Scotland’s first minister is set to give evidence to a Holyrood inquiry looking into her government’s 2018 harassment investigation into Alex Salmond. It was found to be unlawful by a court in a process which cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Mr Salmond – and others – have made a number of allegations against the government and against Nicola Sturgeon herself.
Here are some of the key questions Ms Sturgeon will face. The answers could prove crucial for her political future.
Did she break the ministerial code?
This is the most serious allegation for Ms Sturgeon. Mr Salmond has said he believes Ms Sturgeon definitely broke the code. Her political opponents say if she did, she will have to quit.
The allegations focus on when she found out about the Scottish government investigation into Mr Salmond. She initially claimed it was 2 April 2018, but since then another meeting on 29 March, when it’s claimed she was told the details, has emerged.
This isn’t just a matter of a few days. If Ms Sturgeon knew what the second meeting was about, she would have known it was government business and she should have reported it to civil servants at the time. That didn’t happen.
Mr Salmond has said Ms Sturgeon is guilty of several breaches of the code in relation to these meetings.
Ms Sturgeon has denied breaking the code and she will explain her version of events on Wednesday.
Was there a plot against Alex Salmond?
Mr Salmond believes there was a malicious and concerted plot against him from several people close to Nicola Sturgeon – including her husband, who is the SNP’s chief executive, and her Scottish government chief of staff.
The evidence, Mr Salmond has claimed, shows there was a deliberate effort to damage his reputation “even to the extent of having me imprisoned”. Much of this evidence Mr Salmond refers to, however, has not yet been published, so we don’t know for sure how strong it is.
But he told the committee last week he had been given a memory stick in the run-up to his criminal case, where he was cleared of all charges. Mr Salmond claims it shows senior allies of Ms Sturgeon “pressurising police”. He also alleges there was “construction of evidence” and “collusion of witnesses”.
Ms Sturgeon has dismissed these claims in recent weeks and said there is no evidence to support them.
Has there been a cover up?
The Scottish government has been criticised for failing to provide all the documents the committee asked for. On Tuesday, legal advice was made available under the threat of a confidence vote against Ms Sturgeon’s deputy, John Swinney.
Another question is why the documents Mr Salmond believes show a conspiracy were not published earlier.
The straight answer is that they were provided to him for his legal case – which means they can’t be used for any other reason. But the committee now has them after compelling the Crown Office to hand them over.
There was a colossal row last week when part of Mr Salmond’s evidence to the committee was taken down from the parliament’s website. It contained some of the most damning allegations against Ms Sturgeon and claims she misled parliament.
Parts of the document were withdrawn after the Crown Office – Scotland’s prosecution service – said extracts were in contempt of court and could identify Mr Salmond’s accusers.
Mr Salmond has claimed the lines between the government and Crown Office have become blurred – something the Lord Advocate has said is untrue.
Ms Sturgeon was furious about all of this at First Minister’s Questions last week. She said Scotland’s institutions shouldn’t be sacrificed for one man’s ego. No prizes for guessing she was talking about Mr Salmond.
Has Scotland’s leadership failed?
Alex Salmond wants resignations. He has said the government’s Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans should resign and that the head of the Crown Office – the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe – should be considering his position.
Mr Salmond argued Scotland’s institutions hadn’t failed – but their leadership had in this case.
He even left the door open to Ms Sturgeon having to resign herself – saying it was for others to judge if she should quit.
That’s a damning conclusion from the man who led the Scottish government for seven years.
Ms Sturgeon will be asked if he’s wrong – and is likely to mount a passionate defence of her government.
She has also made clear she is sticking by her permanent secretary and the Lord Advocate – as well as the others who Mr Salmond has said should be thinking about their position.
What went so wrong with the harassment policy?
This is a big part of the committee’s remit. They are trying to find out what led to the introduction of a policy which Mr Salmond successfully challenged in court.
It’s been argued the policy was introduced too quickly and failed everyone involved; Mr Salmond and those who accused him of harassment.
It’s widely accepted this was a big mistake from the government. Ms Sturgeon’s team accept they got it wrong and parts of the policy were fundamentally flawed.
The first minister is likely to be pressed on why that was allowed to happen.
Did the government waste taxpayer money?
The Scottish government initially defended the harassment policy in the face of Mr Salmond’s legal challenge.
On Tuesday night it finally published its legal advice, which shows concerns were raised by the senior counsel – an external legal adviser – in October 2018.
In December, external lawyers said the least worst option would be to admit defeat. The case wasn’t conceded until January 2019.
This has raised questions over whether the government should have made that decision earlier – and potentially saved a lot of money in the process.
Did her government leak sensitive information?
image captionJackie Baillie will want to know more about claims of a breach of confidentiality
This row has been growing in the last few days – and is one Ms Sturgeon will have to address on Wednesday.
Mr Salmond claimed in his evidence that the name of one of the complainants was revealed durign the government investigation.
On Tuesday night, that claim was backed up by two witnesses. Revealing the name would be a significant breach of confidentiality.
Last week, Ms Sturgeon said she didn’t think it happened, but Mr Salmond has claimed there were witnesses who can prove it.
The committee – in particular Labour’s Jackie Baillie, who brought this up in the first place – will want to know more.