ALEX Salmond trawled through photos on social media to identify one of his accusers, Nicola Sturgeon has claimed.
The First Minister said her predecessor worked out who the complainer was by checking the Scottish Government’s Flickr account to see who’d been with him on “particular days”.
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Her comments at a Holyrood inquiry came as she denied claims by those in Mr Salmond’s circle that someone in her government leaked the woman’s identity to his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein in early March 2018.
Ms Sturgeon said her ex-mentor already knew one complainer’s identity because he “remembered” an alleged incident with her for which he’d previously apologised.
And the Nats leader said he conducted his “own investigations” to identify the other person making harassment allegations against him.
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She claimed Mr Salmond was “open” with her about one complainant’s identity during a controversial summit the pair held at her home in Glasgow on April 2 2018, adding: “There was no suggestion that I recall that anybody in the government had told him.
“He knew the identity of one complainant because he knew about the incident because he’d apologised to the person concerned.
“What I can’t recall is if the name of the other complainant was shared openly on April 2, but he also knew the identity of that complainant.
“I remember him talking about how he had gone through the Scottish Government Flickr account to find out who had been with him on particular days.”
Ms Sturgeon was giving evidence to the panel investigating her government’s botched handling of allegations against Mr Salmond.
On Tuesday, two former SNP figures backed the claim from Mr Aberdein that he was given the name of a complainant by a senior government official.
In a written submission to the committee published on Tuesday night, Mr Salmond’s lawyer — ex-MSP Duncan Hamilton — said Mr Aberdein became aware during “the early part of March 2018”.
Former SNP spin doctor Kevin Pringle also claimed Mr Aberdein was “in no doubt that a name was shared with him”.
Ms Sturgeon told parliament last week there wasn’t an ID leak “to the very best of my knowledge”, and today she said the government official in question was “clear” there was no such incident.
During her eight-hour testimony, the Nats chief also continued to insist she first learned about the complaints being investigated by her government from Mr Salmond himself on April 2, 2018.
She said he sat her down in her dining room and showed her a letter he’d received from Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans.
But she said she had a “lingering suspicion” there was something “in the undergrowth that might surface” following a media inquiry from Sky News in November 2017 about Mr Salmond’s alleged 2009 behaviour towards Edinburgh Airport staff.
And she said her “general awareness” also spanned from a meeting with Mr Aberdein in her office at Holyrood on March 29, 2018 — four days before Mr Salmond visited her home.
But she added: “It was reading the Permanent Secretary’s letter he showed me on April 2 that gave me the knowledge and the detail behind that knowledge of all the things I have spoken about.”
Ms Sturgeon has been accused of misleading parliament and breaching the ministerial code by telling MSPs she first found out about the complaints on April 2.
In her written evidence to the committee, published last October, she said she had “forgotten” her March 29 meeting with Mr Aberdein — but that she believed it did cover “the suggestion” of allegations of a sexual nature.
Last week Mr Salmond told the parly inquiry the March 29 meeting was set up with the purpose of “briefing” Ms Sturgeon on the complaints, and to arrange the summit between them four days later.
Ms Sturgeon said her recollection of the talks with Mr Aberdein was “not as vivid as I wish it was”, but claimed it “wasn’t a detailed discussion in terms of the substance”.
Under questioning by Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, she said Mr Aberdein asked her to meet Mr Salmond because he was “really distressed” and possibly on the verge of quitting the SNP.
Ms Sturgeon said: “My relationship with Alex was such if I thought there was a big serious issue he was facing I would want to hear it from him — I wouldn’t want to hear it third-hand.
“But the other point that certainly helps to explain to me, because I’ve asked myself how could I have forgotten that…it was not the first time I was hearing a general concern. The Sky/Edinburgh Airport thing had created that lingering suspicion.”
She went on: “What happened on April 2 in my dining room with the man that’s been all these things to me for 30 years was so significant that that is the thing that will live with me forever. And did that slightly obliterate in my mind what came before that? Possibly.
“Sitting there being told not just the complaints, but what he told me in terms of his version of that incident, is ingrained in my mind.”
Ms Sturgeon said the revelations from Mr Salmond had left her “head spinning” and “experiencing a maelstrom of emotions”.
She claimed she had not agreed to “intervene” in her government’s investigation, as Mr Salmond and Mr Hamilton have alleged.
But she said she may have given the “impression” that she would as she had been “trying to let a long-standing friend and colleague down gently”.
Mr Salmond had asked for a process of arbitration as a way of potentially avoiding his judicial review against the Scottish Government.
That request was rejected by civil service boss Ms Evans.
And today Ms Sturgeon said: “If I’d used my role, my influence, my power, to get him an outcome he wanted — not as a former First Minister but as the person subject to these complaints — I think that would have been an egregious breach of my power.”
Ms Sturgeon went on to meet with Mr Salmond on June 7 and then for a “third and final time” on July 13, which she said was because she was still “concerned” about her former friend.
She was asked by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie why she continued to meet and stay in contact with Mr Salmond after she knew the extent of his alleged behaviour.
She replied: “I was dealing with a situation that involved the former First Minister facing a government investigation.
“The former leader of my party, which has had huge implications for my party, and someone who I really cared about.
“I still feel, despite everything, a loyalty to him and that’s why I made these decisions.”
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