Nicola Sturgeon should quit if she is found to have breached the ministerial code, Scottish Labour’s new leader Anas Sarwar has said.
The first minister is the focus of an investigation over whether she misled the Scottish Parliament on when she knew about allegations of harassment made against her predecessor Alex Salmond.
Ms Sturgeon said she first learned of the complaints in a meeting with Mr Salmond at her home in early April 2018, but it later emerged she had been told by his former chief of staff in her Holyrood office a few days prior, a fact she claims to have forgotten.
She referred herself for investigation by James Hamilton QC, an independent adviser on the ministerial code.
If Ms Sturgeon is found to have broken the ministerial code, Mr Sarwar said she should step down, saying she would expect the same of ministers in other parties.
“If there is a minister, forget who the minister is or what political party they are from, if a minister is found to have breached the ministerial code, I think people would expect that minister to resign,” the newly elected Scottish Labour leader told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday.
“That’s what Nicola Sturgeon would say if it was a Labour politician, a Conservative politician or a Liberal Democrat politician, so let’s take the party politics out of it – it’s a point of principle.”
When pushed specifically on whether or not the first minister should step down, Mr Sarwar said: “Yes, I think Nicola Sturgeon herself would say that if an opposition politician was in government and they’d breached the ministerial code, they would be expected to resign.
“Let’s take the party politics and the personalities out of it, it’s a point of principle and respecting the office of first minister.”
Speaking in his first broadcast interview since becoming leader on Saturday, defeating Monica Lennon with more than 57% of the vote, Mr Sarwar also spoke about the uphill battle ahead for Scottish Labour.
“We haven’t been on the pitch, forget about doing the wrong moves or playing the wrong passes, we haven’t been on the pitch in recent times, that is not acceptable”, he told the BBC.
He said: “I think we as a political party looked inward rather than outward, we looked like we were talking about the past rather than focusing on the future, we haven’t been good enough and that’s why I’m going to work day and night to change that.
“I’m going to work day and night for us to survive as a movement, be relevant to the lives of people of Scotland and be a credible opposition and one day get the Labour Party back to where it belongs, being a party of government.”
This is the difference between @ScotTories and Scottish Labour.
We support the United Kingdom at every turn.
They don't – they work with the SNP instead of unionist parties.
— Scottish Conservatives (@ScotTories) February 28, 2021
Pressed on whether a second referendum should take place, in the event Holyrood returns a pro-independence majority, he said: “Of course its for the Scottish people to decide their own future, but I don’t think it’s credible for us to be going from that collective trauma of Covid straight into a divisive referendum campaign.”
Mr Sarwar raised eyebrows after claiming the UK was “fundamentally broken” during one interview.
The Glasgow MP said there was a “disconnect” with the UK, but said he wanted “reform” rather than a referendum.
The Scottish Tories said the comment was “shameful and defeatist” and “played into the SNP’s hands”.