Nicola Sturgeon should resign if she is found to have breached the ministerial code, new Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has told Sky News.
Speaking to the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, Mr Sarwar also acknowledged his party was in “a really bad position” ahead of the Holyrood elections in May and was “not naive about the scale of the challenge” faced.
His comments came in his first broadcast interview since becoming leader on Saturday, defeating Monica Lennon with more than 57% of the vote.
Mr Sarwar, who was an NHS dentist, is the first ethnic minority leader of a political party in the UK after his grandparents emigrated to Scotland from Pakistan.
Scotland’s first minister 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 other parties.
Mr Sarwar told Ridge: “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.
“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.”
The father-of-three added: “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.”
The Glasgow MSP also warned against the holding of another vote on independence, as a new poll suggested support for separation had dropped to 50% for the first time since June last year.
Mr Sarwar said: “The idea that we come through this (the COVID-19 pandemic) and straight into a divisive referendum campaign, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do – instead I think it’s right that we focus on rebuilding our country.”
He added: “I actually don’t think even Nicola Sturgeon would be advocating a referendum right now, but I think she’s more focused on healing the wounds in her political party than she is about healing the wounds in the country.”
Labour is in third place in the polls ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May, firmly behind the Conservatives while the SNP is in the lead.
On the current position of Labour in Scotland, Mr Sarwar said: “I think the first part is to be honest and to say that we have got a really bad position that we’re in just now, I’m not naïve about the scale of the challenge and that’s why I thought it was important to say to the people of Scotland that they’ve not had the Labour party they deserve.”