THE BBC is looking into hundreds of complaints about an 11-minute discussion about the Alex Salmond affair during Nicola Sturgeon's daily televised update on the coronavirus crisis.

Some 244 complaints have been lodged about Nicola Sturgeon urging Alex Salmond to get before the Holyrood inquiry and produce evidence to back up allegations made after being questioned by journalists during her February 24 pandemic update.

The First Minister concluded the 68 minute briefing with an apology to those who were expecting the live conference to be solely about the Covid-19 crisis.

Ms Sturgeon was faced with a series of questions after Alex Salmond initally refused to appear before the inquiry after a submission about "malicious" attempts to smear him was edited following legal warnings from the Crown Office.

The former first minister of Scotland had been poised to give evidence to MSPs on about an alleged conspiracy by his former colleagues, but pulled out after a document was heavily redacted at the Crown Office’s request.

READ MORE: BBC cut Sturgeon Covid briefings to ensure 'consistent approach' across whole UK

It was suggested that Mr Salmond could appear later to give him time to consider how that affects his testimony.  He began his testimony to the inquiry on February 26 - two days after Mrs Sturgeon's Covid briefing commentary.


But the BBC has confirmed that it was examining 244 complaints from viewer complaining that it was "inappropriate" to discuss the Alex Salmond inquiry.

The government admitted it had acted unlawfully during its investigation into the initial complaints from two female civil servants after Mr Salmond launched a judicial review case, and had to pay his legal fees of more than £500,000.

Mr Salmond was arrested two weeks after the government admitted defeat in the civil case, and was later cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault against a total of nine women after a trial at the High Court last year.

The complaints come after the Scottish Secretary urged BBC Scotland to review the First Minister’s daily appearances in the run up to the Scottish parliamentary poll on May 6, describing them as the “Nicola Sturgeon Show”, and claimed it gave her an unfair advantage.

In September, last year, it emerged the BBC decided to stop televising Nicola Sturgeon’s daily briefings on coronavirus to ensure a “consistent approach to coverage... across the UK nations”, despite public health messages varying around the country.

The BBC’s decision to end TV its regular broadcasts of the Scottish Government’s Covid briefings has prompted thousands to sign a petition for them to continue.

The daily media conferences on the pandemic are fronted, most days, by Ms Sturgeon – to set out the latest news and issues around the fight against the virus and the vaccine rollout.


But Ms Sturgeon began her discussion of the Salmond affair after being questioned by Sky News's James Matthews about whether the investigation into Mr Salmond was a civil service probe being conducted by civil servants.

She said: "That is not an account that I would agree with.

"I hope that I will be before the committee looking at these matters a week today. And I will be able to answer all these questions in full. I have waited a long time to do so before this committee, so I certainly welcome that opportunity and I'll be questioned I am sure, fully and in detail on all of these matters, and I look forward to giving my responses answering all and any questions and setting the record straight where I think that is required.

"So with that, I'm going to move back on to Covid because this is a Covid briefing and there are other forums, where quite properly and legitimately I will be questioned on these other matters."

Mrs Sturgeon, however became more vociferous after being quizzed about trust issues by Peter Smith, the Scotland correspondent for ITV News.

"Every day you come here, and you are asking the Scottish people to have faith in your message and trust you.

"We now hear some serious allegations from the former First Minister.  This is not someone from the sidelines, [he is] a former First Minister who knows the democratic institutions of Scotland and he is alleging there is corruption undermining the trust that we can have in you and these institutions. You have said, clearly, show us your evidence.

READ MORE: Thousands sign petition urging BBC Scotland to reverse decision to stop broadcasting daily briefings

"Alex Salmond says he would like to but he is being blocked by the Crown Office. Can you say has anyone in your government or your staff contacted the Crown Office asking them to censor or withhold vital evidence?"


Ms Sturgeon then began a six minute rebuttal.

"Albeit this is a Covid briefing, I will go back to Covid. The decisions about what the Scottish Parliament publishes, and how it publishes, whatever it publishes, in compliance with the law are matters for the Parliamentary Corporate body, I am not a party to these discussions.

"And the decisions the Crown Office takes in relation to enforcing or upholding the law, and this relates specifically to your question, are taken independently by the Crown Office, independently of government.

"And any suggestion, any suggestion at all that these decisions are in any way politically influenced are downright wrong.

"I would suggest, that I'd go further than that, they start to buy into what is a false and dangerous conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact. "You refer to allegations made by Alex Salmond. I don't think there is a shred of evidence behind those allegations and the claims that have been made. But Alex Salmond has had the opportunity to be in front of the committee to try to substantiate those allegations. He has declined the opportunity today, I don't think with any good reason and I hope he comes to the committee in early course so he can say what he wants, put forward any claims that he wants and crucially bring forward any evidence.

