Who do Scots believe in the case of Salmond v Sturgeon?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
February 02, 2021, 10:30 AM UTC

Scots tend to think that both politicians have not been telling the truth, but are significantly more likely to say so of Salmond than Sturgeon

The key political scandal currently shaking Scottish politics is over First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s actions during a botched 2018 investigation into allegations of sexual assault made against her predecessor, Alex Salmond.

Having been arrested in 2019 on charges of sexual assault, Salmond was subsequently tried and found not guilty in early 2020.

Two inquiries into the situation are being conducted: one on the Scottish government’s handling of the case in general, and another on Nicola Sturgeon’s own conduct.

In short, Sturgeon stands accused of having misled the Scottish Parliament over when she first became aware of the allegations against Salmond, and has referred herself to an independent inquiry over whether she is in breach of the Ministerial Code. Salmond has branded claims made by Sturgeon “simply untrue”.

Who do Scots think is telling the truth?

Scots tend to think that both politicians have not been telling the truth, but are significantly more likely to say so of Salmond than Sturgeon.

Only one in eight Scots (13%) say that Alex Salmond has generally told the truth, compared to half (50%) who say he has not generally told the truth. Scots are more split when it comes to Sturgeon, of whom 30% say has generally told the truth, versus 36% who say this is not the case.

Around one in three Scots aren’t sure either way, for both politicians.

Among those who think Sturgeon has generally told the truth, most think Salmond has not (59%). Only 17% of this group think Salmond has also generally told the truth, with the rest unsure.

Among Scots who say Salmond has generally told the truth, 55% say that Sturgeon has generally not told the truth, while 41% say that she too has been generally truthful. Just 4% are unsure.

SNP voters are more likely to believe Sturgeon than Salmond

Crucially, SNP voters strongly take Sturgeon’s side. Half (49%) believe the current First Minister has generally been telling the truth, with only 13% saying the opposite. These numbers are flipped when it comes to Salmond: 14% think the former First Minister has generally told the truth, while 42% disagree.

In fact, support for Sturgeon is sufficiently strong among SNP voters that they say she shouldn’t step down in the event that she was found to have misled parliament. By 47% to 27%, SNP backers say the First Minister should not resign if the independent investigation she referred herself to finds that she did mislead MPs.

This contrasts with the half (50%) of Scots who think Sturgeon should resign should that turn out to be the case. The issue is ultimately partisan, with SNP voters having said she should not resign while most Conservative (87%), Labour (55%) and Lib Dem voters (63%) saying she should.

See the full results here