This is definitely fine and not at all suspicious.
Geoff Aberdein is the man whose evidence could destroy the First Minister. We know he’s already told the High Court under oath that he had a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon on 29 March 2018 to discuss the Salmond affair.
Sturgeon claims otherwise, saying he just popped in for a friendly hello while seeing someone else, and that the meeting – which the Scottish Government had repeatedly denied ever happened at all, until it suddenly changed its mind and admitted it last August – was so inconsequential that she forgot about it entirely for almost a year.
Which of those accounts is correct will determine whether the First Minister was lying to Parliament and whether she has to resign under the Ministerial Code.
But now, not only will Aberdein – the single most important figure in the entire inquiry – NOT be called as a witness, but the public will not be allowed to see even a redacted version of his written testimony so that they can judge who’s telling the truth.
What conceivable reason could there be for that? How could either “The meeting was arranged in advance and we talked about the allegations” or “I was in visiting someone else and just popped my head round the door briefly to say hi” ever need to be a state secret the Scottish public mustn’t know? And yet it is.
No cover-up here, folks. All open and transparent and above board. There’s definitely nothing going on that the Scottish Government desperately wants to hide from you. It’s all fine. Ssssshhhh, now. Sssshhhh for Nicola like good little boys and girls. Write another of your nice wee blogs about how Boris Johnson will just give in for no reason and independence is inevitable. But no questions. Definitely no questions.
PS By a strange coincidence we sent this Freedom Of Information request yesterday:
FROM: Stuart Campbell
DATE: 18 January 2021
20-WORKING-DAY RESPONSE REQUIRED BY: 16 February 2021
I have previously noted my dissatisfaction with your unacceptably evasive responses to my request originally denoted FOI/202000090531.
In your most recent reply dated 15 December 2020, you advised me to “rephrase” my request. I now do so.
On 3 August 2020, the Deputy First Minister issued an inquiry remit to James Hamilton QC in respect of a potential breach or breaches of the Ministerial Code by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
It includes the following passage, noting that a meeting took place between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Geoff Aberdein on Scottish Parliament premises on 29 March 2018:
“It has been alleged that the First Minister breached the Scottish Ministerial Code in that she failed to feed back the basic facts of meetings and discussions held with Alex Salmond to her private office as required by sections 4.22 and 4.23 of the Code. The meetings and discussions in question took place on:
29 March 2018 – Meeting between Ms Sturgeon and Geoff Aberdein, former Chief of Staff to Mr Salmond, Scottish Parliament”
The Scottish Government has previously and repeatedly asserted, in responses to my FOI request identified above and others, that it held no record of such a meeting. Yet the Deputy First Minister has stated unequivocally and unambiguously in the document above that the meeting took place.
The document in which he did so was issued publicly on the exact same date – 3 August – as your FOI response to me claiming that the Scottish Government held no record of the meeting described by the Deputy First Minister, as noted here.
I seek the following information:
(1) Where was this information recorded, such that the Deputy First Minister was able to provide it to Mr Hamilton?
(2) When did the Deputy First Minister come into possession of this information, and from whom? Presumably it must have been prior to 3 August 2020, to allow him time to prepare the document for Mr Hamilton and the letter to the Convener of the inquiry, Ms Fabiani, that morning.
(3) Are there any possible circumstances where the Deputy First Minister could hold a record of such a meeting but have withheld that information from the Scottish Government until 3 August 2020?
(4) If not, why was I told on 3 August that the Scottish Government did not hold this information, at a time when it clearly did?
(5) Does the Scottish Government now admit to holding information regarding the meeting between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Aberdein on 29 March? If so, when did it come into possession of that information?
(6) Which information does the Scottish Government hold with regard to the meeting? In particular: how did it come to pass, who was present at it and what did it discuss?
(7) How many times did the First Minister meet with Mr Aberdein on 29 March 2018? Her published diary for that date only lists one meeting with an unnamed person or persons:
(8) Given that the Scottish Government now publicly admits a meeting between the First Minister took place and there are no other possible entries in her diary which could account for it, can the Scottish Government confirm that this was in fact the meeting with Mr Aberdein, and that it was the only one between them on that day?
(9) If the meeting identified above was NOT the one with Mr Aberdein, why was that meeting not recorded – even in redacted form – in her diary, given that all meetings on government business are required to be so recorded, and meetings in her Parliamentary office which are NOT on government business are not permitted?
We’ll let you know when we get fobbed off with a farcical non-answer as usual.