexual assault, which were dismissed last year by Scottish justice.
The split between the two pro-independence figures began when two officials accused Alex Salmond of sexual assault in 2018. The allegations came shortly after the Prime Minister asked the government, in line with the movement #Me too, to change the way he dealt with accusations of sexual harassment: a maneuver that was, according to Alex Salmond, intended to trap him.
As the head of the government-initiated investigation had previous contact with the alleged victims, a court concluded that the investigation was “illegal” and “tainted with apparent bias”.
After the failure of this internal investigation, Alex Salmond was arrested in January 2019 for an attempted rape and several acts of sexual assault allegedly committed against nine women when he was prime minister.
Innocent during a trial in March 2020, the former Scottish leader then said that these allegations were “deliberate inventions for political ends”, adding mysteriously that “certain information” would be “revealed in broad daylight”.
Our interview with Nicola Sturgeon in January 2020:
The Scottish Parliament is currently conducting two inquiries: one into how the government initially handled the complaints and the other to determine whether Nicola Sturgeon interfered with the inquiry or lied in parliament.
This week, Alex Salmond claimed that there had been “a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort between a range of individuals within the Scottish Government and the SNP to undermine [sa] reputation, even going up to [le] imprison ”.
SMS from Sturgeon’s husband
The investigation notably examines a text message from Peter Murrell, husband of Nicola Sturgeon and SNP executive, in which he appeared to want to pressure the police to take action against Alex Salmond, after the internal lawsuits collapsed.
The Scottish Public Prosecutor’s Office has since forced parliament to remove certain accusations made in writing by Alex Salmond from its site, including paragraphs where he claimed that Nicola Sturgeon had violated the ministerial code by making a “false” statement to elected officials.
The appearance of the former leader, initially scheduled for Wednesday, was canceled until he contacted a lawyer. The accusations led to a heated sitting in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday. Nicola Sturgeon has accused Ruth Davidson, former leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, of spreading “dangerous and somewhat fanciful conspiracy theories” after the latter questioned the actions of the Scottish Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The most concrete threat to the Scottish Prime Minister is the accusation of having misled parliament about a meeting, where she was reportedly informed for the first time of the accusations against her predecessor. Nicola Sturgeon first told parliament that she learned of the allegations against Alex Salmond a few days later, before claiming to have “forgotten” this meeting.
Our interview with Nicola Sturgeon on Brexit:
If it is found that she broke parliamentary code, she will be under enormous pressure to resign. The quarrel comes as Nicola Sturgeon lobbies the British central government for a new referendum on Scottish independence, after the failed one in 2014.
The independence leader hopes that a resounding victory for the SNP in the local elections in May will give her the legitimacy necessary to bend the government of Boris Johnson, which refuses for the moment to organize such a poll.
But these internal quarrels could mar and undermine this project, although support for the independence of the British province is reaching records against a background of Brexit (62% rejected by the Scots) and criticism of the management of the pandemic of Covid-19 by London.