It is impossible that both Nicola Sturgeon and Geoff Aberdein are tellng the truth about their meeting on 29 March 2018, which both now say discussed allegations against Alex Salmond.
Geoff Aberdein, Alex Salmond’s former Chief of Staff testified under oath in the Salmond trial that he was contacted in mid-March by phone by Nicola Sturgeon’s office to discuss historic allegations against Alex Salmond, and was asked to a meeting with the First Minister on 29 March. Aberdein testified he was so concerned that he arranged a conference call with Kevin Pringle and Duncan Hamilton QC to discuss this.
By contrast, Sturgeon claims in her evidence to the parliamentary inquiry that the meeting happened by accident, that she had no knowledge it would discuss allegations against Alex Salmond, and subsequently she had entirley forgotten about it; forgetting about it especially when replying repeatedly to parliament, over 18 months, to questioning on when she had first heard of allegations.
As has been reported already, four days earlier – 29 March 2018 – I had spoken with
Geoff Aberdein (former Chief of Staff to Alex Salmond) in my office at the Scottish
Mr Aberdein was in Parliament to see a former colleague and while there came to see
I had forgotten that this encounter had taken place until I was reminded of it in, I think,
late January/early February 2019.
For context, I think the meeting took place not long after the weekly session of FMQs
and in the midst of a busy day in which I would have been dealing with a multitude of
However, from what I recall, the discussion covered the fact that Alex Salmond wanted
to see me urgently about a serious matter, and I think it did cover the suggestion that
the matter might relate to allegations of a sexual nature.
Around this time, I had been made aware separately of a request from Mr Aberdein
for me to meet with Alex Salmond.
These two stories are utterly incompatible. Unless we are to believe that Nicola’s office set up a meeting for her without her permission, without telling her the subject, and without subsequently telling her they had set it up. We would also have to believe that Nicola’s private office knew of the allegations for weeks without telling their boss. I can tell you for certain, that is not how the Civil Service works.
The matter is capable of proof. Geoff Aberdein testified he held a conference call with Kevin Pringle and an eminent QC, Duncan Hamilton, ahead of the Sturgeon meeting. Presumably he would have informed Mr Hamilton of the genesis of the meeting to explain why he needed advice. Let the Fabiani inquiry call both Aberdein and Hamilton to give testimony.
It is important to note that if Aberdein is telling the truth – and I was in court when he gave his testimony, which sounded entirely credible – then Nicola Sturgeon’s private office was phoning him about allegations about Salmond weeks before Nicola Sturgeon subsequently claimed to parliament that she first heard anything of all this. Of course, they could have known many months or years before that, but the Aberdein testimony gives us mid-March 2018.
You may, if you wish, choose to believe that Sturgeon’s private office was pursuing these allegations without her knowledge, which must be true if she did not lie to parliament. In which case I have an excellent garden bridge in London to sell you.
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