"In terms of the submission that the Parliament redacted yesterday, that relates to one part of the committee's inquiry, I don't think it inhibits any questioning of me.

"The allegations in relation to that part of the inquiry that Alex Salmond is making about me, have been widely reported in the media and the public domain.

"I have always and continue to be of the view that I will be fully questioned on all these issues by the committee when I appear, hopefully a week today, fully and in detail.



"There is no reason why I shouldn't be and I don't think there is any reason why Alex Salmond should not sit in front of that committee, make whatever claims he wants to make, say whatever he wants to say and bring whatever evidence he thinks he has to bear.

"There was no conspiracy theory, and I sometimes think that the preference for Mr Salmond is to continue to make those claims without ever subjecting them to the proper scrutiny of the parliamentary committee looking into them.

"So I hope he proves me wrong on that by getting himself in front of the committee in early course. And then I look forward to appearing next week.

"I want to get in front of this committee to answer every and all questions people have of me, to address all the issues people have and to rebut, frankly, head on and very directly some of the wild, untrue, false and baseless claims that have been made in recent times. But for now, I am going to get on with my job of leading the country through Covid so I will get back to that."

But Mr Smith asked if there was worry that the inquiry was losing credibility every day and that it was a "detriment" to women who may not now want to speak out about "powerful men".

Ms Sturgeon went on to say that the women's voices have been "silenced" and that their motives had been "maligned" and that they had been "wrongly" accused of being liars and conspiracists.

"They came forward with complaints. The behaviour they complained of was found by a jury not to constitute criminal conduct and Alex Salmond is innocent of criminality, but that doesn't mean the behaviour they claimed didn't happen and I think it is important that we don't lose sight of that," she said.

"When I have said that before, people have said you are hiding behind the women. I am not hiding behind anybody, if anything I am standing up for the right of women to come forward and for claims to be taken seriously.

"I can't speak for the conduct, or the status, or the standing, or the credibility of the parliamentary committee, that's for the committee. And all I know is I have been waiting for months to appear before the committee, and I haven't had the opportunity."

She added: The idea that scrutiny of me is being inhibited in any way, shape or form is wrong. There is no reason why I can't sit before that committee, answer questions fully, in detail, openly for as long as the committee want. And frankly, there is no reason why Alex Salmond cannot do the same. So, perhaps he should just get himself in front of it, we can both have our say, people can make up their own minds and then I will get on with my job in leading the country through the pandemic and hopefully out of the other end of it."


The First Minister continued to explore the case after Simon Johnson from the Telegraph asked what she would say to some people within the SNP who believe that what happened with Mr Salmond's evidence was essentially a cover-up.

She said: "Issues with a particular single piece of evidence yesterday is a matter between the Parliament and the Crown Office, and I'm not party to those discussions and nor should I be, and I'll say very very firmly, I understand politics, I have been in politics for a long time, I understand oppositions wanting to hold governments to account, and also to engage as we all do in the cut and thrust of politics.

"But let's all be careful here, that we don't start signing up to false, damaging conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact that start to actually unfairly undermine trust in our public institutions.

"The idea that any decision of the Crown Office around what they do to uphold or enforce the law is politically driven or influenced is just downright wrong, and nobody who is responsible I think should be making that claim. And as I said before, this is about one element of evidence that I don't think inhibits what I can be asked about and I don't see why it inhibits Alex Salmond's ability to sit before that committee.

"He has put reams of evidence before that committee much of it, well, I'll say what I think of it when I get to the committee myself.

"There's no reason why he isn't sat in front of the committee right now. I understand he said he would go later in the week. Let's hope he does, and then we can get all of that out in the open, all of it onto the table, I'll have my say next week and then people can make up their own minds and then after that I'll get on with my job."

And asked whether she would give a press conference about the Salmond affair she said: "I'm laughing because it kind of feels as if that's what I've been forced to do today."

She added: "And you know what I say to Alex Salmond is do a press conference if you like, but don't dodge the committee, sit in front of the committee on oath just like I will do, put forward your views, say what you want to say and crucially bring the evidence to back it up, because, in spite of all the furore over some redactions to one document yesterday, that's the missing bit here, the evidence that backs any of it up. So if you aren't doing it today, how about Friday, and then I'll do it next Wednesday and we can let people decide."

As she concluded the 68 minute briefing she had an apology.

"As you know, I like to keep these briefings on Covid so apologies to those of you who tuned in to hear updates on Covid and have had to listen to my answers on another topic. I prefer to keep these issues on Covid but I hope you understand that when I'm asked questions about issues of the day, that are fundamentally about me and my actions, it's also important that I try to answer those questions as fully as I can but I apologise to anybody who's frustrated at the fact that not all of today's briefing was entirely about Covid."